by Brian Bohl
A field of nine 2-year-old fillies will all make their respective stakes debuts in the Grade 3, $150,000 Schuylerville contested at six furlongs on Thursday, Opening Day, at historic Saratoga Race Course.
One of two graded stakes run on the lid-lifter for the Spa's 40-day meet, including the Grade 3, $100,000 Quick Call for 3-year-olds, the Schuylerville will see Lee Pokoik's Buxom Beast make her first start.
Purchased for $205,000 at the 2019 Ocala Breeders' Sale in April, Buxom Beast is a daughter of The Big Beast, who had success at Saratoga in winning the 2014 Grade 1 King's Bishop and running second in the 2015 Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap and the Grade 1 Forego later that year.
Buxom Beast, a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Gourmet Dinner, was bred in Florida by Ocala Stud. She has breezed four times at Saratoga, including a four-furlong work in 49.32 seconds on the Oklahoma training track on July 1.
"I like her. She's very level-headed and acts like a 3-year-old masquerading as a 2-year-old," Contessa said. "She's got a very good mind. I like everything about her."
"Over the years, I've raced maidens at Saratoga, and some of those races have been tougher than stakes," he added. "You just never know what you're going to get at Saratoga. Running in a stakes is sometimes easier than a maiden race."
Joel Rosario will ride Buxom Beast, breaking from post 7.
"She's been training really good and Mr. Pokoik wanted to give this a shot," Contessa said. "Honestly, a stakes race this early in the year is just a bunch of horses who have either won one race or haven't raced. But she's training very, very good."
Trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle a pair of maiden winners, including Three Diamonds Farm's Kiss the Girl and Integral, owned by Suzanne and Michael Masters.
Kiss the Girl, a $210,000 purchase at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Mid-Atlantic Sale, is coming off a 4 ½-length score in a five-furlong maiden sprint on June 12 at Belmont Park. The Into Mischief filly, who defeated a five-horse field in that race, will break from post 9 in tandem with Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
Her stablemate, Integral, also won her first race, besting an eight-horse field by 3 1/2 lengths on May 25 at Gulfstream Park. The daughter of Algorithms has breezed four times at Saratoga since June and will pick up the services of jockey Luis Saez, drawing post 2.
Trainer Doug O'Neill will also saddle two impressive maiden winners in Comical and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing's Shippy.
Shippy was a winner by 10 ¾ lengths in a five-furlong sprint on June 14 at Laurel Park, earning a field-high 87 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort on the fast track. Purchased privately following her debut, the Midshipman filly will ship to Saratoga after breezing four furlongs in 48.45 on Friday at Belmont. She will have Jose Ortiz in the irons from post 1.
"Both fillies are doing really well. With Shippy, we just took over her training, so we don't know that much about her, other than her debut was super impressive," O'Neill said.
Comical, a six-length winner on May 26 at Santa Anita Park, will look to stretch out from 4 ½ furlongs to the Schuylerville distance. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will ride from post 5.
"Comical has been pointed to this race for a while. She's been training really well coming into it," O'Neill said. "We have two nice fillies and two top riders. I'm optimistic for both."
George Bolton's Aurelia Garland was a five-length winner at five furlongs on May 2 at Belmont. The Wesley Ward trainee was purchased for $185,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton New York sale in Saratoga. Running on the main track across Union Avenue at the Spa, she will look to handle the step-up in class, with Joe Bravo getting the return engagement and breaking from post 8.
"She's doing great. She's a real quality filly who won convincingly in her debut," Ward said. "You never know in these races, but she's very talented and very fast, especially for being a big filly. She's certainly going to appreciate the added furlong. Her game will be going long."
Rounding out the field is His Glory, an 8 ½-length debut winner for trainer Tom Amoss, from post 3; Lula's Roadrunner, who won her first race by a neck last month at Parx Racing for trainer Ed Coletti, Jr. out of post 4; and Lady Fatima, who broke her maiden at second asking on May 23 at Belmont for trainer Mark Casse, out of post 6.
The Schuylerville is carded as Race 8 as a part of Thursday's 10-race card. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.