A couple notables will be competing at Saratoga on Saturday, with exciting sprinter Volatile seeking his first graded prize in the $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) and champion Sistercharlie opening her 6-year-old season in the $200,000 Ballston Spa (G2). Both runners headline short fields.
Volatile, who exits a sensational eight-length score in his stakes debut, the June 6 Aristides at Churchill Downs, will bring a three-race win streak to the 6-furlong Vanderbilt. Steve Asmussen trains the once-beaten 4-year-old son of Violence, and Ricardo Santana Jr. rides the gray colt. Volatile registered a field-best 109 Brisnet Speed rating last time, completing 6-furlongs in 1:07.57, and he’ll face four rivals Saturday.
Whitmore, a 10-time stakes conqueror and earner of more than $3.1 million, has been freshened off a victory in the April 18 Count Fleet H. (G3) at Oaklawn Park. The 7-year-old gelding showed an affinity for Saratoga when capturing the 2018 Forego (G1) in his lone local appearance, and Joel Rosario picks up the mount on the late-running chestnut for Ron Moquett.
Firenze Fire is another quality rival, posting a 1 1/2-length triumph most recently in the June 27 True North (G2) at Belmont Park. Irad Ortiz Jr. will be back up on the 5-year-old stalker for Kelly Breen. Mind Control proved no match for Vekoma in the Carter H. (G1) last time, but the 4-year-old should appreciate returning to Spa. The Greg Sacco trainee is perfect from two attempts, taking the 2018 Hopeful (G1) and 2019 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1), and regular rider John Velazquez has the assignment. Grade 3 scorer Lexitonian completes the field.
Sistercharlie heads a field of six females, including a main-track only contestant, in the Ballston Spa, and there will be no show betting in the 1 1/16-mile affair on the inner turf.
Named champion turf mare in 2018, Sistercharlie is 2-for-2 on the Saratoga turf, winning the last two editions of the Diana (G1), and the 6-year-old also captured the Beverly D. (G1) and Flower Bowl (G1) last year before concluding the season with a third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Chad Brown conditions the classy Irish-bred daughter of Myboycharlie, and John Velazquez guides the late runner.
Starship Jubilee, the 2019 Canadian Horse of the Year, is the main rival. The 7-year-old mare enters with a 3-for-3 record this season, including tallies in the Hillsborough (G2) at Tampa and Suwanee River (G3) at Gulfstream Park, and Javier Castellano has the call for Kevin Attard. Italian Group 2 winner Call Me Love, runner-up to Rushing Fall in the Beaugay (G3) two back, will make her third U.S. start for Christophe Clement, and the 4-year-old Sea the Stars filly adds Rosario.