One week down, seven to go.
Saratoga got off to a fun, though non-traditional, start last week with four days of action. We’ve got 36 more days to run.
This is the first year we’ve ever had two days off during the racing week at Saratoga and I’m writing this on the second one. Let me just say that I’m a big fan. It’s nice to be able to take a deep breath and have two days in which to get everything done that one needs to do in life.
Some players accustomed to racing in England/Ireland might not realize this but until this year we were averaging 9 plus races a day for six days a week. At best, you felt like you were barely catching up. At worst, it felt like you were drowning in work.
It was always fun, but I often felt more like a whirling dervish than a human being. This year we should be on better footing.
I have one quick thank you to make before we get on to the horses to watch. There’s a legendary figure in the Saratoga backyard known to me only as The General. I’m not sure what army he leads on a regular basis, but I can assure you that he bossed the bill at Nove on Sunday night like Bernard Montgomery himself. Thank you, General.
The meal was excellent, full of Italian-American specialties and accompanied by fine Piemontese wine. But the thing that struck me looking around that table of 14 was the collective brainpower of the crew.
With us were brothers Paul and Duke Matties, both professional horseplayers, accomplished tournament player Dan Slattery, jockey agent turned pro bettor Tommy Ogre, and my own podcast co-host, TV star and contest champion Jonathon Kinchen, among others.
It occurred to me that if the people at this table had put their minds to science or politics instead of playing the horses, it’s quite possible we’d cured all disease and accomplished world peace by now.
But Saratoga wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.
On to the week one horses to watch...
SHIPPY was very strong in the market against our top pick Comical in the Schuylerville and took a bump at the break, tried hard thereafter and is worth a long look on reappearance. This race was likely better than it looked.
I liked NEVERLAND ROCK’s run in the Quick Call. This is a race where the pace fell apart and Neverland Rock was the best of the speeds, winning the battle but losing the war. He opened up clear in the lane before being swallowed late by closers. Good chance to improve next out.
GOOD SHABBOS has now started twice without success, but this one is overdue to win his maiden and may well do so next out. He was fifth early and didn’t have the smoothest of journeys against Vast in Friday’s 2-year-old MSW. The race flow there favored horses who were ahead early so this is another effort that was BTL (better than looked). Could be overlooked next time and still has potential.
I thought MR HAVERCAMP was really good in the Forbidden Apple, attacking a fast pace while wide-ish and holding off the closers. Many will dismiss next out saying that this was the time you wanted to have him, but he might just be improving.
ZYRAMID’s maiden win had a faster pace and final figure than By Your Side’s stakes win. He might be the best 2-year-old we saw on Saturday. I’m also keeping an eye on PEDDLERS PRIDE who was third. He showed talent after overcoming some early antics, staying on nicely in a race where the pace held together. Should improve.
Another Mott 2-year-old firster named MR JAGGERS impressed two races later. There was positive word on this one and he was bet like it. He showed talent despite being green in the lane, coming home fast and looking to figure things out as the race went on. Progressive sort I’m very interested in following.
You can’t talk about the Diana without mentioning the team tactics, which suited Sistercharlie to a tee. The quick gallop early set by pacesetting Thais was too much for Rushing Fall and dulled Homerique’s turn of foot, but was just perfect for the more grinding style of Sistercharlie.
Will be interesting to follow how the three are campaigned from here – all should have a chance to win more G1s. One interesting idea I heard floated for RUSHING FALL was the Fourstardave at a mile against males later in the meet – she’d be very dangerous in there if she’s ready to run back.
In Sunday’s first race, Sweet Melania became the first American Pharoah baby to win at Saratoga but the horse I’m the most interested in going forward is LUCKY JINGLE. This Graham Motion trainee had a nice overall look and comported herself well in the paddock, but also looked like she’d come on for the run (not fully fit). She ran well enough anyway, managing third, and should improve.
Both VARENKA and CATCH A BID put on a show in the allowance race that went as the eighth, giving us a finish that looked like the graded stakes in which they’ll both soon be competing. I’m very interested in both and have a (possibly farfetched) hope, that Varenka in particular is one who we might see at Royal Ascot next year should everything go according to plan and should she continue to realize her immense talent.
For more from me, check out inthemoneypodcast.com and be sure to watch all the action from Saratoga live on Sky Sports Racing Stateside.