The Whitney Stakes (G1) is the main event on Saturday at Saratoga, but the 1 1/8-mile contest will be joined on the card by four other stakes, including the $500,000 Test Stakes (G1) sending nine sophomore fillies seven furlongs over the main track.
Any number of the fillies in the Test could end up in the winner’s circle at the end, and one is even looking to maintain a perfect record in the contest.
That filly is MINIT TO STARDOM, who makes her graded bow in this spot for trainer Al Stall Jr. The bay daughter of Star Guitar has captured her three career races by a combined 18 3/4 lengths thus far. She most recently romped by 6 1/4 lengths at Churchill Downs under returning rider Corey Lanerie, good for a lifetime-best 95 BRIS Speed rating.
“This will be a monster class/acid test for her, but we don’t have a Plan B,” Stall said. “We’re not going to stretch her out just yet. We’re excited to see how she does.”
Standing in the Louisiana-bred filly’s way to an unblemished mark are ALTER MOON, MIA MISCHIEF, CLASSY ACT, SEPARATIONOFPOWERS and KELLY’S HUMOR.
Alter Moon will be saddled by trainer Chad Brown for the first time after beginning her career with conditioner Jose Velez. The Alternation filly has romped by a total of 19 lengths in her past two, including earning her first stakes victory in the Azalea Stakes at Gulfstream Park most recently on June 30. The bay miss gets jockey Javier Castellano in the irons as she tries a track other than Gulfstream for the first time.
Mia Mischief racked up a 4-3-0 mark from seven lifetime starts before her last race, where the Steve Asmussen pupil suffered her first unplaced finish. The bay lass round up fifth, beaten only two lengths, after leading the way early in the July 8 Victory Ride Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park. Prior to that she easily won the Eight Belles Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs and Oaklawn Park’s Purple Martin Stakes. The Into Mischief bay lass reunites with regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr. here.
Classy Act pressed the pace throughout the Victory Ride and just missed by a neck on the wire under returning jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. The Bret Calhoun trainee has yet to break through with a stakes win, having also placed second in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2), and will attempt to do so in this, her fifth stakes try.
Separationofpowers rallied to be fourth in the Victory Ride, beaten 1 3/4 lengths, while making her sophomore debut for Brown. The Candy Ride lass closed out 2017 with a fourth-placing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), which followed a 3 1/2-length score in the one-mile Frizette Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park in early October. The Kentucky-bred bay is one of only two in this field with prior experience at Saratoga, finishing third in the Spinaway Stakes (G1) after taking her maiden debut by 11 lengths last year. Jose Ortiz retains the mount.
“She’s doing really well coming in, so we’ll send her in and see what happens,” Brown said. “She had a terrible break last time and stumbled. It was a tough trip, but she got the race she needed. Hopefully she moves forward off that first start of the year and runs a big race in the Test.”
Kelly’s Humor ran eighth in the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (G1), her only off-the-board placing from four starts thus far this year, and will attempt to earn a first win this season in the Test. The Brad Cox charge finished second in the seven-furlong Beaumont Stakes (G3) at Keeneland to kick off her three-year-old campaign, and also boasts a win in the seven-furlong Ellis Park Debutante Stakes from last year. Joel Rosario has the first-time call on the Midnight Lute filly, who was last seen running third in the 1 1/16-mile Indiana Oaks (G3) three weeks ago.
“We’re shortening her back up, but she came out of the Indiana race in good order,” Cox said. “She had a decent work at Churchill last week. We’re hoping they’ll be some pace in there. We’ve run at seven-eighths twice this year and she’s plenty fit, so hopefully the turnback will help her out.
“She didn’t perform as well in the Oaks as we thought, so we wanted to try and pick off a Grade 3 or a Grade 2 before running back here, but this race came up,” he added. “At seven-eighths of a mile, we wanted to give it a (try). She’s training well, so we expect her to run well.”
Completing the Test line-up are SPECTATOR, sixth in the Victory Ride last out for new trainer Michelle Nevin following a runner-up effort in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) for conditioner Philip D’Amato; stakes-placed NORMA’S CHARM, eighth in the Victory Ride most recently; and CATHEDRAL READER, a 6 1/2-length maiden debut winner who tries stakes company for the first time here.
The Test takes place one race before the Whitney while the other graded contest on the day, the $200,000 Waya Stakes (G3), will be conducted one race after.
That 1 1/2-mile inner turf affair attracted a field of eight runners, including Bewitch Stakes (G3) heroine MOM’S ON STRIKE.
That Joe Sharp-trained mare enters the Waya trying to pick up the winning thread once again. The bay daughter of First Dude strung together four straight wins to end 2017 and begin the New Year, then finished fourth in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes. She returned to the winner’s circle with a 3 1/4-length score in the Bewitch and rallied to be fourth, beaten only two lengths, in the New York Stakes (G2) at 20-1 last out. Adam Beschizza stays aboard.
“She’s doing well and training great,” Sharp said. “I’m very confident coming into the race as she’s as good as I’ve ever had her. I think she’ll appreciate the distance coming out of the New York going a mile and a half. We know we’ll need a bit of racing luck, but she’s really developed over the year. This winter at Fair Grounds, there was really only one series for older mares and we took advantage of that and it showed in the Betwitch at Keeneland.”
Also entered in the Waya are TRICKY ESCAPE, winner of the Robert G. Dick Memorial Stakes (G3) most recently on July 7 at 1 3/8 miles; British-bred SANTA MONICA, who captured the Dance Smartly Stakes (Can-G2) over Woodbine’s turf most recently; and LOTTIE, a half-length second in the Sheepshead Bay Stakes (G2) at Belmont on May 5.
“She’s obviously in terrific form,” Brown said in regards to trainee Santa Monica. “We cut her back effectively in Canada and she did great at a mile and a quarter. She’s a very versatile horse and I think she prefers to go this mile and a half distance.”
Two other restricted stakes will also be run Saturday at Saratoga – the $100,000 De La Rose Stakes sending nine distaffers a mile on the inner turf and the $100,000 Lure Stakes featuring 10 runners going 1 1/16 miles on the grass.