by Najja Thompson
Backwards Stable's Fire Key will look to capture her second stakes win of the year in New York, headlining a field of nine in the $100,000 Smart N Fancy going 5 ½ furlongs on the Mellon turf Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
A New York-bred 6-year-old daughter of Friesan Fire, Fire Key joined the barn of conditioner James Ryerson after spending the winter in Florida where she made four starts at Gulfstream Park most notably finishing third in the South Beach in January at and fifth in the Grade 3 Honey Fox.
Fire Key debuted for Ryerson on April 28 at Belmont Park winning the License Fee by a nose. She followed up with a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Intercontinental in June in which she lost by a half-length to multiple graded-stakes winner Significant Form, ahead of a good second in the Caress on July 21 at Saratoga.
In search of her third career victory at Saratoga from five starts, Ryerson said Fire Key is showing signs towards having another positive outing in the Smart N Fancy.
"She's doing great here," said Ryerson. "She's adjusted to the Oklahoma [barn stables] very well and we're excited about Saturday. I thought that even though she got beat, she ran great in the Caress. Since then, she's come back good. She's really benefited from running in sprint distance in Florida. She was going a bit longer, so she's appreciated the cutback and fortunately we've gotten some good trips. Hopefully, we'll work out another one as well on Saturday."
Fire Key will depart from the rail with regular rider Jose Ortiz aboard.
Entering for owner G. Watts Humphrey, Jr. and trainer Rusty Arnold is Morticia. The 5-year-old Twirling Candy mare bred by her owner and conditioner kicked off her campaign with a second-place finish by a neck in the Captiva Island on March 9 at Gulfstream and followed up with a victory in the Giants Causeway in April at Keeneland.
After another second-place finish by a neck in the Unbridled Sidney at Churchill on May 2, she won an allowance race in her next start before finishing third in Caress, three-quarters of a length back to Fire Key.
"She's had a good month here and we hope the weather holds off so that she can perform to the best of her ability," said Arnold. "She didn't have the best of trips in the Caress but that happens in turf racing. She got caught up in a bad spot which compromised her running style, but we'll look to rebound in here."
Morticia will leave from post 5 with Irad Ortiz, Jr. up.
Looking to improve off a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Royal North on July 21 at Woodbine Racetrack is Oleksandra for Team Valor International and conditioner Neil Drysdale.
The 5-year-old Animal Kingdom mare has made three starts this year starting with two optional claiming victories on May 24 and June 28 at Belmont.
With Joel Rosario aboard, Oleksandra will leave from post 7.
Also entered is Broadway Run (Post 8, Luis Saez); Miss Gossip (Post 6, Junior Alvarado); Ruby Notion (Post 9, Javier Castellano); and Too Much Tip (Post 2, Jose Lezcano). Lady's Island and Lezendary are entered for the main track only.
The Smart N Fancy is slated as Race 8 on Saturday's 11-race card, which also features the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama presented by NYRA Bets in Race 10 and the Grade 2, $200,000 Lake Placid in Race 9. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.