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A summer fixture on the New York horse racing calendar, Saratoga Race Course is one of the most celebrated racetracks in the United States. Each year, horseplayers eagerly anticipate the opportunity to handicap and bet the races from Saratoga, which are supported by the top horse owners, trainers and jockeys in America. Such star power ensures that the horses at Saratoga are among the best in the world. The Saratoga stakes schedule is one of the most extensive in the United States, and includes the Travers Stakes, Whitney Handicap, Woodward Stakes, Forego Handicap, Alabama Stakes, King's Bishop Stakes, Hopeful Stakes and Coaching Club American Oaks.
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With the Grade 1, $1.5 million Whitney Handicap and the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes serving as its glittering pillars, the 146th summer meet at Saratoga Race Course will open on Friday, July 18, for a 40 day celebration of racing that once again will bring together the top horses, best jockeys and finest trainers in the nation.
Now the richest race on Saratoga's $17.45 million stakes schedule, the 1 1/8-mile Whitney on August 2 looks to attract the top older horses in the country, among them 2013 Belmont Stakes star Palace Malice, recent winner of the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap; 2013's top 3-year-old, Will Take Charge, victorious in last year's Grade 1 Travers, and possibly Grade 1 Stephen Foster hero Moonshine Mullin. Also on Whitney Day will be the Grade 1, $350,000 Test, tentatively penciled in on dual Grade 1 winner Sweet Reason's calendar, the Grade 1, $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap for sprinters, and two turf races: the $100,000 De la Rose for fillies and mares and the $100,000 Lure.
The 1 1/4mile Travers for 3 year olds on Saturday, August 23, is the next major target for 2014 Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, as well as Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve, Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong, and Preakness runner-up Ride on Curlin. Joining the 'Mid-Summer Derby' on the card will be the Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One King's Bishop, a likely spot for Grade 2 Woody Stephens winner Bayern, along with the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina for filly and mare sprinters and the Grade 2, $250,000 Ballston Spa for turf fillies and mares.
On Travers Eve, Friday, August 22, Grade 1 Ogden Phipps winner Close Hatches and runner-up Princess of Sylmar could renew their rivalry in the Grade 1, $500,000 Personal Ensign. Rounding out the weekend on Sunday, August 24, is the first Saratoga Showcase Day, featuring six stakes restricted to New York-breds.
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Saratoga also will be the summer home of two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan, who could make it a three-peat in the Grade 2, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on August 9 or await the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap on August 30. As well, 3-year-old filly standout Untapable could make an appearance in either the Grade 1, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 20 or the Grade 1 Alabama, $600,000 on August 16.
"Saratoga is the gem of New York racing and American racing,' said Martin Panza, NYRA's Senior Vice President of Racing Operations. 'The rich stakes schedule, abundance of turf racing and the 2-year-old races all combine to make Saratoga an unparalleled afternoon for both the experienced handicapper and the casual fan. Each racing day at Saratoga we work on getting people out to the track by enhancing our product and taking care of our guests by making it a good experience."
The leading trainers on The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit will be competing for the H. Allen Jerkens training title, won for the 10th time last year by Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher, whose always-powerful 2-year-old contnigent is already revving up for the meet. Chad Brown, Linda Rice, Kiaran McLaughlin and David Jacobson will be among his challengers, along with Belmont Stakes-winning trainer Christophe Clement. As well, Hall of Famers Shug McGaughey, D. Wayne Lukas, Jonathan Sheppard, and Bill Mott will have a significant presence at the Spa, although the tradition of Mott winning a race on his birthday will be on hiatus this year, as July 29 falls on a dark Tuesday.
Last year, Javier Castellano topped the jockey standings at Saratoga and took the Angel Cordero, Jr. riding title for the first time en route to his first Eclipse Award. Expected to provide serious competition are brothers Jose and Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Joel Rosario, as well as Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who last year broke Jerry Bailey's record and became the all-time winningest jockey at the Spa.
"Saratoga is the gem of New York racing and American racing," said Martin Panza, NYRA's Senior Vice President of Racing Operations. "The rich stakes schedule, abundance of turf racing and the 2-year-old races all combine to make Saratoga an unparalleled afternoon for both the experienced handicapper and the casual fan."
The Spa Will Feature Guaranteed Pick 4 Wagers
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) will present a $500,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4 every Saturday at Saratoga Race Course and a $1 Million All Graded Stakes Pick 4 on Travers Day, August 23, pending approval from the New York State Gaming Commission.
Although NYRA offers daily Pick 4's on races 2 - 5 and the final four races of the day, the $500,000 guarantee applies only to the Late Pick 4 on Saturdays at Saratoga Race Course. The Late Pick 4 is a 50 cent minimum wager in which the bettor must correctly pick the winners of the last four races on the card, usually beginning with the eighth race.
On Travers Day, August 23, the guarantee will rise to $1 million in conjunction with the 145th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes. The Travers is supported by three additional graded events: the $500,000 Grade 1 Test, the $500,000 Grade 1 Ketel One King's Bishop, and the $250,000 Grade 2 Ballston Spa.
By guaranteeing the wagers, NYRA will supplement the difference if either pool is less than the advertised amount.
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