Race 1: Maiden Claiming $20,000 at one mile for fillies and mares
5 – Bella Fachi
2 – Pitched
PITCHED (#2) is the horse to beat as she drops in class and gets back on what is probably her preferred surface. I know it appears that she didn’t do much running in her maiden special weight tries over the winter, but it is worth noting that she was against track biases on both February 17th and March 16th. Most importantly, her lone dirt route effort makes her very tough to beat.
I’m using Pitched, but I’m taking a small shot against her in intra-race wagers by picking BELLA FACHI (#5) on top. Some may see Neal Terracciano as an unfamiliar name at first glance since he hasn’t started a horse yet this year, but he’s been a fixture on the New York circuit over the past couple of decades. Over the past five years, he’s won with 9% of his dirt runners to the tune of a $2.06 ROI, so this guy can certainly put over a pricy winner. Bella Fachi is taking perhaps the biggest drop of all, out of maiden special weights into this $20,000 claimer. She, too, was way against a rail bias in her lone dirt start and may have more to offer on this surface. She’s shown improvement in her recent works and has steadily done a bit more running with each start. I’ll bet Bella Fachi to win at what should be a generous price and will use her in the exacta with the logical Pitched.
$10 WIN 5
$5 EXACTA BOX 2,5
Race 4: Claiming $25,000 at seven furlongs on the turf for fillies and mares
1 – Clara Lives Strong
I had originally planned on making different picks in this race, but all of the horses I liked were scratched. I’ve been forced to reevaluate, and I came to a few conclusions: I don’t want any part of Implied, who has run well enough to win this, but comes in off a poor effort for a trainer who has been incapable for winning on this circuit. I’m also reluctant to take Revealing Moment, who can certainly win, and was probably best last time, but will now be a much shorter price.
I’m going to take a shot against both of them with CLARA LIVES STRONG (#1). After all, if Revealing Moment could wake up on the turf the way she did last time, why can’t this filly, who has even stronger turf influences in her pedigree? Clara Lives Strong has run on the turf once, as a two year-old, and while she finished last, she was racing against N1X allowance company, and managed to stay in contention until midstretch at odds of 37-1. Forestry is a good all-around sire, but her dam brings plenty of turf pedigree to the table. Three of her five foals to try the grass won, including a multiple turf stakes winner in Barbados. Clara Lives Strong’s dam is by strong turf influence King of Kings, and is a half-sister to Slew Valley, who won graded stakes on the turf and placed in the Man O’ War (G1) and Sword Dancer (G1). I know she’s moving up in class, but she’s in some of the best form of her career and is going to be a huge price.
$10 WIN 1
Race 6: Claiming $35,000 N3L at six furlongs on the turf
7 – Mr. Masterpiece
3 – Slamarama
If you watch the replay of the tenth race on May 26th, you’ll see why I’m picking MR. MASTERPIECE (#7) on top. It’s conceivable that he could have won that day with a clean trip, so I’m not at all worried about the six furlong distance. After all, he’s been successful sprinting on the dirt, so turning back on the turf is supposed to agree with him. The announced rider change to Rajiv Maragh certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
I also want to use SLAMARAMA (#3), who really hasn’t had a fair chance in either of his starts this year. Two back, he was left at the gate and rushed up into contention before basically being eased through the lane. Then last time, he was racing on the wrong surface and was gunned to the front through fast fractions in a race that fell apart late. I know that most of his competitive races came for Todd Pletcher, but at least he’s shown that he’s fast enough to win this when he’s right. At what should be a large price, he’s worth a shot.
$15 Win 7
$10 WIN 3
$2 EXACTA 5,6,7,10 with 3
Race 7: Optional Claiming $62,500/N2X at one mile
6 – This Hard Land
8 – Bad Hombre
4 – Crafty Dreamer
I’m against Readthebyline, who ran a huge race for Michelle Nevin, but has not been seen since the claim by Bruce Brown. Readthebyline has run some big races in the past, but he’s stepping way up in class into a very tough spot and will have to face early pressure from Summer Sunset and Might Ian. He’s not for me.
I like the horses coming out of the Commentator, which has been an extremely live race. CRAFTY DREAMER (#4) ran very well that day chasing wide on the turn before coming up short late. I think he’s good enough to win a race like this, but I wonder if he really wants to go much farther than seven furlongs. That’s why I’ve instead gone to THIS HARD LAND (#6) on top. He didn’t do much running in the Commentator, but he also received an impossible trip that day, racing widest of all on the turn and into the stretch at the back of a bunched field. He’s going to get pace today and is fast enough to win this when he shows up with this best effort. I’ll split those aforementioned two with BAD HOMBRE (#8), whose return was encouraging and should appreciate stretching out to this one-mile distance.
My idea is to try to beat Readthebyline, so I’ll bet This Hard Land to win at what should be a fair price, and will box all of my top three selections in the exacta.
$10 WIN 6
$5 EXACTA BOX 4,6,8
Race 9: Optional Claiming $40,000/N2X at six furlongs on the turf
2 – One Time Only
3 – Invading Humor
I don’t trust White Sangria, who ran some fast races on hard turf courses down in Florida, but has not been seen since March, and had never attained that level of performance in her prior New York races. She’s a player, but she’s not for me at what should be a relatively short price.
ONE TIME ONLY (#2) will be very tough to beat. I think she’s best sprinting on the turf and her race at Santa Anita back in February would trounce this field. It’s possible that she’s gone a little off form recently, but her last race, on the dirt, is not a true indication of her current condition. She’s fair value at odds of 5-2 or higher.
I picked her second, but I’m perhaps most interested in INVADING HUMOR (#3), who ran much better than it appears on paper last time. The chart comment fails to mention that she broke over a length slowly and rushed up the rail to get early position. She was rank moving down the backstretch and around the turn and had to squeeze through between horses while diving inside in the stretch. All things considered, for a first start off a long layoff, I thought it was a great effort. A step forward off that performance makes her a player here.
$15 Win 2
$10 WIN 3 (Payout: $82.00)
$2 EXACTA BOX 2,3 (Payout: $106.00)
In the coming days I’ll be making some changes to this site. You may have noticed that certain pages have fallen out of use recently, and I plan on removing them during the break before the Saratoga meet begins. Moving forward, I will post my daily picks, bets, and analysis on this site, as long as my schedule permits. In essence, I’ll be doing the same amount of work as I always have in terms of watching replays and handicapping races, but I can longer set aside the time to share my trip notes—at least not in the form of dedicated blog entries.