A field of seven, including one main-track only runner, was entered for Saturday’s $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap (G1) at Saratoga.
The one-mile inner turf affair attracted American Patriot, Disco Partner, Time Test and World Approval, and any one of that quartet could wind up in the winner’s circle.
American Patriot enters the Fourstardave off a trip across the Atlantic to compete at Royal Ascot. The War Front four-year-old was no match for his rivals in the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-G1), finishing 11th, but entered that contest off a neck victory in the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) on April 14 at Keeneland.
“I think he was a little confused, going the wrong way, uphill and the trip and all that, it just didn’t work out for him. It was obviously a different setting for him, going a straight mile,” trainer Todd Pletcher said of the Queen Anne.
American Patriot was also third by only three parts of a length in last year’s Secretariat Stakes (G1) at Arlington Park, and keeps jockey John Velazquez in the saddle here.
“He came back from Royal Ascot in good form and he’s been pointing for this since then,” Pletcher added. “He’s been training well. He seems happy, and he’s getting back to what he’s best at, which is a two-turn mile. He gives us the impression he’s training as well as he ever has. It’s a tough race for sure, but he acts like he’s in good form. I think his Maker’s 46 indicates when he’s on his A-game, he can compete with the best of the American milers.”
Disco Partner gained fame when setting a world record for six furlongs in the Jaipur Invitational (G3) on June 10 at Belmont Park, and turned around to take the one-mile Forbidden Apple Stakes last month by 3 1/4 lengths for trainer Christophe Clement. The Disco Rico five-year-old is three-for-three in 2017, having also captured the Elusive Quality Stakes to kick of his campaign on April 29.
Disco Partner returns to the site of his victory last year in the Troy Stakes with Tyler Gaffalione aboard for the first time.
“I thought he won well at Belmont but it’s a Grade 1 so we’ll try it,” Clement said. “It looks very ambitious and we can always go back shorter next time, but he’s won at a mile so we’ll see what happens.”
Time Test boasts just three stateside starts, most recently missing by a nose in the Fort Marcy Stakes (G3) on May 6 and filling that same spot in the Manhattan Stakes (G1) next out on June 10 by 1 1/4 lengths. The Chad Brown charge was a multiple Group 2 winner in England last year and ran second in the Eclipse Stakes (Eng-G1) as well.
World Approval scored in last year’s United Nations Stakes (G1) and this year won the Dixie Stakes (G2). The Mark Casse-conditioned five-year-old filled the fifth spot, only 1 3/4 lengths behind the winner, last out in the Manhattan, and gets Manuel Franco in the irons this time around.
Ballagh Rocks got the neck score in the Poker in his latest race and just missed by a half-length when fourth to American Patriot in the Maker’s 46 Mile. The Bill Mott-trained son of Stormy Atlantic could step up for his second straight stakes score in this spot under jockey Jose Lezcano.
“He’s come along nicely. He’s won four of his last six. He’s done well and it looks like he’s good at a mile,” said Mott, who won last year’s Fourstardave race with eventual Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) hero Tourist. “There’s not much pace in the race, so I don’t know where that puts us. There could only be one horse in there with any pace.”
Multiple Grade 1-placed Sassy Little Lila is taking on the boys in this spot for trainer Brad Cox. The Artie Schiller four-year-old has been worse than second only once in her career, with that coming in her debut last June at Belmont Park. She’s competed twice this season, taking an allowance/optional claimer on May 20 at Churchill Downs and missing by only three parts of a length in the Just a Game Stakes (G1) on June 10 at Belmont under returning rider Luis Saez.
“She’s still a lightly raced filly,” Cox said. “She’s a four-year-old that hasn’t run a lot, so she’s still learning and hopefully her best races are in front of her. She’s ultra-consistent. She has a lot of talent and ability.
“We knew last summer when she was breezing here, she really stepped up and showed us that she could be a graded stakes horse even right before she broke her maiden,” he added. “Her works were spectacular. She won the last race on the last day of the meet last year and almost broke the track record, so we knew she had a big upside.”
Sassy Little Lila was entered in last weekend’s De La Rose Stakes but Cox decided on this spot instead, where she’ll only have to carry 112 pounds.
“Obviously, there’s a couple angles we’re hoping work out: We get a weight break as a filly facing the boys, she likes a mile, and she likes this course up here,” Cox said. “It’s an ambitious spot but she’s doing well, so we think she’s up for the challenge.”
Weekend Hideaway will only run if the race is switched from turf to the main track.