Update [7:00 pm]: I want to thank everyone who was bearing with me through a rough first half of the Saratoga meet. Even though I haven’t gotten the chance to write up very many full entries, I’ve been keeping up with my handicapping and picks pretty consistently. Until today, however, my Saratoga opinions were leaving something to be desired; I had accomplished just one significant winning day with my picks out of the first 19 days of this meet. I suffered a lot of close calls and second and third place finishes with long shots during that time, but sometimes you have to be patient with these things.
Today was a welcome reversal of fortune. Dangerous Lad, who I had originally written about all the way back in February of this year (take a look) finally rewarded me for my patience five months later by winning and paying $35.60. I would have made it one of my best winning days ever if King Kreesa had managed to hold off Wise Dan in the Fourstardave, but how could I complain about such a fantastic horse race. King Kreesa—a previous “Horse to Watch” I should point out—turned out to be every bit as good as I thought he could be and then some. He carved out a legitimate pace and gave Wise Dan all that he could handle down the stretch. The final time of 1:34 flat is truly exceptional, especially over a turf course that was playing very slowly all day. Enjoy the replay:
Saratoga, Race 1: Allowance N1X at seven furlongs
I had a lot of trouble with this race and I wound up on the horse that I did because he’s going to be the largest price and I think his chances of winning are at least equal to the other main contenders. When in the barn of Mike Hushion late last year, Tug of War (#2) was in excellent form and running races that would make him very competitive here. His close calls behind Big Business and Palace were two great efforts and you can make the argument that he just was not as good at two turns when stretched out over the winter. His return to sprinting on March 30th was supbar–so much so that it makes me question if something went wrong in that race since he’s been off ever since. Now he returns in the barn of Angel Penna and has reportedly been training great for his return. At odds of 5-1 or greater he’s a great bet.
$10 Win 2
Saratoga, Race 3: Claiming $20,000B at six furlongs
This is a weird race with three favorites who I’m very skeptical of. Two might not really be dirt horses and the other, Rubysandpearls, might just not be able to run a step anymore. I’m going to hope that Rubysandpearls shows the same amount of early speed that he did last time–that would be absolutely none–because that would make El Cuadro (#1) the lone speed and a major threat to wire the field. He has run dirt sprints in the past that are no worse than the lone dirt races by The Sixties and Where’s Danny and last time he was just in against a much tougher field at this level. I like to see that the blinkers go on and that he gets a positive rider switch to Irad Ortiz, Jr. I don’t think I’ll get his morning line of 15-1, but he’s an interesting proposition at 6-1 or greater.
$10 Win 1
Saratoga, Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for three year-old fillies
This is another race where you could really go in a variety of directions. I’m going to take a bit of a whacky approach and try to get Cora Mesa (#7) to improve enough first time on grass to beat this field. I just haven’t been blown away by the turf races of any of the fillies who have already tried grass and Cora Mesa has grass pedigree that I just can’t ignore. Her dam was best on turf while placing in a couple of stakes and she has produced Cora Mesa’s half-sister In the Rough, a multiple turf stakes winner who earned over $300,000. I realize that Cora Mes has had plenty of chances, but you can argue that her synthetic race at Keeneland was one of her best efforts and I think it’s reasonable to think she could improve significantly on grass. The price should be right.
$10 Win 7
Saratoga, Race 8: Allowance N1X at one mile on the turf
Dangerous Lad (#10) is a horse that I’ve been waiting to bet for what feels like forever. His turf debut at Gulfstream on February 7th (replay) was an absolute nightmare. He was away very slowly and had to weave his way through traffic while rallying from last in a race where the pace really held together. He subsequently moved up into an allowance/optional claiming race at Gulfstream, but had to suffer an even worse trip on that day (replay). He was just in trouble for the entire trip as Javier Castellano made wrong decisions at every turn.
He was off for a long time after that and came back–with two aluminum pads on–sprinting on the turf at Belmont last month. I thought it was a very good effort. The pace was slow and he still made up some ground late in a race that may have needed. He’s had two excellent works up here since then and, while I’m not happy to see the aluminum pads on again, I’m not going to let that deter me. I’ll bet him to win and use him under logical choices Ghost Hunter (#3), Abraham (#5), and Peace and Justice (#11) in the exacta.
$15 Win 10 (WINNER; Payout: $267.00)
$2 Exacta 3/5/11 with 10
Saratoga, Race 9: The Auntie Mame Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for three year-old fillies
I have questions about everyone in this race except Summer of Fun (#8), which is why I’ve landed on her as my best bet. She is just a very good filly who appears to be coming into this race in great form. Both of her three year-old starts were very good and of course her Breeders’ Cup effort was exceptional. George Weaver has been sending out nothing but live horses at this meet and many of them, as is the case with this filly, have been pointed for races at Saratoga with long series of workouts up here.
As for the others, I’m not sure that Praia is quite as good as those big figures she earned behind Kitten’s Dumplings since she’s a closer who greatly benefited from paces of those races. Effie Trinket figures, but I don’t know if she wants to go this far and Bella Castani is just a complete head case. There isn’t a lot of pace in this race and Summer of Fun has the tactical speed to put herself in good early position. I’d love to get her at anywhere near her morning line of 7-2.
$20 Win 8 (WINNER; Payout: $55.00)
Saratoga, Race 10: The Fourstardave Handicap (G2) at one mile on the turf
I really believe that King Kreesa (#6) has a chance to upset Wise Dan. Not a huge chance–or even a chance greater than 30%, but a chance. I’m not a weight guy, but 12 pounds is a significant difference, especially over a turf course that has taken a lot of rain. I don’t think Skyring is fast enough to really impact the pace and I doubt he will try to under the usually passive Junior Alvarado. So provided a clean break, King Kreesa will be loose on the lead. He is in career form and, if he can take a clear advantage into the stretch and throw down the 22 and change final quarter mile that he has proven himself to be capable of, I don’t think it’s completely out of the question that he might hang on.
I respect everything Wise Dan (#1) has accomplished and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the best horse by quite some ways, but he’s going to be a very short price–1-5 at most–and probably even shorter in multi-race wagers. Given the rail post, the weight, and a loose on the lead King Kreesa, I think this might be the right time to try and beat him.
I’ll bet King Kreesa to win and use him underneath Wise Dan in exactas as insurance.
$15 Win 6
$10 Exacta 1-6 (WINNER; Payout: $45.00)