Grade 1 winners Hi Happy and Sadler’s Joy appear set to compete for favoritism in the $250,000 Bowling Green (G2) and top sprinter Imperial Hint will make his first local appearance in the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday.
The Bowling Green and Vanderbilt are among four graded stakes on tap.
Contested at 1 3/8 miles on the inner turf, the Bowling Green will be the fourth straight match-up between Hi Happy and Sadler’s Joy. Hi Happy captured the first two, posting wins in the Pan American (G2) and Man o’ War (G1), and Sadler’s Joy finished a neck better than his rival when recording a neck second in the June 9 Manhattan (G1).
A former Argentinean Horse of the Year, Hi Happy needed time to acclimate to North American racing, dropping all four starts last year in Southern California. He was transferred to Todd Pletcher for the 2018 season and improved his form significantly, opening the year with a rallying third in the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1). The 6-year-old son of Pure Prize followed with front-running wins in the aforementioned Pan American and Man o’ War, the latter coming at the Bowling Green distance, and Hi Happy should appreciate the added ground Saturday following a determined third in the 1 ¼-mile Manhattan. John Velazquez will replace Luis Saez in the saddle.
Sadler’s Joy likes the local turf, winning last year’s Sword Dancer (G1) on the Travers Day undercard, and the 5-year-old returns in top condition for Tom Albertrani. An earner of more than $1.6 million, the three-time graded stakes winner brings a strong turn of foot to the equation, registering BRIS Late Pace ratings as high as 108 this season, and the chestnut will be rolling late with Javier Castellano.
Nine horses will face the starter and Chad Brown will be represented by two-time Grade 2 scorer and 2017 Sword Dancer runner-up Money Multiplier, who exits a fast-closing second in the June 30 United Nations (G1). Irad Ortiz Jr. takes over the reins. Bigger Picture, third when making a title defense in the United Nations last time, finished a neck second in last year’s Bowling Green and a close third in the Sword Dancer. Jose Ortiz rides the Mike Maker-trained gelding.
Imperial Hint tops a field of seven in the 6-furlong Vanderbilt, a “Win & You’re In” for the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Runner-up in the 2017 Sprint at Del Mar, the 5-year-old has captured two of three starts this season including the June 8 True North (G2) at Belmont Park. Luis Carvajal Jr. trains and Castellano has the call on the classy son of Imperialism.
Switzerland brings a four-race win skein into his second stakes attempt. A maiden winner at Aqueduct in mid-February, the 4-year-old Speightstown colt followed with a pair of facile wins over conditioned allowance foes at Oaklawn Park and continued to improve with a convincing triumph in the May 18 Maryland Sprint (G3) on the Preakness undercard. Switzerland registered a career-best 101 BRIS Speed rating last time and the Steve Asmussen pupil keeps the services of Ricardo Santana Jr.
Other contestants include Grade 3 victor Warrior’s Club and Iowa Sprint romper Done Deal.
Familiar foes are set $200,000 Amsterdam (G2) as Promises Fulfilled and Strike Power will meet for the fourth time this year in the 6 ½-furlong test. World of Trouble, who locked horns for the first time with the duo when finishing fourth as the favorite in the June 9 Woody Stephens (G2), is also among the seven 3-year-olds entered.
Promises Fulfilled opened the year with an upset win in the Fountain of Youth (G2). After well-beaten efforts in the Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby, the Dale Romans-trained colt cut back in distance with a third in the Woody Stephens. Saez guides the confirmed front-runner.
Strike Power won his first two starts sprinting, including the Swale (G3), before faltering in a pair of route attempts. The Mark Casse-trainee will try to improve upon a disappointing eighth in the Woody Stephens and Velazquez will be up.
World of Trouble opened the year with a runaway win in the 7-furlong Pasco and finished third as the favorite when stretching out for the Tampa Bay Derby (G2). He dueled early with Promises Fulfilled in the Woody Stephens and will likely show speed once again Saturday. Irad Ortiz rides for Jason Servis.
Engage also merits respect among seven 3-year-olds. A maiden winner at Saratoga last year, the Into Mischief colt exits a rallying second in the Woody Stephens and the Brown runner is eligible to make a stretch impact here with Jose Ortiz.
The $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2) for 3-year-olds headlines Saturday’s stakes action at the Spa.