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2017 Saratoga Test Stakes Picks
Test Stakes Race Preview
While Saturday's (G1) Whitney Stakes is getting most of the attention as a Breeders' Cup Classic qualifying race, this race goes right before it, and should prove to offer better wagering opportunities, with five of the 10 contenders with morning line odds between 5-2 and 8-1.
Favorite status goes to the Simon Callaghan-trained American Gal (5-2), who ran third in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, the worst result of her five-race career.
Prior to that she had two consecutive wins, and ended 2016 with a runner-up finish in the (G1) Starlet Stakes. She'll be making only her second start of 2017 in the Test, and she comes in off a win in the (G3) Victory Ride Stakes at Belmont Park in early July.
While she has yet to win going more than 6 1/2 furlongs, the extra 1/16th of a mile shouldn't really be an issue. Of bigger concern is that she drew the widest post in the race and with lots of speed horses inside, she may have to really hustle to get a good position early.
From a handicapping angle, we like to see horses coming off a win and cutting back in distance, and that's exactly what we get with the second choice in the ML with Faypien (3-1), a Florida-bred for trainer Bob Baffert.
She has won three straight in California, the most recent of those by a head in the (G2) Summertime Oaks, at a distance of 1 1/16 miles, while her other two wins were at the seven fulong distance they'll go on Saturday. She's made all four of her career starts at Santa Anita, and so it's unknown as to how she will take to the deeper dirt track at Saratoga.
Chalon Very Tough on the Lead
Perhaps the most impressive recent win by one of the top contenders belongs to Chalon (5-1), who comes back from a six-week layoff after taking the Jersey Girl Stakes at Belmont Park. She went gate-to-wire to win by more than six lengths in a fairly quick time of 1:10.60 over six furlongs, running the last quarter-mile faster than she did the previous two - not as common in horse racing as one might think. Expect her to go to the lead right away, and if she's fit enough following the layoff, she may be very tough to pass at the end.
Another coming in off an even longer layoff but who deserves a look at long odds is Tequilita (15-1) who was last seen running seventh in the (G1) Kentucky Oaks on the first Friday in May. That was her worst finish since the very first race of her career, and was run on a sloppy track that just may not hove been to her liking.
Prior to that she had been first or second in six straight races, including getting a win in the (G2) Forward Gal Stakes, and a second-place finish in the (G2) Gulfstream Park Oaks. Unlike most of the others, she already has a race over the Saratoga dirt, as she ran second in her second lifetime start there last summer.
Of the other top contenders, Your Love (6-1) is two-for-two in her young career, but steps up to the stakes level for the first time. Last out she went six-wide with a strong late rally to win on a sloppy Belmont track, and so deserves a long look if the conditions come up wet on Saturday.
Trainer Steve Asmussen has the Whitney Stakes favorite in Gun Runner, and here he has Vertical Oak (8-1) who was a well-beaten second behind American Gal in the Victory Ride, but who does have a Grade 3 win two starts back in the Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.
The Test Stakes will go Saturday at Saratoga, race 8 of 10 on a very good betting card from the New York track. If you're not lucky enough to be there, you can bet the full day of races through the Today's Tracks section in most online racebooks.
Entries w/ ML Odds
- Minnie Blip (16-1)
- Your Love (6-1)
- Chalon (5-1)
- Tequilita (15-1)
- Vertical Oak (8-1)
- Cursor (30-1)
- Divine Miss Grey (12-1)
- Faypien (3-1)
- Chanel's Legacy (15-1)
- American Gal (5-2)
- #1 - Chalon
- #2 - Faypien
- #3 - American Gal
- #4 - Tequilita
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