From the Spa: September 3 Midlantic-breds in Saratoga stakes

by | Sep 2, 2022 | Breaking, Racing, Regionwide

I Spent It wins the 2014 Saratoga Special. Photo by NYRA/Adam Coglianese.

by Joseph Aiello 

“From the Spa” returns to keep you up-to-date on horses bred in the mid-Atlantic racing in Saratoga stakes   

Last year’s Saratoga meet saw a switch between the Grade I Woodward Stakes and the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup which continues this year. Since 2006, the Woodward had been run at nine furlongs on the final Saturday of the Saratoga meet, but was swapped for the ten furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup that had been the feature event of the Belmont Fall meet. The Jockey Club Gold Cup is now better spaced for older horses who are potentially aiming for the Breeder’s Cup Classic, with this year’s version looking very evenly matched. The lone outsider of the eight horse field appears to be 30/1 shot Chess Chief, who ran a distant third to Art Collector in the Alydar Stakes earlier this meet. Trainer Dallas Stewart got a good chunk of the Alydar purse money by getting an improved effort from his six year old by Into Mischief – Un Blessed, by Mineshaft, but faces an even tougher uphill battle here in what appears to be a deeper and stronger overall field. Even with some recent stakes success for Midlantic breds at Saratoga, the Virginia bred Chess Chief will need to have the race of his life to compete here and put forth another effort that hits the board.

After five straight races being piloted by Reylu Gutierrez, Chess Chief gets a jockey switch to Manny Franco, who sits sixth in the jockey standings this meet among the best racing colony in the country. Franco is unfamiliar with Dallas Stewart, having only ridden his trainees twice in the past year, but still might be a good change of pace to get Chess Chief running a bit more in the early stages. In this group, there don’t seem to be many who prefer being directly on the lead, with the top contenders either as stalkers or closers. While Chess Chief likely won’t be roused to the front, it would be wise to be at least within five lengths of the lead, especially going ten furlongs for the fourth time in his career. With only one winning effort in the past year plus, winning seems like a tall ask here, but any result similar to his last effort would be looked at as a success. Perhaps being the most heavily raced and experienced in this race will work to his advantage, but Chess Chief needs to take a step forward to hang with these talented older horses. Chess Chief was bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm and is owned by the Estate of James J. Coleman Jr.