Grade I Fourstardave has a ‘Ring’ to it

The Fourstardave Handicap, recently promoted to Grade I status, is the Saturday feature at Saratoga. A field of nine (excluding the main track only) will go postward for this one-mile turf event at approximately 6:32 p.m. EST (the program’s 10th race). The Fourstardave offers plenty of ways to make a big score, as well as extra points in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game.

#10 RING WEEKEND (3-1) looks like the one to beat in the Fourstardave for trainer Graham Motion. RING WEEKEND had not been seen in over a year when he came back in the Dixie Stakes on Preakness day at Pimlico, and he was just inched out by TAKEOVER TARGET over a course labeled “good” that was probably closer to yielding. He should be able to take a step forward under John Velazquez today, and that would make him very dangerous in here regardless of how much rain the turf course takes (the forecast looks bleak). However, I don’t think he’s unbeatable.

My two value plays in this race are #2 BLACKTYPE (10-1) and #3 A LOT (12-1). BLACKTYPE was last seen notching his first graded stakes victory in the Oceanport at Monmouth over a yielding course. Before that he was able to beat a salty field of allowance rivals at Belmont over a firm going. Christophe Clement has been very patient with BLACKTYPE since bringing him over from France two years ago; he seems well-spotted in this one. Junior Alvarado, one of Clement’s go-to riders, has the call.

A LOT is one of two representing Chad Brown in the Fourstardave (TAKEOVER TARGET is the other), and this will be his first route try under Brown’s tutelage. A LOT flew home too late in the six-furlong Jaipur last time out, but prior to that he mowed down a solid field in the Elusive Quality over a blazing-fast turf course at Belmont that was tilted toward frontrunners in the early part of the meet. Javier Castellano takes over the mount on A LOT, which is a plus.

The two lower-priced horses I’m leaving out are #4 TAKEOVER TARGET (7-2) and #6 TOURIST (5-2, morning-line favorite). TAKEOVER TARGET’s win in the Dixie seems to be an outlier based on his surrounding form; he was very flat in the Poker in his last go-around and is tough to want at 7-2 off that.

TOURIST’s best efforts have come while disputing or setting the pace, which he has not been doing much of lately. If he does try to go to the lead he’ll have plenty of company in the form of #7 KING KREESA and possibly #1 REPORTING STAR and/or #9 FORCE THE PASS. TOURIST comes out of a highly-rated effort in the Shoemaker Mile, but I feel that he had no business losing that race off a perfect setup. His unwillingness to win of late makes him difficult to endorse as the favorite.

The play: $2 exacta box 2/3/10, $2 exacta 10/2,3 ($16)

DFJ analysis: John Velazquez ($10,000) and Todd Pletcher are among the top jockey/trainer tandems in the game, and they have a strong hand on Saturday. They have the favored entrant in four of the first five races. Velazquez also rides RING WEEKEND in the Fourstardave, so he has to be considered a “must-use” in fantasy contests this week.

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