12:18 PM – The first two races are in the books and a dirty four letter word is being used to describe the outcome. That’s right, it appears as if we might have a speed bias on the main track and there won’t be another race on the dirt until the 5th. From there the Victory Ride will be the next dirt event, so we’re basically going to be betting the Pick 4 today with no idea if ground can be made up.
In the 3rd I’m sticking with Nolangrant’skitten, who is currently the co-favorite at 3-1. Best of luck!
We’re currently about 92 minutes from first post at Saratoga for the marathon 13 race card and the scratches are available by clicking here. The biggest scratch on the program is probably #1 KID KATE in the 9th, the Victory Ride, which serves as the first leg of the $1 million guaranteed Pick 4. My analysis for the entire card can be viewed by clicking here.
As far as the stakes races on the card, here’s how I see them:
Race 8, The Ballston Spa (G2)
#8 CHEROKEE QUEEN is in position to rebound from a foul-up at the start of the Matchmaker last time out at Monmouth as she lost jockey Elvis Trujillo leaving the starting gate. She entered that race as the favorite based on her handy win in a 200k stake at Philly and her 4th place finish in the Just a Game could have easily been much better had jockey Garrett Gomez been able to move her through on the inside in deep stretch. Prior to the trainer change to Marty Wolfson she was a solid allowance caliber filly but now she’s a legitimate graded stakes horse and her running style makes her a great fit in this affair. Wolfson hasn’t shipped many horses to the Spa in the last five years but is 2-5 and both of those wins came in GI stakes. #3 PHOLA will be dropping out of consecutive Grade Is and looking to improve on a somewhat dull run in the Diana Handicap. She was up against it pace-wise in that event as the opening half went in a pedestrian :49 and 2/5. The pace looks like it’ll be a bit hotter in this event and that certainly works to this filly’s advantage. Provided jockey Ramon Dominguez can save some ground and get the right setup, she’ll be a strong late factor. #9 MARAM rolled home in the Ms. Liberty two starts back then received a poor ride in the Diana as she was very close to the pace before weakening late. Her best efforts have come when she’s been able to lay back and make one run and a return to that could turn things around. Trainer Chad Brown has hit at a 22% rate on the Spa turf courses since taking out his trainer’s license and should have this gal ready to make a serious impact today. PICKS: 8-3-9
Race 9, The Victory Ride (G3)
The best race #5 WORSTCASESCENARIO has ever run came at this track last summer when she was dismissed at 13-1 in the Adirondack. Today will mark the first time she starts at odds greater than 10-1 and deservedly so given her 0-5 mark since the Adirondack score. She’s going 2nd off a layoff for trainer Rick Violette today and the race she exits was replete with trouble. A bad stumble at the start basically ruined her chances to contest the pace then she made a bold move around the turn before weakening in the stretch drive. The expected vicious pace in here could actually work in her favor if jockey Alan Garcia can get her to relax off the early running. To say that #3 RAPPORT is crazy fast is a woeful understatement as she has sensational early speed, which she flaunted at Calder in the Azalea early last month. The early running took its toll in the stretch as she rapidly shortened stride leaving the 3/16ths pole but will now be re-united with the rider who piloted her to consecutive victories out west. There are others in here who have some speed but none of her rivals can keep her company in the early stages. They’ll all have to rely on her beating herself once again, which could be a dicey proposition. #7 BEYONDALLBOUNDARYS enters off a win in the Dearly Precious where she enjoyed a perfect setup but it’s clear that this filly is figuring things out and has found a niche as a mid-pack presser. Trainer Tom Amoss has been victorious at Saratoga in the past as he took the Sanford with Backtalk in 2009. With Rapport and a couple of others in here set to ensure a rapid early pace then this gal is going to be in position to capitalize. PICKS: 5-3-7
Race 10, The Ballerina (G1)
Despite her remarkable consistency, #1 RIGHTLY SO is often overlooked as she was sent off at 12-1 in the Vagrancy then 7/2 in the Bed O’ Roses. She won the latter with a determined stretch drive and she set very strong fractions in that event. There was another 7f event for males on that card (N2X) which went 2/5ths of a second slower, so this gal and #5 QUALIA certainly ran bang-up races. Five horses have run back from that race and three were victorious in their next start. Four of the five improved their Beyer figure substantially (4 pts to 21 pts) so it has the look of a key race and taking the winner of such an event is never a bad idea. #2 WARBLING lost all chance at the start of her last outing as she leapt in the air at the break and was relegated to last in the quintet. She made a good late move but the eventual winner had enjoyed a perfect setup from just off the pace and was never going to be caught. With a clean break and a more aggressive rider she should be within range from the start and it’s clear her best would make her a major factor in crunch time. The aforementioned Qualia nearly took the top prize in her first foray into graded stakes races as she came up a head shy behind the top pick. She was even money and had dead aim on Rightly So but came up short and will now have to find what kept her from tracking her down last time out. A steady worktab for a strong barn makes her even more appealing. PICKS: 1-2-5
Race 11, The King’s Bishop (G1)
#6 BANK MERGER will be in position to benefit most from the expected scorching pace in here as he exits a visually impressive win on opening day where he was left at the start and forced to rally from well behind the field. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is moving him up in class aggressively but he is 8 for his last 20 with graded stakes starters going 2nd off a layoff and coming off a win. That shows you that the confidence the barn is showing is very significant and this guy cannot just be discarded as a mudlark who freaked with a good pace setup. Look for him late at what will be a square price. #4 DISCREETLY MINE will be asked to back up his tremendous Amsterdam victory with another strong effort as he seeks his first Grade I victory. His win last time out was sensational as he stalked a hot pace then powered clear in crunch time, leaving his rivals in the dust. The question marks on this guy include the fact that the frontrunners dominated in the Amsterdam and this will be this colt’s 3rd start in 8 weeks, the same setup that seemed to leave Devil May Care lacking one week ago. There’s little concrete info to use against this guy but there are enough chinks in his armor to shop for alternatives in the Pick 4. #5 BULLDOGGER is another looking to duplicate a breakthrough performance as he cruised in a N1X at this track two weeks ago. He showed ample early speed in that event and is likely to get the lead once again today but there are at least two competitors in here who will make his life difficult on the front end. If he can outlast Discreetly Mine and D’Funnybone and have something in the tank, it’s conceivable he’ll pick up his 2nd win in 3 Saturdays. PICKS: 6-4-5
Race 12, The Travers (G1)
Will the public believe that #6 ICE BOX is capable of turning things around? If not, then the Kentucky Derby runner-up could be dispatched at a bigger price than he was in the Run for the Roses. He ran a dreadful race in the Belmont as it did not play out to his strengths in any way, shape or form then he was very dull in the Haskell. As the pace goes, so goes this colt’s chances and his stablemate, plus a couple of other projected pacesetters will guarantee that this guy gets the setup that he needs. The jockey change to Julien Leparoux is a positive as he is quite adept with horses from off the pace. Look for this chestnut colt to be flying in the waning stages. #2 TRAPPE SHOT was the 2nd choice in the Haskell last time out and he ran a very nice race to grab the place dough after encountering mild trouble at a couple of different points during the race. He is a rapidly improving, talented colt who proved at the Shore that he can handle classic distances. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin being on the fence with regards to where he’d run was probably overblown as this race seemed like a no brainer following the Haskell. He has the tactical speed to stay close and that’ll give him the jump on the one run plodders like the top pick. #8 FLY DOWN encountered some trouble in the Jim Dandy, most of which was the fact that jockey Jose Lezcano kept him pinned down inside. He is a big, long striding colt who needs to be kept in the clear and needs ample time to get his engine cranked. The expected hot pace also works in his favor and you have to think he’ll be in position to move forward in his 2nd off a brief layoff. If he floats up from his morning line price of 8-1 he easily becomes one of the most interesting wagering prospects in this deep and contentious field. PICKS: 6-2-8
Whether you like sprints, 2YOs, maiden races, turf, graded stakes or anything else, there’s something in this card you can seek your teeth into this afternoon. Remember that there’s a Pick 4 in the middle of today’s card in addition to the standard early (Races 2-5) and late (9-12) quads. Best of luck and I’ll be back tomorrow to recap the day’s action!