Even if you aren’t a fan of steeplechase racing, Thursday’s opener is worth your attention. It’s the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick, and among the runners is a horse named Mr. Hot Stuff. Way back in 2009, he ran in the Kentucky Derby. More recently, in 2013, he won this very race at Saratoga.
Four years after that Grade 1 triumph, and eight years after running on thoroughbred racing’s grandest stage, Mr. Hot Stuff will attempt to win another big race…at the age of 11 years young. Some of his Derby opponents have already had offspring win Grade 1 races and retire (most notably, Pioneerof the Nile’s American Pharoah), and yet here’s Mr. Hot Stuff, still competing at a high level over fences. Phenomenal, isn’t it?
WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: Key horse Finley’sluckycharm was defeated despite a huge Honorable Miss effort, but we still made out OK. We hit the $12.60 exacta five times, and our $25 investment returned a total of $63.
THURSDAY’S PLAY: I think Chad Brown’s in line for a big day, and I’ll single two of his entered betting interests in the early Pick Four. I’ll single #10 SILVER SHAKER in the third, punch the “ALL” button in the fourth, include #2 CYRIELLE and #3 PUTTINYOUONTHENEWS in the fifth, and single the entry of #1 RAY’S THE BAR and #1A TRICKED UP in the sixth. Due to the low cost of the ticket, I’ll play it for $1 instead of the normal 50-cent denomination.
TOTAL WAGERED: $16
Best Bet: Brown entry, Race 6
Longshot: Celtic Chaos, Race 9
Mr. Hot Stuff
MR. HOT STUFF: Will attempt the remarkable feat of winning the same Grade 1 steeplechase race four years after he last captured it. He’s got plenty of back form, and he’s one of the top jump horses in the country when he’s right; PORTRADE: Won last year’s Turf Writers Handicap and was a close-up second two back. There’s a lot of speed signed on, but the cutback in distance could help him here; SCHOODIC: Is a “feast or famine” type, but when he’s right, he’s quite good. He won a Grade 2 two back, and the likely race shape should work in his favor.
FORTUNATE QUEEN: Is my reluctant top pick in the first of many complicated flat races today. She drops in for a tag in her first start for Rudy Rodriguez, and she ran some OK races out west earlier in her career that would make her tough if replicated here; BIXBY LOU: Has burned money as the favorite in her first three starts, and is another dropping in class. Her effort two back was solid, and she could be tough (especially if she solves the gate issues she’s had); MISS PEARL: Merits a look at a price. She was an OK second last time out at Finger Lakes, and she figures to be prominent early on.
SILVER SHAKER: Drops in for a tag off of a pair of maiden special weight efforts that weren’t bad. The outside post is an obstacle, but continued progression would make her formidable in this spot; ANOTHERTEQUILASHOT: Quizzically tried Grade 3 company two back and drops in for a tag for the first time this afternoon. She’s a one-run closer who would benefit from some speed being shown by others early; SUMMER FALLS: Is a European import getting Lasix for the first time, which is a move that must always be respected. Her runs overseas were nothing to write home about, but she may not need to be much to get a piece of it in her American debut. DIRT SELECTIONS: SILVER SHAKER, MADDY’S WAY, AIFE.
SARATOGA MISCHIEF: Draw lines through the inner track races, and you have a horse that’s done little wrong over fast dirt tracks. He was second in a Grade 2 here back in 2015 and could get an ideal trip rating just off the abundant early speed; AT GUARD: Figures to be the main speed, especially in his first effort as a gelding. If he recaptures his 2016 form, he could be tough here; HARD HITTER: Could benefit from the slight cutback in distance, and would move up considerably in the event of a wet track.
CYRIELLE: Has a worktab not often seen among debuting runners from this barn. She seems very precocious, which would back up the $300,000 purchase price, and offspring of Animal Kingdom have been very impressive so far this year; PUTTINYOUONTHENEWS: Showed speed in her debut last month at Belmont and should improve at second asking. Irad staying aboard is a major plus; SWEET OFFER: Is a full sibling to Grade 1 winner Sidney’s Candy and Grade 3 winner Sweet Swap. Hennig trainees sometimes need a race or two to get going, but this one certainly fits on pedigree. DIRT SELECTIONS: CYRIELLE, TALK SOFTLY, NO DEAL.
BROWN ENTRY: It wouldn’t be shocking to see RAY’S THE BAR and TRICKED UP run 1-2 in some order here. Both have shown immense ability at times, and this looks like a very tough entry to get past in handicapping; MIGHTY MO: Ran against some heavy hitters last year but misfired when back up north last month. He may have needed the race, and the return to two turns should help him; TUSK: Is a deep closer who would benefit immensely from a speed duel up front. He may need more pace than he’ll get, but the late kick he’s shown means he’s worth a look underneath. DIRT SELECTIONS: BARATTI, DEVINE DENTAL, TOOHOTTOEVENSPEAK.
Far From Over
TOM’S D’ETAT: Was extremely impressive in his last-out victory at Churchill. He won at this route by daylight last summer, and stakes races could be in his future with another sharp performance here; SPLASHTASTIC: Recorded a pair of triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in two downstate defeats this past spring. Based on those numbers, he’ll be tough, but his last two wins both came in perfect-trip efforts on Aqueduct’s quirky inner track; FAR FROM OVER: Has been equal parts brilliant and perplexing in a strange career that’s seen him sidelined for long periods of time. His best race may win this, but those last two clunkers and the expected low odds are a lot for this handicapper to swallow.
AVA’S KITTEN: Likely needed her 2017 debut off such a long layoff. Her one-turn turf races are considerably better than her two-turn efforts, and she won at this route last season; BLUE BAHIA: Has won six of her eight turf starts, including a minor stakes race at Monmouth back in May. She has plenty of speed, but does not need the lead, which could make for an ideal trip; ANCIENT SECRET: Has plateaued of late, having gone winless in her last four after reeling off four straight wins to start her career. Her best race could win, but this is her first time going such a short distance, and she may need more ground.
Fish Trappe Road
CELTIC CHAOS: There’s a LOT of early speed signed on in today’s co-feature, and that could set things up for this stone closer that’s won two in a row. The faster they go early, the more he’ll like it, and we may get a bit of a price; WEEKEND HIDEAWAY: Has won over a million dollars the hard way and is an easy horse to root for. He loves Saratoga, and his usual race likely gets him a big piece of the purse; FISH TRAPPE ROAD: Faces state-bred competition for the first time since 2015. When he’s on his game, this graded stakes winner is very good, and he could appreciate the class relief he gets in this spot.
True Love Is Yare
FAHAN MURA: Drops back into the claiming ranks after an OK third at Parx last time out. That day’s runner-up has since come back to win, and this one’s races against claimers have all been solid; TRUE LOVE IS YARE: Sat a perfect trip on the front end to graduate at second asking in her last effort and tries winners for the first time. She’ll likely have company on the front end, but there’s certainly room for her to improve in her third lifetime start; OWESAYCANYOUSEE: Tried tougher company last time out at Monmouth and drops back into the claiming ranks. Top speed rider Paco Lopez rides this frontrunner for Jersey-based trainer Pat McBurney, who has hit at a 20% clip this year as of this writing. DIRT SELECTIONS: WOUNDWITHHEREYES, OWESAYCANYOUSEE, CINCY BELLE.