Peter Fornatale Blog

American racing expert Peter Fornatale previews all the main stakes action on Saturday's Churchill Downs and Saratoga cards, with the Kentucky Derby going to post at the former track.

  • Saturday 05 September
  • Blog
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I’ve been in Saratoga for Kentucky Derbies before, but never while racing up there – the combination has had me dizzy all week, working too much and studying so much form that I’ve been dreaming about it. Here are my cross-card thoughts for this most unusual Kentucky Derby Saturday/final Saturday of Saratoga.  

A quick word about Race 4 (18:26), the Grade 2 Glens Falls, to kick things off. Looks to me like #4 MY SISTER NAT should be ready to roll and has plenty in hand in terms of figure and form. Evens is a solid price as she looks odds-on to me.  

Main threat might be from her stablemate, #5 Eliade, who has worked well with the top pick and could step up off the last run. Not the strongest opinion of the day on My Sister Nat but worth mentioning because it’s a stake.  

In Race 5 (19:01), I thought #8 OFFICIATING was a wild price this morning, north of 20-1. Bill Mott’s second timers typically improve, and this one was annihilated at the break before showing some interest late. Great each-way value.  

In Race 6 (19:38), there were some good prices around about #7 SAY MOI. She should benefit from the cutback and has the natural speed to get a great forward trip. Even at 5-2 she’s a good bet.  

In Race 7 (20:11), #7 SIFTING SANDS looks like a runner based on the works and has a gorgeous pedigree. The powerhouse barn only adds to the appeal. Tote and paddock will offer more clues but if you can’t 2-1 after the main track runners scratch, that’s going to represent value.  

Race 8 (20:46) sees the return to the races of #7 JIMMY JAZZ. He’s had a rough go of things in his last two and I’m going to back him each-way today. One more chance to say “Satta Massagana” at the line.  

Race 9 (21:21) is the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and the market looks to have it right with #6 DR POST as a heavy jolly. His form would put him ahead of half the field in the Derby so he’s definitely supposed to win the Dandy.  

Stablemate #1 Happy Saver the obvious alternative but I don’t think there’s enough juice in the odds to put my hand in my pocket – or my finger on the keyboard as the case may be.  

Race 10 (21:57), the Grade 2 Prioress, sees the return to the races of #1 KIMARI, who needs little introduction to UK/IRE fans after her good Royal Ascot runs. Here’s the thing: she might be just as good on dirt and ought to have pace to set up her late run. Anything over 2-1 definitely value.  

We close out the Saratoga portion of the column with Race 11 (22:30), the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes. It’s long been my idea that the key to #2 TACITUS was the ten furlongs. I believe he outclasses this field and would bet him at 4/5 or higher.  

Churchill Downs picks  

In Race 8 (19:55), the Grade 2 American Turf, I’ll give slight preference to #4 FIELD PASS over #5 Smooth Like Straight. They definitely look like they have it between them but I think Field Pass might get the better setup and should be the better price.  

Race 9 (20:35) is the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile and I’ll mention two I like. #9 RUSHIE, as mentioned with Dr Post earlier, has form to put him in the top half of Derby contenders. Connections have decided the shorter trip will suit and I can’t argue – 7-2 looks a square price.  

On the longer end of the odds spectrum, I am intrigued by #5 DIGITAL (16-1 and higher) as a potential stinger. This one has form that ties in closely with one of the favs, Echo Town, and is getting back on the preferred surface here. Requires a little imagination, but a good each-way play at those odds.  

Race 10 (21:07), the Grade 3 Iroquois is tricky. At first I thought #10 Therideofalifetime might just blitz them – and he might – but the more I look I don’t trust him. I’ll take another shot at a number with #5 DREAMERS DISEASE.  

That grass race last time was fast and if the top pick can’t finish and he can transfer his form to dirt (should do on breeding) then I think he can win. That’s two “ifs” but when you’re looking at 14-1 (at least) a couple of “ifs” are to be expected. I’ll play each-way.  

Race 11 (21:39) is the Grade 2 Distaff Mile and I think it’s as simple as accept the odds-on price on #4 NEWSPAPEROFRECORD. She’s back, folks. And she is who we thought she was. Call this the old “fastest horse” angle.  

Race 12 (22:17) is the Grade 1 Derby City Distaff and I really like #10 CE CE. The cutback will suit her, as will the return to a faster midwestern racing surface. Should be pace to set up her late run. This will be a strong play for me.  

If you are looking for an alternative each-way play or as another for exotics, consider #6 Sally’s Curlin, coming out of a terrible trip with a very fast race to run back to two back. She’s 16-1 pretty much everywhere.  

Race 13 (22:50) is the Grade 1 Turf Classic and it’s got an open look. I’m betting #4 SACRED LIFE who appeared to improve mightily last time for Chad Brown and looks a big threat to win this based on closing sectionals and the expected strong run from off the pace in a race where there is plenty of speed.  

I’ll also mention #6 Mr Dumas as a potential each-way choice. This one should get a great stalking trip for top connections at double-digit odds.  

Race 14 (00:01 technically Sunday in the UK) is the Kentucky Derby. You can read my full write up here. I’m still thinking thoughts very much in line with the verdict there and I’m hungry for clicks.

Peter Fornatale Blog
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