Saratoga, Race 3: Starter Optional Claiming $25,000 at seven furlongs
Caixa Eletronica and Saginaw are the two big guns in here, but they’re also saddled with some pretty hefty imposts. I’m not a “weight guy” by any stretch, but they each have to give away 14 pounds to the rest of their rivals and that is especially significant since this race drew a strong bunch of former claimers, none of whom are in for the $25,000 claiming tag.
Of the favorites, I strongly prefer Saginaw. Aside from one lackluster performance going two turns at Aqueduct in December, he has been a gem of consistency while performing at a higher level than what Caixa Electronica has been able to reach so far this year. I respect all of Caixa Electronica’s past accomplishments, but it appears that he’s lost a step and doesn’t posses the quickness and turn of foot that he once did. He’s not out of this race by any means, but at his 2-1 morning line he’d be a drastic underlay.
If a horse is going to upset—which I believe to be possible given the weight assignments—I think it’s more likely that it happens from the front end than the back since Saginaw and Caixa Eletronica are very powerful finishers in their own right. That’s why I’ve gone to Bernie the Maestro (#7), who I believe has a real chance to wire the field. While there is some other speed in this race, there is not another confirmed frontrunner that is certain to go after Bernie the Maestro early and I think it’s possible Rosie could sneak away through moderate early fractions. Bernie the Maestro ran a very strong race last time when he was pressed early and fought on all the way down to the wire nearly come back in the late stages to snatch the victory. He’s in excellent form, loves this distance on the dirt, and should be tough to run down. At odds of 4-1 or higher, I think he’s a good bet here.
BEST BET: $15 WIN 7 (WINNER; Payout: $58.50)
[Update 3:45 pm] – A win, but a very tough race to watch as the old warhorse Saginaw broke down around the three-eighths pole. The injury looked severe and there’s no word yet on what the prognosis is. I hope they can save him, but this 21-time winner does not deserve to suffer. He’s already given his connections and the New York racing fans all that a horse can give.
Saratoga, Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf for NY-bred two year-old fillies
There are some decent turf pedigrees in here. Missy Bay, A P Johnson, and First Summation should all take to the grass and hail from connections who can win with a firster on the turf. However, I’m going to instead pick one of the fillies who is bred to take to grass and already has a little experience under her belt. Sassy Salsa (#4) admittedly showed nothing in her debut, but the 25 length margin of defeat is a little deceptive since the race was won by Artemis Agrotera, who drew off to win by nearly a dozen lengths in her first outing. Sassy Salsa is out of a dam whose only win came over turf and she is a half-sister to a filly who won sprinting on grass. She gets Lasix today and could completely reverse the form of her debut and upset this field.
$10 Win 4
Saratoga, Race 5: Maiden Claiming $50,000-$40,000 at one mile on the turf
There is no disputing that Captain Keon’s (#4) debut was a very strong effort. He was off slowly, made a huge run around the far turn to reach contention, and then continued to chase after Boy of Summer nearly catching that foe at the wire. Boy of Summer has since gone on to win three turf races and confirm the quality of that race and Captain Keon was the only runner to make such a dramatic rally from the back in that affair.
Unfortunately nothing has gone right since for this horse. He was claimed out of the race by Michael Yates and put away for six months. His return on the grass going five furlongs on June 27th must be watched to properly assess the performance (replay). Captain Keon was rushing up and showing good speed from the rail when one of the outside runners made a severe left hand turn and cut off multiple runners pushing Captain Keon into the temporary rail. Captain Keon bounced off the rail several times as he ran through many temporary posts and was basically eased out of the race thereafter. His next start on dirt was a non-effort, but he doesn’t have to handle that surface. Now he’s getting back to a proper course and distance and if he can run back to his debut and work out a clean break, I think he has a realistic chance at a price.
$10 Win 4
Saratoga, Race 8: The Riskaverse Stakes at one mile on the turf for three year-old fillies
I cannot ignore the nature of the turf course any longer. It has been incredibly speed favoring and horses who ride the rail along the hedge seem to have a further advantage. I concede that horses like Unbelievable Dream, Promise Me More, and Bella Castani have some ability but the turf course is against their running styles. For that reason I’m going with the filly who is virtually guaranteed to have the early lead and who might just be better than this field anyway. Midnight Watch (#6) has almost uncontrollable speed and has the ability to run fast every step of the way when she’s on her game. Last time in the Lake George, however, she was very keen and just went out way too fast getting the half-mile in 46 2/5 seconds. She had every right to get tired late and still did well to hang on for fourth. With a clear lead today I think she’ll be very tough to run down.
I’m also going to give Miss Lamour (#3) a chance right back off her win earlier in the meet. I picked her that day because I thought she had more grass ability than she had shown thus far and I was right as she spurted off to a nine-length lead and just barely hung on in the stretch. She still obviously has some character flaws but might be just as talented as any of these if she can figure out how to run a proper race. If she can orchestrate a pace pressing trip perhaps she can use her speed in the stretch to run down my top pick.
$15 Win 6 (WINNER; Payout: $46.50)
$10 Win 3
Saratoga, Race 9: Maiden Claiming $25,000 at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf
Mr. Wiliam is much the horse to beat and I don’t want to take a major shot against him, but I think It’s Huge (#5) is a better turf horse than he appears. He ran pretty well on May 3rd to battle for the lead the entire way and hang on to finish second. Next time he was off slowly and forced out of position early on and the same thing happened again on June 23rd, except that day he was able to rush up to battle for the lead. However, something happened that day and he was basically pulled up after a half-mile. There are clearly some soundness issues here, but if he can muster his best performance I think he can be part of the exacta.
$5 Win 5
$5 Exacta 4-5