Peter Fornatale at Saratoga

With Saturday’s racing at Saratoga cancelled, Peter Fornatale puts forward his best bets for Sunday’s action which includes the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.

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Saturday’s racing at Saratoga has been canceled. I feel badly for several of my friends who will only be up here this weekend and therefore will miss their only chance this year to experience a Saratoga Saturday, but on the whole, I do not mind the unexpected off day.

It’s a chance to enjoy other aspects of the town. I can go to the amazing farmer’s market, which I typically don’t have time for, and instead of a quick grilling night for dinner like last night (hangar steaks, rocket salad, corn on the cob), I can play with my smoker out back and take on a proper project: pulled pork buns with ginger scallion sauce, as well as some shrimp and mushroom options for the non-carnivores.

Racing wise, there are some things to bet at Monmouth and Del Mar, so I’ll rotate back and forth between The Green Egg in the extreme heat out back and the computers in the lovely air conditioning inside. Mainly, I’ll start spending my attention on tomorrow’s (Sunday) Saratoga card and I’ll get to that in a minute, but first I want to tell you the story of another Saratoga cancellation.

The year was 2006. Equine welfare was correctly in our minds that summer because of the ill-fated Barbaro. There was a heat spell very much like this current one, and the forecasts a few days out had Thursday the equal of today – a heat index over 105 F (that’s over 40 C).

I was working for the Saratoga Special then, and I floated the idea in the office on Tuesday that Thursday’s racing would be canceled. “Impossible,” my colleagues said collectively. 

As a betting man, I sensed an opportunity. “Would anyone care to make a wager on this proposition?” I offered.

My friend Jim Mulvihill, new to the Special that summer, logged so many miles on his bicycle that summer that it was rumored he was training for next year’s Tour de France. Jim is a great guy, who generally has a good opinion when it comes to all things racing related. But maybe not so much this time.

“I will definitely take that bet because there is no way that Saratoga is going to cancel,” he said.

“OK, what price will give me?” I asked, trying to price the scenario up in my head, thinking I could get 5-1.

“You can name your price and the stake because there is no way that Saratoga is going to cancel,” he repeated.

We agreed that my $1 stake would net me $1,000,000 in the event that Saratoga canceled and shook on it. Lo and behold, the next day there was an announcement. There would be no racing at Saratoga that Thursday due to the extreme heat.

I was thrilled. No, I didn’t expect to collect $1 million, but I figured I’d get bragging rights and a few dinners maybe. By pure coincidence, I saw Jim the next night at The Parting Glass. My brother and I were settled in down at Frank’s end, drinking Guinness and probably talking about what we were going to make for dinner the next day.

Jim walked over sheepishly and asked me, “What are we going to do about this?”

Friday had been a winning day, the summer was going well, and I was feeling magnanimous. In the end, I suggested we settle the debt by Jim picking up the tab for the beers. Before we left, we all had another round together.


Race 4 (7:07):

The CCA Oaks, originally slated for Saturday, was brought back here. GUARANA looks like a short-priced winner. This will be her first time around two turns but the added distance should be no issue for her based on what she’s accomplished so far.

She’s got the speed to negotiate a good trip and impressed last time, even if she was on the right part of the track. If you can’t stomach the short price and don’t want to pass, you could also play an exacta with Guarana and Point of Honor for George Weaver.

She closed well last time without the benefit of a good setup and has an immense amount of talent. The sky looks the limit for these two.

Race 8 (9:32):

I typically expect Steve Asmussen’s second-time starters to improve and if that’s the case with BASIN then the rest of this field might be in trouble. Basin broke poorly first out but ran well overall, just going down despite that beginning and making a wide middle move.

Three have come back to run from that race and all hit the board and improved their figures. Basin is very live.

Race 11 (11:16):

MORTICIA is a mare I’ve bet and tipped many times before – she’s got the right blend of early speed and finishing ability to win this Listed stake. The one I’m concerned about is Significant Form – she improved mightily last out when turf sprinting for the first time. I’ll bet Morticia to win and cover in an exacta with those two.

Race 13 (00:20):

SHE’S A JULIE may have a tactical edge with her speed and rail draw – no Elate to worry about this time around. I’ll take my chances with her in the Shuvee.

For more from me, check out and be sure to watch all the action from Saratoga live on Sky Sports Racing Stateside.

Peter Fornatale at Saratoga
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