Picks have been updated post-scratches.
Friday, August 21
Race 6: Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares
3 – Smart Alex
If likely favorite Carrumba (#7) takes another step forward, she is probably going to win. However, you could have said the same last time when she wasn’t able to run down Theophilia at 4/5. The extra distance is supposed to help her, but the same goes for a few others in here. While I do think you have to use Carrumba on your A-ticket of any multi-race plays, I wouldn’t rely solely on her.
Regia Marina (#4) looks like a prime contender on paper, but is a horse that you just can’t trust to get the job done. Perhaps she was too close to the pace early last time, but she readily surrendered to Fast Retailing after making the lead, yet another example of her seemingly squandering an opportunity to break out of the maiden ranks.
My top pick is SMART ALEX (#3). I know that this filly looks a little slower than the aforementioned two, but I think we’re going to see her best performance yet today. In her debut, she chased off the rail on a day when you really wanted to be down inside. She then took a step forward in her second start over a sloppy track in January before being put away for six months. She returned at seven furlongs, again over a sloppy track, and I was encouraged by her run that day. After breaking well, she appeared to be uncomfortable with the kickback early in the race and around the turn, but leveled off well and finished up strongly through the stretch. Now she comes second off the layoff, and stretches out in distance, which I believe she’ll appreciate. Smarty Jones is a solid stamina influence and there’s plenty of route pedigree on her dam’s side. (She also has plenty of wet track influences in her pedigree, if you believe in that.)
The pace situation is a bit murky here with so many stretchout sprinters in the mix, but I expect Eric Cancel to have this filly in good position on or close to the early pace.
$15 Win 3
$4 Exacta Key Box 3 with 4,7
Race 7: Allowance N1X at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf for NY-breds
6 – Dean Verdile
Let’s start with the horses coming out of that starter allowance at Belmont on July 19th. I don’t want any of them. I know Black Tide looks like a top contender on paper, but I think he has issues taking the turns in these turf sprints, so he may not care for the switch to Saratoga. I also think that field was weaker than what those horses meet today, which is why I can’t take trip horse Luv Dakota Skye.
In my opinion, the top contenders are drawn towards the outside. Banana Thief and Dark Roast both bring solid recent races and proven form over this Saratoga turf course. I’m also afraid of Manoffire, who appears to be coming out of some decent maiden races and may stack up well with these.
That said, I want to go in slightly different direction and take a shot with a price. That horse is first time turfer DEAN VERDILE (#6). This horse broke out with a gutsy performance in his debut, but has not been able to replicate that effort in three subsequent starts against tougher company. Now Bruce Levine moves him to turf and I think that this change of surface might be what wakes Dean Verdile up. He has two siblings to race, and both were better on turf than dirt. Yes It’s True isn’t the strongest turf influence, but there are enough pedigree indicators on the dam’s side for me take a shot with this long shot.
$10 Win/Place 6
$2 Exacta Key Box 6 with 5,8,9,10
Race 8: Claiming $40,000 at 6 1/2 furlongs
5 – Nubin Ridge
Monster Mash coming out of this race really opens things up. I had picked NUBIN RIDGE (#5) before scatches and I’m sticking with him now, albeit at a shorter price. It feels like there’s going to be at least an honest pace here with the speedy Scatter Joy in the mix and I just can’t resist the trainer change for Nubin Ridge. This horse ran some decent races against tougher company for the prior connections and has always done his best work in these extended dirt sprints (6.5F-7F).
$15 Win/Place 5
$2 Exacta Key Box 5 with 1,3,6,10,11
Race 10: Maiden Special Weight at 6 1/2 furlongs
5 – Marking (scratched)
Of those that have run, the one that I want the most is Imslopokerodriguez (#9), whose debut was a very good effort against a salty maiden field. It is a little curious that he hasn’t run in nearly four months since then, but he appears to be working steadily for his return and is a major contender if she shows up with anything close to his debut run.
However, I’m picking first time starter MARKING (#5) on top. This colt comes into this race with a sparkling worktab and a pedigree that suggests today’s wet track should be to his liking. Kiaran McLaughlin is having the Saratoga meet of a lifetime where almost every horse he’s sent out has been live. The tote board should tell the story here.
$20 Win 5
$5 Exacta Box 5,9