SARATOGA SPRINGS — Female horses don’t race against males very often in North America, but today’s Grade I Fourstardave at Saratoga Race Course has a little bit of a European feel to it, with three mares challenging males for a $500,000 purse.
Most notable among them is Got Stormy, who won this race in track-record time in 2019 before finishing second by a length and a quarter to Halladay last year.
She’s coming off a fifth to Casa Creed in the Jaipur while trying to establish some winning form in 2021, and the Fourstardave, at a mile on what should be a firm Inner Turf course, will serve as a pivot point on the rest of her season, trainer Mark Casse said.
“The Fourstardave will tell us whether we go to Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup,” he said. “If that doesn’t work, she likes Kentucky Downs, and there’s a race for her for a half a million dollars. But all of it depends on the Fourstardave. If she proves she can run with the big guys still, then we probably go to Del Mar.”
The Fourstardave is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Got Stormy finished second to Uni in the BC Mile in 2019, then Casse sent her to the BC Turf Sprint, instead, last year because the tightness of the turns at a mile on the turf at Keeneland. He said that shouldn’t be an issue at Del Mar.
The trick now is to get there.
Among the seven rivals the 6-year-old Got Stormy will face are the 5-year-old mare Blowout, who hasn’t been off the board in 12 lifetime starts and is coming off a win in the Grade II Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs, and the 6-year-old mare Daddy Is a Legend, a long shot who won the Grade III Lake George as a 3-year-old in 2018.
She was third behind Althiqa and Summer Romance in the Grade I Just a Game at Belmont Park, then those two stablemates came back to finish 1-2 again in the Grade I Diana at Saratoga on opening weekend.
“I think a mile is her best distance,” trainer George Weaver told the New York Racing Association. “We were looking at this race after she ran big in the Just a Game and those two fillies came back and ran well here. If she takes another step forward, we’re hoping that Saturday can be her day.
“She’s a very good racehorse. She’s talented, but the other thing she has that all good racehorses have is the fact that she shows up. She gives what she has. Right now, she’s doing well, she’s happy and she’s all business.”
Besides Blowout, trainer Chad Brown also has the 9-5 morning-line favorite for the Fourstardave, Raging Bull.
The two-time Grade I winner was second behind Got Stormy’s record 1:32 in 2019, and after finishing 10th in the BC Mile in November, he opened 2021 with a win in the Grade I Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland. He’ll break from the No. 1 post.
“I’m hoping he can stay off the inside with a better trip,” Brown said. “His turn of foot seems to be his best characteristic. He’s in as good of form as he’s ever been in. I love the way he’s been training. He’s a remarkable horse, very consistent.”
Like Got Stormy, this will be Raging Bull’s third attempt at the Fourstardave. He was fifth last year.
He had success at Saratoga as a 3-year-old, sweeping the National Racing Museum Hall of Fame and Saranac. In both of those races, the turf course had been softened by rain.
Set Piece is the 5-2 second choice while riding a three-race winning streak, most recently the Grade II Wise Dan at Churchill.
“He’s a Grade II winner, and obviously he has a good pedigree that all Juddmonte horses do, and it helps some of the siblings that come up from the broodmare band as well,” trainer Brad Cox said. “He deserves the opportunity to take a swing at a Grade I, and we’ll see what he can do.”
Also on today’s card is the second leg of graded stakes for 2-year-olds on the dirt, the Grade II Saratoga Special at 6 1/2 furlongs.
The full field of 12 includes two sons of Gun Runner, who has been on a tear as a sire with his first crop since May.
Gunite and Red Run are both trained by Steve Asmussen for owner Ron Winchell of Winchell Thoroughbreds. They teamed up to win the Adirondack last weekend with a daughter of Gun Runner, Wicked Halo, and Asmussen has won the Saratoga Special five times since 2003.
“It’s extremely exciting. All a part of what makes racing great,” Asmussen said of his former trainee, Horse of the Year Gun Runner. “We’re fortunate to have horses like that and then have the chance for them to prove it. It’s amazing how he stamps them just with their attitude. Obviously, he gave them a tremendous amount of ability to find more than what matters. Winning and losing is usually the amount of effort willing to be applied.”
Gunite needed three tries to break his maiden, but has improved in each start and is the 5-1 second choice behind impressive debut winner Doctor Jeff.
“The distance had everything to do with it,” Asmussen said. “Going from five-eighths [of a mile], five-and-a-half, three-quarters and go third, second and first. That’s how it felt to us.”
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