Saratoga Opens With Loaded James Marvin Field
The $100,000 Schuylerville (gr. III) for 2-year-old fillies is the feature on opening day of the 40-day Saratoga meet July 22, but the ungraded $75,000 James Marvin Stakes for older sprinters is the race that has everyone taking notice.
One year after attracting a solid field that included eventual winner Vineyard Haven , this year’s seven-furlong James Marvin features a stellar group of 11 including grade I winners Gayego, Here Comes Ben , and Jersey Town , as well as accomplished sprinters Aikenite , D' Funnybone , and Caixa Eletronica.
The James Marvin has a probable post time of 4:55 p.m. EDT and comes just prior to the Schuylerville, which drew a field of nine juvenile fillies led by 5-2 morning-line favorite Georgie's Angel. The filly will be saddled by Todd Pletcher, who will be seeking his fourth Saratoga training title victory.
Pletcher will also be well-represented in the James Marvin, as he sends out 7-2 morning-line favorite Caixa Eletronica and the 4-1 second choice Aikenite. Caixa Eletronica, claimed by Mike Repole for $62,500 in March, won the April 30 Westchester (gr. III) and was third in the May 30 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) May 30 at Belmont.
Dogwood Stable’s Aikenite is a seven-furlong specialist, having won three of four at the distance including Keeneland’s Commonwealth Stakes (gr. II) April 16 and the Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II) May 7. He was fourth in the Met Mile last out.
“This is supposed to be a step down in class for Aikenite, but the race isn’t shaping up that way,” Pletcher said. “Still, seven-eighths is his preferred distance. Caixa Eletronica has been a very consistent horse who always runs well. He’s more of a one-turn mile horse, so we’ll see how he fares in here.”
John Velazquez will ride Aikenite from post 2, while Javier Castellano is aboard Caixa Eletronica from post 9.
Gayego, who won the grade I Ancient Title in 2009, is the leading money-earner among the James Marvin entrants, having collected $1,751,120 in compiling an 8-4-2 mark from 21 lifetime starts. Now 6, the Godolphin color-bearer has had one start this year, finishing ninth in a listed stakes at Meydan Feb. 11.
“It would be a nice race to win and get him back going again,” said Rick Mettee, assistant to Saeed bin Suroor.
Alan Garcia will ride Gayego, 5-1 on the morning line, from post 5.
Making his 2011 debut is Jersey Town, who closed out 2010 with a victory in the Hill ‘N’ Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct. Trained by Barclay Tagg for Charles Fipke, Jersey Town has been worse than third just once in 12 career starts.
“He’s a neat horse,” said Tagg. “We really like him. I can’t get (assistant) Robin (Smullen) off him. She rides him every day. He’s the gamest race horse. He’s doing good. We’re excited about him.”
Entering off an impressive victory is Here Comes Ben (5-1), who scored by 3 1/4 lengths in the June 24 Kelly’s Landing Stakes at Churchill going seven furlongs. The 5-year-old son of Street Cry won the Forego (gr. I) at Saratoga in 2010 and is 5-for-7 at the distance. Alex Solis will ride for trainer Charles Lopresti.
“He arrived in Saratoga last Friday morning, settled in great and had a really nice work (July 19),” said Lopresti of Here Comes Ben, who went three furlongs in :36.67. “We thought we’d come up and get an easier race into him before the Forego, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.”
In the six-furlong Schuylerville, Georgie’s Angel will break from the outside under Velazquez. The daughter of Bellamy Road is coming off a 6 1/4-length maiden win at Churchill July 4 in which she earned her an 83 Beyer Speed Figure, third-highest among juvenile fillies this year. She is owned by Sheffer Racing Stable.
“She has settled in well here and had a nice breeze the other day,” said Pletcher of Georgie’s Angel, who worked a half-mile in :49.07 on the Spa’s main track July 16. “It’s a graded stakes at Saratoga, and obviously it’s a tough race to win. This will be a test of her quality.”
While the majority of the Schuylerville starters have only a maiden win on their résumés, the race also drew the first two finishers in the June 25 Debutante Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill–Flashy Lassie and Five Star Momma, though Flashy Lassie is expected to scratch.
The other Schuylerville entrant with stakes experience is Gypsy Robin, who was seventh in the Queen Mary Stakes (Eng-II) at Ascot June 15 for Wesley Ward.
Saratoga will card 10 races on its opening-day program with first post set for 1 p.m.
$75,000 James Marvin (Race 8, 4:55 p.m.), 3 & Up, 7 Furlongs (Dirt)
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