Despite just getting over the handicapping marathon that is a Saratoga meet, the four non-racing days between the last race on Monday and Belmont’s first post today have me ready to start again. The venue has changed, but there is still a card full of interesting races and it kicks off with one of the most exciting two year-olds I’ve seen all year attempting to break his maiden.
Race 1: Maiden special weight at one mile
Orb (#1) seemed to grab everyone’s attention with his impressive finish in an August 18th maiden race. Totally dismissed on the toteboard at 29-1, he appeared to be one of many McGaughey firsters that was going to need a race. After watching that performance, the only thing this horse seems to need is some work at the starting gate. Breaking from the rail, he reared slightly and dwelt at the start, spotting the field many lengths as they headed up the backstretch. However, after settling into stride he really got rolling around the turn and had built up a ton of momentum coming into the stretch. Swinging wide as if he were Caleb’s Posse, he continued to close on the leaders but just ran out of ground, ultimately losing by a length and a quarter.
According to Shug, he had trained well prior to his first start although he hadn’t shown much speed. He thinks his 48 4/5 half mile breeze since then was improved and, while not happy to draw the rail again, he expects a good performance. There is ample pedigree to stretch out far beyond the mile he gets today so distance is no concern. Admittedly, there appear to be other promising prospects in this race, but Orb displayed something truly special in his debut. With normal second out improvement, he should clear this hurdle and be on to bigger and better things. The value may not be present, but I need to have a win bet on this “Horse to Watch.”
$20 Win 1
Race 3: The Bowling Green Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on the turf
To say that this race didn’t draw the cream of the crop in the older turf division is being kind. Instead, this appears to be a battle among three horses who have failed to break into that upper echelon this year; Air Support, Brilliant Speed, and Newsdad are all attempting to get back on track after showing promise last year or over the winter. Those three will likely be tracking Bombaguia, who is stepping up into stakes company for the first time after an allowance win last month. And then there is the outsider, Brujo de Olleros (#5), who is perhaps the most intriguing entrant in here and who I will make my pick. If this race were any typical $20,000 claimer, Brujo de Olleros would be the type of horse I’d absolutely love. He has a ton of turf pedigree yet has raced solely on dirt and now today steps up in class for his turf debut. It’s a bit harder to make a risky pick like this in a Grade 2 stakes race since the favorites are usually a bit more consistent and harder to knock off, but this field did not come up particularly tough. Brujo de Olleros earned an 85 Beyer in his most recent start in the Majestic Light Stakes on dirt at Monmouth six weeks ago. That was his first race in nearly seven months and first start in this country so it is reasonable to expect a better effort today. I don’t believe this race will be won with a Beyer that breaks 100, so it’s not like he needs a huge boost. On top of that, he has reportedly trained very well over the synthetic surface at the Fair Hill Training Center and is by Wild Event, who was a mutliple turf stakes winner and who has sired mostly turf runners. Graham Motion has very good numbers moving horses to turf, which is one of the few stats of his that yields a positive ROI.
Most importantly of all, I really do believe this horse has serious ability. While I’m no expert on Uruguayan racing, in his final start in that country, he won a Group 1 race by over 14 lengths and ran 1600 meters in 1:33 1/5 seconds. That’s a tad shorter than a mile in this country, but any way you break it down that is a fantastic time. The distance of today’s race is a question mark, but in all likelihood he is going to greatly appreciate the surface switch. It also doesn’t hurt that is going to be the longest shot in the field, so I’m taking a chance on him.
$10 Win 5
Race 8: Starter optional claiming $50,000 at six furlongs
This is a very interesting race with a lot of things going on and, while I found an oddball horse that I really like, I couldn’t argue with someone picking almost any one of the other entrants. The horse I’ll be discussing is Garnet Street (#2), who Eric Donovan pegged at 10-1 on the morning line. I honestly have no idea how the public will perceive her and I could just as easily see her going off at 9-2 as I could 20-1. I guess I’ll hope for the latter because I really like this horse’s chances. After beginning her career with two impressive wins, the second of which came by 13 lengths in a time quick enough to earn a 91 Beyer (which is tops in this field by almost 10 points), she appears to have gone off form. But I can make excuses for her two recent losses. First, when stepping up to allowance company for the first time for new trainer Assaf Ronen, she had the misfortune of running into Questing in that one’s breakout performance. Garnet Street finished almost 20 lengths behind Questing, but she actually didn’t run that badly. Book Review, who was most recently second betting choice in the Test Stakes (G1), was second in that race and finished 13 lengths ahead of the third horse. Each of the top three came back to win their next starts and Garnet Street was less than three lengths behind the show horse in finishing fourth.
At Saratoga, she showed up again, now with Billy Turner, who, with a record of 15-0-0-0, is not exactly having a banner year. In what was a very odd ride, she was restrained to run near the back of the pack down the backstretch and then was just not really persevered with at any point thereafter. She appeared to have some run around the turn, but Kent Desormeaux continued to rate her. Then instead of angling her out to close on the leaders in the stretch, he just guided her over to the rail and gave some token encouragement at best, but never really go into her. It was almost as if he had instructions to not give her a hard race. I don’t want to say anything especially negative about the situation, but it just looked very odd. Now she changes trainers once again to Edward Barker and gets a new jockey in Irad Ortiz. Perhaps there is some soundness issue, but there isn’t any layoff to scare me away. I’m going to choose to believe that the filly who blew the doors off that claiming field three starts ago is still somewhere in there and if that is the case, she is going to win.
$15 Win 2