Yesterday was a little frustrating. I was clearly wrong in some of my opinions, but I was also unlucky in a few spots. The finale was especially frustrating as Birchwood Road had no excuse not to come back and beat Sonnyandpally. Also, who would have thought that the James Marvin, a race lacking a clear pace scenario on paper, would feature three horses battling for the lead through insane fractions? Souper Speedy received an especially puzzling ride as he was sent from the inside and essentially caused the race to collapse.
I’ll wipe the slate clean for today since there is another card of fantastic racing ahead.
Saratoga, Race 1: Allowance N1X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for NY-bred fillies and mares
If new “Horse to Watch” Moonlit Sonnet (#5) runs nearly as well in today’s opener as she did in her previous start I don’t see how she can possibly lose.
I was admittedly a little skeptical of her coming into that last race since she was being bet strongly off that gaudy 80 Beyer figure maiden win against clearly inferior competition. I also thought she was a horse who needed to be forwardly placed in a race that figured to have a few horses vying for the lead. I was wrong on both counts. Breaking from the rail in mile and a sixteenth turf races on the inner course at Belmont is a little tricky and Moonlit Sonnet did not handle it well. She broke alertly, but then was bumped hard from the outside as eventual winner Pure Amour came over. Moonlit Sonnet overreacted a ducked towards the far away inside rail. By the time Alex Solis had corrected her she had lost valuable ground on the leaders was forced to take up a position at the back of the pack.
Most horses who had never been in such a position would throw in the towel at the point, but Moonlit Sonnet rated kindly despite racing far off the pace. The pace was not especially fast and Moonlit Sonnet had to really work to get into a contending position by the time the field entered the stretch. Alex Solis was able to maneuver her between horses and she came with a furious late run to just miss getting to the winner. It was an exceptional effort.
Today, as long as she breaks cleanly, she should take up a stalking position or perhaps even go for the lead since there isn’t much speed on paper. Her morning line of 5-2 would represent good value.
Best Bet of the Day: $20 Win 5
Saratoga, Race 3: The My Princess Jess Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for three year-old fillies
Likely favorite Wave Theory needs to be discussed first. She can certainly win this race and I have no major knocks against her. She got a smart ride last time by John Velazquez in the Sands Point and put in an excellent stretch rally to be second to Discreet Marq, who had everything her own way up front.
While Wave Theory is the horse to beat, I’m not sure that she has a huge edge over this field in terms of natural ability and I won’t be running to the windows to bet her as a short-priced favorite. I’m instead interested in another filly who ran in the Sands Point, Caroline Thomas (#10). While John Velazquez was cognizant of the pace that day and kept Wave Theory close to it, Luis Saez took Caroline Thomas totally out of contention early and she never was given any chance to catch up.
Next time she showed up in an overnight stakes, which was again completely devoid of early speed. The first two finishers, Maximova and Mariel N Kathy, were able to get the jump on the field coming into the stretch while Caroline Thomas had to wait in behind horses. When Saez got her into the clear, she came with a furious late run to just miss nailing them on the wire. She ran her final three furlongs in a dazzling 33 4/5 seconds and was the only horse to make up any significant ground. Prior to those misfortunes, her winter form at Gulfstream was no worse than that of Wave Theory and she’ll certainly be a bigger price.
I’ll also make a smaller backup wager on Lady of Gold (#6). I’m not sure how she’s going to stack up against these fillies from a class perspective, but she was extremely game in her turf debut last time in a tough allowance race. She posted an eye-catching six furlong workout over at Belmont a couple of weeks ago and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her step up and be a major factor here.
$10 Win 10
$5 Win 6
Saratoga, Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf for Ny-bred fillies and mares
Rosalie’s Pleasure (#11) is my top pick here. She was a solid second in her career debut here last season when in the barn of trainer Bruce Brown. In her lone subsequent start she went favored in that September 8th maiden race at Belmont, which took place on a day when there were strong headwinds in the stretch and horses found it nearly impossible to make up ground in the lane. I can easily toss that race from consideration. Nicholas Esler has done with limited turf starters and with routine maturation from two to three Rosalie’s Pleasure should be very tough.
I also cannot ignore the turf pedigree on Bileaps and Bounds (#3). She has shown absolutely nothing so far in her short career, but I think there’s a chance that she’s really meant to be a turf horse. Her dam has produced Bounding Bi, who was in the exacta in 9 of her 16 turf tries while earning $235,000 on grass. Her dam is also a half-sister to Lady Bi Bi, a multiple stakes winning NY-bred turfer. She should be a huge price, but I think this surface switch might wake her up.
$10 Win 11
$5 Win 3
Saratoga, Race 5: Allowance N1X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for NY-breds
I won’t try and tell you that Noosh’s Tale (#4) projects to be any great value wager in this race, but I just think he’s a very likely winner who is due for some luck after two frustrating losses. He clearly moved forward with the addition of Lasix two back and was a game second to Royal Blessing, who returned to affirm the quality of that race. Next time out he was again a close second in a very oddly run race. The pace appeared to be very quick, but the winner was contesting the lead the entire way and came back late while the closers seemed to be stalled in the stretch. I’m taking the results of that race with a grain of salt and I won’t hold the loss against my top pick.
I’ll also use Powerful Instinct (#3), who was originally placed on my “Horses to Watch” list when he was stymied in traffic and should have won this condition on November 17th at Aqueduct. He returned from a long layoff in May while shipping in from Penn National for a barn that I know nothing about. Since his most recent start, a decent closing 5th in that same June 22nd race Noosh’s Tale is coming out of, he has been transferred into the capable hands of Mike Miceli. I like that Cornelio Velasquez sticks with this horse and with only slight improvement he can be a late factor in this race at a huge price.
Finally, I’ll make a third (excessive for me, I know) wager on Wishingonadream (#1), who will be a huge price. He may have needed his return race and he finally gets another good rider on his back in Joe Rocco, Jr. He ran some good races last year and had trouble in his poorer efforts at the end of the season. In particular, his performance on August 29th at Saratoga was exceptional and a repeat of that effort would make him very tough.
Fellow “Horse to Watch” Mr. Cowboy has also showed up in this spot, but I’m less confident in his chances.
$15 Win 4
$10 Win 3
$5 Win 1
Saratoga, Race 7: Optional Claiming $14,000/N1X at 6 1/2 furlongs for NY-breds
This one seems almost too obvious. There is a plethora of early zip in here with Kid Blast, Cay to Pomeroy, Do I Amuse You, Luxury Appeal, Sandy’s Slew, and Crackerjack Jones all preferring to be forwardly placed. Many lengths behind that wicked pace should race the one true closing sprinter in this field, Soul House (#8). Soul House is fast enough to win even without the huge tactical advantage he should be afforded and I can’t see myself taking a strong stance against him.
I will, however, place another smaller wager on another horse with the ability to make up ground in Even Got Quiet (#4). While the connections certainly aren’t as appealing as those of Soul House, this horse ran very well in his return last time and has succeeded sprinting in the past. I think he’ll drift up from his 6-1 morning line and I would be interesting in taking a shot with him at double-digit odds.
$15 Win 8
$5 Win 4
Saratoga, Race 10: The Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at 1 1/8 miles for three year-old fillies
Pletcher sends out a strong duo here in Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Princess of Sylmar (#4) and Belmont Stakes contestant Unlimited Budget (#3). They are the two most likely winner, but they will also be strong favorites in the wagering and I’m not quite sure how dominant they truly are in a division that hasn’t exactly sorted itself out yet.Cue the Moon (#2) has had a short, but turbulent career. She encountered all sorts of trouble in her career debut at Saratoga last summer and then was thrown to the wolves in the Tempted Stakes (G3). She faced a filly who had previously been stakes tested in My Happy Face and gave that filly all she could handle battling for the entirety of that race before just succumbing late. She was then given time off and returned in that weird Gulfstream Park Oaks where Dreaming of Julia completely routed the field.
Many would have dropped her in class, but once again Bond thrust her into the Grade 1 Acorn and she ran a lot better it looks on paper. Javier Castellano was very impatient on the turf and rode her hard into traffic before having to wait and swing five-wide coming to the top of the stretch. She understandably flattened out late, but there’s no shame in losing to Midnight Lucky and Close Hatches.
However, what makes Cue the Moon especially interesting to me is the pace scenario in this Coaching Club American Oaks. My Happy Face is the lone speed and I think that Cue the Moon, with blinkers on, is likely to receive an aggressive ride and may be the one to take first run at that rival. I don’t think My Happy Face can get the distance and if Cue the Moon can make the lead at any point, I feel that the gameness she showed in the Tempted could make her a threat to hang on. Her connections have handled her like she’s very special and I don’t think it’s out of the question to think she could someday be as good as the two fillies to her right. Whether that day is today is the question at hand, but the price will be right so I’ll take a chance with her.
$10 Win 2
$5 Exacta 3/4 with 2