SARATOGA SPRINGS — Sombeyay found the winner’s circle in a graded stakes race on Saratoga Race Course opening weekend last summer.
If he gets there again on opening day of the 2019 meet, he’ll have to take the grass route instead of dirt.
Then again, if it rains hard enough — the forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms — the Grade III Quick Call could be moved from the turf to dirt. Don Lucarelli, a Schenectady native who is part owner of the 3-year-old colt through Starlight Racing, won’t care either way; it’ll be a joy just to get there.
“We’re not going to have a lot of starts this year, so any one we get, we’ll have the whole family there,” Lucarelli said Wednesday. “We won a stakes with him last year, so it should be a lot of fun.”
Sombeyay, a son of Into Mischief trained by Todd Pletcher, won the Grade III Sanford, the first of three legs of graded stakes for 2-year-olds at the meet. Since then, he has remained on the dirt, including a fourth in the Grade I Hopeful on closing day and his most recent start, a second by a nose in an ungraded stakes at Monmouth Park.
The Quick Call is scheduled to be contested at 5 1/2 furlongs on the Mellon Turf Course.
In what looks like a wide-open race, Sombeyay is the 6-1 fourth choice on the morning line.
“You know the horse likes the surroundings,” Lucarelli said. “I’d be surprised if you get 6-1. I just hope he runs his race.”
Another horse who should like his surroundings is the 5-2 favorite, Call Paul, who won the second leg of the graded stakes on the dirt for 2-year-olds at the 2018 meet, the Grade II Saratoga Special.
He’s won three stakes since then, including the Grade III Swale at Gulfstream Park in February.
There is one filly in the field, Abyssinian, who raced against males to a third-place finish at Keeneland in April, a race won by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Bulletin.
“I thought she still ran a real credible race against a quality horse, a Breeders’ Cup winner,” told the New York Racing Association. “She’s doing great coming into the race. We’re also considering the Coronation Cup, but the Quick Call is very tempting since it’s a Grade III, and those opportunities don’t come up often for turf sprinters. She’s got proven turf sprint form.”
The co-feature on the card is the first leg of graded stakes on the dirt for fillies, the Grade III Schuylerville, in which Shippy is the 2-1 favorite off a 10 3/4-length victory in her career debut at Laurel Park on June 14.
She’ll be joined in the Schuylerville field by stablemate Comical, who won by six lengths in her career debut at Santa Anita on May 26.
“With Shippy, we just took over her training, so we don’t know that much about her, other than her debut was super impressive,” trainer Doug O’Neill told NYRA.
“Comical has been pointed to this race for a while. She’s been training really well coming into it. We have two nice fillies and two top riders. I’m optimistic for both.”
Another interesting horse in the Schuylerville field is long shot Buxom Beast, a daughter of The Big Beast, who won the 2014 King’s Bishop (since renamed the Allen Jerkens) and was second in the A.G. Vanderbilt and Forego at Saratoga in 2015.
“Honestly, a stakes race this early in the year is just a bunch of horses who have either won one race or haven’t raced,” trainer Gary Contessa told NYRA. “But she’s training very, very good.”