Before anyone believes that half of Saturday’s Empire 6 Jackpot featuring five graded stakes contains three stand-out singles, think all the way back to last week.
The defense rests.
Having set the banquet table, a handicapping look-in on the five biggest spots, starting with Race 7:
GRADE 1 BALLERINA
This always entertaining 7-furlong sprint for fillies and mares 3 & Up has drawn a field of seven including six graded stakes winners and the winner of last year’s edition. We’re looking at two with the best chance to win.
Come Dancing (3-1), the defending Ballerina champion, was freshened after the ill-advised barn change and Oaklawn Park two-turner back returns to Carlos Martin’s barn.
Pancho’s grandson got her fit and she returned with a game G3 Vagrancy placing after altering course and looking as if she will benefit from the needed effort. She’s won twice over the course and trip.
Bellafina (9-5) never has won outside California but this might be a pretty good spot to break that maiden. She makes her second start following a very good second in the G2 Great Lady M, and has trained well since.
She projects to stalk a multitude of early gas types, get first run, attracts position conscious Jose Ortiz, and loves the game, as a lifetime slate of (16) 7-4-1 attests.
GRADE 3 TROY
Three of the seven entrants lack a win at the 5-1/2 furlong trip but the other four are a combined 31-70, indeed, turf sprints are for speedy grass specialists. We left four of seven open: Imprimis (8-5), Shekky Shebaz (5-2), Pulsate (15-1) and Chewing Gum (9-2).
The two favorites have questions to answer, but each has the right to claim the title of “best horse” in this match-up.
Imprimis, 7-for-11 at the trip, is easily the most accomplished with a graded stakes win and placing, and multiple overnight stakes scores. But at 6, he’s coming off a 280-day layup. He training very well at his beloved Gulfstream Park.
Shekky Shebaz needed his last, his debut for Christophe Clement after exiting the Jason Servis detox program. He figures to improve in start two for a barn that’s gotten off to one of the fastest starts in Saratoga’s long history.
Pulsate is not as accomplished but is forward looking and has upside as a newly turned older horse at 4 and deserves a look at the price. Chewing Gum is plenty fast on figures, has moved forward at 5, is nicely weighted and goes for Mott/Rosario team.
GRADE 3 WAYA
Another short field of seven, including one Main-Track-Only, and five of the six can win. All have questions to answer. Mrs. Sippy (6-5) is easily the most accomplished and loves 1-1/2 mile marathons, but is coming off a 280-day layup.
The good news is that Graham Motion is the one tightening the screws. With Grade 1 ability, this Grade 3 is a good place to get started as a previous Spa winner at 11 furlongs. Joel does the booting.
Quiet Dignity (20-1) is forward, but slow. The bright spots is that he’s training well since changing barn, adds blinkers, has good spacing, picks up Tyler, and is making his first start for Mike Maker, who’s been totally unconscious on grass at this meet.
Olympic Games (4-1) has yet to win at stakes but is third off a layup for Clement and is the “now horse” of the th featured here. He was second at the trip at Belmont Park and Irad takes a return call.
Chad, whose horses are under-performing, has two serious contenders; My Sister Nat (2-1) and Fools Gold (5-1), Both have something to prove and neither has improved their European form, as most Lasix-aided and Brown-trained horses have done.
GRADE 1 TEST
There’s no shortage of talent in this matchup but the two outside fillies, Gamine (3-5) and Venetian Harbor (8-5), tower over their four rivals.
Gamine is a budding superstar. A $1.8 million sales purchase, she’s 3-for-3 including an 18-length romp in the G1 Acorn mile, earning a spectacular figure by anyone’s measure.
But Venetian Harbor is an extremely talented girl. She won two of three at 2 by an aggregate 19-1/4 lengths and this year was second in two routes behind the best 3-year-olds in the land, Grade 1 winners Swiss Skywalker and Speech.
Her talents are ideally suited to the seven-eighths trip and draws just outside her main rivals right flank. She has two bullet works for this and her last in 58.60 must be seen to be believed.
GRADE 1 TRAVERS
This is a two-horse Midsummer Derby for the win featuring proven class vs. tremendous upside.
While comparisons to Arrogate are premature, even if Bob Baffert put them in the same sentence. There is no denying Uncle Chuck (5-2) is a top class individual.
A winner of both lifetime starts around two turns by a combined 11 lengths, he took the G3 Los Alamitos Derby by four in-hand lengths, racing greenly and finishing on his incorrect lead, probably bored by that point.
A scopey sort, he has great extension and is light on his feet for such a tall individual. But keep in mind that Arrogate had four starts coming into the Travers, not two.
Tiz the Law (1-1) is the whole package. Three for three at the Grade 1 level, he has speed, power and the versatility to make his own trip. Training great, he broke maiden on debut on this surface and nine furlong wins suggests that 10 will not be an issue.
Return tomorrow morning for a look at what our betting will look like tomorrow afternoon. Remember first post is noon EDT