The time-tested traditions of two-year-olds and turf racing highlight Friday’s Opening Day stakes at Saratoga Race Course as the historic track opens its gates for its 148th meet.
First race post time for the 10-race card is 1 p.m., with a $ 150,000 Guaranteed Pick 6 beginning in Race 5.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, 12 times the champion trainer at the Spa, goes in search of his sixth victory in the Grade 3, $ 150,000 Schuylerville for 2-year-old fillies with St. Elias Stable’s Sweet Loretta. The bay daughter of Tapit, a $ 750,000 weanling purchase at Keeneland, started her career with a seven-length maiden victory on June 18 at Monmouth Park.
She will leave from post position 4 under Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
Lining up to challenge her in the six-furlong race, which will be contested as race 8, will be eight other winners, including the Steve Asmussen-trained Made Me Shiver, who won by 5 ¾ lengths at first asking on June 17 at Churchill Downs. Asmussen, who has won three runnings of the Schuylerville, will give a leg up to Irad Ortiz, Jr., winner of last year’s riding title at Saratoga.
The pair will leave from post position 5.
Rounding the far-flung entrants are maiden winners Olive Branch, Platinum Spark, and Summer Sally from Belmont Park; Inspired Flight, a one-length winner on debut on July 1 at Laurel Park; Lightning Dove, who won in April at Keeneland, as well as Fun and Harlands Thunder, both victorious at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Chad Brown, winner of the training title at the recently concluded Belmont Park spring/summer meet and runner-up to Pletcher each year at the Spa since 2011, will saddle a pair in the Grade 2, $ 200,000 Lake George for 3-year-old fillies on the Mellon Turf.
Brown will be represented by the undefeated New York-bred Ancient Secret, who will be going around two turns for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile Lake George. The daughter of Kantharos, who fetched $ 225,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale last April, is 3-for-3 at Belmont Park, having broken her maiden against state-breds, defeated older fillies in a New York-bred allowance and then post a head victory in open company in the one-mile Wild Applause on June 19.
Ortiz, Jr. will be aboard Ancient Secret, who drew post position 5 of 12.
Also from the Brown barn will be the Irish-bred Elysea’s World, a maiden winner in France last year who won her stateside debut on May 11 at Belmont in an optional claimer at the Lake George distance. She next finished a well-backed sixth behind winner Time and Motion in the Wonder Again on June 5.
Three-time Eclipse Award winning jockey Javier Castellano rides Elysea’s World from post position 2.
Also having begun their careers in Europe are Amerman Racing’s Baciami Piccola, who won the Grade 3 Florida Oaks in her first stateside start after racing in France and Italy, and the Tommy Stack-trained Diamond Fields, making her American debut after racing in Ireland and England. Most recently she finished second in the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot.
Baciami Piccola drew post 8 under Joel Rosario while Diamond Fields will leave from post 3 under Junior Alvarado.
Expected to attract support as well are stakes winner Flora Dora, making her first start on grass; Grade 3 Miss Grillo winner Tin Type Gal; the Mike Maker-trained Try Your Luck, third last out in the Grade 3 Regret at Churchill Downs, and Gone Away, who was eighth in the Regret after winning the Hilltop at Pimlico.
Rounding out the field are Thundering Sky, Enjoy Yourself, Sky My Sky, and Outsider Art, who broke her maiden last year at the Spa and was Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s lone flat winner during the meet.
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