Saturday Stakes Preview: Ironicus intrigues in The Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga

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>>Go to the PPs for the Fourstardave | Post Time 6:25 EDT Saturday

The Grade 2 Fourstar Dave did not attract Wise Dan, but it did attract an otherwise strong field of older turf runners, three of them prior winners at the Grade 1 level.

The TimeformUS Pace Projector favors neither frontrunners nor closers, though the favorite on the ML, the speedy #4 King Kreesa, is expected to be joined up on the early lead by #10 Skyring. #2 Grand Arch won’t be far behind them, nor will #6 Grand Tito. #1 Mshawish is back from Dubai following a fine effort vs. top class horses, and he will be saving ground in midfield, with #7 Vyjack and #8 Jack Milton to his outside. The closers are the defending Fourstar Dave champ, #5 Seek Again, and the up-and-coming #3 Ironicus.

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In many ways, King Kreesa, now 6 years old, has never been better. He enters here on the back of a pair of wins at Belmont Park, wins he was able to pair up while employing differing running styles. In the Grade 3 Poker, King Kreesa got loose on a moderate pace, and he never let the closers into the race while holding a game Vyjack safe at the end. In the Forbidden Apple, he managed to take up a tracking position away from a fast early pace (note Pace figures/fractions shaded red), before going up to take over and duel off race favored Reload, en route to a clear-cut win with a TFUS Speed figure of 124. He is a game fighter with a versatile running style, and we can think of nothing that is more admirable in a race horse than that combination.

Mshawish figures to be a tough foe for King Kreesa on Saturday, assuming he can come back ready from his trip to Dubai. He arrived from France with credentials last summer, and after seeming to take a few starts to get acclimated, he ratcheted things up in Florida over the winter. He rose the ladder from listed, to Grade 2, to Grade 1 winner, which earned him a trip to Dubai to face some of the top turf horses in the world. Mshawish did not embarrass himself over there, finishing gamely through traffic in the stretch behind the world-class Solow.

Both Seek Again and Jack Milton are players in this race. Seek Again has not won a race since emerging victorious after a daring run up the rail in the stretch of this race last year, but he has made only four starts in that span, and he was unlucky when forced to check at a crucial point in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile last October.

Jack Milton will be cutting back in distance for the first time since racking up his Grade 1 win, in Keeneland’s Maker’s 46 Mile back in April. He is as consistent as they come on the race track and starts for one of the best trainers in the game.

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The horse we are most interested in seeing on Saturday is Ironicus. Rapidly developing for Shug McGaughey, Ironicus has been heading for races like this for a while now. He posted his first big career win in the Grade 2 Dixie on Preakness Day at Pimlico. He did work a clean run through traffic in that spot, but he had a slow pace to overcome (note Pace Figures/fractions shaded blue), and he really exploded once clear in the stretch that day. He came back to bury an overmatched field of allowance horses in his prep for this, while overcoming another slow pace (note Pace Figures/fractions shaded blue again). His TFUS Speed figures are ascending quickly (last 6 races: 104-109-108-114-119-125), and he owns the top last-out figure in the field. It will be interesting to see if he is up to this kind of task, but he should have some pace to close into, and it is of note that Javier Castellano, who has also been the regular rider of Mshawish, has apparently opted to stay with this guy.

The Play: We like Ironicus in the Fourstar Dave, though we don’t want to bet him at less than 4/1 odds. We will key him with Mshawish and Jack Milton.

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