Fourstardave Draws Two BC Champions

The Fourstardave Handicap (Grade 2)- $500.000 Purse
SAR- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile on the Inner Turf
August 15, 2015  

Fourstardave, known as the Sultan of Saratoga, is a legend up in this neck of the woods.  The horse in which this race is named for won at least one race at the Spa every year from 1987 to 1994.  That streak paralleled the time in which this writer began getting into the sport and going to Saratoga, so I have special memories of his career.  Fittingly, the winner of the first Fourstardave Handicap within our game is also a legend.  That horse is none of other then great Alpha Ultimo, who won this race in 2003.  Given that he won many big races over the course of his career, that might not seem particularly special.  But how about if I told you that this was the first ever graded stakes that Alpha Ultimo ever won, because it was.  The tie between them is fitting since Alpha Ultimo also had a long career that lasted parts of eight seasons.  Surprisingly, other then Alpha Ultimo, no other past winner has earned over $1,000.000 in his career, but there is a bunch in the $800.000 to $900.000 range.  2012 was the first year in which this race had a $500.000 purse, being increased from $150.000 when track officials realized that a race that honors a SAR legend should draw better competition.  In HRP, that mission is accomplished, as a strong field is headlined by BC Mile winner Seven Years and BC Turf Sprint winner Jamfest, but encompasses a field of several contenders capable of bringing them down, even if they were at even weights.   Weight allowances could play a larger role then normal in this race, which draws ten to the gate.  Let’s meet the challengers!

#1- Hold The Mach (Night Rider Stables, ridden by R Maragh)- This five year old gelding is at his best this year under the guidance of Night Rider Stables, who claimed him for just $10.000 back in February of 2014.   At the time, he had only modest success and wouldn’t be an immediate rags to riches story for his trainer, either.  In December of last year, he dominated a starter allowance at GP, which kicked off a three-race winning streak, one that would end in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at GP this February.  In the win, he earned a 100 SRF for his effort.   Later this year, he captured the Grade 2 Connaught Cup Stakes at WO while at odds of 77/1.  Hold The Mach seems best at exactly this distance as he historically runs either seven or eight furlongs in each outing.  He seems poised for another good run here, but this may be the toughest field he has been in thus far.    One thing we do know is that you won’t see 77/1 on him on Saturday.

#2- Jamfest (Jkk Racing Stables, ridden by J Lezcano)- This is the first two BC Champions in which we will be looking at in this field.  It truly was a special year for the now seven year old Megalomaniac gelding, as he won six of eight races for $1,029.000 in 2014 alone.  That was highlighted by his win in the BC Turf Sprint, where came from off the pace to win.  This year has also seen a couple good wins, but not quite what he was winning last year.   He looked sharp in winning the $300.000 Grade 3 Poker Handicap at BEL in June, by three lengths, showing that he still has it.  Note that in that, he left Son of Ra, who sees here, six lengths behind him.  We’ll forgive his last start as him not liking the soft DMR on Read Stakes day (Grade 1), and if he can win the Fourstardave on Saturday, then we can put him back on the BC path again.  He carries 3-4 pounds more then most, but still seven pounds less then fellow BC winner Seven Years.

#3- Party Prep (Canadian Racing, ridden by M Mena)- In seven career starts, Party Prep has found the winner’s circle in four of them.   However, none of those are of the same caliber as what many others in the field can say they have won.  In his second career start, he broke his maiden at MNR before ultimately winning a pair of allowance and an optional claimer.  He has attempted one stake, coming in the Regent Stakes at WO, where he was third in that field of five for ON breds.  What sends him here though, is that optional claimer victory at ELP last month, where she set a track record, covering the mile in 1:32.57.   We’re led to believe that the track played very fast that day, but still if he can repeat that in here, then he can spring an upset.

#4- Clueless (Mb Stables, ridden by J L Ortiz)-   Clueless is not one of our BC winners in this field, but he was part of BC day, placing 11th in the BC Dirt Mile on Halloween at SA.   While he did spend the entirety of 2014 on the main track, he did show talent on the turf during his three year old campaign.  So when he returned to the grass at SA in March, we weren’t too surprised to see him win a three horse open allowance.   A month later, he won the ungraded $100.000 Clark Stakes at PIM, but then disappointed in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap, placing 10th.  He’ll see a field of that quality again, so hopefully this race being shorter will allow him to have a stronger shot at a win.

#5- Swamp Fox (Blushing Meadows, ridden by J Alvarado)- You won’t find many more consistent horses out there then Swamp Fox, judging by SRF figures.  In his last four outings, he earned a SRF figure of exactly 98.  Then in the prior three races he was at exactly 99.  Then there’s a 101, followed by another string of 98’s.   This begs the question then, of, can a 98 win the Fourstardave?  Judging by the quality of this field, I don’t think it will, so Swamp Fox will need to pop out that 101 again.   He is another that also ran in the BC last fall, placing fourth to Jamfest in the BC Turf Sprint.  Swamp Fox had a lot of experience running longer early in his career, but he has not run this distance, at minimum, in his last ten starts.  A recent run at seven furlongs, albeit an attempt on the dirt, will not spawn optimism.  Despite this, I still like this chances to find a way to be at the back end of superfecta possibilities.

#6- Iron Mann (Aer Stables, ridden by G L Stevens)- Fitting name for an entry in a race named for a true ironhorse.  Iron Mann however, at least not yet, has not had to live up to his name as he is the most lightly raced of any of these in the field.   He makes just his seventh career starts, while being a regular in NY-bred competition.  It did take five tries to break his maiden, four of which were in NY-bred races, but once he did he followed it up with a win in the $100.000 Bid, part of NY Stallion Series.    This a huge step up, and while I like where this horse is headed and his potential to take a race like this in the future, I don’t think he has what it takes here.  Although, he does have a couple of very nice works coming into this, so if you want a longshot play, consider him.

#7- Never Forget (Big Jd Racing, ridden by T McCarthy)- Back in April, Big Jd Racing won a three-way shake in a $5.000 claim for this horse from Danang Ents.   That trainer had claimed him previously for $4.000 from Emerald Racing Inc.  Danang Ents. did well to get a couple wins out of him, finally, albeit at lower level tracks.  Then, under the guidance of Big Jd Racing, Never Forget has become a different racehorse.  Almost sounds like a Bald And Beautiful parallel here, doesn’t it?  Good to see that the story can play out for any trainer within the game.  Never Forget would win the $60.000 Horn Handicap, which was nice, but opened more eyes as he was a nose shy of winning $150.000 Forbidden Apple at BEL last month.    The sky’s the limit and I am really intrigued at what he might be able to do here while carrying nine fewer pounds then he did in the Forbidden Apple.  It’s tough to pick a horse like this over the more experienced graded runners, but I think he has a strong shot here.

#8- Sea Speaker (Sanny Village, ridden by S X Bridgmohan)- Like the horse to his inside, Sea Speaker also took a road less traveled to get to this race.   He didn’t race much in his earlier days, going to the gate just three times as a two year old (first quarter foal), then just three times as a four year old for then-trainer Maletto.  That trainer didn’t think high of him, and downgraded him all the way down to the free tracks before he eventually won in his sixth start, at MNR.  In his first race of 2015, Lion King Stables saved his career with a $15.000 claim.  With Lion King, he showed more potential, coming mainly after he was gelded.  In May, Sanny Village claimed him for $47.500 and put the finishing touches to him, turning him into a graded stake runner.  In just the one start, Sea Speaker was third by a length in the Grade 2 Highland.  I’ll be interested to watch the race within the race between he and Never Forget.

#9- Son of Ra (Sanny Village, ridden by A S Arroyo)- Doesn’t it seem like Son of Ra and Seven Years are in the same race all of the time?  Perhaps they have not been, but they certainly have a lot of experience racing against each other.  This six year old gelding has had a great career, winning 11 of 40 races, and has really been able to flourish with Sanny Village as trainer.    That said, I don’t think there is a horse that needs to win this race more then Son of Ra does.  He has a good chance, but a recent trend in his past performances show him becoming less and less of a factor in races ever since his seventh place finish in the BC Mile last November.  I don’t see any reason to be concerned that he is losing a step, but he just needs some positive mojo back for himself.   Winning the Fourstardave can do that and then some.

#10- Seven Years (Alydar Stables, ridden by E Trujillo)- Things could not be stacked against the 2014 BC Mile winner then they are here on Saturday.  First, comes the fact that he was to carry 125 pounds.  This makes him not only the highweight in the field, but it has him carrying seven more pounds then the next highest weight carrier, and on average, about ten pounds more then the rest of the field.  Then came the post position draw, and earning this spot in the starting gate. A truly great horse can overcome obstacles like these, and I do believe that Seven Years has emerged as one of the greats in our game.  He has just over $3,500.000 in career earnings, which is boosted by the BC win, but he has won many graded events over the course of his career.  Two such wins have been in his last four starts, as he captured the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile at SA in March, and then won the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes on PRK Day at PIM.   He has consistently been carrying around 124-126 pounds in recent starts, but the last time he was in a handicap such as this where there was such a noticeable weight difference, he was 3rd in the GP Turf Handicap.  Seven Years is a great horse and deserves all accolades past on to him, but the decision you’ll have to make at the betting window is whether or not he can overcome the unique to this race obstacles that he will face.

Prediction: 2-10-7-4


— NS

Categories: Grade II

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