SARATOGA SPRINGS - It's go time in the Spa City.
The 147th meeting opens on Friday afternoon at the historic Saratoga Race Course headlined by the Grade 3 $150,000 Schuylerville that has drawn eight 2-year-old fillies. The race, which typically is the first graded stake of the meet, will be run for the 97th time as the fourth race on the 10-race opening day card.
The biggest race on the opening weekend schedule is the $500,000 Grade 1 Diana on Saturday afternoon, which will feature three Grade 1 winning fillies and mares going 9-furlongs on the turf course.
In the 6-furlong Schuylerville, the deadly Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano combination will be the team to beat for owners Mathis Stable who will send out the 2-1 favorite, Positively Royal. The daughter of Bernardini out of a Storm Cat mare broke her maiden impressively at Belmont Park and Pletcher will be looking to repeat his victory in last year’s race with Fashion Alert. Pletcher has won the Schuylerville five times in his career.
His main challenge will come from a Wesley Ward-trainee, Moment Is Right (5-2), who is 2-for-2 and comes in off a win in the $250,000 Astoria at Belmont.
Here's a look at the field for the G3 Schuylerville (post position, trainer, jockey and morning line odds in parenthesis).
1 – Decked Out (Desormeaux, Desormeaux, 4-1). The daughter of Street Boss finished second by 1 ½-lengths in the Astoria to Ward’s horse. Keith Desormeaux has a string at the Spa for the first time, including BC Juvenile champ Texas Red. Has a good chance to move forward after a three-wide trip in his last.
2 – Little Miss Miss (Reid, Remedio, 30-1). Longshot filly ships in from Parx, where she broke her maiden. She’ll be in over her head against this crew.
3 - Areolite (Asmussen, Leparoux, 8-1) Trainer Asmussen has had success in this race in the past, dead heating for victory two years ago and a three-time winner of the race (2008, 2009, 2013). Owner Ron Winchell’s homebred is a daughter of Tapit out of Gone West mare. Broke her maiden at Churchill and finished third in a non-graded stake.
4 – Off the Tracks (Rodriguez, Saez, 12-1). Daughter of Curlin emerges from a Gulfstream maiden race for Rudy. Has two solid morning efforts on the work tab. Best chance is a pace collapse where she picks up the pieces.
5 – One Minute (Asmussen, Lanerie, 20-1). Soundly beaten third in the Astoria, a trip to the Woodbine Polytrack was an even bigger disappointment after a breaking her maiden in her third attempt at Churchill. While Asmussen has had good fortune on the all-weather to dirt angle (30 percent), best to wait one out on this one.
6 – Moment Is Right (Ward, Rosario, 5-2). Ward is having a terrific year and last year’s Astoria winner won this race. Rosario returns in the irons after a bullet work on July 17. She looks to be ready to roll on Friday.
7 – Positively Royal (Pletcher, Castellano, 2-1). Pletcher thrives in the 2-year-old races and based on her July 17 work at Saratoga he has this one cranked up for this race. She won easily in her debut after being bumped at the start at Belmont in mid-June. Hard to dismiss.
8 – Banree (Ward, Hernandez, 5-1). Jockey Hernandez is on fire of late and does well with early speed types. She wanted no part of her last in the $250K Tremont, tossing her head at the start and then had a wide trip around. Willing to draw a line through that one and give her a pass.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Moment is Right; 2 – Positively Royal and; 3 – Banree
The other big race on the day is the $200,000 Grade 2 Lake George for 3-year-old fillies on the turf going 1 1/16-miles. It looks to be one of the best races of the day, as the filly with the lowest odds on the morning line is Feathered at a juicy 9-2.
She’s the most decorated horse in the race based on a win in the Grade 3 Edgewood and Grade 1 stakes-placed in the American Oaks and Starlet. Luis Saez will have the mount on the Indian Charlie filly.
Other major contenders include Partisan Politics (5-1) for Chad Brown, who has suffered two defeats to the heralded Lady Eli. She drew the outside for top turf jockey Castellano, but looks to be a win threat.
Mark Casse ships in Mississippi Delta (4-1) who will be ridden by Julien Leparoux after winning her debut turf race at Woodbine in mid-June. Look for her to be making a late run for Casse.
Celestine (8-1) is an interesting filly by Scat Daddy out of a Monarchos mare. She has won four straight, including three non-graded stakes for trainer Bill Mott. She looks like she’ll relish the additional furlong and could pull a surprise win at a price. Junior Alvarado has the mount.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Celestine; 2 – Feathered; and 3 – Partisan Politics
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.