Wednesday’s Saratoga picks – July 17

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Saratoga Race Course sprang to life last week – the track’s earliest Opening Day since the late 1800s – and the action continues with Week 2 starting Wednesday with a 10-race card featuring the first steeplechase of the season and the Rick Violette Stakes.

Those two events start the day. The 2 1/16-mile steeplechase allowance opens the card with a 12:50 p.m. post and it’s followed by the Rick Violette for state-bred 2-year-olds at 1:25.

The $100,000 Rick Violette drew a field of five led by first-out maiden winners Mission Wrapitup for trainer Bruce Brown and Listentoyourheart for Christophe Clement. They should vie for favoritism in the 6-furlong stakes with Tremont runner-up Theitalianamerican.

The steeplechase allowance attracted eight runners with Rosbrian Farm’s Markhan expected to go off as the heavy favorite for trainer Ricky Hendriks. A maiden winner at the Iroquois Steeplechase, the 6-year-old Birdstone gelding prepped with an easy win in a 1 1/2-mile turf prep for jumpers at Parx Racing July 1. Others in the field include Whitman’s Poetry, Renown and Cite.

The Saratoga Special returns with a print edition Thursday but the handicappers are back for another 10 swings Wednesday. Perennial leader John Shapazian jumped out to a quick lead and heads into Week 2 with 13 winners from 41 races (31.7 percent).

JOHN SHAPAZIAN (13-41):
1-Markhan, Whitman’s Poetry, Renown.
2-Mission Wrapitup, Listentoyourheart, Torres Del Paine.
3-Fully Vested, Pete’s Play Call, Stolen Pistol.
4-Flat Rate, Seanow, Dakota’s Dude.
5-Myawaya, Double Down Dare, Project Whiskey.
6-Matzo Bella, Avocado Toast, Tiple.
7-Off The Record, Alfons Walde, Good Governance.
8-Maiden Beauty, Break Curfew, Takecharge Mirella.
9-Talk Veuve To Me, Carrera Cat, Skamania.
10-Light In The Sky, Violent Point, Darken A Day.

CHARLES BEDARD (8/41):
1-Cite, Markhan, Gaye Breeze.
2-Listen To Your Heart, Mission Wrapitup, Sky Of Hook.
3-Tibr, Fully Vested, Pagliacci.
4-Hijacker, Dakota’s Dude, Hope Again.
5-Just Fly, Little Farina, Myawaya.
6-Tiple, Matzo Bella, Alley To Calvary.
7-Bail Out, Border Town, Alfons Walde.
8-Take Charge Mirella, Figure It Out, Sharpin.
9-Honor Way, Carrera Cat, Bluegrass Jamboree.
10-Strongerthanuknow, Violent Point, My Sassy Sarah.

TOM LAW (9/41):
1-Markhan, Whitman’s Poetry, Cite.
2-Mission Wrapitup, Listentoyourheart, Theitalianamerican.
3-Pete’s Play Call, Fully Vested, Discretionary Marq.
4-Flat Rate, Seanow, Tricky Magician.
5-Double Down Dare, Myawaya, Just Fly.
6-Matzo Bella, Tiple, Avocado Toast.
7-Off The Record, Azrael, Bail Out.
8-Break Curfew, Maiden Beauty, Takecharge Mirella.
9-Talk Veuve To Me, Special Relativity, Bluegrass Jamboree.
10-Light In The Sky, Violent Point, Single Verse.

ROB WHITLOCK (9/41)
1-Whitman’s Poetry, Renown, Repeat Repeat.
2-Torres Del Paine, Listentoyourheart, Sky Of Hook.
3-Fully Vested, Tibr, Stolen Pistol.
4-Flat Rate, The Sinner Is You, Spinning Kitten.
5-Double Down Dare, Raggedy Annie, Myawaya.
6-Matzo Bella, Tiple, Avacado Toast
7-Four Ten, Alfonso Walde, Border Town.
8-Figure It Out, Break Curfew, Sharpin.
9-Honor Way, Skamania, Talk Veuve To Me.
10-Light In The Sky, American Song, Violent Point.