Summer at Saratoga arrives slightly earlier this year as the country’s most popular race meeting kicks off its 40-day stand on Thursday. Mondays have been eliminated from the schedule for 2019, thus racing will be held on a Wednesday through Sunday basis for eight weeks, the lone exception being the meet finale on Labor Day.
The stakes action starts with a competitive renewal of the $150,000 Schuylerville (G3) for two-year-old fillies. Trainer Doug O’Neill will be represented by a recent acquisition, Shippy, and California invader Comical. Both won at first asking with ease at Laurel and Santa Anita, respectively.
“Both fillies are doing really well. With Shippy, we just took over her training, so we don’t know that much about her, other than her debut was super impressive,” O’Neill said.
“Comical has been pointed to this race for a while. She’s been training really well coming into it. We have two nice fillies and two top riders. I’m optimistic for both.”
Todd Pletcher also has two. Integral was an odds-on winner of her debut at Gulfstream Park in late May, while Kiss the Girl was similarly popular with bettors in winning her first start at Belmont.
Aurelia Garland, a five-length winner first out at Belmont in early May, is another who should see her share of pari-mutuel support in the six-furlong dash.
“She’s doing great. She’s a real quality filly who won convincingly in her debut,” trainer Wesley Ward said. “You never know in these races, but she’s very talented and very fast, especially for being a big filly. She’s certainly going to appreciate the added furlong. Her game will be going long.”
A more detailed look at the Schuylerville can be found at John Mucciolo’s blog at TwinSpires.com.
The supporting feature on Thursday is the $100,000 Quick Call, a 5 1/2-furong turf sprint for three-year-olds. Call Paul and Sombeyay respectively captured the Saratoga Special (G2) and Sanford (G3) on dirt at the 2018 Saratoga meet, but neither has yet tried the grass.
A veteran of 15 starts, Hutcheson (G3) winner Gladiator King own a two-for-three turf mark and seeks to rebound from a sub-par effort in the $75,000 Ocala at Gulfstream last month.
Listing is a multiple stakes winner on turf in Southern California, including the $91,000 Desert Code at Santa Anita last time over five panels. The only filly in the field is Abyssian, third against the boys two back in the $100,000 Palisades Turf Sprint at Keeneland.
“We took on the boys before at Keeneland and she was a bit compromised in the race,” Wesley Ward said. “She hopped at the start and Johnny (Velazquez) rushed her up to get position. She really didn’t have that same finish as she did down in Florida, though she was running against much easier company there. I thought she still ran a real credible race against a quality horse [Bulleitin], a Breeders’ Cup winner.
“She’s doing great coming into the race. We’re also considering the Coronation Cup (on Sunday), but the Quick Call is very tempting since it’s a Grade 3 and those opportunities don’t come up often for turf sprinters. She’s got proven turf sprint form and I think she’s got a chance.”