SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY ”” I am in upstate New York for the
premier race meet in the world ”” SARATOGA. The charm, the tradition and the
location make this place “the summer place to be.”
Considering the records that tumbled last year, the show
could be better than ever in 2001. During its upcoming 36-day meet ”” there is
no racing on Tuesdays ”” Saratoga will play host to 35 stakes races worth $8.95
million. Of these, 32 are graded stakes and 14 of those are Grade 1.
Naturally, the 132nd running of the Grade 1, $1 million
Travers is the premier race of the meet on Saturday, August 25th. The
“Mid-Summer Derby” attracts racing’s top three-year-olds, who will go a
mile and a quarter in one of racing’s oldest and most prestigious races.
“This is a big year for New York racing in general, and
we are very excited about the upcoming Saratoga meet in particular,” said Mike
Lakow, NYRA Racing Secretary/Handicapper. “Our goal every year is to improve
upon the quality of racing, and we have accomplished that goal. The upgrades of
important races and the boost in purses will lure the different division stars
to Saratoga. This meet should also give fans a chance to see some of racing’s
top players who will compete in the Fall at the Breeders’ Cup Championship at
Belmont Park (October27th). ”
Two Saratoga races have been upgraded to Grade 1 status.
One of these is the Jim Dandy, the traditional nine-furlong prep for the
Travers. In addition to its Grade 1 status, the Jim Dandy has received a purse
boost from $400,000 to $600,000.
The Jim Dandy will be run on Saturday, August 4th, and
its importance is not lost on racing’s faithful. Travers winners Quadrangle
(second, 1964); Arts and Letters (won, 1969); Loud (second, 1970); Willow Hour
(won, 1981); Carr de Naskra (won, 1984); Thunder Rumble (won, 1992); Sea Hero
(fourth, 1993); Will’s Way (second, 1996); and Lemon Drop Kid (second, 1999)
all prepped in the Jim Dandy.
Last year, Graeme Hall won the Jim Dandy, with Unshaded
fourth and Albert The Great last. Unshaded and Albert The Great would come back
to put on one of the more dramatic runnings of the Travers, with Unshaded
getting up to win by a head. Commendable, the Belmont Stakes winner, was third.
Albert The Great has since gone to be one of the top
handicap horses this year. On June 10th, he easily won Belmont Park’s Grade 2
Brooklyn Handicap and trainer Nick Zito says the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney
Handicap on Saturday, July 28th is his main goal this summer.
Also upgraded to Grade 1 status is the $250,000 Forego
Handicap at six and a half furlongs on Saturday, September 1st.
Always a crowd-pleaser, the Grade 1 Alabama, the Travers
counterpart for three-year-old fillies will be run on Saturday, August 18th. The
Alabama carries a purse of $750,000. Its traditional prep, the Grade 1, $250,000
Test at seven furlongs, will be held on Saturday, July 28th.
The nine-furlong Whitney Handicap is one of several Grade
1 Saratoga staples, which also includes the $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational
at a mile and a half on the turf on Saturday, August 11th; the $250,000 Go for
Wand for fillies and mares at nine furlongs on Sunday, July 29th; the $400,000
Personal Ensign for fillies and mares at a mile and a quarter on Friday, August
24th; the $200,000 King’s Bishop for three-year-olds at seven furlongs on
Travers Day; the $250,00 Ballerina for fillies and mares at seven furlongs on
Sunday, August 26th; and the $200,000 Spinaway for two-year-old fillies at seven
furlongs on Friday, August 31st.
Completing Saratoga’s Grade 1 slate is the
$100,000-added New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase (over hurdles) on
Thursday, August 30th. Next week, I will offer insight in beating this meet. I
will continue each Tuesday with a synopsis of the past week’s racing action
and a preview of the upcoming week. In addition, I will be offering my daily
selections in an online column that can be accessed at www.gamingtoday.com.