Las Vegas, NV - Saratoga Race Course in the great state of New York will play host to the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes on Saturday, August 29. Horses three years old and upward will be after the winner's share of the $1 million purse when they take to Saratoga's turf track and race 1 1/2 miles.
A field of eight have been confirmed for the Sword Dancer - race 10 on Saratoga's packed Saturday card. Post time is 5:04 PM. Let's take a look into the past performances of all eight combatants for this Grade 1 stakes -a "Win and You're In" event for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf .
Flintshire 8-5 - impressive British bred entry won the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris in 2013 and has been impressive the last year - eight starts with a win in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase in December being the best result. He finished second in his only North American start - behind the terrific Main Sequence in the Breeders' Cup Turf and is coming off a good second in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in June 28. Flintshire has also placed in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic, Group 2 Prix Foy, and twice in the Group 1 Coronation Cup. He has been all over the world and has been competitive at every stop - no reason to think differently about this weekend. Vincent Cheninaud has the mount aboard one of Europe's leading middle-distance runners and morning line favorite from gate 2.
Twilight Eclipse 7-2 - is the world record holder at 1 1/2 miles on turf when he won the Grade 2 William McKnight Handicap December 28, 2013 in wire-to-wire fashion by seven lengths. He's placed in eight of nine races ahead of this weekend - a seventh two starts back in the Grade 3 Manhattan Stakes at Belmont Park June 7 was the lone bad race over the last year. Good results over that span include a third last time out in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes July 5, his first win in 15 months - the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes May 9, a third in the Grade 2 Pan American Stakes March 28, a second in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Stakes February 21, a third right behind Flintshire in the Breeders' Cup Turf, second in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Classic at Belmont Park September 27, a third in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga August 17 and a decent second as favorite in the 2014 United Nations Stakes. He has 26 career starts with seven wins, five seconds and five third place finishes and will be after just his second win in 18 months despite looking decent. Twilight Eclipse will be happy not to see Main Sequence in this one and will depart from post 5 with Joel Rosario guiding.
Red Rifle 4-1 - Todd Pletcher trained gelding has seven wins, five seconds and a third place finish in 19 career starts and enters off a nice two race win streak - the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap over War Dancer and Imagining here August 1 and the Grade 3 Dominion Day Stakes July 1. The wins followed his worst performance in some time - a ninth in the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational June 5, a decent second in the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct April 25 and a fifth in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap March 28. He did make some noise with a terrific win in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup in November and also had an OK second in the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland October 16 but has been a tad difficult to figure out lately. Red Rifle has looked good lately and off a two race win streak could be a factor. Jose Ortiz has the mount from gate 4.
War Dancer 6-1 - Bill Mott trainee has 21 career starts with four wins, five seconds and four third place finishes. He won the 2013 Grade 2 Virginia Derby and has been up and down since. Last year's good results include a third behind Finnegan's Wake in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap, a nice win in the 1 1/2 mile Grade 3 Louisville Handicap May 24 and a good second in the Grade 2 Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes in April. He has two runner-up finishes and a third place finish in four starts this year and enters off one of those seconds - the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap here August 1. That followed a disappointing sixth in the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes June 6 and a good second behind Twilight Eclipse in the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes here May 9. War Dancer has placed in three of his last four starts overall but looks for his first win in 15 months - from the outside gate 8 with Jose Lezcano aboard.
Imagining 8-1 - looked good at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 - a win in the 2014 Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes in wire-to-wire fashion May 11 followed a second in the 2014 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and a two race win streak - the 2013 Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct November 16 and the overnight Bowl Game Stakes at Belmont Park that October. He had a terrific win March 28 in the Grade 2 Pan American Stakes in March but went on to a fifth in the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes in May and a seventh the Grade 1 United Nations July 5. Last time out was a little better - a third in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap here August 1. Imagining has been hit and miss in his career and has placed in just two of his last six starts. Irad Ortiz has been tabbed to ride as Imagining searches for a little consistency.
Messi 10-1 - German bred Graham Motion trained gelding had two wins and five second place finishes in 12 starts at home - failing to place in his last three. Messi has two starts in North America and has won both - an Allowance Optional Claiming here August 6 and in a similar race at Belmont Park in July. He hopes to keep the roll going in his first stakes action in the States when he departs from gate 6 with John Velazquez guiding him.
Guardini 15-1 - French bred colt makes his North American debut Saturday in so-so form. He failed to place in his last two starts at home - both Group 2 stakes but did win the Group 2 Gerling-Preis at Cologne, Germany in May and a Group 3 race at Chantilly in June, 2014. Guardini has placed in just one of his last six starts overall and looks as though he will be in deep in this one. Martin Harley has been tabbed to snap Guardini's recent slump - from post 7 Saturday.
Fixador 30-1 - won five straight races in Brazil before debuting with an ugly ninth in an Allowance Optional Claiming in November and a good second in the Grade 3 W.L. McKnight Handicap in December at Gulfstream. He was off eight months before returning August 8 - a last of five finish in the minor Lure Stakes on this track. Fixador looks for his first win outside of Brazil from post 3 with Junior Alvarado in the irons.
Race 10 on Saratoga Race Course's Saturday card with a Post Time of 5:04 PM.
||I. Ortiz, Jr.
||C. McGaughey III