Stakes spot plays for opening day at Saratoga

Profile Picture: Keeler Johnson

July 10th, 2019

The 2019 Saratoga meet kicks off Thursday, with a competitive ten-race card featuring two graded stakes events.

All but one race attracted nine or more entrants, and the stakes races offer plenty of viable contenders to consider. Let’s kick off the much-anticipated meet with a couple of graded stakes spot plays.

Race 8: Schuylerville Stakes (G3)

There are a bunch of speedy juvenile fillies entered in this six-furlong sprint, so it’s not hard to imagine a blazing pace unfolding. There are nine fillies entered in the Schuylerville, eight of them with previous racing experience, and seven of those fillies have shown speed. So why not take a crazy shot with the first-time starter #7 Buxom Beast?

My thought process is pretty simple. Buxom Beast has a fine pedigree. Her sire, The Big Beast, was a grade 1 winner sprinting at Saratoga, and her dam—Potluck Dinner—has produced nine winners from nine runners, including three juvenile winners.

Over the last five years, no trainer has conditioned more longshot winners at Saratoga than Gary Contessa, who has enjoyed particular success on the main track. I’m hoping jockey Joel Rosario will allow Buxom Beast to settle into stride during the opening furlongs of the Schuylerville, then come running late as the leaders weaken from their early exertions. Her work tab looks promising enough, so at 15-1 on the morning line, I think Buxom Beast is worth betting to win and including in multi-race wagers.

Race 9: Quick Call Stakes (G3)

Although he will be making his grass debut, #6 Call Paul looms as the horse to beat in this 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-olds. Trained by Jason Servis, Call Paul has never finished out of the trifecta in nine starts and has four stakes victories, including a win in the Swale Stakes (G3).

Two starts back Call Paul weakened to finish second in the six-furlong Gold Fever Stakes after he set a fast pace over a sloppy, sealed track, but he rebounded in the Danzig Stakes to win by six lengths. Call Paul has excellent early speed, but in the Swale he rallied from 5 1/2 lengths behind a hot pace, so he isn’t a one-dimensional frontrunner.

Servis wins at a 30% rate with horses running on grass for the first time, which bodes well for Call Paul’s turf debut, and this talented colt has drawn well in post 6, with three clear-cut front-runners to his inside. This should afford jockey Manny Franco the option to rate Call Paul off the leaders if the early pace is intense.

Throughout his career Call Paul has beaten or run well against some very good horses—Code of Honor, Mind Control, Spinoff, Vekoma, etc. I'd argue Call Paul is taking a drop in class for the Quick Call Stakes, and he looms as the most consistently fast runner in the field when it comes to Beyer and Brisnet speed figures. If enough bettors question his ability to handle the grass, Call Paul might even drift up from his 5-2 morning line odds, making him an appealing horse to play on top and in multi-race wagers.

Good luck!