While there’s no Tepin or Ironicus to step into the first Grade 1 running of the Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga, a nice field of nine horses will step up to the plate after the race was moved to Alabama Day following a surprise cancellation of the August 13th card last weekend due to bad weather. Grade 1 winners Force the Pass and Ring Weekend return to the races as well as last year’s Fourstardave upset victor Grand Arch in what looks to be a thrilling renewal of a Saratoga classic. Turf titan and current leading trainer Chad Brown, who has Takeover Target and A Lot, will have to work a little to win this one.
$500,000 Fourstardave Handicap (I) – 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 mile on inner turf at Saratoga Race Course. Post Time: Saturday, August 20 at 6:32pm EST.
[Post Position, Horse – Jockey, Impost, Trainer – Summary, Opinion]
1) King Kreesa – Irad Ortiz Jr, 118 lbs, David Donk – With 11 out of 15 starts hitting the board going one mile on turf, the seven-year-old King Cugat New York-bred is no stranger to success on the sod and antes up for another big run in the Fourstardave, missing last year’s running by a length back in fourth place. Last seen beating Force the Pass over a firm going in the Forbidden Apple Stakes last month, Irad will likely set Kreesa out on his usual front-running spot breaking from the rail. With no other definitive speed types, it’s possible for King Kreesa to steal the race with Irad, who normally rides with Chad for many of his wins.
2) Grand Arch – Luis Saez, 118 lbs, Brian Lynch – The seven-year-old Arch gelding seeks his first Grade 1 win in the race he won last year by a tough neck over rising star Ironicus, and he arrives back in the Lynch barn following a poor sixth place performance in the G3 Poker last out. Breaking to the outside of main speed King Kreesa, he can arguably get a top setup running from just behind the pace and will look to prove his class as he was third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile behind champion Tepin and recent Arlington Million (I) winner Mondialiste. He can deal with that slight layoff, you gotta use him.
3) Reporting Star – Kendrick Carmouche, 117 lbs, Elizabeth Voss – A winner four times out of seven at the mile distance, the Circular Quay gelding has been hit or miss in his career, winning the Appleton (III) over Force the Pass and Divisidero earlier in the year in a race he was more fit for than the graded winning duo. Also a G2 winner last year on the grass, Reporting Star looks to hop off the duck following a shallow effort last out in the G3 Red Bank at Monmouth, which may be the reason Voss is putting the blinkers back on. He has a way to go to compete here, although the blinkers should help move Reporting Star up. Voss ships in at 7%, so longshot status is valid.
4) Force the Pass – Jose Ortiz, 119 lbs, Alan Goldberg – The Speightstown colt hasn’t had the year that was probably intended for him, having to repeatedly scratch out of events he was targeting due to heavy courses or fitness concerns. He was second by a nose last out to King Kressa in the Forbidden Apple Stakes at Belmont, the site of his Belmont Derby (I) win last summer, a race that showed he was a little more fit than he was when he was a mild second in the G3 Poker behind a front-running Obviously [IRE]. A recent breeze going :58 1/5 shows that Force the Pass might have some of his old wind back, and despite experiencing success going further, the cutback in distance might be to his liking. Third off the layoff, I like him in this spot.
5) Blacktype – Joe Bravo, 116 lbs, Christophe Clement – The French-bred gelding has won two consecutive starts with a score in the Oceanport (III) over Kharafa being his latest crowning success and showing that the Clement trainee is on the up and up. Joe Bravo has been having a sneaky good year, striking selectively and is in the Fourstardave with a lightly-weighted and capable horse. He’ll have some proving to do against some of these, but he looks to be very fit at a nice price.
6) Ring Weekend – John Velazquez, 119 lbs, Graham Motion – A Grade 1 winner last year at this distance, the Tapit gelding had to be sidelined out of some of the fall championship-defining races and made a raucous return to the races in May in the G2 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico, coming up a neck short of victory after a 14-month layoff. The layoff obviously isn’t an issue for this horse and Graham Motion, and he should be tough returning to Saratoga on a firmer course than he saw in May. He’s easily beaten better than many of these horses, and could get the win here on class alone.
7) A Lot – Javier Castellano, 116 lbs, Chad Brown – A very likeable horse here last year, the four-year-old Tapit colt traded barns to Chad Brown, who prepared him for a win in the Elusive Quality Stakes before seeing him finishing fourth in the G3 Jaipur in June. A mild rest usually suits a lot of Chad Brown horses, and despite coming close to graded wins in the past, A Lot has yet to seal the deal. I think he’s G1 quality though, and at 116 lbs and keeping the distance somewhat short, he’s very dangerous at 10-1 morning line, even more so if there’s a quick pace. Chad could’ve made a case to steal the Troy Stakes earlier on today’s card, but opts to take a shot at G1 status with this horse instead.
8) Tourist – Joel Rosario, 118 lbs, Bill Mott – The hard-luck Tiznow colt won his only Saratoga start here a couple years ago in the Sir Cat on opening weekend, and he’s another one who likes to be kind of close but never winning the big races. Second last out to Strike Midnight in the G1 Shoemaker Mile, Tourist has hit the board 6 out 8 times at the mile distance and gets Rosario who also rode him to his Saratoga win. At 5-2, Tourist is at lousy odds as a horse who seems to always love running second or third.
9) Takeover Target – Manuel Franco, 119 lbs, Chad Brown – A Grade 2 winner last year and this year on the grass, the Harlan’s Holiday colt trims back a bit in distance and returns to the races after a 60-day layoff following a fourth place dusting in the G3 Poker at a mile. Compared side-by-side to others, while he has rest on his side I don’t think the mile is up Takeover Target’s alley nearly as much as some and he’s not fleet-footed enough to be worth 9-2.
Top 4 Picks in Order (with preferred odds):
#4 Force the Pass (8-1)
#2 Grand Arch (3-1)
#7 A Lot (8-1)
#1 King Kreesa (10-1)
Value Pick: Chad Brown’s been winning up a storm with his turf horses and owns many of the meet’s turf graded stakes already. While he’s in for a fight, #7 A Lot is a talented horse who hasn’t had a sure chance to prove his mettle just yet despite getting a lot of respect on the turf last year and earlier in the spring. At 10-1 morning line, he is very interesting with his big late run.