Las Vegas, NV - The Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes is on tap for this Saturday, August 17 from Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York. A nice purse of $600,000 will be on the line for horses three years old and upward willing to go 1 1/2 miles on Saratoga's turf track.
The Sword Dancer has attracted a large field of 13 for race 9 on Saratoga's Saturday card. Post time is 5:12 PM. Let's take a look into the past performances of all 13 combatants for this lucrative Grade 1 stakes.
Boisterous -has won seven of his last 13 starts for trainer Shug McGaughey including the 2011 and 2012 Grade 3 Red Smith Stakes at Aqueduct and the 2011 and 2012 Knickerbocker Stakes also at Aqueduct. His lone poor performance the last couple years came in August 2012 - a ninth in the Grade 1 Arlington Millions but he won two straight after that. He had a pair of good seconds recently - in the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes last time out at Keeneland April 21 after the Grade 3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs November 5 but has taken his game to another level in his last two starts - wins in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes June 9 and in the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes July 13 at Belmont Park. He now has four wins and two seconds in his last six starts overall and is obviously in the best form of his career. Boisterous is on fire, will have John Velazquez in the saddle, breaks from post 11, is the 123 pound co-highweight and is the horse to beat at 5-2 odds Saturday.
Big Blue Kitten - had a decent third in his 2013 debut in the Grade 2 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes at Gulfstream January 12 and two straight Allowance Optional Claiming scores after that - the last coming at Churchill Downs May 2. He had a nice second in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes behind Boisterous June 9 and followed that with his best career result - a win last time out in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park July 6. He nine eight wins, two seconds and four third place finishes in 16 career starts, has placed in all four 2013 races and has to be on the radar for the Sword Dancer. He will be out for revenge against Boisterous this week and certainly has the motivation and form to provide a good run this weekend. He is the second choice at 4-1 odds.
Stormy Lord - Michael Maker trained gelding is coming off a Claiming score at Churchill Downs June 13 after a pair of tenths and a ninth this year. His last graded stakes action came in November - a twelfth in the Grade 3 River City Handicap. He did win the PTHA President's Cup Stakes at Parx in September for his only other win in the last two years. He hasn't been great and isn't expected to challenge the favorites Saturday. He races as part of an entry with Big Blue Kitten in his first Grade 1 try and is 4-1 on the morning line because of the coupled entry.
Twilight Eclipse - is the world record holder at 1 1/2 miles on turf who won his first two career starts but then fell off to a sixth in the Equalize Stakes, and recorded his first graded stakes win by 1 3/4 lengths in the 2012 Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder November 24. He followed that with a fourth in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida February 16. Twilight Eclipse bounced back yet again with a terrific win in the Grade 2 Pan American Stakes at Gulfstream in that world record time March 23 but followed that with a fifth in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park June 8. Last time out was yet another bounce back - a good second in the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes behind Boisterous at Belmont Park July 13. He has been up and down in his career but when on has looked very, very good. Twilight Eclipse goes off at as the 5-1 third choice in the Sword Dancer.
Optimizer - finished eleventh in last year's Kentucky Derby, sixth in the Preakness and tenth in the Belmont Stakes and finished the fourth in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby after that. He went on to a disappointing eleventh in the Breeders' Cup. In 2013 he won the Grade 2 Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap and the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap February 23 to start his year and stumbled a tad after that. He rebounded with a second in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs May 4 - beaten by only reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan and he followed that with a third in the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico May 18. He continued his good run with another solid result - a second in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap behind Point of Entry June 8 but most recently finished fifth in the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes July 13. Optimizer hasn't tasted victory since the winter but he has faced the best in the land and has fared very well. He goes off as the 6-1 fifth choice.
Teaks North - won the Sunshine Millions Turf Stakes at Gulfstream in wire-to-wire fashion January 19 and followed that with another good result - a second in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida February 16. This after a tenth in the El Prado Stakes to end his 2012 campaign. He is coming off a good second in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes behind Big Blue Kitten July 6 after a win in the minor Good Reward Stakes at Belmont Park May 15 after a disappointing sixth in the Grade 2 Pan American Stakes at Gulfstream in March. He was terrific in the summer of 2011 with 2 graded stakes wins and has won two of four starts in 2013. He was fourth in this race in 2011, has been injury prone in the past but when running right is a serious threat.
Al Khali - had a pair of good seconds last summer including the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes at Woodbine in September and in the 2012 version of this race August 18 to follow a decent third in the Grade 1 United Nations. He was out of action nearly six months and returned in March to an Allowance score at Tampa Bay Downs but followed that with a disappointing fifth in another Allowance at Keeneland April 6. Last time out was an ugly sixth in the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes July 13 after another poor result - a seventh in the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland April 26. He is 10-1 on the morning line.
Nutello - makes his North American debut Saturday after 13 starts overseas resulted in five wins and two third place finishes - one of those thirds being in last year's Prix du Jockey Grade 1 Club-French Derby. His last win came in April at Toulouse but has had a seventh and a eighth respectively since. Nutello is 12-1 on the morning line and will have Jose Lezcano in the saddle.
Exclusive Strike - has five starts in 2013 with two straight wins heading into the Man O' War and two other seconds. He finished a very respectable third in the Man o' War and will be looking to build on that effort this week. The Jason Servis gelding is a true veteran - 35 career starts with 12 wins against mostly lesser competition but he proved last time out that he belongs with the best in the land.
London Lane - came out of nowhere and won the Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup last time out June 22 after just one win in the last two years - an Allowance Optional Claiming at Delaware Park July 4 2012. Before that improbable win was an eighth and a seventh respectively in a pair of minor stakes races to end 2012 at Laurel Park, followed by a sixth in an Allowance in April at Pimlico in his only start of 2013. He races in Grade 1 company for the first time Saturday.
Tannery - made her North American debut in the Grade 1 Garden City Stakes at Belmont Park last September 15 and finished a very respectable third. She followed that with a distant eighth in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland October 13 and ended 2012 with a fourth in the Grade 3 Long Island Handicap in November. She has raced three times in 2013 - a fourth in the minor Owsley Stakes May 1 but followed that with her best career performance - a win in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Stakes at Belmont Park May 25. Last time out was a colossal letdown - an eighth in the Grade 2 New York Stakes June 29.
Star Channel - Todd Pletcher pupil has two Allowance Optional Claiming scores this year but no stakes scores. His best result in 2013 was a respectable second in the Besilu Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Downs April 6. Others results this year include a fifth last time out in the minor John's Call Stakes here July 31 and a disappointing fifth in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes June 9. He ran three graded stakes races in 2012 and didn't fare well in any - a fourth in the Grade 3 Kent Stakes in September was his best result. The others were a thirteenth in the Grade 3 American Turf Stakes in May and a third in the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes in June. He has five wins, a second and two third place finishes in 16 career starts. Star Channel is the longest shot in the field at 30-1 odds along with...
Tahoe Lake - Brazilian bred Tahoe Lake was hot and cold in 2012. He had a surprising second in the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland in October and a very pleasant second to Point of Entry in the Grade 2 Elkhorn in April 2012 a third in the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes in July as well as a third in the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap in May. But he also had a disappointing seventh in an Allowance Optional Claiming at Belmont on June 29, a fifth in the 2012 version of this race and a fourth to close out his year in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Turf Stakes. In 2013 Tahoe Lake has only two Allowance Optional Claiming starts finishing fourth last time out and fifth in June. The results after nine months away.
Race 9 on Saratoga Race Course's Saturday card with a Post Time of 5:12 PM.
||Big Blue Kitten
||J. Toscano, Jr.
||J. Rocco, Jr.
||Tahoe Lake (BRZ)
||I. Ortiz, Jr.
||C. McGaughey III