The field for Saturday’s $1 million Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga, a “Win & You’re In” prep for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), is boosted by the presence of European shippers Idaho and Erupt. However, the two enter the 1 1/2-mile grass test on different trajectories.
Idaho, who captured the Hardwicke (G2) at Royal Ascot in June, comes off a third in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1) behind the brilliant three-year-old filly Enable and Ulysses, who boosted the form with a two-length win in Wednesday’s Juddmonte International (G1) at York. Idaho is seeking his first top-level score here.
Erupt, meanwhile, has a pair of Group 1 tallies already, including the Canadian International (G1) over Idaho last fall. However, since that run at Woodbine, the France-based five-year-old has been well beaten in the Japan Cup (G1) and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1). Only a narrow fourth-place finish in the Prix Ganay (G1), in his season opener two back, qualifies as a recent inspiring effort.
“He seems to have shipped well and has been training well,” trainer Francis-Henri Graffard said. “The ground was way too soft last time in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, but he had a very good seasonal comeback in the Prix Ganay.”
The course condition for both events at Saint-Cloud, outside Paris, were labeled good-to-soft.
The domestic contingent features Money Multiplier, a strong second to Flintshire in the 2016 Sword Dancer. In possession of a win and two seconds on the Saratoga lawn, the Chad Brown trainee returned from a near nine-month break to take his season debut in the July 30 Monmouth (G2) last time.
“He ran a great race last year in the Sword Dancer and he was a bit unlucky in there,” Brown said. “He seems to be training really well, so I’m excited for him to get another chance at it.”
The top three from the July 29 Bowling Green (G2) — Hunter O’Riley, Bigger Picture, and Sadler’s Joy — return here. While it was the first major win for Hunter O’Riley, who posted a 16-1 shock, Bigger Picture had previously won the United Nations (G1) and Sadler’s Joy the Pan American (G2).
Also returning from the Bowling Green is sixth-place finisher Frank Conversation, who could provide this race with some much needed pace.
The final stakes of Travers Day, the $400,000 Ballston Spa at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, is a Grade 2 in name only as it features the beloved Lady Eli, who won for the ninth time in 12 career starts in last month’s Diana (G1).
“The more I thought about it and the more I observed her works since the Diana, she’s looked super,” Brown said. “I’m staring at that lengthy layoff from the Diana going to the [Grade 1, $500,000 Flower Bowl on October 8 at Belmont Park] going a mile and a quarter and factoring in that it’s in the fall in New York. If it came up heavy ground or something, I’d really put myself in a box and it’s kind of a difficult position to be in with her final prep for the Breeders’ Cup. The more I thought about it and the clear forecast here on Saturday gives me the option to not run her again before the Breeders’ Cup if the conditions weren’t right.
“She came out of her last work great and she’s giving us a lot of the body language she gives us when she’s ready to run,” he added. “On top of all that, it’ll be great to run her at Saratoga one more time.”
Re-opposing are Grade 1 winners Antonoe and Dickinson, who ran third and fifth, respectively, in the Diana. Antonoe showed a brilliant turn of foot to take the Just a Game (G1) at Belmont in June, but had to steady late in the nine-furlong Diana while falling a length short of Lady Eli.
“With Antonoe, I think the cutback in distance from the Diana will benefit her,” Brown said. “She won going a mile in the Just a Game, so I think a mile and a sixteenth should be fine for her.”
Like Lady Eli and Antonoe, Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) heroine Roca Rojo is trained by Chad Brown. She trailed the field of seven in the Just a Game as the 2-1 favorite.
“I think the time off since the Just a Game has benefited Roca Rojo. She’s freshened up a little bit. She’s put in a good string of works and I’m really happy with her,” Brown said.
Time and Motion and On Leave, both graded stakes winners at three last season, complete the field.