Schuylerville Kicks off Saratoga Stakes Extravaganza; Picks, Odds

Trainer Wesley Ward, known for his prowess with 2-year-olds, is eagerly anticipating how his filly Long Neck Paula fares in Thursday’s $175,000 Schuylerville Stakes, the traditional opening day feature at Saratoga Race Course.

Wesley Ward. Coady Photo.

The Schuylerville Stakes is the traditional opening day feature at Saratoga

“She’s doing super. She keeps getting better and better. We’re excited about this race,” Ward said. “She had a really nice work from the gate the other day – the fastest work of the day with my assistant Melanie Moliere on.

“She just cruised right around there all by herself and did everything right. She came back and scoped clean – very sound.”

Long Neck Paula, an easy 3 ½-length winner in her career debut at Churchill Downs on May 2, is 8-1 on the morning line in a field of 11 going 6 furlongs.

Complexion is the 7-2 favorite for trainer Danny Gargan, with Viggiedal and Sherbini each at 9-2, Carmen’s Candy Jar at 6-1, Aoraki also at 8-1, and the rest of the field at 10-1 or higher.

Ward went into some detail about dealing with 2-year-olds and preparing them for races in the first few starts of their careers.

“The only thing that worries me about these early races, especially stretching out to six furlongs, is they’re all 2-year-olds that have broken their maiden and they’re very fast horses,’’ Ward said.

“Sometimes they can go a little too fast early for how old they are just being young horses. To sustain it for three-quarters-of-a-mile is really tough, so the pace is crucial.’

John Velazquez, who rode Long Neck Paula to her win at Churchill, will be aboard Complexion; Flavien Prat replaces him on Ward’s filly.

“He’s a very smart rider – a very heady rider – and I’m sure he’ll take all of that into consideration and try to ride the best race as it comes up,” Ward said.

Complexion comes into the Schuylerville off a 6 ½-length victory in a 5-furlong debut at Aqueduct on Jube 14 despite a stumble at the start. Gargan, who won the Belmont Stakes (G1) at Saratoga with Dornoch last month, is hopeful of a winning on opening day at the Spa.

“She stumbled at the start and was able to pick herself up,” Gargan said. “Johnny was probably the most confident I’ve ever had a jockey walk in the paddock with me. I never expect to win first out, and he looked over and said, ‘Well, you’re going to win first out today.’ It’s exciting to get to ride Johnny on a few good horses. He’s one of the best riders of all time. I’d love to win a stake with him.”

Jena Antonucci, who trained 2023 Belmont Stakes winner Arcangelo, will send out 10-1 longshot Whatintheliteral, who won the 5 ½-frulong Astoria at Saratoga on June 6. Javier Castellano has the call. The win came by a head after duel with Aoraki.

The Schuylerville is race 10 on the 11-race card, with a post time of 6:16 p.m. ET.

The picks: 1 Long Neck Paula 2 Complexion 3 Sherbini

The field for the $175,000 Schuylerville Stakes, from the rail out, with jockey, trainer, odds:

1 Aotaki (Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen), 8-1

2 West Memorial (Manny Franco, George Weaver), 20-1

3 Sherbini (Florent Geroux, Mark Casse), 9-2

4 Slang (Ricardo Santana, Jr., Norm Casse), 10-1

5 Complexion (John Velazquez, Danny Gargan), 7-2

6 Carmen’s Candy Jar (Irad Ortiz, Jr., Todd Pletcher), 6-1

7 Dreamgirl (Luis Saez, Mike Maker), 15-1

8 Whatintheliteral (Javier Castellano, Jena Antonucci), 10-1

9 Long Neck Paula (Flavien Prat, Wesley Ward), 8-1

10 Viggiedal (Tyler Gaffalione, Steve Asmussen), 9-2

11 The Queens M G (Dylan Davis, Saffie Joseph, Jr), 30-1


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