Even though I picked against her, I was glad to see Princess of Sylmar come through with another Grade 1 score in the Coaching Club American Oaks. I’ve been following this filly’s progress since the winter at Aqueduct and had on occasion thought she had it in her to be this good. The time initially struck me as being fast in comparison to Authenticity’s Shuvee and the Beyer came back an impressive 104. A mile and a quarter should only help this daughter of Majestic Warrior and, unless Dreaming of Julia has turned it around since the Mother Goose, it’s hard to imagine any filly posing a serious challenge to her in the Alabama.
As far as the wagering is concerned, luck has not been on my side yet at this meet, but there are still 38 cards to go and plenty of opportunities to come. Let’s press on.
Saratoga, Race 2: Maiden Special Weight at one mile on the turf
I really liked First Beach (#1) last time after noticing that this horse clearly had some ability in his debut on the Met Mile undercard. He was part of a maiden race stacked with talent that was won by the promising colt Eastwood. First Beach, however, was not mentally ready for that first start and he was away slowly and seemingly intimidated by the other horses. Castellano guided him to the far outside and he came about seven or eight-wide into the stretch. Once he was set down, he actually did some decent running through the lane and passed half the field.
James Jerkens put him on the turf for his second start, which makes sense since his dam’s only two wins came on grass and he’s a son of good turf influence Tapit. Additionally, he added blinkers and Lasix indicating that this was the day First Beach would be ready to break through. Well, I think that was the case, but a mistake by his rider, Irad Ortiz, Jr. prevented him from winning. First Beach was obviously full of run coming to the top of the stretch and he had a good five length advantage on today’s rival Red Vine, who was also mounting a rally. However, instead of trying to work First Beach off the inside, Irad Ortiz kept him on the rail and paid the price. The speeds started to collapse in front of him and he had to steady and alter course to the outside, losing valuable momentum. By the time he had extricated himself from this situation Red Vine had already catapulted past him. In spite of that trouble, First Beach came on again in the final eighth when Ortiz was able to really get into him and he only lost the race by two lengths.
I believe he would have won that day and today’s extra furlong will only help since he’s bred to run much farther than even today’s distance. I’m hoping that Irad Ortiz can have him closer to what should be a slower pace today and I’d love to get his morning line of 5-1.
$20 Win 1
Saratoga, Race 3: Starter Optional Claiming $35,000 at six furlongs
This has been one of the toughest races of the meet to handicap. There’s quite a bit of speed in here. Thinking of Girls is a likely the best horse in this race, but he’s going to have to deal with serious early pressure from both Marriedtothemusic and Derby Watch. He’s never rated successfully before and it will be hard for him to break away from those two very fast challengers early.
I’ve gone looking for a horse who can close from just off the pace and I’ve landed on Nubin Ridge (#3). He showed quite a bit of promise as a two year-old when he was a fast closing third in the Louisiana Futurity behind Sunbean. Since then, his connections have tried to stretch him out and then gave him a couple of chances on turf, which he handled just fine. When he was returned to dirt last time on Kentucky Derby day at Churchill Downs he ran in a tough allowance race won by the very good Our Double Play. He was given a few months off since then and now resurfaces in this easier spot. I expect him to work out a good trip under Rajiv Maragh and will be both shocked and elated if I get him at his 20-1 morning line.
$10 Win 3
Saratoga, Race 5: Starter Optional Claiming $50,000 at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
It’s another tough one. There are many who can win this race, but I’ve gone looking for a couple of prices. Wildcatter (#12) might have been the favorite in this spot a year ago, but he’s since been converted into a hurdler. I don’t have concrete evidence to go on, but I don’t think a return to flat racing is going to pose much of an issue since it’s not as if the horse will have forgotten how to run fast. While he hasn’t been a success as a jumper, you can be certain that he’s going into this race very fit. At his 8-1 morning line odds I’ll take a shot.
I’ll also use Santa Elf (#10), who doesn’t have obvious turf pedigree, but Harlan’s Holiday is turning into a good young turf sire and his dam is a half-sister to a couple of turf producers. I know this isn’t a great move for Bruce Levine, but I like that John Velazquez takes the call and I think this horse will be forwardly placed in a race where there isn’t that much speed signed on.
$10 Win 12
$5 Win 10
Saratoga, Race 7: Maiden Special Weight at one mile on the turf for NY-bred fillies and mares
This one is going to sound a little crazy, but hear me out.
Legally Bay (#6) is a going to be a huge price in this race, but I can’t ignore her turf pedigree. Read the Footnotes is not the greatest turf sire, but he’s certainly not a negative influence so I’m concentrating on the dam and her family. Try N Sue has produced one turf winner, while she herself won the Yaddo Stakes on the turf right here at Saratoga in one of her only turf starts.
In doing a bit of research into that turf win, I came across this quote from the NY Daily News. Her trainer, Anthony Ferraro, said after the Yaddo win, “She’s never been on the turf other than growing up in a paddock or today walking to the gate. I always thought she had the foot for turf racing and her pedigree showed a little, but I didn’t want to deviate from running her on the dirt because she had done so well on that surface.” Furthermore, Try N Sue isn’t the only horse in her family to like the turf. Her half-brother, Haggs Castle, was a multiple stakes winning NY-bred turf horse on this circuit a decade or so ago.
She is a bit of a guess coming from Finger Lakes with these virtually unknown connections, but I can’t ignore horses with pedigrees like this one switching surfaces.
$5 Win/Place 6
Saratoga, Race 8: Fiddlers Patriot at five and one-half furlongs on the turf
I don’t have much to say about this one. If you’ve been paying attention to New York racing and have seen Longhunter’s (#8) races from the recently completed Belmont spring meet, you realize that it would not be hyperbole to call this horse a monster right now. I know that he’s never faced horses of this quality, but in each of his last three races Longhunter has thrown down 22 2/5 second final quarter-miles like it’s nothing. I’m hoping he won’t be favored here, but regardless I think he’s very likely this good.
$10 Win 8
Saratoga, Race 9: Sanford Stakes (G2) at six furlongs for two year-olds
I’m assuming that All in Blue and Debt Ceiling are going to take most of the play here. I was very impressed by each of their previous races, but I’m trying another in here. While Jake’s Magic Hat’s (#5) first race did not come up as fast as the others, I was very impressed by his professionalism. He rated kindly off a couple of speeds and then took over in the stretch with ease while running his final eighth of a mile in 12 seconds flat. He finished up like an extra furlong is going to be no problem and I think the demeanor he displayed in his debut will be an asset in this field of inexperienced two year-olds.
$10 Win 5
Saratoga, Race 10: Optional Claiming $14,000/N1X at 6 1/2 furlongs for NY-bred fillies and mares
Let’s say right off the bat that She’s Stones Sis (#10) is far and away the horse to beat in this race. Her last race was quite good since she was forced to make the first move into a very fast and was still around at the finish. I’ve thought for a while that she could use a slight turnback in distance and today’s six and a half furlongs should hit her right between the eyes. That said, I’m taking a few shots against her in the win pool while covering my bases with some exactas using She’s Stones Sis on top.
Agilion (#3) was a good closing sprinter and ran a decent second in the Joseaph A. Gimma before her connections tried to stretch her out. She’s been off for a long time, but with routine improvement from two to three she might just be better than these fillies now.
Copper Bluff (#15) sort of retroactively wound up on my “Horses to Watch” list after her last race. I added her to my list more due to her winter form than her last race. She was badly compromised on December 26th by an inside speed bias and then didn’t have to like the stretch out in distance in her second race over the inner track. I don’t know what happened on February 23rd, but she was off for a long time after that. She returned at a huge price last time and made a good closing move despite being extremely wide for the entire trip. I think she’s a better filly now and she has a chance at astronomical odds.
$10 Win 3
$5 Win 15
$2 Exacta 10 with 3/5/7/12/15