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A different Saratoga in 2020

There will be sounds of silence racing at the Spa.

Saratoga, the premier horse racing meet in New York, will be conducted under spectator-free conditions with only essential personnel on track starting with opening day Thursday. Those restrictions are subject to change, with Saratoga hoping to allow a limited number of owners to attend the races sometime during the meet.

All jockeys will be required to produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed on the grounds.  Due to recent positive tests in other regions of the country, the New York Racing Association instituted a new protocol that will not allow jockeys to ride at Saratoga if they leave during the meet to ride elsewhere. Also, no rider will be allowed on the grounds if the jockey has ridden at any other track after the Saratoga meet has started.

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The Stakes program has been adjusted this year due to the postponement of the Kentucky Derby to Sept. 5.  The Peter Pan Stakes for three-year-olds will be run on opening day and offer 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the first four finishers.   

Country Grammer, trained by Chad Brown, has benefited from the Derby postponement and should get better as the races get longer. He had a solid Allowance prep, stretches out to nine furlongs around two turns, and looks like the one to beat.  Mystic Guide, who finished just in front of Country Grammer in a June 4 Allowance, looks like the main competition.

The Travers Stakes, the highlight of each Saratoga meet, has been moved from the last weekend in August to Aug. 8 and will for the first time offer 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the first four finishers. Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law is scheduled to run in the Travers, as is the late-developing Bob Baffert-trained Los Alamitos Derby winner Uncle Chuck.

For horseplayers, the main track could look different this year. NYRA has replaced the ancient drainage system, which should allow the main track to dry out more quickly and evenly after heavy rain. In recent years, puddles would form towards the inside rail, making the outside the place to be during inclement weather. Bettors will need to keep an eye out for a change in track bias when the main track comes up wet.

After a four-day week to start the meet, Saratoga will race on a Wednesday through Sunday schedule with closing day scheduled for Labor Day Monday Sept. 7.

Haskell Saturday

Authentic is no longer unbeaten after finishing second in the Santa Anita Derby behind Honor A.P. The Baffert trainee will try to make amends and re-establish his position as a major Kentucky Derby contender in Saturday’s Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park. The Haskell offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the first four finishers.

Dr. Post, trained by Todd Pletcher, finished a solid second behind Tiz the Law in the Belmont Stakes and looks like the one to beat though he’ll probably need a new rider as Irad Ortiz Jr. will likely remain at Saratoga. 

Others who are expected to be in the entry box when post positions are drawn Wednesday include Ancient Warrior, Ete Indian, Fame to Famous, Jesus’ Team, Lebda, Ny Traffic and Sonneman.

Jockeys test positive

Six jockeys tested positive last week for the coronavirus.

Martin Garcia tested positive Tuesday evening in Kentucky and canceled a trip to Indiana Grand. Luis Saez rode the first two races at Keeneland Friday before being notified of a positive test result. He was immediately removed from the rest of his mounts.

In New York, Florent Geroux tested positive after riding at Belmont Park Saturday. In California, Victor Espinoza was notified of a positive test result prior to Del Mar’s Friday opening day card. He was immediately taken off his mounts. Flavien Prat rode at Del Mar Friday, went to Keeneland Saturday for multiple Stakes engagements, and was tested when he got back to California Sunday. The test came back positive and he was taken off his mounts at Del Mar that afternoon. Edward Rojas Fernandez rode at Los Alamitos on July 3 and was the other rider to test positive.

All jockeys are currently self-quarantined following the guidelines of their local jurisdictions.

Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Saratoga Thursday, Race 4 — Thrill (No. 6). Filly finished well despite a wide trip and galloped out well in a promising debut sprinting on the turf. She is bred to like dirt and can make the last run in a race that appears to have plenty of early speed.