Seven 2-year-old fillies line up July 20 for the $150,000 Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III) on opening day at Saratoga Race Course, and five are eligible for a $100,000 bonus.
The Schuylerville is first of 35 graded stakes to be held over 40 days at the upstate New York oval's 144th meet, and shares the opening day card with the $100,000 James Marvin (gr. III) featuring defending victor Jackson Bend and True North Handicap (gr. II) winner Caixa Eletronica. Post time for the Schuylerville is 5:30 p.m. EDT.
Adding drama to the six-furlong sprint is the potential of a $100,000 bonus from the New York Racing Association, to be awarded to any juvenile who broke his or her maiden at Belmont Park or Aqueduct before going on to win a graded stakes at a NYRA track in 2012.
"It's a great attempt by NYRA to spice up the 2-year-old program," said trainer Todd Pletcher, who is seeking his fifth Schuyerville score with Can't Explain. "It seems like the 2-year-old maiden races filled consistently, and filled sooner. We're looking forward to the possibility of earning a bonus, and hopefully Can't Explain and some of our other 2-year-olds are able to go on and get lucky."
Can't Explain, a Not for Love filly owned by Bortolazzo Stable, is 5-1 on the morning line after her second-out maiden win at Belmont June 20; she wired the field in a $70,000 maiden special weight going five furlongs under a brisk hand ride from Jose Lezcano, who returns to pilot from post 4.
Also vying for the bonus will be 5-2 morning-line favorite Baby J, who was purchased by Paul Pompa following her victorious wire-to-wire debut at Belmont on June 28. The daughter of J Be K was transferred from the barn of Michelle Nihei to Rick Dutrow Jr. following the sale. Her sire, by Silver Deputy, set a track record at Saratoga, going 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.13 under Garrett Gomez and winning by 7 1/2 lengths for Zayat Stables and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Sweet Shirley Mae, whose trainer Wesley Ward always has his 2-year-olds ready to rumble, is eligible to pick up the extra cash as well. A Broken Vow filly who races under the silks of Ice Wine Stable, she also went wire-to-wire against maidens May 9 in the slop at Belmont Park.
Fully Living, a daughter of Unbridled's Song who won May 3 for Spendthrift Farm and trainer Kenny McPeek after prompting the pace at five furlongs and dueling for the lead, and George and Lori Hall's Mr. Hall's Opus, an Officer filly who closed between foes to get the score May 2 for Kelly Breen, also both won at Belmont.
Completing the field are Brown Eyes Blue, the first North American winner for 2008 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Big Brown when she dashed to victory at Churchill Downs June 30 for trainer Dale Romans and Twin Creeks Racing Stable, and So Many Ways, a Sightseeing filly who broke her maiden at Parx Racing June 9 for Maggi Moss and trainer Tony Dutrow.
$150,000 Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III, Race 9, approximate post 5:30 p.m. EDT), 2YO fillies, six furlongs (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Odds (all carry 119 pounds)
1.Sweet Shirley Mae (KY), R.A. Dominguez, W A Ward, 7-2
2. Baby J (KY), J. Rosario, R E Dutrow Jr., 5-2
3. Brown Eyes Blue (KY), S. Brigmohan, D L Romans, 6-1
4. Can't Explain, J. Lezcano, T A Pletcher, 5-1
5. Fully Living, R. Napravnik, K G McPeek, 4-1
6. Mr. Hall's Opus (KY), R. Maragh, K J Breen, 15-1
7. So Many Ways, J. Castellano, A W Dutrow, 5-1