The annual meeting at Saratoga Race Course in New York is among the most renowned horse racing campaigns in the industry, and Friday marks the opening day of the festivities for the 146th edition.
There are 10 races on the schedule to kick off the season at this historic venue. According to NYRA.com's Jon Forbes, there will be plenty of television coverage for many prestigious races throughout, though not beginning until Fox Sports 1 covers July 20's Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.
But there are two stakes races that will headline Day 1's action: The Schuylerville Stakes and the Sir Cat Stakes. Plenty of prominent jockeys will be in the saddle for those, and several prominent trainers are involved in preparing their capable contenders for a shot at the winner's circle.
Here is a look at the basic information regarding the first day in Saratoga Springs, along with predicted winners for Friday's stakes races.
When: Friday, July 18 (first post is at 1 p.m. ET)
Where: Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Post Positions and Contenders: Complete listing for all 10 races can be found at the New York Racing Association's official website—along with the morning-line odds.
Predicting Winners for Stakes Races
Schuylerville Stakes: Fashion Alert (3-5)
There are only five entries in this race featuring two-year-old fillies, so playing the favorite is an even safer bet in these situations. Fashion Alert has only one start, though it was a dominant one, where she ran to victory by 4 3/4 lengths at Belmont Park in the Astoria Stakes.
"She’s special," said owner George Bolton, per NYRA.com's Jenny Kellner. "Obviously, Todd thought enough of her to start her off in a stakes. I hadn’t seen her since March, and she’d grown up since then. From the way she gallops out and the Tiznow side, we’re hoping distance won’t be an issue for her this year."
Trainer Todd Pletcher is as good as there is in the modern era, and it also helps that Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will be in the irons.
That combination is something the competition can't boast. Take Charge Brandi is another long shot bred from Kentucky by trainer D. Wayne Lukas. DRF Formulater outlined Lukas' track record in such races, which suggests Take Charge Brandi will be hard-pressed to win at 6-1:
Velazquez gives Fashion Alert the edge as it is over his Take Charge Brandi counterpart Corey Lanerie. Although 5-2 favorite Tulira's Star should give her a run for first, look for Fashion Alert to emerge victorious thanks to superior connections.
Sir Cat Stakes: Tourist (8-5)
This one-mile jaunt will be a test of relative endurance, meaning that it will take a seasoned jockey in the saddle who knows how to get it done. In that context, look no further than Joel Rosario, the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner aboard Orb.
Rosario then snapped California Chrome's bid for the 2014 Triple Crown with a triumph at the Preakness Stakes aboard Tonalist. With a similar horse name, he will get the mount for Tourist amid a highly competitive field of 10.
There's also reason to believe Rosario can carry on the recent momentum he generated at Belmont Park, per his agent Ronald T. Anderson:
The top challengers to take on Tourist are projected to be Pablo Del Monte (2-1), who finished sixth in the Preakness Stakes this year, and Cabo Cat (4-1).
It speaks volumes that Tourist is placed by oddsmakers ahead of a Triple Crown contender in Pablo Del Monte. The Florida-born horse did well at a similar distance in Baltimore, but doesn't have as accomplished of a jockey aboard in Frankie Dettori.
The reasoning behind picking both Fashion Alert and Tourist as winners may seem rather rudimentary, but it makes sense in the context of their odds. Quality horses tend to rise to the top as it is, and with elite jockeys and trainers there to push them in the right direction, the two favorites of Friday's biggest races are bound to win.
Fashion Alert could be mounting her own bid as a potential Triple Crown contender for next year a little early if she continues this fine of form in her two-year-old season. For Tourist, a third straight win would further prove that Rosario's magic can translate to those winding down at age three.
Between the eight other races to take in, an unprecedented amount of TV coverage and plenty of other prestigious races to look forward to on the calendar, this year's meeting at Saratoga Springs will be another great one.