The Travers Stakes is the main event Saturday at Saratoga, but the undercard is strong, with Gamine featured in The Test Stakes. Photo by @HR_Nation (Twitter).
- The Travers Stakes Saturday at Saratoga is just one of five Graded Stakes races on the card
- Three $1 million earners meet in the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes
- What horses provide the best betting value Saturday at The Spa?
The main event Saturday at Saratoga is The Travers Stakes, a major prep race for the Kentucky Derby. However, from about 3:30 pm until 6:30 pm EST the card is filled with top-notch graded stakes action.
The Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes (3:42 pm EST) includes accomplished mares going seven furlongs. While the three million dollar earners, Serengeti Empress, Bellafina, and Come Dancing are going to be well backed, between the three of them they have two wins this year. Could an upset be looming? We’ll break it down.
The Troy Stakes (4:22 pm EST) is a turf sprint for older horses where there are major questions about the top contenders. Again, is a price present?
None of the six horses entered for the Waya Stakes (5:02 pm EST) are coming off wins. Trainer Chad Brown dominates turf races at Saratoga, and he has two top contenders in this marathon.
And then there is The Test Stakes (5:39 pm EST). Can anybody beat the sensational Gamine? She’s three for three and while this seven-furlong affair is much shorter than next month’s Kentucky Derby, there is an argument that this filly can compete with the top boys.
Let’s look carefully at The Ballerina, and discuss the other stakes races in search of some value.
2020 Ballerina Stakes Odds
|Horse||Odds at Bet365|
|Victim of Love||+1200|
Odds taken August 6
The Ballerina is a Breeders Cup Win and You’re In race for the Filly & Mare Sprint. It will air on Fox Sports 2.
There seems to be a lot of early speed entered in The Ballerina, but Serengeti Empress is a one-trick pony. She must go to the front and hold off the competition. That’s how she won last year’s Kentucky Oaks, and this year’s Azeri at Oaklawn Park.
It feels like the cutback to seven furlongs could be excellent for Serengeti Empress. This year she’s just one for four and has hit the board only twice. She is working well but pace pressure could hurt her if the tempo is too quick early.
Cookie Dough and Letruska are two horses that also like to be on the lead. Both are cutting back in distance. This is a step up for Letruska who is making her U.S. graded stakes debut after three wins in five races since moving from Mexico. Cookie Dough was a non-factor in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in April after running well in Grade 3 events in Florida. Neither might be good enough, but if they press Serengeti Empress does that change who to bet on?
2020 Kentucky Derby Odds Tracker
Rate to Win
Can either Bellafina or Come Dancing sit the perfect trip? If either is able to harness their speed and sit just off the pace, getting the first run on early speed, they would theoretically be in great shape.
Bellafina has generally been very close up, but her win in May at Santa Anita might provide the blueprint for The Ballerina.
Bellafina has seven career wins, but is 0 for 4 outside of California. She hasn’t won without being the favorite since 2018.
Come Dancing went into the Breeders Cup last year with four wins in five starts and finished sixth at 2/1, in a race Bellafina was second. Since then she finished 12th in a grade one event at Oaklawn Park, and second last time out.
Getting upset by Victim of Love, who was 27/1 and returns to face these horses today, was surprising. That said, Come Dancing loves Saratoga, and today’s seven-furlong distance is probably better than the six-and-a-half furlongs they ran in June.
Pink Sands closes out the field. This is the second race off a layoff for a horse who ran two good ones in Florida late last year and early in 2020. She finished fifth of six horses in a grade one event at Belmont Park in June, and now is cutting back from a-mile-and-a-sixteenth.
Saratoga’s Other Big Races Saturday
Shekky Shebaz is two for two at Saratoga but hasn’t won in three races this year and has now departed the Jason Servis barn, after his trainer was arrested on doping charges. His primary rival is Pure Sensation, who has 14 career victories, but four of the last five have taken place at PARX Racing, not exactly the top track in the country.
Imprimis is making his 2020 debut and didn’t win in three tries late last year after a trip to Europe. He has several wins in his past that would be very competitive with this group.
What about veteran American Sailor? The eight-year-old beat Shekky Shebaz last time out and will be a decent price in The Troy.
At the age of nine American Sailor is no spring chicken, but he has 10 wins at this distance and will be near the pace. It is possible he just lacks the class to compete with this group.
The Waya Stakes
Chad Brown’s pair, My Sister Nat and Fools Gold, both come out of the Grade 2 New York Stakes at Belmont Park. My Sister Nat was second, well beaten by the accomplished Mean Mary. Fools Gold finished fifth of six. My Sister Nat hasn’t won in five starts since coming from France but is consistently in the mix. Fools Gold has hit the board 10 times in 15 races with three wins including this race last year.
Mrs. Sippy is making her 2020 debut after beating just one horse in November’s Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Turf. She won her U.S. debut at The Spa last August. Trainer Graham Motion is good with horses off long layoffs, and turf racing is what he does best.
The Test Stakes
Gamine was purchased for $1.8 million and so far it looks like a steal. She was challenged and held on to beat the well-regarded Speech in May, and then at Belmont Park June 20 just blew away a solid field.
The cutback to seven furlongs shouldn’t hurt Gamine after nearly setting a Belmont Park record last time out at a mile. Venetian Harbor is her main competition. A favorite in all five of her races, Venetian Harbor is cutting back after losing to the other two top three year fillies this year, Speech in the Ashland Stakes, and Swiss Skydiver in the Fantasy Stakes.
Dave Friedman has covered professional and college sports for two decades. From ESPN to the Associated Press, Regional Sports Networks, Metro Networks, and many local outlets, he has written about and broadcast major and minor events throughout the country.