Saturday, September 13
Race 1: Allowance N1X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
2 – Street Gent
My selection here isn’t exactly the most likely winner, but he’s one that I really wanted to point out because I believe that he merits a closer look, especially if you had originally dismissed him as simply a dirt horse. STREET GENT (#2) began his career on turf with two lackluster performances, but I think there’s reason to believe that he can do much better this afternoon.
Street Gent displayed some significant gate issues in each of his first two starts, which saw him get away very slowly, placing him well behind the pack early in both of those races. Given that he’s shown a fondness for racing up close to the pace since getting over those gate problems, there’s reason to believe that his poor turf performances were due more to trip than a lack of affinity for the surface. His pedigree supports that notion. Street Gent is by decent turf sire Street Sense (13% winners) and out of a turf-winning dam who has produced five turf winners, no less than four of which have earned over $100,000 racing on the grass. Among that group are stakes winners Turfiste and Beau Dare.
Street Gent appears to be training aggressively since his return to the races earlier this summer, and I see some subtle signs that he might be rounding into career form. Given that he has a bit of speed, his inside post position should afford him a great advantage over this unique mile and a sixteenth configuration. I think he has a legitimate chance to upset this field.
Breakeven Analysis (#1) can improve off his return, but I’m perhaps more interested in his stablemate, Financial Mogul (#1A), who is by excellent turf sire Street Boss, and is a half-brother to four turf winners. Santa Elf (#4) was hindered by slow paces in both of his turf starts at Saratoga, and should benefit from a more honestly run race today. I’m slightly against morning line favorite Cashmere Cat, who has gotten some very fortunate trips in his recent turf starts, and could be up against it from his outside post today. I’ll bet Street Gent to win at what should be a generous price, and will use him underneath the entry and Santa Elf in the exacta.
$15 Win 2
$5 Exacta 1,4 with 2
Race 4: Starter Allowance $50,000 at 6 1/2 furlongs
7 – Moonluck
I was really disappointed to see MOONLUCK (#7) show up for a $20,000 tag at Saratoga last time. When this horse began his career last fall, I was certain that he possessed a ton of ability after overcoming strong rail biases to register a pair of very good second place finishes. However, my disappointment was somewhat alleviated after seeing Moonluck destroy a group of overmatched rivals in a facile return victory. He was claimed by David Jacobson out of that race, and now is stepped way up in class to run in a $50,000 starter allowance. There were certainly plenty of easier spots for him to run this horse, so I take this placing as a very good sign. Pecorino and Giant Fox are the other main players, but if Jacobson can get Moonluck back to the form he displayed last fall, the rest of these may be running for second.
$20 Win 7 (Payout: $39.00)
Race 5: Maiden Special Weight at seven furlongs on the turf for two year-olds
8 – Call Daddy
This is a bit of a guess in a very tough race, but I’m taking a shot with CALL DADDY (#8). This horse was bet very strongly in his debut despite the fact that there were well-regarded runners from Todd Pletcher and George Weaver also in the race. Call Daddy showed brief speed before stopping badly in the lane. I went back and watched his sales workout once more, and I can see why they paid so much money for him. I can also see why they’re switching this horse to turf today. He he was reaching out and extending nicely over the synthetic track at OBS, but was visibly not moving as comfortably over Saratoga’s main track last time. He has one half-sibling that won on turf, and that horse is by Birdstone, so it’s reasonable to assume that this son of Scat Daddy will take to this surface. It also doesn’t hurt that he is probably the main speed in a race filled with inexperienced runners.
$10 Win 8
Race 6: Claiming $25,000N2L at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
2 – Papa Freud
PAPA FREUD’s (#2) best efforts clearly make him one of the major players in this race, but I have a feeling that the board will not reflect this. Yes, he’s just 1-for-26 in his career, but he’s run some pretty decent races over the past year in spite of a few lackluster rides. Most notably, two back he was taken too far back behind a slow pace, and last time he broke slowly before making a mid-race move and flattening out. He has run his best races when he’s been forwardly placed early, and he should be able to attain such a position from his advantageous inside post position today. He’s not exactly a winning type, so I’ll use him underneath some of the other major players, but I still think he’s a good win bet at around 10-1.
$10 Win 2
$2 Exacta 4,5,7,10 with 2
Race 7: The Noble Damsel (G3) at one mile on the turf for fillies and mares
5 – Tokyo Time
6 – Annecdote
I’ve long been a fan of TOKYO TIME (#5), and have often been disappointed by her. However, in typical Shug McGaughey fashion, it appears that he finally has this filly heading in the right direction. She apparently needed her return to the races this past May, and has since reeled off a pair of wins, the last of which being perhaps her best effort yet. She was allowed to set a moderate pace in that allowance win last time, but she showed a great burst of speed off the far turn and the result was never really in doubt. The second and third place finishers came back to finish one-two in a similar race later in the meet, so the performance was legitimate. This one mile distance appears to be perfect for her, and her early speed should be an asset in a race where the main pace presence is drawn just inside of her.
I also think Tokyo Time just happens to be catching a field of older fillies and mares that may not quite be what they once were. Horses like Byrama, Julie’s Love, and Baffle Me all would have been major forces in this race at one time or another, but it’s fair to question their current form. That’s why I’m also going in another direction for my second selection.
ANNECODOTE (#6) brings solid European form into this race and should have no problem with this distance. I know that her last race looks mildly disappointing, but that was the toughest field she had ever faced and she had previously proven her quality against Group 3 competition. It’s hard for me to gauge exactly how this race will be bet, but this filly probably deserves to be the favorite. Personally, I think she’d be a fair price at 3-1 or higher.
I can find too many holes in the other contenders, so I am going to focus my play on these two runners. I’ll bet them both to win provided the odds are fair and will box them in the exacta.
$20 Win 5
$15 Win 6 (Payout: $76.50)
$5 Exacta Box 5,6
Race 8: The Sands Point (G2) at 1 1/8 miles on the turf for fillies and mares
5 – Sea Queen
8 – Daring Dancer
I really struggled with this race, and if it weren’t the feature, I might not even be discussing it. As a public handicapper, I do feel some pressure to have an opinion in the bigger stakes races, so I’m giving it my best shot, though know that this is far from my strongest opinion on the card.
Xcellence is the horse to beat and the probable favorite. I’m not way against her, but there’s nothing about her that really makes me want to bet her. She didn’t have any real excuse in the Belmont Oaks, and last time I actually thought that she got a pretty good trip, and only didn’t win because she lacks enough of a late kick to put away a field of such quality. The same problem plagued her in her two Group 1 efforts in France. She clearly has ability, but I’m not sure that you can rely on her to finish off her races, and that’s a problem in a field this competitive.
Ball Dancing is an intriguing entrant since she definitely classes up with this field, but she did her best running going farther than this in France, and I wonder if she’ll ultimately prove best going marathon distances in this country.
I’ve never been her biggest fan, but I think that SEA QUEEN (#5) might be the most likely winner of this race. I’m not really sure how the pace is going to play out, but I do know that her rider will seize control of this race heading into the clubhouse turn if no one else shows initiative. Given that the other speeds are drawn to her outside, his hand may be forced, and I’d be just fine with that. She led almost the entire way in the Belmont Oaks and appears to be comfortable assuming that role. Last time, while she didn’t show up with her best effort, that pace was on the quick side, and she did most of the hard work attacking My Conquestadory on the far turn. I thought it was another respectable effort by a filly who just seems to always show up with that kind of effort.
I will also use DARING DANCER (#8), who was clearly best in the Lake George last time. A Little Bit Sassy sat a great trip stalking a very moderate pace, and Daring Dancer really had to come running to nail her on the wire under a perfect ride from Alan Garcia. The nine-furlong distance isn’t supposed to pose much of a problem for her given her pedigree, though I would be very concerned if it rains later. I don’t think this filly wants to run on anything but firm ground, and I expect that she’ll be scratched if it comes up good or yielding by post time. However, if the rain does hold off, she can be a major player here, provided that Velazquez is able to work out the right trip.
$15 Win 5
$10 Win 8
$2 Exacta Box 5,8
Race 10: Optional Claiming $40,000/N2X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for NY-breds
3 – Went the Day Well
In some ways, I think the worst thing that ever happened to WENT THE DAY WELL (#3) was that fourth place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He was rated well behind a suicidal pace up front and made up a ton of ground late in a race that totally fell apart in the late stages. When you really take a closer look at his past performances, that Kentucky Derby effort is the only truly good dirt race that this horse has ever run. Yes, he’s probably tailed off since then and his two races this year have been especially disappointing, but isn’t there a real possibility that he’s a turf/synthetic runner that has been campaigned on the wrong surface?
Going all the way back to his two year-old form, he showed a real affinity for the turf, twice finishing second in large fields in England. Most notably, in his second start, he lost to Thomas Chippendale by just a head, and that runner went on to win a pair of prestigious Group 2 races in Europe over the next couple of seasons.
This horse might actually be a pretty big price today, and if I’m right about his surface preference he’s probably going to win this race.
$10 Win 3