Just like the horse for which it’s named, the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga has come a long way since its inaugural running in 1985. Originally known as the Daryl’s Joy Stakes, the race was renamed in 1996 to honor Fourstardave, a Saratoga legend who visited the local winner’s circle every year from 1987 through 1994.
Over the last 36 years, the Fourstardave has risen from an ungraded stakes worth $50,000 to a Grade 1 race carrying a purse of $500,000. Along the way, it’s become a critical steppingstone toward the Grade 1 FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by the PDJF, producing five Mile winners since 2012. In fact, the Fourstardave awards a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Mile through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.
The 2021 Fourstardave will take place on Saturday, with eight horses entered for the one-mile turf test. Interestingly (and somewhat unusually), the field has drawn three females, including 2019 Fourstardave winner #6 Got Stormy.
Got Stormy has been a standout campaigner for trainer Mark Casse, winning nine stakes and more than $2.1 million over the course of 29 starts. 2019 was easily her biggest year; in addition to winning the Fourstardave by 2 1/2 lengths in the course-record time of 1:32, she performed admirably against males in the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile and the Grade 1 TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile, finishing second both times. For good measure, she added the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes against fillies and mares to her glowing resume.
Got Stormy hasn’t been quite as successful over the past two season, although she did finish second in the 2020 Fourstardave and won the Grade 3 Honey Fox Stakes at Gulfstream Park earlier this year, so there’s a chance she’ll outrun expectations while returning to Saratoga. With two wins and a second from three starts at “the Spa,” it’s clear Got Stormy has an affinity for the local conditions.
But winning the Fourstardave will require Got Stormy to outrun some formidable rivals. The most accomplished is #1 Raging Bull, runner-up in the 2019 Fourstardave and fifth in the 2020 renewal. Thus far, Raging Bull is 0-for-3 against Got Stormy, but it’s possible the 6-year-old veteran will finally turn the tables on Saturday. The three-time Grade 1 winner has been in peak form this season, kicking off the year with a triumph in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile before coming home second in the Grade 3 Poker Stakes, beaten only a head after making an arguably premature rally into a hot pace.
Raging Bull is a logical threat to win for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and trainer Chad Brown, who have won a combined seven Eclipse Awards since 2016. But Raging Bull is also an established veteran without much upside for improvement—he generally runs the same race every time, without much deviation.
This stands in contrast to #5 Set Piece, an up-and-coming turf star who may still have untapped potential for reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox. The Cox barn has been on fire at Saratoga this summer (winning at a 39% rate), and Set Piece enters in similarly hot form, having unleashed powerful rallies to win three consecutive stakes races at Churchill Downs.
Set Piece was especially impressive in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Wise Dan Stakes on June 26 in his most recent race. After dropping back to last place behind unremarkable early fractions, the Juddmonte Farms homebred accelerated like a rocket around the far turn and down the homestretch, blazing the final five-sixteenths of a mile in :27.79 (about as fast as you can ask for) to win by half a length.
If Set Piece replicates this explosive acceleration in the Fourstardave, his rivals may be running for second place. The 5-year-old gelding has been training strongly in preparation for his Grade 1 debut, most recently clocking a swift half-mile in :46 4/5 on the Saratoga turf training track. Regular rider Florent Geroux (a 35% winner when teaming up with Cox) retains the mount, setting the stage for Set Piece to secure his 10th victory from 17 starts.
The Fourstardave field contains plenty of pace on paper, with pure front-runner #8 Blowout and the very quick #2 Whisper Not likely to ensure a fast tempo. This stands to benefit Set Piece and Raging Bull while possibly compromising Got Stormy, who usually prefers to take up a pace-stalking position.
With this potential pace shape in mind, we’ll favor Set Piece and Raging Bull in all our wagers, with Set Piece getting the nod as our top choice. We’ll use Got Stormy at the bottom of trifecta tickets, along with recent Grade 1 Jackpocket Jaipur Stakes winner #4 Casa Creed and the multiple Grade 1-placed mare #3 Daddy Is a Legend.
Depending on your budget, here are a couple of Fourstardave wagering strategies to consider:
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$8 to win on #5 Set Piece
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, 10th race, $8 to win on 5
$2 exacta: 5 with 1
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, 10th race, $2 exacta 5 with 1
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$15 to win on #5 Set Piece
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, 10th race, $15 to win on 5
$6 exacta: 5 with 1
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, 10th race, $6 exacta 5 with 1
$3 trifecta: 5 with 1 with 3,4,6 ($9)
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, 10th race, $3 trifecta 5 with 1 with 3,4,6
Good luck, and enjoy the race!