Handicapping any horse race involves a projection about what will happen in the future.
Yet summertime stakes for 2-year-olds raises the ante and take the uncertainty to an even higher high level. Not only is there a limited amount of form to consider in past races, but often the distance of the race can bring a new variable into the equation.
Sunday’s $200,000 Adirondack Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course fits that description rather neatly. The six 2-year-old fillies have a combined 10 starts and not one of them has ever raced as far as the 6 ½ furlongs between the starting gate and the finish line on Sunday.
One of them, Kauai Katie, is a standout, yet Sunday’s distance just might level the playing field.
A daughter of Malibu Moon, Kauai Katie was the first of three Stonestreet Stables fillies to win their career debut in dazzling fashion. She simply overpowered her six overmatched opponents in a maiden race on July 20, romping by 12 lengths in gate-to-wire fashion for jockey Rosie Napravnik and trainer Todd Pletcher.
That Opening Day race at the Spa was at 5 ½ furlongs, however, and now she will be asked to handle an additional furlong while facing a more formidable challenge on the front end from her stakes-caliber challengers.
Her morning-line price of 2-to-5 says she handles the extra 220 yards with aplomb, and for the most part that makes sense. Her two biggest threats would seem to be Cayllano (5-to-1), who won a Delaware Park stakes by 8 ½ lengths, and Vitameta (6-to-1), a seven-length winner of a maiden race at Calder Race Course. Yet they both have early speed, and it’s unlikely that either will outrun Kauai Katie on the front end.
Plan B revolves around Salamera (10-to-1), who rallied from sixth to win the JJs Dream Stakes at Calder. If there’s anyone in the field who can beat Kauai Katie, it’s probably this late-running Rudolfo Garcia-trained daughter of Successful Appeal. She could wind up as the beneficiary of a speed duel that rewards her with a few tired fillies to run down in the final furlong and paves the way to an upset.
Kauai Katie may be the fastest filly in the field. She may have the best and hottest trainer in Pletcher. She’s the most likely winner and the safest bet in the field. But at 2-to-5 odds at a distance that’s new to her, she also lacks a key ingredient for any handicapper: value.
It’s Salamera who offers the best risk-reward ratio, if you’re willing to take a gamble. She has a race that might unfold perfectly for her running style. Best of all, she offers odds that will trigger decent payoffs whether she wins or finishes second.
There’s no uncertainty about that.
2. Kauai Katie
4. Fully Living
$200,000 Adirondack Stakes (G2)
Saratoga, Sunday, Race 10, 6:14 p.m. EDT
2-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 Furlongs
PP Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Sweet Shirley Mae, J Velazquez, 118, W Ward
2. Fully Living, J Lezcano, 118, K McPeek
3. Kauai Katie, R Napravnik, 118, T Pletcher
4. Cayllano, J Castellano, 120, T Amoss
5. Vitameta, R Dominguez, 118, D Fawkes
6. Salamera, A Castillo, 120, R Garcia