Weekend Lineup Presented By BetMakers: Saratoga's Opening Weekend - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Weekend Lineup Presented By BetMakers: Saratoga’s Opening Weekend

Owner Peter Brant and Bleecker Street

With six victories in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes in the last 11 renewals, Chad Brown has put his stamp on this opening weekend fixture for fillies and mares as he has on other turf stakes on the New York Racing Association circuit.

On Saturday, Brown has four of the six Diana entries led by Peter Brant's 4-year-old Quality Road filly, Bleecker Street, who is unbeaten in seven career starts.

The Diana shares Saturday's Saratoga spotlight with the G3 Sanford Stakes for 2-year-olds, a race that dates back to 1913 and has seen the likes of Tom Fool, Hail to Reason, Secretariat, Affirmed and Forty Niner posing for pictures in the winner's circle.

In recent years, Todd Pletcher has dominated the Sanford, winning eight times since 1999, and the Hall of Famer has a pair of juveniles entered, including the Violence colt Forte, an impressive 7 3/4-length winner at Belmont in his lone start on May 27.

Saratoga dominates the weekend graded stakes as Monmouth Park looks ahead to TVG.com Haskell Day next Saturday and Del Mar prepares for its July 22 opening day card. Laurel Park has a solid card offering four stakes, including the listed Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.

Here's a quick look at some of this weekend's stakes:


5:39 p.m. – Grade 3 Forbidden Apple Stakes at Saratoga

It's a Grade 3, but there's Grade 1 talent in this mile turf stakes, including Brad Cox-trained Set Piece, second to Got Stormy in the G1 Fourstardave at Saratoga last year. He draws the rail and could get a good setup with ample speed in the lineup. Ian Wilkes enters Mira Mission off a runner-up performance, beaten a neck over the new Churchill Downs grass course, in the G1 Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby day.

Forbidden Apple Entries


5:03 p.m. – Grade 1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga

Chad Brown's five-year winning streak in the Diana ended in 2021 when Charlie Appleby sent Althiqa and Summer Romance from Europe for a 1-2 finish. Appleby is back this year with Irish-bred Creative Flair, who raced competitively twice in New York in 2021 but has been idle since a  February win in Meydan. Brown's powerhouse quartet includes two fillies – Technical Analysis and In Italian – who can race on the lead to ensure a fast enough pace to set things up for Bleecker Street, who always comes flying late. Dalika might be a filly to put into exotic wagers as the Al Stall runner fits with these on her best day.

Diana Entries

5:45 p.m. – Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash

Once one of the premier sprint stakes in the country with G1 status, the race named for the 1980s “renaissance man” of Maryland racing still attracts solid fields. Special Reserve makes his 2022 season here after finishing fourth, beaten 2 1/4 lengths in the G1 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Del Mar. The Michael Maker runner battled on the front end through quick fractions and only gave way late. Win machine Wondrwherecraigis had his five-race win streak snapped in Dubai in March and hasn't been seen since. Pickin' Time figures to improve for Kelly Breen off one start in 2022.

Frank J. De Francis Dash entries

6:13 p.m. – Sanford Stakes at Saratoga

Morning line favorite Forte is one of 45 horses purchased as yearlings in 2021 by the tandem of Mike Repole and Vincent Viola's St. Elias. They have expanded on a similar model used by a group of 10 owners led by Tom Ryan of SF Racing to try to hit a few Grade 1 “home runs” and turn their yearlings into stallion prospects that provide a return on their auction purchase investments. SF Racing  and partners use Bob Baffert while Repole/St. Elias are putting their stock with Todd Pletcher. Forte, a $110,000 purchase and sharp maiden winner as a 1-5 favorite, probably represents the first wave of juveniles from this deep stable. He certainly hasn't scared anyone off, as the Sanford starting gate will be full. Tom Amoss-trained Curly Jack looked good winning his debut at Churchill, but 11 of the 12 runners are coming off wins.

Sanford Entries


5:05 p.m. – Quick Call Stakes

Rain is not in the weekend forecast, meaning the Quick Call should remain on turf, leaving off the formidable main track only entry Senbei. Big Invasion draws outside for Christophe Clement as the Declaration of War colt bids for a fifth consecutive turf sprint win this year. Joel Rosario will be in charge of finding the best trip for Big Invasion. Irish-bred Asymmetric who opened up a big lead before finishing second in his U.S. debut, will be out winging for sprint specialist trainer Wesley Ward.

Quick Call Entries


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