07/17/2013 2:19PM

Saratoga: Souper Speedy one to beat in James Marvin Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Souper Speedy (left) was placed first in the Jaipur Stakes after stablemate Big Screen was disqualified for interference.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – He may not be quite as hot as the weather will be on opening day at Saratoga, but Souper Speedy has been hot enough of late to be considered the one to beat in Friday’s Grade 3, $100,000 James Marvin Stakes.

The seven-furlong James Marvin, which serves as a stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Forego on the final weekend of the meet, drew a field of nine older sprinters, although trainer Rudy Rodriguez said he might not start Sage Valley, who is the 123-pound highweight under the allowance conditions of the event.

Souper Speedy has won his last two starts, earning career-best Beyer Speed Figures of 105 for both his 10  1/4-length allowance win May 23 and his victory in the Jaipur just 15 days later. Souper Speedy won the Jaipur, decided over a sloppy track, via the disqualification of his stablemate, Big Screen. Both of those victories came at seven furlongs.

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The James Marvin will be just the second graded stakes race for Souper Speedy. He finished second, beaten three-quarters of a length by O’Prado Again, when trying two turns for the only time in the Grade  2 Remsen in 2011.

“I gave him a little time off because of some minor issues, and now he’s run two really good races back-to-back,” said Tom Albertrani, who trains the homebred Souper Speedy for Live Oak Plantation. “I just hope he can continue the streak. It’s hard to say if he would have won his last race had he not been impeded by my other horse just before the wire. He got bumped, took a bit of a stumble, and it might have cost him enough to prevent him from actually winning.”

Albertrani is hoping jockey Jose Lezcano will be able to give Souper Speedy the same kind of pace-stalking trip in the James Marvin as he’s had in each of his last two victories.

“He’s had a couple of maintenance works since his last start, and he’s been doing really well,” Albertrani said. “He’s also proven he can handle any kind of track, so we should be fine no matter what the weather is like on opening day.”

Sage Valley, claimed for $50,000 in February 2012 by owners Michael Dubb and Gary Aisquith, won three straight races, including an overnight stakes, to close out his 2012 season. He sat idle for more than six months due to shin issues before returning to win the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap on May 18, a victory that will have him conceding two pounds to each of his rivals under the allowance conditions of the James Marvin.

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“I’m going to look at the race and discuss our options with Mr. Dubb, but I might scratch him,” Rodriguez said. “He’s carrying 123 pounds, and we’re giving weight to a lot of good horses.”

Sage Valley, who, like Souper Speedy, posted consecutive 105 Beyers for his two stakes wins, was unable to duplicate those performances in his last start, finishing fifth in the Grade 2 True North Handicap at Belmont on June 8.

“He didn’t break that well,” Rodriguez said. “He sort of lost his footing at the start, and after that, he was nowhere to be found. We probably ran him back a little too quickly off his win in Maryland, so I’m just throwing that race out. He’s doing good, and if we do decide to start him, I expect he’ll run very well.”

Jaguar Paw also is in top form and turns back from nine furlongs to seven for the James Marvin off a 5 3/4-length victory in the Three Coins Up overnight stakes June 14. The 6-year-old veteran has flourished lately for trainer Chad Brown, winning three of his last four starts.

Strapping Groom is another coming off a very sharp effort, having cruised to a 3 1/2-length win in the Lion Cavern overnight stakes in his first start since being haltered for a bargain $35,000 by trainer David Jacobson in May.

Politicallycorrect, Hello Lover, Willyconker, Laurie’s Rocket, and Right to Vote complete the field.