We’ve been exceedingly lucky with the weather up in Saratoga this meet . . .until the last eight days or so. It has been pouring since the early hours of morning here and I am expecting that all the non-stakes will be taken off turf.
This type of weather means many potential non-runners, even in the dirt races, so be careful before you go cherry picking early prices. Reductions likely will be forthcoming.
We start off early, in Race 1 (6:10) where I think #6 HAPPY SOPHIA is better than the bare form suggests based on the last couple of trips, and she fits on the bare form alone. A good run is expected from on or near the pace, and that’s a style that is often even more advantaged on a wet track.
In Race 3 (7:18), I’d like to play two against the field. #4 L'IMPERATOR is interesting in his first start for the Chad Brown powerhouse stable and the cut in the ground is of no concern. I liked the look of the work two back with Noor Sahara who ran a winning race in the De La Rose earlier in the meet. Current odds of 9-2 would leave plenty of room to still be value.
I’d also like to play #7 IRISH MIAS, who I expect will step up in his third start as a gelding, given he has excuses for the last two. He was stuck behind a slow gallop last time and likely needed the run two back off the long break. A double-figure price should be on offer.
In Race 6 (8:57), I think #10 HAPPYMAC is going to take a lot of beating. Steve Asmussen has been fantastic with his debut runners this meet and this one looks very fast. By new sire Runhappy and eligible for a $100,000 bonus if he wins this, but my real interest pedigree wise comes from the dam side as he’s out of a broodmare that has dropped seven winners from seven starters.
In Race 7 (9:32), the Grade 2 Amsterdam, I’ll stay on board the Steve Asmussen train and see if we can get #2 YAUPON into the station. This looks a seriously talented runner whose tactical versatility and great hold-up jock (Joel Rosario) make me think he can let the other speed go and take over on the turn. Or he might just have the speed to blitz them.
I love that he has more than one way to win and think anything odds against represents value.
My views on Race 8 (10:07), the Grade 1 Forego, have changed a bit with the weather and I’d like to really get a sense of how the track is playing before I commit to a final pick in this one. The good news is that I’ll be on Sky Sports Stateside tonight so you can tune in to watch. I will run through thoughts on a few of the contenders.
#3 LEXITONIAN has been my top pick since the draw. In one sense, he was flattered last time, making a late run in a race that was falling apart. But it’s critical to note that he’s not some one-run closer. He has had major gate issues but actually possesses plenty of speed. If he can break cleanly and use that speed from the outset I think he can win at a double figure price. Wet dirt is a question mark but on breeding it should be fine.
#6 COMPLEXITY is vying for top pick status at this point given how he freaked in the wet last November and the expected outside speed type trip he’ll likely get today.
#7 WIN WIN WIN is another double-figure price worth highlighting. He had a no chance trip last time and this task – sprinting on dirt – might be what he’s wanted all along. He bombed in his lone wet dirt start but that was also in the Kentucky Derby so he can be forgiven.
As for the faves, Whitmore is an incredibly cool class horse who makes perfect sense on form and figures. I find others more appealing at the prices. #4 Funny Guy has a ton of “wise guy” support and has been working well but I find myself unmoved at the odds given the class test he faces and where he fits on pace figures.
As for my play, it’s likely to be possibly all three of the ones I mentioned above, all depending on prices.
Saratoga’s ninth race (10:43) is the Grade 1 Sword Dancer, a Win-And-You’re-In race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. It feels likely that it could have larger BC implications than usual in 2020 for two reasons. For one, the race didn’t have to compete with the Arlington Million this year (because of the latter’s cancellation). For another, we’ll have to see how many English/Irish/French shippers decide to make the journey to the USA for this year’s Breeders’ Cup.
I like the ex-John Gosden trainee #5 CORELLI in this spot. The back form is strong, and this horse (now gelded) had a trip excuse in the United Nations, where he broke poorly and was stuck chasing a perfect trip winner in Aquaphobia, who re-opposes here. I think Corelli, whose barn is heating up, can turn the tables on that one – current odds of 10-1 are way too big.
I’ll also highlight #7 Pedro Cara, now in the care of Graham Motion, as a potential improver. This could be a horse that really moves up with Lasix and we know soft ground is no issue. I like Corelli better but this is another I may back.
I’ll also give a quick word about #8 Sadler's Joy. He was best last time when disqualified and has showed a ton of class and heart in his career. A win would be no surprise – and a great tale of redemption for these connections. And should he go on to win, he’d have to be considered amongst the top ante-post choices, if not the out and out favorite, for the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Others appeal to me more as far as wagering goes today, but he’s the coolest horse in the race and deserves to be highlighted.
Speaking of Win-And-You’re-In races for the Breeders’ Cup, there is the G2 Pat O’Brien (2:38 Sunday) at Del Mar in the wee small hours of tomorrow morning as well.
I thought #1 LAW ABIDIN CITIZEN ran a blinder last time, and at odds of 7-1 he is an appealing option to try and wire this group today as there really isn’t a lot of speed for a sprint of this caliber.
I may also play #5 C Z Rocket, a horse fancied by a guest on my racingpicks.com podcast this week, Tyler Hoffman. Tyler pointed out that this horse has blossomed into a machine under the care of Peter Miller, and that he has the tactical versatility to get a great trip.
If this new improvement is real and continues here, this is one you can start thinking about seriously for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.