Stay Lucky Weekly Guide: Stars Poised to Shine at Saratoga

Racing fans enjoy an afternoon at Saratoga earlier this summer. (Eclipse Sportswire)

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Stay Lucky offers participants the opportunity to win great prizes by stringing together winners in Thoroughbred races. Unbroken streaks of five, seven, nine, 14, 17 and 20 reward the players with a prize or choice of prizes. Terms and conditions apply.

The object is simple: pick winners from North American graded stakes races that draw at least six entrants. Races will be scored in real time but streaks will be updated only once daily to make sure they are scored in the correct order.

Pick as many races each weekend as you like, but be sure to play at least one race every weekend or your streak will be reset.

This weekend the focus is on Saratoga Race Course, which will host four races on Saturday that are Road to the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series races. One race that is not a Challenge Series race, the 2017 Travers Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, serves as the marquee race of the summer for 3-year-olds and will headline NBC’s telecast from 4:30 – 6 p.m. ET that also will include the Sword Dancer Stakes, a “Win and You’re In” race for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Saturday, Aug. 26

Ketel One Ballerina Stakes (2:59 p.m. ET): Paulassilverlining (#3) is just so good right now — she’s won four straight, including a win on this track in her most recent start — that it’s tough to pick against her. I’m not going to, but as a word of caution, there is plenty of talent in this field and I don’t think she’s a slam dunk. Curlin’s Approval (#2) looks like a serious threat and she’s been working very well for this race.

H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (3:35 p.m. ET): I’m torn between Amsterdam Stakes winner Coal Front (#7), unbeaten in three career starts and lightning fast; Woody Stephens Stakes winner American Anthem (#9); and Haskell Invitational Stakes third-place finisher Practical Joke (#1) cutting back in distance. I’ll go with the latter, but he won’t be a Stay Lucky play this week.

Forego Stakes (4:12 p.m. ET): Here’s another race that I thought initially might be a great spot to take a stand with champion sprinter Drefong (#10), whose scintillating win at Saratoga last summer help spark him to a championship season capped by a win in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint. But, he drew the outside post and in his only other start of the year, Drefong unseated the rider. Plus, Mind Your Biscuits (#6), who finished 1 ½ lengths behind Drefong is last year Breeders’ Cup Sprint, has won three of four since then and established himself as a true star. Divining Rod (#4) also is as good as he’s even been and could be sitting on a monster race. Like last year, Drefong looks like the lone speed, but proceed cautiously.

Sword Dancer Stakes (4:49 p.m. ET): European invader Idaho (#7) looks like a standout here for leading Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien. He won the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes in June and then ran third on soft ground in a Group 1 race behind superstar Enable and Ulysees, who came back to win the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes on Aug. 23 at York to earn a spot in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Seaway Stakes (4:57 p.m. ET): Ami’s Mesa (#5) looks like a strong play here. She loves the synthetic track at Woodbine and comes into the race off back-to-back wins there. But Sky My Sky (#1) really scares me making her first start on synthetic for trainer Mark Casse, who strikes at 28% with this turf to synthetic move. And, speed figures say she’s faster than Ami’s Mesa.

Travers Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (5:44 p.m. ET): I like a West Coast (#3) - Good Samaritan (#5) exacta here, but with all three winners of the U.S. Triple Crown races in 2017, plus Haskell Invitational Stakes winner Girvin (#6) in the field, along with Irap (#10), whose won three graded stakes in his last four starts … I have to pass for Stay Lucky purposes.

Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa Stakes (6:20 p.m. ET): She’s always been good to me when I’ve backed her and she’s as honest as a racehorse comes, so I’ll place my top-pick trust in Lady Eli (#1). She ran second in this race last year in her first start after a life-threatening illness, but I think she’ll make amends this weekend and extend her winning streak to three. Heck, she’s won nine times with three seconds in 12 career starts. You can’t get much better than that.

Pat O’Brien Stakes (9:10 p.m. ET): Danzing Candy (#8) has been terrific in five races since the 2016 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and enters the Pat O’Brien riding a three-race winning streak for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. He’s the controlling speed in the race and he’s the fastest horse … that’s a potent combination.

Sunday, Aug. 27

Sunday, Aug. 27

Ontario Colleen Stakes (4:47 p.m. ET): Victory to Victory (#3) should be dangerous here getting back to her best distance on a turf course she likes, but Canadian classic winner Enstone (#5) is in terrific form as is Woodbine Oaks and Bison City Stakes runner-up Mythical Mission (#4). Grade 3 winner Grizzel (#6) heads back to Woodbine after a solid showing when fifth in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes. Look elsewhere this weekend.

Torrey Pines Stakes (7:40 p.m. ET): All eyes will be on Paradise Woods (#1), who looked like an emerging superstar when she won the Santa Anita Oaks by 11 ¾ lengths over Abel Tasman, who has won three Grade 1 races since. But Paradise Woods faded badly after setting the pace in the Longines Kentucky Oaks, finishing 11th as the 6-5 favorite in her first try on a sloppy track, and has not raced since. She’s been training well for Hall of Famer Richard Mandella and she’s by far the best of this bunch if she’s back on her game. Feels like a solid bet.

Top 4 Stay Lucky Plays

(Top plays – 21 winners/48 starters)

1.  Lady Eli (Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa Stakes)

2.  Danzing Candy (Pat O’Brien Stakes)

3.  Idaho (Sword Dancer Stakes)

4. Paradise Woods  (Torrey Pines Stakes)

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