By Gene Kershner
SARATOGA SPRINGS - It's game on at Saratoga Race Course tomorrow afternoon.
The 146th meeting opens on Friday afternoon at the historic race track headlined by a Grade 3 $150,000 Schuylerville that drew five 2-year-old fillies. The race, which typically is the first graded stake of the meet, will be run for the 96th time as the third race on the 10-race opening day card.
Another highlight of the opening weekend is the placing of the $500,000 Grade 1 Diana on Saturday afternoon, moving the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks to Sunday.
In the Schuylerville, the deadly Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez combination will be the team to beat for owners George Bolton and Barry Hall who will send out the 3-5 favorite, Fashion Alert. The daughter of Old Fashioned out of a Tiznow mare broke her maiden in a non-graded stake at Belmont Park and is clearly the class of the field.
Here's a look at the field for the G3 Schuylerville (post position, trainer, jockey and morning line odds in parenthesis).
1 - Mast Cove (Robb, Betancourt, 20-1). The daughter of Derby runner Cowboy Cal broke her maiden in a $30K maiden claimer last time out at Delaware Park after two so-so efforts at Pimlico. Stretches out to 6 furlongs for the first tie and will have her word cut out against this group.
2 - Tulira's Star (Mettee, Bravo, 5-2). Trainer Rick Mettee sends out this daughter of Congrats for Team Valor International and will look to move forward off an impressive maiden score at Arlington Park on the Polytrack. She was heavily bet winning her debut and the second place finisher came out of that race to break her maiden. Contender.
3 - Evrybdymstgetstonz (Contessa, Montanez, 12-1) About the only thing this filly has is the best name in the field. All kidding aside, the daughter of Bustin Stones broke her maiden winning by 6 lengths at Belmont Park on July 2. She'll contend to hit the board coming off a sharp 3-furlong workout on Monday morning.
4 - Fashion Alert (Pletcher, Velazquez, 3-5). The class of the field will be at a very short price for the dynamic duo. She won the $100K Astoria by 4 3/4-lengths after a bad start, so let's see what she can do if she breaks well. It's tough to see her anywhere other than on top.
5 - Take Charge Brandi (Lukas, Lanerie, 6-1). The daughter of Giant's Causeway out of a Seeking the Gold mare obviously wants to go longer and should keep moving forward.
Post Time Outlook: 1 - Fashion Alert; 2 - Take Charge Brandi and; 3 - Tulira's Star
Trifecta play: $2 Trifecta - 4 over 2,5 over 2,3,5 (cost - $12)
The other stakes race on the opening day card is the $100,000 Sir Cat to be run at a mile on the inner turf. The race has attracted some high profile 3-year-olds that were on the Triple Crown trail including Derby runner and Tampa Bay Derby winner 7-Ring Weekend (10-1) and Preakness runner 3-Pablo Del Monte (2-1).
Hall of Famer Velazquez will ride Ring Weekend and European jockey Frankie Dettori will ride Pablo for Wesley Ward. This is Dettori's first-ever meet at Saratoga.
Those two will be challenged by the top two choices on the morning line, 5-Tourist (8-5) and 1-Storming Inti (9-5). Tourist is coming off two straight wins on the weeds and will employ the services of top jockey Joel Rosario to ride for Bill Mott. Storming Inti was third in the $500K Penn Mile at Penn National in May and has battled well in graded company.
With an inside post, early speed and the dangerous Castellano in the irons, I'm going to favor Storming Inti to get the job done in the Sir Cat. He's been working well for Chad Brown and should turn back these foes on Friday afternoon. We'll look for 6-J to the Croft to split the exacta with Jose Lezcano who gets it done on the turf.
Post Time Outlook: 1 - Storming Inti; 2 - J to the Croft; and 3 - Tourist
Check Friday's print editions for my advance on the 40-day meet with some tips on what to see and do when you're at the Spa.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.