Race 3: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for NY-breds
If Station Chief runs back to his debut, he’s going to be very tough to beat. However, there is another horse in this race also ran quite well in his debut even though it might not appear that way. BAD TO THE ROAN (#1) debuted on March 16th, a day that featured one of the strongest gold rails of the inner track meet. Bad to the Roan had the misfortune of drawing the outside post position and was forced to race wide every step of the way. (Watch the replay.) He was about five-wide exiting the backstretch and continued to race four-wide around the far turn and into the stretch. It was impossible to be successful from such a position on this day, but Bad to the Roan actually ran quite well to never give up and stayed on to finish fifth. He had been bet down to 2-1 favoritism for that race, so he was expected to run well. Now getting on a fair racetrack, I think Bad to the Roan deserves a chance to show that he can put forth a vastly improved effort. Stenson, who also had a wide trip in that race, returned in the same maiden race Station Chief is exiting on Wood Memorial Day, and he recorded a figure 26 points higher than his March 16th maiden effort. Bad to the Roan will have to do better than that to take down the favorite here, but I think it’s a possibility and am willing to take a shot with him at a price.
$10 Win 1
Race 4: Claiming $12,500N3L at 6 1/2 furlongs
I see two main contenders in this race, neither of whom are likely to be favored. MARKET BLASTER (#2) strung together a few nice efforts towards the end of last year, but faltered when stepped up against tougher competition over the course of his last few starts. Most recently, he never had much of a chance to make an impact on March 14th, a day where closers were at a disadvantage. He was claimed out of that race by Laura Perillo, which has to be viewed as a positive barn change and should get back to his better efforts here. CACTUS CITY ROAD (#3) is more of a sprinting type, but he enters this race in some furtive good form after having run better than it appears in three of his last four starts. He was towards the inside battling through fast fractions on January 12th, a day when you did not wanting to be on the rail. After that, he was stretched out in distance and ran deceptively well in each of his two most recent starts. On March 2nd, he was chasing two-wide for the much of the way against a moderately favorable rail, while on March 17th, he was chasing three-wide against another very good rail. Both times he stayed on well to finish third while beating over half the field despite not really wanting to go two turns.
Other contenders like Velvet Cap and Ten Items Or Less are not without a chance, but Velvet Cap could be favored off a perfect trip win against a weaker field last time while Ten Items Or Less might have trouble hanging on going six and a half furlongs. I’m going to box my two selections in the exacta, but will also bet Cactus City Road to win since he’s probably going to be the better price and may actually have a marginally greater chance of winning given the likely pace scenario.
$10 Win 3 (WINNER; Payout: $76.00)
$5 Exacta Box 2,3
Race 5: Starter Allowance $40,000 at 6 1/2 furlongs for fillies and mares
I am mildly against both Island Candy and Ms. Sylvia A. Each of these fillies parlayed advantageous gold rail trips into blowout victories against weaker maiden claiming foes. I have trouble believing that either of them are going to repeat those figures here, especially now that they’ll have to deal with each other on the front end over a fair racetrack. Therefore, I strongly prefer the only legitimate alternative option I can find, BROWN MELLISA (#4). This Randi Persaud trainee looks slower on paper, but there are reasons to believe that she can win a race like this. Her race three back is better than the speed figure suggests since she stumbled badly at the break and spotted the field a couple of lengths. (Watch the replay.) I know that Brown Mellisa is a closer anyway, but she was far behind on the backstretch and had to do quite a bit of running to reach a contending position. Last time she was stretched out in distance against much tougher company and understandably never made an impact while additionally being hindered by an extremely slow pace that was impossible to close into. Today she is placed in a much more realistic spot and figures to get some pace ahead of her. This extended sprint distance should suit her and I seriously doubt she’ll have to run much faster than her previous low-60s Beyer top to win this. The only three horses in this line-up have to have run faster numbers—each once, respectively—all did so with the aid of gold rails on the inner track.
$15 Win 4
Race 7: Allowance N1X at one mile on the turf for NY-breds
I firmly believe that NOOSH’S TALE (#6) is simply the best horse in this race. He had trouble sealing the deal last year despite running quite well on a number of occasions, but he returns here in a relatively easy spot off a couple of inner track dirt prep races that should have him fit enough to put forth a top effort. It’s possible that he could get some pace to run into with speed types Waterway and Goodtolook both vying for the front, perhaps joined by stretch-out sprinter Ziggy the Great, and that’s probably all Noosh’s Tale will need to be successful.
I know that some may be drawn to Ziggy the Great as a possible new face, but I think it’s important to remember that August 23rd was the first day that the strong ‘hedge bias’ appeared at least year’s Saratoga meet once the temporary rails were taken down. He ran well, but he also rode the hedge for the entire trip, most notably in the stretch when making his late run.
Noosh’s Tale is my top selection and my main win bet—especially if he goes off at anything close to his inflated 5-1 morning line odds—but I also want to include another horse in this race that I find intriguing at a price. He might simply not be good enough to compete with this field, hence the smaller win wager, but it’s hard for me to completely ignore the turf pedigree that WATERWAY (#1) brings to this race. His three winning siblings could almost universally compete on any surface, but all three did win at least once on the turf. His sire Mingun is perhaps not a household name, but he also brings some turf influence to the table as he is a son of A. P. Indy out of the great Miesque, making him a half-brother to Kingmambo. Mingun competed primarily in Europe, winning a Group 3, before coming to the United States to be a good fourth behind Leroidesanimaux in the Citation (G1) while earning a 108 Beyer speed figure. It’s clear that Waterway has returned as an improved racehorse in 2014, something that Maggie Wolfendale had tried to call attention to prior to his race on March 2nd. His trainer, Russell Cash, has put over a few bombs making their initial turf starts over the past five years (he’s 5-for-26 with an ROI of greater than $7.00), though it should be noted that all of those wins came in turf sprints. Waterway has shown a very fluid action that might translate to turf and his pedigree suggests that the surface and distance should be no problem. He’s a bit of an educated guess, but one you might want to include at a huge price. I’ll throw him into a small exacta box with my top selection.
$15 Win 6
$6 Win 1
$2 Exacta Box 1,6
Race 8: Allowance N1X at one mile for NY-breds
It’s amazing to me that the running line comment for CHRISANDLORISPOSSE’s (#10) last race completely fails to mention that he was off a few lengths behind the field. (Watch the replay.) Emanuel Esquivel didn’t randomly decide to ride him as a closer. His hand was forced by the slow break and Chrisandlorisposse actually put in the best race of his career to change his running style and successfully make a run from the back of the pack. It’s also worth noting that this race was run on March 14th, a day when it was almost impossible for closers to make up ground in the stretch. Therefore, it’s excusable that Chrisandlorisposse was not able to sustain his run through the lane. Some may view this as a negative trainer change away from Mike Hushion, but that’s really splitting hairs if you ask me. This horse is in very good form right and should be tough to beat with a clean break from the outside post position. Beyond Empire is the main challenger, but I don’t have a problem letting him beat me at a short price off the long layoff.
$15 Win 10
Race 9: Maiden Claiming $35,000 at one mile on the turf
This race is full of horses that I don’t want, so let’s start with them. Dendrite and Solo Approach have run some competitive speed figures, but have both had their chances against softer fields than this one. I couldn’t possibly bet either at a short price. Azorian is where many will probably land, but Todd Pletcher has astoundingly horrid numbers with maiden claiming debut runners in turf routes. He’s just 2-for-31 over the past five years, and he is an even worse 0-for-14 (with just one in-the-money finish) when horses in that sample were entered for a tag of $50,000 or less. For a trainer who has consistently strong percentages across the board, those numbers speak very loudly.
As far as I can see, CAPTAIN KEON (#6) is clearly the horse to beat and would be a great bet at his morning line price. This horse has consistently faced better company in his turf starts and has run better than it may appear on a few occasions. His 2013 finale may have been a bit disappointing, but he did have some minor trouble leaving the chute that day and was probably placed farther back in the pack than what would have been ideal. Rodrigo Ubillo puts the blinkers back on for this race and if he can get back to anything close to his better efforts, he’ll be a tough customer against this bunch.
I also want to use TEXAS TOWN (#5) at a big price. This horse did not do much running in his turf debut last year, but he was taken back off a very slow pace that held together up front with the first three finishers barely ever changing position during the running. It’s possible that he’s just not very good, but it’s hard to ignore his pedigree for the grass. He is a half-brother to Yes It’s Pink, a multiple turf winner who has earned over $180,000 on grass while his dam is a half-sister to Snowdrops, a multiple graded stakes winner on turf who earned nearly $600,000. Perhaps he can show more speed in a race lacking a confirmed frontrunner.