Spa opener shapes up as busy day

ELMONT, N.Y. -- If the opening-day card is any indication, this could be a very strong summer at Saratoga.

A total of 134 horses were carded for Wednesday's 10-race opening-day program, including a strong field of 13 juvenile fillies for the Grade 3, $100,000 Schuylerville Stakes going six furlongs. Six of the 10 races overfilled, and the total in purses for opening day is $557,700.

The card includes the $80,500 James Marvin Stakes, an overnight event at seven furlongs that more resembles a Grade 2 stakes with the likes of Pyro, Honour Devil, Silver Edition, Riley Tucker, and Finallymadeit in the field.

"Saratoga is the premier racing meet in North America, and our opening-day card is reflective of that," said P.J. Campo, vice president and director of racing for the New York Racing Association.

In addition to the two stakes, there is an open-company maiden race for 2-year-old males that drew a field of 11 and a 2-year-old New York-bred maiden race that also drew 11. There are only two claiming races on the program.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas will seek to win his seventh Schuylerville with the undefeated Decelerator. A daughter of Dehere, Decelerator won a maiden race on May 14 and came back to win the Grade 3 Debutante at Churchill on June 27. She will break from post 5 under Julien Leparoux.

The horse Decelerator defeated in her debut was Hot Dixie Chick, who came back to win a maiden race by 5 3/4 lengths, running five furlongs in a Churchill Downs track-record 56.48 seconds. The Steve Asmussen-trained filly drew the rail. Asmussen also entered Kinsolving, who finished third to Decelerator in the Grade 3 Debutante.

Trainer Ken McPeek will send out the uncoupled entry of Vivid Color and Beautician, both of whom won a maiden race at first asking. Beautician beat Sassy Image, who came back to win a maiden race in her next start and who is also entered in this spot.

Others entered in the Schuylerville are Cowgirl Mally, Aegean, Wild Without Wine, Franny Freud, That's How I Roll, Stormandaprayer, and So N So.

Travers still goal for Quality Road

Though Quality Road is slated to make his first start since late March in the 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 3, trainer Todd Pletcher said the Grade 1, $1 million Travers at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 29 remains the summer objective for the talented but troubled colt.

On Friday, Pletcher said that Quality Road's owner, Ed Evans, "would like to strongly consider the Travers if everything goes well. We'll see how this race goes and how he comes out of it and if we can prepare him the way we would like to, but the Travers is our main goal."

Quality Road has not run since winning the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 28. He was forced to miss the Triple Crown series because of chronic quarter cracks and was transferred from trainer Jimmy Jerkens to Pletcher in mid-June.

Justwhistledixie will miss Test

The multiple graded stakes winner Justwhistledixie will be forced to miss the Grade 1 Test on Aug. 8 after getting cast in her stall and suffering minor injuries, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.

"She got cast the other night in her stall, cut her head and hurt herself behind," McLaughlin said Friday from Saratoga. "It was enough to miss a few days of training, unfortunately. She's already back to the track, but missed a work and might miss another work."

McLaughlin said the Grade 3 Victory Ride at Saratoga on Aug. 29 could be a possibility for Justwhistledixie's next race. Earlier this year, Justwhistledixie reeled off a five-race winning streak that included the Bonnie Miss and Davona Dale, but then missed the Kentucky Oaks with a bruised foot. In her most recent start, she finished second in the Grade 1 Acorn as the 4-5 favorite.

Dominguez sets Belmont record

Ramon Dominguez established a Belmont spring/summer meet record for wins by a jockey with 93 when he guided I've Got Speed to a neck victory in Friday's seventh race. The previous mark was 92 wins, accomplished by Angel Cordero Jr. in 1982.

"It's really hard for me to believe," Dominguez said as he walked back to the jockeys' room. "Coming into the meet, if you told me we would win the meet, I'd have been extremely excited, in disbelief in a way too, let alone to be thinking about any records. I feel humbled, feel very excited and grateful to receive this opportunity."

This was the first time Dominguez rode at Belmont for an entire meet. Dominguez has also won the Aqueduct inner-track and main-track riding titles this year. He will be riding at Saratoga full-time for the third straight summer.

Casey to miss most of Saratoga

Apprentice jockey Amanda Casey, a native of the Capital region, will miss most and possibly all of the Saratoga meet because of an injured rotator cuff in her right shoulder, her agent, Rob Whitlock, said Friday.

Casey will be forced to miss four to six weeks of riding and is hopeful of returning for the final week of the meet.

Casey was injured earlier in the meet in a spill, but continued to ride. The pain in her shoulder, however, worsened to the point where she was unable to do even menial jobs around the house. Missing Saratoga is a big blow to Casey, who grew up in the South Glens Falls area, not far from Saratoga.

"She's heartbroken over it, and I am too in a way," said Whitlock. "She'll be up there doing some charity stuff up there trying to raise money for the Backstretch Education program."