What do you do when four of the top contenders in a given race seem certain to engage in an all-out battle for the lead, but you don’t really care for the chances of their late-running rivals?
That’s the question I’m faced with when handicapping Saturday’s $500,000 Longines Test Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. The seven-furlong sprint for three-year-old fillies has attracted nine starters, and four of the most talented runners—#3 Alter Moon, #4 Classy Act, #7 Mia Mischief, and #8 Minit to Stardom—have all done their best running while on or very close to the lead. And while there are other talented fillies in the race who figure to rally from off the pace—primarily #6 Separationofpowers, winner of the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) last fall—overall, I’m not that enthusiastic about their chances of winning the Test.
So ultimately, my strategy for this race will be comprised of two parts. First, I’ll identify the filly that I believe is most likely to survive an intense battle for the lead. Second, I’ll identify the filly that seems most likely to change her running style, settle off that battle, and come running late.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, but I’ll give it my best shot. I’ve been a fan of Classy Act since she ran second against the future four-time Grade 1 Monomoy Girl in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. II) going 8.5 furlongs earlier this winter, and following a couple more efforts going long, Classy Act cut back in distance and easily won a seven-furlong allowance race at Churchill Downs, running the half-mile in a swift :44.25 before pulling away to win by 3 ¾ lengths in gate-to-wire fashion.
Subsequently, Classy Act got caught up in a testing duel with Mia Mischief in the Victory Ride Stake (gr. III) at Belmont, and while Classy Act ultimately put away Mia Mischief, she fell short by a neck at the wire against the late-running longshot Dixie Serenade, who got a perfect trip saving ground while rallying from last pace.
Suffice to say, that was a very game effort from Classy Act, with the stamina she showed going two turns during the winter surely helping her to survive the pace battle as well as she did. She should be in the hunt once again on Saturday, though she could face a stiff test from Minit to Stardom. The Louisiana-bred filly is unbeaten and untested in three starts, recently returning from a six-month layoff to win a six-furlong allowance race at Churchill Downs in powerful fashion. She has a lot of early speed, but notably, she’s never been the early leader in any of her races, suggesting that she could work out an ideal pace-tracking trip while breaking from post eight.
With this in mind, I’ll focus my wagers on Classy Act and Minit to Stardom: