Saratoga Saturday

10.45 Whitney Stakes (Grade 1)

WE are getting into the better part of the US season where the top runners are scheduled to take each other on and the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes sees one of the world’s top-rated horses, Life Is Good, go to war against the up-and-coming Olympiad.

After winning the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Life Is Good made all at Gulfstream in January to beat the Breeders’ Cup winner Knicks Go in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes over nine furlongs. But there might have been a suspicion that the second underperformed. Saratoga may be a different set up.

The mile and two of the Dubai World Cup was too much for him but he impressed again last time back over seven furlongs with a five-length win at Belmont when at short odds.

He holds the best Beyer speed figure of 112 from that victory in the Grade 2 John A. Nerud on July 2nd.

Bill Mott’s four-year-old Olympiad looked very good in winning the Grade 2 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs in early July and is on a six-timer. He coped with decent fractions of 23.05, 46.45, and 1m10.64secs and held off today’s rival Americanrevolution by two and a quarter lengths, gaining a speed figure of 111.

Grade 1-winner Hot Rod Charlie also needs a mention. Doug O’Neill’s colt boasts the highest earnings in the field $5,151,200, was third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and a hard-fought second in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.

He was disqualified after winning the Haskell last year, was second in the Dubai World Cup and again second over a mile in a Monmouth Grade 3; he will keep the big two honest.

Happy Saver won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at three, was second to Olympiad in the Grade 2 Alysheba in May at Churchill Downs and in the Grade 1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park to Flightline.

It’s a fascinating race and over this track and distance, this might be the time to take on Life Is Good, and Olympiad can come through.

The Grade 1 Saratoga Derby (11.20pm) looks practically a re-run of the Belmont Derby where Classic Causeway surprised the European challenge of Godolphin and Ballydoyle. Again, Nations Pride and Stone Age, second and third then, are in opposition with the former having a much better draw this time in four.

John Velazquez takes over from Ryan Moore on Stone Age but has stall 10 of 11 to overcome. The new player is Emmanuel, scratched late from the Belmont Derby and who may shape this race if he runs to take on Classic Causeway.

Todd Pletcher has a second fancied runner in Annapolis, a son of War Front, who has won three of four career starts on the grass. Stone Age could get closer this time, but the home team looks stronger than at Belmont.

The Grade 1 Test Stakes for sprinting fillies sees Godolphin’s homebred Pioneerof The Nile filly seeking four in a row. She romped by over six lengths in the June 11th Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park, her first Grade 1 win.

Del Mar

Del Mar has one Grade 1, the Clement L Hirsch Stakes for fillies and mares with Brad Cox’s multiple Grade 1 winner Shedaresthedevil heading the field. She won a Churchill Downs Grade 2 last time out and appears to hold her form well.

The three-year-old Desert Dawn, trained by Phil D’Amato, won this year’s Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks and finished third in the Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks and Grade 2 Summertime Oaks, stumbling badly at the start of the latter. Baffert’s Private Mission is another danger.