Saratoga, Race 1: Optional Claiming $62,500/N2X at seven furlongs
This daunting card begins with a doozy of a race. You’re likely to get a decent price on whoever you like and I have a couple of ideas. There appears to be enough early zip in this race between Dads Caps and Tiree to create some pace and I’m looking to two horses who should be rallying from midpack. Rightfully So (#9) put in some very strong efforts over the late fall and winter at both Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park. He really showed an affinity for one-turn seven furlong and one mile races as he put in respectable efforts behind horses like Golden Ticket, Hierro, and Rattlesnake Bridge. When he returned to Churchill in May he hopped at the start and was off slowly, placing him at the back of the pace behind a slow pace. He did well to rally for fourth in a race that help together pretty well. A turf experiment failed and now he returns today from a brief freshening. I feel that his good races put him squarely in the mix and you may get a decent price on him.
I’ll also throw a few dollars on Socialsaul (#2) as my secondary pick. I like the turnback with this horse since I never really got the feeling he really relished a true two-turn race. Some of his best efforts have been one-turn miles and I think that form should translate to seven furlongs. I know the ability is there to compete with this field since he ran some excellent races against Saratoga Snacks and Brigand over the winter at Aqueduct. He was claimed by David Jacobson in May and a subsequent slow-paced one mile race in July did not work out. He’s now been off for seven weeks since that race, but I like to see that Castellano, who has had a great deal of success with Jacobson in Saratoga, takes the return call. At double-digit odds, I think he’s worth a shot.
$10 Win 9
$5 Win 2
Saratoga, Race 2: Maiden Special Weight at seven furlongs
Celebrated Talent (#10) is just much the horse to beat in this race and anything close to his morning line of 7-2 will be a real bargain. He ran by far the best race last time as he contested a hot pace and kept going in the stretch before getting run down by the highly regarded Miraculousmo who returns in today’s King’s Bishop. There doesn’t appear to be nearly as much speed on paper in today’s race and he should have an excellent chance of wiring this field.
I don’t want any of the other horses who made closing moves in that Miraculousmo race since they all were doing their best running after the race had been decided. I’m also skeptical of Tiz Chris since he may just not be that good and he’s sure to take money. For those reasons, if Celebrated Talent falters I’ll try to get a bomb home in Bellamy Chief (#1). He had legitimate trouble at the start of his debut as he greenly shied away from horses and lost quite a bit of ground on the field. He lagged well back for much of the race, but he did do some decent running in the stretch after the race was over. I think that field may have been better than the race Celebrated Talent is coming out of and Bellamy Chief has a right to take a big step forward with that experience under his belt.
$10 Win 10 (WINNER; Payout: $22.50)
$5 Win 1
[Update—12:16 pm]: He didn’t win or finish in the money, but I just want to acknowledge the much improved effort by Bellamy Chief (#1) at 64-1 as he led the field to the top of the stretch before fading late to be sixth. This horse will win a race on this circuit.
Saratoga, Race 5: Allowance N1X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for NY-breds
I did not go into this racing thinking that I would come away feeling so strongly about one horse, but as I kept going through this field I kept coming back to Breathaway (#2). He’s been a horse that I had always thought had more ability than he was showing on the racetrack. I remember the first time I saw him run at Monmouth last season in his second career start and first race on turf. He led for the entire trip through legitimate fractions and was nailed on the wire by Holy Smoke, who is now a 3-time turf winner, the most recent of which was an open company Allowance N1X win (86 Beyer). However, what really caught my eye was the way Breathaway rebroke just after the wire as he ran right by Holy Smoke and continued strongly around the turn with his rider not being able to pull him up until he had gotten all the way back around to the far turn.
Since he’s a New York-bred, his connections took him to New York, but he did not fare as well. A headstrong sort, they tried to rate him in a couple of races, which ended in disastrous results. He also caught a few yielding turf courses that he clearly just doesn’t care for. Nevertheless they pressed on and Breathaway caught a field he could handle against Maiden $16,000 claimers in December at Aqueduct.
He was subsequently given a break and has now returned as a four-year-old. After a rocky start to the season, Breathaway has really started to put things together. He was powerful against weaker foes in his win on June 30th and then was extremely game when coming from off the pace to miss by a nose on July 21st. Brought back a week later against much tougher Allowance N1X foes−probably tougher company than what he meets today—Breathaway was tipped out for the stretch drive after rating again, but was impeded by a drifting foe. He would not have finished in the money that day, but would have been a bit closer at the end if not for the trouble.
The rating experiments seem to have calmed him down and aided his finishing kick, but today Irad Ortiz, Jr. needs to just send him to the front. There is no other speed in this race and if Breathaway can get away to a clear early lead I think he has a chance to hang on and beat this field at a big price. His last couple of efforts prove that he classes up and Irad Ortiz is the jockey that guided him to his win in New York over the winter. There are some decenter New York-breds in this race, but I’m hoping Breathaway can get the right trip and either win or sneak into the exacta.
BEST BET: $15 Win 2
$2 Exacta 4/7/9 with 2
Saratoga, Race 8: Allowance N1X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
This is a pretty competitive race, but I see a few angles from which to approach it.
Pick of the Litter (#6) is a horse that I’ve been waiting to bet back on the turf ever since his debut. I know that sounds a bit funny when that was by far the worst race of his life, but that was also one of the most unfairly run races of the Gulfstream meet. North Slop and Oistin’s Town were allowed to dawdle on the front end through glacial fractions over a very hard turf course and then sprinted home their last quarter mile in a ridiculously fast 22 1/5 seconds. Horses who were rating off the pace in a strung out field had absolutely no chance to make any sort of late impact. The also-rans in that category include horses like Hardest Core, who now routinely runs Beyers 30 points higher than what he ran that day, Autobahn Legend, who improved his Beyer by 23 points in his next start, and Eriugena, who routinely runs Beyers 30 to 40 points higher than what he was assigned in that February 2nd race. Pick of the Litter was last down the backstretch and passed a few horses to finish ninth. He has subsequently proven his quality on both dirt and synthetic surfaces and, being that he’s a Kitten’s Joy, turf should be no problem as well. He may be the best horse in the race based on raw ability and he may not even be favored.
Comes the Dream (#5) was also hurt by pace more recently in his last start, the Toronto Cup. Five Iron was allowed to set slow early fractions over a very firm Woodbine turf course and never looked back as he sprinted home the last quarter mile. It may have also been too much too soon for Comes the Dream to ship all the way up to Canada for a stakes after just a maiden win. He returns to a more realistic spot today and a quick glance at the names in his running lines shows that he classes up. He was beaten by the promising Mills in his second career start and then easily handled subsequent winners Unitarian and Parnelli when breaking his maiden on June 22nd. The only thing I worry about for this horse is the distance, since 9 furlongs and farther may be his forte. However, at odds of around 10-1, I’ll give him a chance.
$15 Win 6
$10 Win 5
Saratoga, Race 9: The Test (G1) at seven furlongs for thee year-old fillies
I’ve been an I’m Mom’s Favorite (#4) fan since this past winter at Aqueduct and I loved her in the Victory Ride, but was mystified by her non-performance. She’s worked very well since that race and is now placed in the most ambitious spot of her career, so I’m going to assume that her connections figured out what was wrong and expect her to get back on track today. With speed coming from Baby J, Sweet Lulu, and Wildcat Lily, the pace should be pretty quick. I believe I’m Mom’s Favorite is best when she has a target to run at and she’ll certainly get that today.
That said, Sweet Lulu (#5) and My Happy Face (#8) are clearly the two fillies to beat, so I’ll also use I’m Mom’s Favorite strongly “underneath” in exactas.
$10 Win 4
$4 Exacta 5/8 with 4
Saratoga, Race 11: The King’s Bishop (G1) at seven furlongs for three year-olds
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pick Mentor Cane (#7) in race so loaded with speed until I watched the head-on replay of the Amsterdam. I suggest you check it out, too (watch replay). Mentor Cane was already drifting as he entered the turn and ran the entire far turn at least four paths off the rail. The fact that he barely lost any ground on the leaders through such an incident and then continued on to nearly get back into winning contention is a testament to his freakish ability. The main concern today is that he might have to rate for the first time in his career. Let Em Shine is a speedball who will almost certainly be in front early. I’m hopeful that if they’re going fast enough up front Mentor Cane will be able to use his natural quickness to stalk while running freely.
While I think Mentor Cane may be the most naturally gifted horse in this race, I do need to get paid for picking an inexperienced runner who will be trying something new for the first time. I would like to get at least 6-1 and given the competitive nature of this race, I feel pretty confident that will be the case.
$15 Win 7
Saratoga, Race 12: The Travers (G1) at 1 1/4 miles for three year-olds
I know this is shocking for anyone who’s been following this blog through the winter and spring, but I’m not picking Orb in the Travers.
Don’t get me wrong—I’d love to see him win and if he’s in contention at the quarter pole there may be a point at which I cast my wagers aside and root my favorite racehorse home. However, Orb has been overbet, especially since his Derby win and I expect nothing different in today’s race. Given the layoff and the fact that he has yet to take that leap forward in speed figures that his chief rivals have all accomplished since the Triple Crown trail, I would say fair odds on him are around 5-1. I’m not going to get that.
In some ways I feel that Palace Malice is the safest proposition. He’s proven that he’s fast enough and that he can handle the distance. He’s also drawn the best post position and should work out a similar trip to the one he received in the Jim Dandy. However, there’s another horse coming out of the Jim Dandy who ran just as well as, if not better than, the winner who will be a much larger price and that’s Will Take Charge (#5).
I don’t know exactly what turned this horse around last time, but this was not the same Will Take Charge that we had seen through the Triple Crown series. Perhaps it was the removal of blinkers that allowed him to relax so well and intensified his late kick–and make no mistake he was really finishing. The Jim Dandy featured a pace that really held together through quick closing fractions and Will Take Charge had to run his final three-eighths of a mile in just over 35 seconds to get within a length of Palace Malice at the wire. That’s almost unheard of in a two-turn dirt race and it leads me to believe that this horse—who was always physically imposing and full of potential—has finally turned a corner.
The Travers is going to be bet like it’s a three-horse race, but I think it’s actually a four-horse race and Will Take Charge can post the upset. I’ll bet him strongly to win and will use him in the exacta with Orb and Palace Malice. I will somewhat reluctantly leave out Verrazano, who has every right to win this race, but still must prove to me that he can work out a trip from his inside post and negotiate this demanding mile and a quarter distance.
$15 Win 5 (WINNER; Payout: $159.00)
$5 Exacta Box 2/5/8
[Update 7:15 pm] – I won’t soon forget this Travers as Will Take Charge ($21.20) getting his white muzzle across the wire first translated into one of my the biggest scores of my life. Not only did I use Will Take Charge heavily to win and on top of exactas and triples with the other Jim Dandy runners, but I cast a wide net in the other legs of the Pick-4, specifically in the case of the King’s Bishop, and caught 28-1 Capo Bastone, who ran down my top choice Mentor Cane in the stretch. The Pick-4 paid $6,018.00 for my $1 wager. What a day and what a race!