Race 3: Maiden special weight for two year-olds at six furlongs
This is the long-awaited debut of Archwarrior (#3), who is rumored to be the best two year-old in Todd Pletcher’s extensive arsenal. That is quite a compliment since this is a barn that has unveiled nearly 20 debut winners at this meet including Dreaming of Julia, Kauai Katie, Corail, Violence, and Overanalyze, and still has Shanghai Bobby, who many still consider to be the fastest two year-old to have hit the track in New York. But for some reason, Archwarrior has garnered plaudits from nearly everyone on the Saratoga backstretch. Richard Migliore recently called him the “second coming of Seattle Slew” while Andy Serling deemed him the “most hyped two year-old since Empire Maker.” This praise may sound ridiculous for a horse who has never made a start, but Todd Pletcher himself admitted that when he worked him with Stay Thirsty earlier this month, Archwarrior outworked last year’s Travers winner. This horse still has to show that he can put it all together in the afternoon but with the way Pletcher’s two year-olds have been performing, this debut feels like a formality on the way to bigger and better things.
What interests me about Archwarrior is that, while he has certainly shown high speed in the mornings, he is bred to run all day. His dam, Winner’s Edge, broke her maiden going 1 3/8 miles on the turf at Saratoga in 1995 and she produced Capac, who was a stakes winner over 9 furlongs and earned Beyers up to the low-100s routing. Furthermore, Archwarrior has a strikingly similar pedigree to that of 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame. They are both by Arch out of dams by Seeking the Gold but the similarities run even deeper. Both Blame’s dam, Liable, and Winner’s Edge are out of Nijinsky mares. Liable is out of Bound, who is a daughter of the great broodmare Special, the dam of Nureyev and second dam of Sadler’s Wells. Meanwhile Winner’s Edge is out of Lucky Us, who is a product of Nijinsky and La Sevillana. The thing that Special and La Sevillana have in common is that they both contain strong Argentinian blood in their pedigrees. Special is by the Argentinian bred Forli while La Sevillana has Argentine breeding deep into her maternal family and both of them trace back to mares bred on the same Your Majesty-Kendall-Gay Hermit cross in their fourth generations. Quite remarkably, about 90% of Archwarrior’s genes are from the same pool of sires as Blame in almost exactly the same proportions. This bodes well for Archwarrior not only to get better with age but to be able to run a distance of ground.
Of course we all want to see a superstar emerge so let’s hope that this one can live up to the hype.
Race 5: Optional claiming $25,000/N1X at five and one half furlongs on the turf
Buleria (#4) came into her last race looking like a potentially live longshot after beginning her career in Florida with a low percentage trainer and then resurfacing at the Spa with the red-hot Rudy Rodriguez. She had previously run only one good race in four career starts and that came sprinting on the turf when she broke her maiden at Gulfstream running five furlongs in 55 3/5 seconds. Afterwards, her prior connections stepped her up into stakes company and she was overmatched. Given two months off and transferred to Rudy, Buleria showed up at Saratoga in a tough little optional claimer on Whitney day. She broke a bit slowly and then was squeezed back badly a few strides out of the gate appearing to possibly have clipped heels. Dominguez stayed aboard and guided her down to the rail where she stayed for most of the running. Dominguez rarely puts horses in the wrong spots, but in this instance he could just never get this filly into the clear during the stretch drive to make her run. She undoubtedly would have been at least second that day with a better trip and was also flattered by the winner who came back to win again versus tougher foes. She is certainly bred to develop into a good horse since her dam, Wend, won 7 of her 14 turf starts and registered up to a 100 Beyer racing on the green. I expect Buleria to take a big step forward this time and, with a plethora of speed entered in this race, she should get a perfect pace setup as well. I consider her a likely winner and she could go off at odds of 10-1 or higher.
EDIT [12:01 pm]: Buleria was scratched. I still think this race is ripe for a pace collapse, so I’ll be making a hefty exacta wager on the two classy closers, Sounds of the City (#3) and Lady Rizzi (#5).
$10 Exacta Box 3-5
Race 7: Optional claiming $35,000/N1X at 1 1/8 miles on the turf
I’m not going to argue with anyone who takes the obvious horses in here like Quantity, Lea, and Change of Command, but I like an alternative who has been pace and trip compromised in his last three starts. “Horse to Watch” Coexist (#5) impressed me in his first race when he swept by the field from the outside to easily beat what appeared to be a decent field. In his next start he was stepped up in class to a tough allowance race in which he met the G1-placed Shug McGaughey runner, Imagining. The pace was glacially slow that day and Change of Command got to absolutely walk on the front end before just getting run down by Imagining late. Coexist had been taken back to last early and actually ran on well to be fourth in his first start versus winners. Next time out, he was taken to the back behind an even slower pace and was not helped at all when a horse bolted on the first turn just inside of him. They sprinted home and Coexist could not make an impact while not really being persevered with late. Then most recently, he was in an allowance race at Saratoga going a mile in a situation that did appear to have enough pace for him. They went 46 3/5 to the half mile, but for some reason the speed just never came back. Tiz Sardonic Joe and Change of Command were out there the whole way and they finished first and third. Meanwhile, Coexist looked poised to make a big run, but got mired in traffic in mid-stretch and probably would have finished closer if he had been swung to the outside. The bottom line is that I feel Coexist has ability and I think 1 1/8 miles will be right up his alley. There is a question of pace once again in here, but I think Lea and Change of Command will show enough early initiative to ensure a moderate pace. I also expect Lea to be way overbet. He had a perfect trip when breaking his maiden last time and the horse he beat, Night Site, while highly regarded at first, has shown himself to be nothing special. Coexist will be value and I’m betting him to win.
$10 Win 5
(I failed to mention that one of my favorite horses, Majesty’s Pilgrim, is also entered in this race, but it came up way too tough for him. He needs either claimers or New York breds.)
Race 8: NY-bred Maiden special weight at five and one half furlongs
I put Discreet Marq (#3) on my “Horses to Watch” list after her last race where she was squeezed back after the start and made a brief middle move to get within a couple lengths of the leader at the top of the stretch before fading. Winner Effie Trinket and third place finisher True Fortune have both come back out of that race to win which suggests it may be a better race than it came up on the Beyer scale. But what I really liked about Discreet Marq is her turf pedigree. For a few years now, To Marquet has proven to be a useful producer of solid turf runners for owner/breeder Patricia Generazio. Discreet Marq’s half-siblings Marquet Cat and Marquet Madness were both fixtures on the Monmouth Park turf course for years, combing to win over $450,000 on the lawn while registering Beyers of 90 and above. The surface switch should move this filly way up.
I will also make a smaller win bet on Risky Predicament (#2), who is a half-sister to Frisky Cat, a longtime member of the “Horses to Watch” list for these same connections. They are out of Risky Agenda, who is a full sister to Riskaverse, a multiple G1 winner of over $2 million racing on turf. Risky Predicament is by Stormy Atlantic, a good turf influence who can add a bit of speed to this stamina-oriented female family. Perhaps this is one to watch down the road considering Pat Kelly’s low percentages with newcomers, but I wouldn’t let her slip away at a big price.
BEST BET OF THE DAY: $20 Win 3
$5 Win 2
Also, in the ninth race today, the Equalize Stakes, note that “Horse to Watch” Spring to the Sky (#11) is currently stuck on the also eligible list. If he happens to draw into the race, I expect him to be a major player. Bruce Brown has said he is just figuring out how to run long on the turf after being speed crazy early in his career. Spring to the Sky figures to have a bright future doing just that since he is from the family of 1999 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Soaring Softly. His impressive work from last week jumps off the page and may be a signal that he’s turned a corner.
EDIT [12:19 pm]: It is also noteworthy that Balance the Books (#3) draws into the featured tenth race, the With Anticipation Stakes (G2). I thought Balance the Books ran very well in his debut despite not winning and actually finished ahead of Fredericksburg who came back to easily break his maiden yesterday. I also remember that Chad Brown had mentioned this horse as the beginning of the Saratoga meeting before he had even run as one of the two year-olds he was really looking forward to racing. I like him to break his maiden in this spot.
Race 10: $10 Win 3