07/19/2011 2:05PM

Saratoga: James Marvin Stakes draws deep cast of graded stakes winners on opening day

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Here Comes Ben is part of a deep field in Friday's $75,000 James Marvin Stakes at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The traditional opening-day feature at Saratoga is the Grade 3, $100,000 Schuylerville Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. It is quickly becoming upstaged by the $75,000 James Marvin Stakes for older male sprinters at seven furlongs.

That will certainly be the case Friday when Saratoga opens its 40-day meet as the James Marvin drew an extremely deep 11-horse field that has combined to win 34 stakes races, 14 of which are graded. The James Marvin – and not the Grade 1, $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt run at six furlongs here Aug. 7 – has become the prep race of choice for the Grade 1 Forego run Sept. 3.

SARATOGA OPENING DAY: Past performances and video previews »

“It’s a race that’s been so popular at the entry box, the depth of the field has been so good, they might have to up the purse and get graded status pretty soon it seems like,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who entered graded stakes winners Aikenite and Caixa Eletronica in the James Marvin.

The James Marvin and Schuylerville head a 10-race opening-day Saratoga card that begins at 1 p.m.

Last year’s Forego winner, Here Comes Ben, heads the James Marvin field as he preps for a shot at a Forego repeat. Other Grade 1 winners in the field include Cigar Mile winner Jersey Town and 2009 Ancient Title winner Gayego.

Here Comes Ben ended a three-race losing streak with a 3 1/4-length victory in the Kelly’s Landing Stakes at Churchill on June 24. That race came after a seventh-place finish in the Churchill Downs Handicap on Kentucky Derby Day and a sixth-place finish in the Aristides at six furlongs, a distance that is too short for the 5-year-old son of Street Cry.

“We should have never run him in the Aristides,” trainer Charles Lopresti said Tuesday morning as he grazed Here Comes Ben outside barn 26. “He’s not a six-furlong horse, but we wanted to see if we had options.”

Lopresti was referring to a possible start in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill in November. Last year, Here Comes Ben finished 11th of 12 as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Here Comes Ben arrived here last week, and after four mornings of galloping, he breezed three furlongs in 36.67 seconds over the main track Tuesday under jockey Alex Solis. Without being asked, Here Comes Ben made up about six lengths in the stretch on a Phil Serpe-trained horse that had broken off ahead of him.

“Solis was like ‘Wow,’ when he came back,” Lopresti said. “I said ‘What do you think, is he as good as last year? He said ‘I like my chances.’ ”

Here Comes Ben drew post 6 in the 11-horse field and will carry high weight of 123 pounds along with Aikenite and Caixa Eletronica. Jersey Town has not run since winning the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last November at Aqueduct. Gayego hails from Godolphin Stable, which won this race last year with Vineyard Haven and finished second with Pyro in 2009. Pyro came back to win the Forego, while Vineyard Haven finished third in that race last year.

Aikenite won the Commonwealth at Keeneland and the Churchill Downs Stakes before running fourth the Metropolitan Handicap. D’ Funnybone is a five-time Grade 2 stakes winner who won the Saratoga Special here as a 2-year-old in 2009.

The field, from the rail out, is: Escrow Kid, Jackson Bend, Aikenite, Ravalo, Gayego, Here Comes Ben, D’ Funnybone, Hamazing Destiny, Caixa Eletronica, Congressional Page, and Jersey Town.