November 30, 2023

Lake George, Schuylerville highlight Saratoga opener

The grassy With Anticipation kicks off the final week of the 2018 Saratoga meet (Adam Coglianese Photography)

The $150,000 Lake George (G3) was first run at Saratoga in 1996, and the Phillips Racing Partnership and trainer Jimmy Toner’s impact on the race dates to the beginning. Memories of Silver won a division of the Lake George in that inaugural running, and 15 years later the same connections won it again with Winter Memories, a daughter of Memories of Silver.

On Friday, the Phillips partnership and Toner hope to see Defiant Honor come out on top in the 1 1/16-mile grass test for three-year-old fillies, a contentious co-feature on opening day of the 2017 meeting at “The Spa.”

A Speightstown half-sister to Grade 3 winners Recepta and Taqarub, Defiant Honor has won two of four starts, including a season-opening allowance win at Belmont on June 21. It was her first start since November, when she finished second in the Jimmy Durante (G3) at Del Mar after leading most of the way.

“She came out of her last race in good shape,” Toner said. “So far, so good. She’s a nice, classy individual. She likes the attention. She’s still going through her stages of growing, but she’s a nice filly to be around and she does everything the right way. She gives you everything you could ask for.”

Fifty Five has been prominent against some of the best fillies in the division this term. A minor upset winner over La Coronel in the Florida Oaks (G3) in March, the Chad Brown trainee was most recently second best to stablemate New Money Honey in the Wonder Again (G3), which served as a prelude to New Money Honey’s recent win in the Belmont Oaks (G1).

Dream Dancing has also chased La Coronel and New Money Honey this season, placing behind the former in the Appalachian (G3) and Edgewood (G3) before finishing third in the Wonder Again. The Tapit miss earned her signature win in the Herecomesthebride (G3) in March.

Third in the Herecomesthebride was Party Boat, who subsequently beat Fifty Five in the $100,000 Memories of Silver at Aqueduct and was most recently a close second in the $200,000 Penn Oaks. Victory to Victory is the only Grade 1 winner in the field having won the Natalma (G1) at Woodbine last fall, but has disappointed in her last two stakes appearances following a season-opening allowance score at Keeneland.

Exiting the Regret (G3) at Churchill Downs are Sweeping Paddy, who scored by 3 1/2 lengths from favored Proctor’s Ledge, as well as also-rans Chubby Star and Fizzy Friday.

Keeneland graduate Buy Sell Hold beat males in the $100,000 Kentucky Juvenile the week of the Kentucky Derby (G1), and on Friday will attempt to garner her first graded win in the $150,000 Schuylerville (G3), a six-furlong dash for two-year-old fillies.

Buy Sell Hold is trained by Steve Asmussen, who also sends out three-length Churchill maiden winner Laudation. Also representing the generally powerful two-year-old stables are Snowfire, a four-length debut winner for Mark Casse at Churchill Downs, and Stainless, who won at first asking for Todd Pletcher at Gulfstream.

“We’re excited about her,” Casse said of Snowfire. “I thought her first race was really good. We were able to breeze her here at Saratoga the other day and she went extremely well. We’re expecting a big effort out of her. We’re high on her, we think she’s got a big future.”

A trio not to be overlooked are Dream It Is, who’s won both starts at Woodbine in convincing fashion for trainer Barbara Minshall; Mel’s Gone Wild, a four-length debut scorer at Parx for Kathleen DeMasi; and Limited View, a 3 3/4-length Laurel graduate for John Salzman Jr.