Yesterday’s Travers card was one of my best days of the season thanks to Will Take Charge getting his nose on the wire first. Let’s try to keep the momentum going here:
Note: I haven’t posted a pick in the Personal Ensign since I don’t think it’s a great betting race, but I will be rooting for the good Royal Delta to show up and destroy this field. If you’re playing multi-race wagers, however, you do need to acknowledge her propensity to throw in a clunker from time to time so I would back up with On Fire Baby and Authenticity on smaller tickets.
Saratoga, Race 3: Maiden Special Weight at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf for NY-breds
This race was a bit of a conundrum for me since Knockher Off (#2) is going to be a heavy favorite and, while I acknowledge that he is almost certainly the best horse in this race, I just can’t figure out why he’s running on the turf. Aside from being sired by Unbridled’s Song, there just is not much turf pedigree here and it’s puzzling that his connections would be so eager to get him on turf after he showed ample promise on dirt over the winter.
I originally thought Animal Wrights (#9) was a bit interesting since, although he was dreadful in his turf debut last fall, he does have plenty of turf pedigree on his dam’s side and Midas Eyes is a decent turf sire. He was put away for a long time after that race so it’s conceivable that there could have been some physical issue coming out of that race. However, when the scratches and changes were revealed, I noticed that Animal Wrights is a new gelding for this race, so perhaps his connections have gotten him figured out. I think it’s meaningful that these connections have shipped him up for this race when there are many much easier spots on dirt or turf throughout the mid-Atlantic region. He could be well meant today and is the only real alternative I see to the favorite.
$10 Win 9
Saratoga, Race 5: Claiming $20,000B at seven furlongs for fillies and mares
This race is a real puzzle. I’ve taken a guess with Rosie My Way (#9), who has just been running way over her head in almost all of her dirt races. Her February 9th maiden win at Gulfstream would be good enough to win this race and this switch from turf to dirt and—perhaps even more importantly—the addition of blinkers are very strong moves for Joe Orseno. Rajiv Maragh needs to get her out of the gate and take advantage of her tactical speed, but if she can get into contention by the top of the stretch, I think she’s a real threat to win this at a decent price.
$10 Win 9
Saratoga, Race 6: The Idle Rich Stakes at 1 3/16 miles on the turf
While I respect the merits of Atigun and Sky Blazer, I’ll be very surprised if Imagining (#6) loses this race. He is just the lone speed on paper and may very well be the horse with the most natural talent. I suppose you could look at his past performances and complain that he’s a horse who, up until now, has only been able to beat up on softer allowance fields, but I think you have to be more forgiving of his two most recent stakes efforts. Something obviously went amiss in the Nijinsky Stakes in July of 2012 when he finished fifth as the favorite and had to be put away for almost nine months afterwards. After a dazzling return race at Keeneland, McGaughey again stepped him up to face Grade 2 foes in the Dixie on the Preakness undercard, but he had to endure an impossible trip that day. After getting squeezed back at the start and being placed out of position, he was forced to race very wide around both turns and was spun about seven-wide into the stretch. Keep in mind that horses just weren’t making wide rallies on the turf that weekend at Pimlico, so I think you can give Imagining a pass for that race.
Today he returns with blinkers, which should reveal their tactical intentions. Reports are that he trained very well down at Fair Hill before putting in a strong workout over the Oklahoma turf course earlier in the week for this return. Imaginin’s main competition will probably come from Atigun, but I’m not convinced that rival has the turn of foot on turf to run this horse down. Some might argue that Atigun would have run better last time in the Colonial Turf Cup if he had found a clear path in the stretch, but I was more of the opinion that Julien Leparoux just did not have the horse to make it through the necessary holes that day. If Imaging is able to clear off early, this race should be over.
BEST BET: $25 Win 6 (WINNER; Payout: $58.75)
Saratoga, Race 7: Optional Claiming $14,000/N1X at seven furlongs for NY-bred fillies and mares
Gee Linz (#7) interests me in this race primarily because she is a claim back by Dominick Schettino and these owners. You have to go all the way back to her first start, but Gee Linz was prepared for her Saratoga debut last summer by Schettino and was claimed out of that effort. She was raced very hard all winter long by Randi Persaud, who managed to run her 10 times between January 1st and April 10th. Gee Linz spent much of that winter campaign racing against some pretty tough company and she ran very well on more than a few occasions. I like that she was given plenty of time off since all that racing early in the year and she returns today showing two strong workouts up here. I think she’s an interesting alternative to the horses coming out of that “live” July 21st race at this level.
Necessary Luxury (#5) will be a much longer price, I think she has a bit of a chance to upset. Going all the way back to June 28th of last year, she put in an excellent performance to get up and win going a mile with an 80 Beyer at Belmont Park. She ran better than it appears on paper in her very next start at Saratoga and then has just been placed over her had in race after race ever since. They even took a few shots on turf with her, which is not her preferred surface. I think she fits with this field based on her raw ability, but I do wonder if she’s gone the wrong way. That said, the price will be large enough that I think it will be worth taking a shot.
$15 Win 7
$10 Win 5
Saratoga, Race 11: Allowance N1X at one mile on the turf for fillies and mares
This is a weird race to end the day. You can tell me I’m crazy for picking the horses I did in here when highly-touted runners like Enchanting Lisa and class dropper Kitten’s Queen are drawn well towards the rail, but I just cannot resist taking some shots against them with these three intriguing prices.
Let’s start the most sensible one. Inspired Exchange (#12) showed some promise in the early spring at Oaklawn Park running on dirt, but her pedigree suggests that turf will be her preferred surface. She’s a three-quarter sister to The Nigara Queen, who won nearly $500,000 on turf and took the Grade 2 Dance Smartly Stakes going nine furlongs on the grass. There should be a bit of pace for this deep closing filly and I’m hopeful that the turf course will be fairer than yesterday so that she has a chance.
Ready Signal (#3) is a horse that I was very interested in last time while at the same time concerned that she might just not be a turf sprinter. That was indeed the case, but it has not deterred me from taking another chance on her here at the right distance. You have to go watch her race two back, because she would have won if she had been able to get a clean trip through the stretch (replay). She has on occasion shown that she can run a race that would make her competitive here and I’m encouraged by her strong workout over the turf here last week since she had also worked very strongly prior to nearly winning two back. She’s going to be a huge price, but if she can work out the right trip stalking along the rail, I think she has a real chance.
The same case can be made for Jonata (#9), who also is not a turf sprinter, but contrary to what her past performances might suggest, could still be a decent turf horse. She is, after all, a half-sister to turf stakes-winner Pinch Pie and turf stakes-placed Rogue Victory and is by a good turf sire in Proud Citizen. She put in a decent late run last time and has the speed to stay close in today’s race. Mike Hushion sports good numbers adding blinkers for the first time and does fairly well when stretching horses out from turf sprints to turf routes. She also will be a huge price and I won’t be shocked to see her run these down late.
$15 Win 12
$10 Win 3 (WINNER; Payout: $285.00)
$10 Win 9