Week five of the 2021 racing season at Saratoga Race Course beginning August 9 is actually highlighted by action off the racetrack as the yearlings sales at Fasig- Tipton take place for an astounding 100th year.
This year the famed Fasig-Tipton catalogue of Select Yearlings at the Saratoga Sale listed 210 yearlings. They will be auctioned on Monday and Tuesday, August 9 and 10 in the Humphrey S. Finney Sales Pavilion on East Avenue. Sessions will begin each evening at 6:30 p.m. and are open to the public. The public is invited into the auction hall and can watch the action outside at the bar area where the public mingles with the elite to watch the bidding on numerous televisions. The public gets to view each yearling as it enters the sales ring where bidding can top $1 million for the sales topper. If you have never gone to these auctions, you should make a point to go and see the action. Admission and parking are free and food and drink are available for purchase.
Due to Covid there was no sale in 2020 (the first time since World War II that the annual Saratoga Sale was not held) but the 2019 sale saw 135 yearlings sell over the two nights for an average of $411,459. More than half the yearlings sold in that sale went for $350,000 or more so keep your hand down lest you unwittingly come to own an expensive thoroughbred. After 100 years this year for the first time you can pay for your yearling purchase with cryptocurrency.
On the track the stakes action actually hits a mid-meet lull with a mere 8 stakes races, only 2 of which are graded. Both of the week’s graded stakes races are run on Saturday August 14 with the highlight the Grade I Fourstardave with a purse of $500,000 at a mile on the grass. The other graded stakes race on Saturday is the Grade II Saratoga Special for two-year-olds at 6 ½ furlongs. The rest of the week has minor stakes for New York breds and sprinters.
Saturday’s Fourstardave is a new stakes race by Saratoga standards having first been run in 1985 as the Daryl’s Joy and then renamed the Fourstardave in 1995. Fourstardave himself was dubbed the alliterative nickname of “Sultan of Saratoga” after winning a race at Saratoga every year from 1987 to 1994. Fourstardave is one of only a few thoroughbreds buried at Claire Court on the Saratoga backstretch. The gelding started 100 times in his career and has several places in Saratoga on and off the track named after him.
The race itself is one of the few graded turf races at a flat mile which on the Saratoga course leads to a very short run into the first turn. An inside post position is therefore a big advantage. The race has been won by some tremendous horses including Hall of Famers Lure and Wise Dan the latter winning it twice. Among the 15 horses nominated for this year’s renewal 5 are trained by Chad Brown and 2 by meet leading trainer Michael Maker. One possible entrant is European star Lope Y Fernandez. Stakes winners Raging Bull and Rinaldi are also possible starters.
Saturday also sees the running of the Saratoga Special for two-year olds at the elongated sprint distance of six and one-half furlongs. The Saratoga Special has been run in one form or another since 1901 and has been won by numerous champions many of whom went on to win classic races.
Wednesday highlights horses bred in the State of New York going a distance of ground. The Evan Shipman Handicap is run once around the mile and an eighth Saratoga dirt oval and offers a purse of $100,000. The Evan Shipman is named after the famed racing columnist for the long defunct New York Morning Telegraph. Shipman was considered one of the world’s authorities on thoroughbred and harness racing and breeding. A colorful character, Shipman was a friend of Ernest Hemingway and a chapter is devoted to Shipman in Hemingway’s novel - A Moveable Feast. The Wednesday card also offers the Mahony - a race for three-year-olds on the grass at five and one-half furlongs for a purse of $120,000.
On Thursday the filly counterpart to the Evan Shipman is run. The Saratoga Dew Handicap at the same mile and one-eighth distance on dirt for New York bred fillies offers the same $100,000 purse as the Shipman. Saratoga Dew was a New York bred filly who won an Eclipse Award as Champion Three-Year-Old Filly in 1992. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez has trained three of the last four winners of this race.
Friday offers a restricted stakes named after Tale of the Cat at 6 furlongs for older horses with a purse of $120,000.
Sunday completes the week with the filly counterpart to the Mahony – The Galway. At the same distance of five and one-half furlongs but this time for three-year-old fillies it offers the same purse of $120,000.