Trainer Bobby Frankel was the leading stakes-winning trainer at Saratoga last season, compiling six victories. With roughly twice as many horses based here this year, the Brooklyn native has an apparent stranglehold on big-money races. For proof, look at the pair of important stakes being run Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
Edmund Gann's You figures to be tough in the Test Stakes (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs. In the Diana Handicap (gr. IIT) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on the turf, Frankel will saddle Beefeater Baby and Tates Creek.
Both races will be televised live by ESPN, during its one-hour telecast that begins at 5 p.m. EDT. The Diana will be race seven (4:21 p.m.) and the Test will be race nine (5:32 p.m.) and both will be part of Saratoga's first Super Saturday Guaranteed $500,000 Pick 4 Pool.
Frankel saddled 10 winners from 21 starters at Saratoga last season, including his six stakes winners. He was as strong a stakes player as there was and not much has changed. This weekend, he will also run Surya and Beat Hollow at Del Mar in the John C. Mabee/Ramona Handicap (gr. IT) and Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT), respectively.
You made her first start for Frankel after a private purchase last summer in the Adirondack (gr. II). In one of the best races of the meet, You and Cashier's Dream battled throughout with You a neck in front at the wire.
"I know she likes this track and most of the others have never run on it," Frankel said. "She ran huge in the Adirondack last year."
Oddly enough, the Adirondack was You's last appearance in a sprint race. Her four wins since then have come at a mile or 1 1/16 miles. Now a three-time grade 1 winner, the daughter of You and I will shorten up a furlong after her smashing 7 1/4 -length score in the Acorn (gr. I).
"There are a lot of fast horses in the race, so maybe I could be making the wrong decision," Frankel said of the cut in distance. "She likes to be up there close to the lead and fight all the time. Hopefully, she'll be in a good spot where she can get them."
Settling off the lead in two-turn races at Santa Anita and Churchill Downs, You was right up near the pace in the Acorn, setting a half-mile fraction of :44 3/5 over the moist, speed-favoring track.
"She really improved when I shipped her to Belmont in the spring," Frankel said. "She filled out nice and everything."
You will have to pass Carson Hollow at some point of the Test if she is going to win. The 3-year-old Carson City filly has never been headed in four starts. After beating up on lesser in her first two starts at Aqueduct, the New York-bred CarsonHollow won the restricted Bouwerie by 5 lengths then jumped up to take the Prioress (gr. I). Since her grade I win, 60% of the filly's ownership has been sold to Frank Stronach with Hemlock Hills Farm, Gabrielle Farm, Sanford Goldfarb, and Richard Dutrow Jr. keeping a minority interest. As a condition of the sale, Dutrow remains her trainer.
"She's doing very well," Dutrow said. "I know seven furlongs is not going to be a problem because she's already won three times at the distance. I'm more concerned with the competition."
Carson Hollow needed to improve to take the Prioress and she impressed Dutrow, turning back to six furlongs and finishing in a quick 1:08 3/5.
"She was never really asked in her first three races," said Dutrow. "She does what she has to. When they came to her in the Prioress, she drew off."
The two fillies that finished second and third behind Carson Hollow in the Prioress, will take another shot at grade I company in the Test.
Spring Meadow chased Carson Hollow early, but could not get by for trainer Bob Hess Jr., who has a string at Saratoga for the first time. Proper Gamble missed some training when she got sick in early June, forcing her out of the Acorn. Her third-place effort in the Prioress may serve as good steppingstone to this spot. Her trainer, Todd Pletcher, won back-to-back Test runnings in 1998-99 with Jersey Girl and Marley Vale.
Test Stakes (gr. I), $250,000, 3-year-old fillies, seven furlongs
PP Horse Jockey
1 Carson Hollow John Velazquez
2 You Jerry Bailey
3 Short Notice Richard Migliore
4 Spring Meadow Jorge Chavez
5 Proper Gamble Javier Castellano
6 Preferred Option Victor Carrero
7 Bold World Pat Day
Juddmonte Farms' Tates Creek will be asked to go farther than she has ever run. She has won from 5 1/2-furlongs to a 1 1/16 miles, but since she is by Rahy and out of a Nureyev mare, the 1 1/8-mile Diana distance should not be a concern.
The only time Tates Creek finished off the board was her first start and that was on the dirt. She has been a mark of consistency, going five-for-seven with two seconds since her debut.
"When you ask her, she's going to give you everything she's got," said Frankel, who will give a leg up to fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey. "When he asks her, he has to be able to see the wire. She closes and explodes."
Beefeater Baby, owned by Pamela Blatz-Murff, has not run since winning a third-level allowance at Keeneland April 11. She has never been off the board in seven starts, winning four times with one second and two thirds.
"She was a little stiff, but she worked her way out of it and now she's doing really well," said Frankel, who won last year's Diana with Starine. "I'm hoping the turf is firm by then because I worked her once on soft turf and she didn't like it at all.
Joseph Platt Jr.'s Babae comes into the Diana off consecutive wins. The 6-year-old mare beat Tates Creek in the Just a Game (gr. IIIT) then found an easy spot for a stakes win at Philadelphia Park.
"After the Just a Game, we knew the next step would be the Diana," trainer Frank Alexander said. "There was just too much time between the Just a Game and Diana, so we ran at Philly. She won that race pretty easily. It was like a $60,000 workout."
Babae finished second behind Starine in last year's Diana, but Alexander thinks the mare is in career-best form right now and should be tough.
Arthur Hancock III's Owsley registered her first stakes win in the New York Handicap (gr. IIT), rallying to get up by a neck. Trainer Randy Schulhofer, who took over for his father Scotty last fall, had a solid Belmont meet also winning the Bowling Green on the turf.
Green Hills Farm's Voodoo Dancer has run some big efforts over this course and at the distance. She won the Lake George last year and two starts later scored the biggest win of her career in the Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IT). Jockey Jose Santos, coming off a strong Belmont meet that saw him finish fourth, has the call on Voodoo Dancer
"It takes her some time to get going, but when she finds her stride, she really flies," Santos said. "This is my favorite meet to ride at, I'm really looking forward to it."
Diana Handicap (gr. IIT), $500,000, fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles
PP Horse Jockey Weight
1 Tates Creek Jerry Bailey 117
2 Snow Dance Pat Day 117
3 Blue Moon Brice Blanc 115
4 Beefeater Baby John Velazquez 114
5 Owsley Edgar Prado 115
6 Reina Blanca Javier Castellano 113
7 Babae Jorge Chavez 117
8 Solvig Richard Migliore 115
9 Shooting Party Jean-Luc Samyn 113
10 Voodoo DancerJose Santos 120