The Grade III James Marvin is considered the big prep for the Grade I Forego.
Winning it is no guarantee to be favored in the Forego, though.
Sage Valley took the James Marvin on opening day, but his connections are still leery of tackling the salty field in the seven-furlong Forego at Saratoga Race Course today.
As of Friday morning, trainer Rudy Rodriguez still wasn’t 100 percent sure Sage Valley, who is 6-1 on the morning line, would run today.
“It looks like it came up tough, but it’s a Grade I; they don’t want to come up easy,” he said.
Most formidable in the field is the coupled entry from Zayat Stables — True North winner Fast Bullet, making his first start for D. Wayne Lukas, and the Steve Asmussen-trained Justin Phillip, who just won his first Grade I in 29 career starts in the A.G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga.
Rodriguez hasn’t won a Grade I as a head trainer, but believes he has a good shot at this one, despite the presence of the Zayat pair.
“He looks like he’s coming up good, like he did for the last race,” Rodriguez said. “It’s very, very good timing, and the distance is pretty good for us, too. We’d like to draw a little bit outside, but you cannot always have your wish. He’s ready to run.”
Sage Valley has won two Grade III’s this year, but lost to Fast Bullet and Justin Phillip in the True North, three weeks after winning the Maryland Sprint Handicap.
“We ran him back too quick,” Rodriguez said. “He ran a big race at Pimlico after a long layoff, then shipping back here and running back in three weeks I think was too much. But he looks like he came back good after getting almost six weeks here in Saratoga.”
Another option for Sage Valley, a 4-year-old son of Discreet Cat, would be to run in the DeFrancis Dash at Laurel in two weeks, but Rodriguez would rather take a swing at the Forego.
“The DeFrancis Dash looks like it’s coming up easy, but, I don’t know, it’s tough . . . we’re here, we’re training here, we don’t need to ship and he looks like he likes Saratoga, so everything looks like it’s pointing to running him,” he said.
“The other horses are picking up a lot of weight, we’re picking up one pound more, so that’s a good sign for us to run.”
Everyone in the Forego will carry 124 pounds, one more than Sage Valley was assigned for the James Marvin.
Fast Bullet is picking up seven pounds from the True North, and Justin Phillip will carry six more than he did in the Vanderbilt.
Sage Valley will break from the middle of the eight-horse field, assuming all run.
Trainer Gary Sciacca said on Thursday that he was unsure if Saratoga Snacks, owned by Bill Parcells, would run.
“There’s a lot of speed, and I think he can put himself in good position,” Rodriguez said of Sage Valley. “It would be a lot easier if he was outside so he could look at what everybody else is doing.
“They’re good horses, and I think we have a good horse, too.”
Fast Bullet, making his first start for Lukas after being transferred from Bob Baffert, has lost just once in five starts, a sixth to Trinniberg in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
“He’s a beautiful horse, and his race record speaks for itself,” Lukas said. “Whatever he does, I’m going to have very little influence on it. Mr. [Ahmed] Zayat wants to run, and it would be a big boost to his stud career.”
Saratoga Snacks is 6-1 on the morning line coming off a third to Saginaw in the John Morrissey.
The Forego would be just his second race against open company in 10 career starts and his first graded-stakes try.