08/12/2013 3:55PM

Saratoga: Mills faces deep cast in stakes debut Wednesday

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Barbara D. Livingston
Mills, who has two wins and two second-place finishes in four career starts, will make his stakes debut in Wednesday's $100,000 Stroll at Saratoga.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – There are three graded stakes winners entered in Wednesday’s $100,000 Stroll Stakes at Saratoga, but the depth of the field is such that none of the trio has to necessarily win.

Java’s War, the winner of the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes, and Balance the Books, a two-time graded stakes winner, figure to take the most money – if they run – but the apparent lack of pace in this 1 3/16-mile race could make them vulnerable. Winning Cause is the other graded winner in the field, but he has yet to win beyond 1 1/16 miles.

Mills and I’ll Call have yet to compete in a stakes, but they have run races that make them extremely competitive in this spot and should offer decent value.

Mills, trained by Barclay Tagg, is coming off an allowance win at Belmont going 1 1/16 miles June 23. Back in April, in just his second career start, Mills won a maiden race at the Stroll’s distance of 1 3/16 miles.

“I got a lot of faith in this colt,” Tagg said. “I think he’s a very nice colt.”

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Mills is by Any Given Saturday out of a dam who is a half-sister to several graded stakes winners whom Tagg trained, including Royal Mountain Inn, Highland Crystal, and Miss Joss.

Though Tagg believes Mills is a better come-from-behind horse, Mills did show the ability at Keeneland to lay relatively close while still showing a late kick.

Rosie Napravnik rides Mills from post 9.

I’ll Call was a bit unlucky when he finished second to Hardest Core in the first race on opening day. Trainer Graham Motion is putting blinkers on I’ll Call for the first time, something he said he has been eager to do.

“I thought he got to waiting a little bit when he made the lead,” Motion said. “We’ve galloped him in them, we’ve worked him in them, and he’s done well.”

John Velazquez, who had won nine stakes at this meet through Sunday, including six graded events, picked up the mount on I’ll Call because Edgar Prado was committed to riding Rydilluc, who ultimately was not entered in this spot.

Java’s War is 2 for 3 on turf and at one point was being considered for the Travers. However, owner Charles Fipke is planning to run Golden Soul in the Travers, so he may elect to keep Java’s War, trained by Ken McPeek, in this spot.

Balance the Books scratched out of the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes last Friday when that race was moved to the dirt. Trainer Chad Brown said he wants to evaluate the pace, course condition, and competition before committing to run on Wednesday.

“The horse looks like he wants to run that far,” Brown said. “Of course, when you run that far you’re concerned about the pace of the race. He’ll miss some of that pace that he likes to run into, but the distance shouldn’t be a problem.”

Completing the field are Hardest Core, who defeated I’ll Call in the meet’s opening race, Channel Isle, Fear the Kitten, and Readyshakego.