It’s been a hectic week, hence the lack of full blog entries, but I’ve been trying to keep up with my picks over on the Saratoga page. Today’s card is excellent and I believe I’ve highlighted some horses who have very realistic chances to win.
Saratoga, Race 1: Starter Optional Claiming $25,000 at 1 1/8 miles
This race essentially comes down to a decision about what you want to do with Caixa Eletronica. For me, the answer is easy and I’m going to try to beat him. I’m just not convinced that he’s come back quite as good now as an eight year-old, while he’s gamely succeeded at this distance in the past, I’m certain he’s better going seven furlongs to a mile. He got a very soft pace and trip in his win over Point Taken at Belmont last time and I think he’ll have a much tougher task ahead of him in this large field.
I like Magic Harbor (#8) best. He really got good through the winter and spring culminating with his lifetime best performance on May 11th. That was a day when inside speed was extremely dangerous (see Freedom Child’s Peter Pan) and Magic Harbor made a four-wide run around the turn to reach contention. He understandably flattened out late, but you can make a serious case that he was best that day. I don’t know where he’s been since, but if he is able to hold that form he has a real chance to upset the favorite today.
I’ll also make a wager on Indy Scent (#6), who I’ve been a fan of for quite some time despite him being a horse who has frustrated me more often than not. I honestly don’t know if he can get back to his better races from early in 2012, but he’s a horse who should appreciate this distance and will get some pace to run into. The price should make it worth taking a shot.
$15 Win 8 [SCRATCHED]
$10 Win 6
Saratoga, Race 2: Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for two year-olds
This is my one total guess of the day. Nice Way (#7) goes out for an outfit that probably isn’t too familiar to most New York racing fans, but I do remember Susan Cooney bringing another two year-old to Aqueduct last fall to get him on the turf and that horse (Charity Reins) actually ran very well to be second. While I’m usually not one to use an anecdote such as that as concrete evidence, there is a possibility that this horse is very well meant. And the turf pedigree is definitely present. This horse is a half-brother to five horses who tried the turf and four of them won over it with the best being Carson Hall, a winner of $250,000 on grass. He may be a huge price but I wouldn’t totally count him out of this.
$5 Win 7
Saratoga, Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at 1 3/16 miles on the turf
Supreme Commander (#1) should be a strong favorite in this race and I’m not sure that he will be. Many very clever handicappers have really become fascinated with Kiaran McLaughlin’s first time Lasix statistic–an astounding 31%, $3.66 ROI over the last year and a half. There is a horse in this race which those numbers apply to in Parnelli, and I’m sure many will pick him based solely on that fact. However, Parnelli is still a horse who needs to improve significantly on his turf races and I am almost certain he will be shorter than his 5-1 morning line.
Supreme Commander thus may not be the strong favorite that he really should be in this spot. I would say 5-2 is fair value on this son of Perfect Sting, the 2000 Champion Turf Mare. He ran a solid dirt race against a very salty field in his debut and he’s bred to take a huge step forward with today’s surface switch. John Shirreffs is the type to give his horses a race first time out and he has excellent numbers with second time starters as well as horses switching surfaces.
$20 Win 1
Saratoga, Race 7: Allowance N1X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
Favor Factor (#5) had significant trouble in his last race and might have actually beaten the highly regarded Mills with a clean trip. While I don’t love to bet these Chad Brown horses since they are so often underlays, I feel that Favor Factor is just a notch above his competition today in overall ability, something that is not so apparent if you’re just reading Beyer numbers. His last figure was negatively affected by a very slow pace and it could conceivably have been rated a much faster race.
$15 Win 5 (WINNER; Payout: $34.50)
Saratoga, Race 8: Optional Claiming $62,500/N2X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
This rider switch that Majestic Raffy (#4) receives in this race is too significant to ignore. He’s a horse that I’ve always liked and, when he’s right, does possess the ability to beat a field of this quality. I would love to get his 10-1 morning line odds.
I will also use Kris Royal (#5), who was really improving last summer and fall before being put on the shelf. In his return at Indiana Downs he was making a menacing move coming to the top of the stretch when Dylan Davis decided to send him inside of the leaders. The hole quickly became very tight and Kris Royal seemed to become reluctant to go through. He lost his momentum and may have won the race with a different trip. Charlie Lopresti is better second time back from the layoff anyway and I like to see John Velazquez taking the call.
$10 Win 4
$10 Win 5
Saratoga, Race 9: The Diana Stakes (G1) at 1 1/8 miles on the turf for fillies and mares
Everyone saw the trouble that Julien Leparoux got Centre Court (#5) into in the Just a Game Stakes. It was really unfortunate because she’s a filly who had managed to never finish out of the exacta in her 10 prior turf starts. I’m not saying that she would have been better than third without having to steady, but it’s not a race that I’m going to hold against her. With the rumors that Dayatthespa is going to be scratched, I think Centre Court will play a pivotal role in this race. She is the one who is going to be stalking Laughing early and Leparoux needs to wake up and seize the opportunity to break this race open coming to the top of the stretch. Centre Court has the turn of foot to get a jump on the closers and I hope Leparoux has learned his lesson and doesn’t decide to wait for everyone else to make their moves.
The bottom line is that this is a paceless race and it should be a scramble to the finish. Centre Court has a tactical edge on some of the others, but it’s slight. I don’t even think Laughing (#4) is completely out of this race given her speed and excellent recent form. I’ll use her behind my top selection in the exacta.
$15 Win 5
$5 Exacta 5-4
Saratoga, Race 10: The Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at 1 1/8 miles for three year-olds
I didn’t start looking at this race thinking that I was going to take a strong stance in favor of Palace Malice (#5), but the more I delve into his past performances I just come away with the feeling that he’s my kind of horse–or perhaps he should have been in the Belmont. His Louisana Derby and his Kentucky Derby are both much better than they look on paper and I feel that too many may gravitate towards Mylute just because they regard Palace Malice’s Belmont as a fluke. It wasn’t a fluke. He just showed up that day and ran the race that he hinted he might have the ability to run in a couple of his prior efforts. All reports are that he’s been working very strongly since then and MIke Smith has been riding with the utmost confidence lately.
I’ll bet Palace Malice to win and use him over Triple Crown also-ran Will Take Charge (#3) in the exacta. I just am not thrilled with any of the new faces that showed up for this race.
$15 Win 5 (WINNER; Payout: $35.25)
$5 Exacta 5-3 (WINNER; Payout: $150.00)