Saratoga is home to the race of the weekend in North America. The running of the Vanderbilt Handicap (Gr. 1) is set for Saturday in Saratoga Springs. A purse of $250,000 is available in the Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga. That isn’t the only big race taking place today. The running of the Ballston Spa Stakes (Gr. 2) comes with a $200,000 purse, so there is some decent money up for grabs at Saratoga on Saturday. A total of $992,000 is on the card.
Saratoga will host the most important prep race left on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. 100 points will go to the winner of the Travers Stakes on August 8. Kentucky Derby favorite, Tiz the Law, is being sent to Saratoga for the Travers. He is already locked in for the Derby, so the extra points wouldn’t mean much to him. The money and warm up for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs will help, though.
Along with the Travers, the running of the Shared Belief Stakes, Ellis Park Derby, and Pegasus Stakes are left on the prep schedule. The Shared Belief Stakes will take place next weekend at Del Mar for a total of 85 points. In the meantime, let’s see if we can find some winners at Saratoga on Saturday. Head below for our free Saratoga picks for July 25, 2020.
Post Time: 1:43 p.m. EST
Distance: 6 Furlongs
The prelude to the Ballston Spa Stakes, Race 2 features 6 furlongs on the dirt for a $62,000 purse. Nine horses are currently scheduled to run in this event. Munnings Muse and Vivazano are expected to be tough competitors in Race 2. Vivazano will make the third outing of her career on Saturday at Saratoga. Her first two efforts were satisfactory. She rode up into the money at Belmont Park on June 12 for 3rd.
It was a nice debut for Vivazano in a $52,000 event. She followed up for 4th in her next entry on July 10. Her form wasn’t as strong a few weeks ago, so something will have to change between then and now. She bobbled early and was never able to fully recover. That was for another $52,000 purse, so this event is slightly up in class. In any case, she should be a competitor against this field from the No. 2 post position. There isn’t much experience elsewhere in Race 2 either, so she’s in similar company.
Munnings Muse is making the second race of her career on Saturday. She was an impressive first-time runner on June 22 at Belmont. Munnings Muse placed 2nd in her debut to finish 6 lengths back in a $62,000 event. She was quicker than the favorite, Violent Point, but wasn’t good enough to beat Fierce Lady who shook clear of the field. Her most recent workout on July 19 was nice, with a time of 36.78 seconds over 3 furlongs. The competition level in this one is slightly down from her debut. A similar effort might be good enough for Munnings Muse to do one better.
Race 3 – Ballston Spa Stakes
Post Time: 2:18 p.m. EST
Distance:1 1/16 Miles
The Ballston Spa Stakes (Gr. 2) is the first of two important races at Saratoga on Saturday. The Ballston Spa Stakes will take place on the inner turf for a $200,000 purse. A nice payday awaits for the winner of Race 3. Barring an upset on Saturday, the most likely winners of the event is Sistercharlie and Starship Jubilee.
Those two might get into an entertaining duel going into the top of the stretch. Note that Another Broad is only scheduled to run on the main track. If this race stays on the turf, then she will be scratched. Another Broad will only run with the event taking place on the dirt.
Starship Jubilee has had a heck of a career and is looking to add to her success on Saturday. She is a winner in 17 of 35 races in her career, with several of her wins coming in stakes events. Since 2018, Starship Jubilee has entered 13 straight stakes races and found a lot of success in those outings. Starship Jubilee has finished in the top-3 in ten straight races, including six wins in those ten appearances. She goes into the Ballston Spa Stakes off a hat-trick, with three straight victories in 2020.
Starship Jubilee won the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Stakes (Black Type) on January 18 by 3 ¼ lengths at Gulfstream Park. Starship Jubilee was ahead by the ¼ pole and was ridden out to a clear win. She followed up on February 8 with another $150,000 win in the Suwannee River Stakes (Gr. 3) by 4 ¼ lengths over Magic Star. In her latest run, she beat Beautiful Lover by 1 ¼ lengths in the $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes (Gr. 2) on March 7. That’s impressive stuff from Starship Jubilee.
She is going to test herself in the Ballston Spa Stakes against Sistercharlie today. Sistercharlie has been a serious force, with 10 wins in 15 career races. In her most recent entry, Sistercharlie tested herself in the $2,000,000 Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (Gr. 1) on November 2, 2019.
It didn’t go too badly, with Sistercharlie finishing 3rd to get in the money. This was after Sistercharlie won six straight races, all of which were Grade 1 events, including the 2018 Maker’s Mark. She has finished in the top-2 in 13 out of 15 career races. It’s going to be a high price at post time, but Sistercharlie is the most logical option way down in class in this Grade 2 event.
Race 10 – Vanderbilt Handicap
Post Time: 6:16 p.m. EST
The main event of the weekend in North America is the $250,000 Vanderbilt Handicap (Gr. 1). The Vanderbilt will cover 6 furlongs of racing on the dirt, which is scheduled to include five horses running in the event. Volatile and Whitmore are the strongest horses in Race 10 and should run strong races for the top prize on Saturday. Whitmore has been a winner for me in the past, so I am familiar with this gelding. He has won two straight races, the $150,000 Hot Springs Stakes on March 7 and the $350,000 Count Fleet Spring Handicap (Gr. 3) on April 18 by ¾ lengths over Flagstaff.
Overall, Whitmore has 14 wins in 34 career races in his career. The vast majority of those races have been stakes races. Only four of his entries have been in non-stakes races. He’s coming off a small layoff, having last appeared in April. However, Whitemore has been keeping up in the morning and has been quick in workouts. Whitmore has completed 4-furlong workouts with times of 47.60, 49, 48.40, 46.60, and 49.40 seconds since May. I think he is ready to go for the Vanderbilt Handicap on Saturday. If he didn’t have to contend with Volatile then Whitmore would be a heavy favorite here.
Volatile is going to be a tough runner for all to compete with in the Vanderbilt Handicap. All he has done is win throughout his career. Other than 2nd on September 14, 2019, Volatile has won all of his races for a record of 4 for 5. He is coming off three straight impressive wins. He has two wins in 2020, with a 7 ½ length win over Strike That on April 24, and then another blowout in the Aristides Stakes on June 6 at Churchill Downs. He won that $100,000 event by 8 lengths over Honest Mischief. That effort more than deserves a trip to the Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga on Saturday. This is likely the first of many big wins for the $850,000 Volatile throughout his career.