Friday’s feature is the Curlin Stakes for 3-year-olds. In its short history, it’s produced a fair number of fine 3-year-olds, including 2014 Travers winner V.E. Day and 2016 Pennsylvania Derby and Cigar Mile hero Connect. Unfortunately, it falls at a rotten time of the season, and in some instances could wind up taking horses away from races like the Haskell and Jim Dandy (which will both be run this weekend).
My idea: Going forward, move the Curlin to Travers Day, where it would serve a role akin to the Easy Goer on Belmont Day. Doing so may attract up-and-coming 3-year-olds and horses that found the waters of the Haskell or Jim Dandy to be too deep. Furthermore, it would add one more stakes race to Saratoga’s biggest day.
THURSDAY’S RESULTS: We scratched out of the early Pick Four when races were moved off the turf.
FRIDAY’S PLAY: I found Friday’s card to be a real puzzle, and I’ll focus on the fifth. I’ll keep it simple, as I think first-time starters #1 LOOKING READY and #4 BIG GEMMY are the ones to fear. I’ll box them in $10 exactas and hope they run to their worktabs.
TOTAL WAGERED: $20
Best Bet: Dovecote, Race 3
Longshot: Atwitzend, Race 10
Mary Pray for Us
MARY PRAY FOR US: Was exceptional against weaker company last time out and was claimed by Michelle Nevin. Jose Ortiz has done stellar work for this barn, and a repeat performance would make this one tough; BIG MARA: Takes a huge drop in class and likely didn’t appreciate the wet tracks she encountered in each of her last two. A race similar to what she was running last fall/winter may be enough to win; MADAM AAMOURA: May be the main speed and is favored on the morning line, but hasn’t won in a year and a half. Her best is competitive, but she may be an underlay at her listed price.
LIGHTNING BUZZ: Took a big step forward second off the layoff last time out. He was second in his debut here last summer, and further improvement could be in the cards; PROFESSOR SNAPE: Was a close-up second over a wet track last time out when sprinting for the first time since his unveiling. Trainer Linda Rice is off to a strong start to the meet; NONEEDTOFLATTERME: Comes back to dirt and takes a big drop in class. His lone win came in his solo dirt sprint to date, and that’s the route he gets here.
DOVECOTE: Rated well off a slow pace last time out, but rallied to be beaten less than two lengths. The distance should not be a problem, and any pace she gets is a plus; RED DANE: Gets Lasix for the first time and has a pedigree that indicates she could love this marathon distance. Her recent turf races are encouraging, and we may get a bit of a price; DOUBLE CAST: Just missed in each of her last two starts, but she had perfect trips on both occasions, and those horses aren’t ones I typically bet back at low odds. DIRT SELECTIONS: PRESUMPTUOUS, DOVECOTE, BRILLIANT MISSY.
Will Did It
GAMBLER’S GHOST: Takes a huge class drop and figures to be the main speed. The rider switch to Jose Ortiz is a positive one, and it helps that he’s had three top-two finishes in as many local starts; WILL DID IT: Hasn’t won in a while, but drops down in class and has back form that indicates he could win on his best day. With his late kick, he’d benefit from someone dueling with my top pick; DIODORO ENTRY: I prefer SET THE TRAPPE, who found starter allowance company too tough last time out but won two and three back. This is the level he likely wants, and he could sit a nice stalking trip.
Five Star Bunt
LOOKING READY: Has worked very well both here and downstate. Castellano is enticed to ride, and if the morning zip arrives in the afternoon, he’ll be tough; BIG GEMMY: Earned a bullet in his most recent work at Churchill Downs, which isn’t easy for a 2-year-old to do. Other drills indicate that wasn’t a fluke, and he could be a good one if he runs to that worktab; FIVE STAR BUNT: Showed a bit of early interest in his debut. The rail isn’t an ideal place to break from, but experience helps at this stage of the game, and not many of these have run before.
Marnesia Big Girl
FLATTERMEFABULOUS: Is my top pick in what I consider to be the toughest race of the day to handicap. Ultimately, I opted for this one, who has substantial back class and may be closer to the pace today than she has been in her most recent starts; MARNESIA BIG GIRL: Comes back to the turf in her first start since January. Her starts here last summer against similar company weren’t bad; CINDER: Exits a swiftly-run allowance race at Ellis Park and won two back at Churchill. This is another who may be up fairly close considering the relative lack of early speed signed on alongside her. DIRT SELECTIONS: RIMANISEMPREFORTE, MARNESIA BIG GIRL, ANDESINE.
Shaft of Light
ECONOMIC MODEL: Hasn’t won in a while, but can be forgiven for that given the company he’s kept. There’s no shame in running behind the likes of Drefong and Mor Spirit, and he was second in last year’s King’s Bishop at this route; THREEFIVEINDIA: Hasn’t stepped forward from three to four, but could still be part of a 1-2 finish for trainer Chad Brown. He should sit just off the prominent early pace and have first run on the tiring early leaders; SHAFT OF LIGHT: Merits respect, as does any runner from the red-hot Jorge Navarro barn, but needs the lead and runs in a spot where several others do, too. His best could win, but he may need to overcome a lot to do that.
ROCKETRY: Has shown ample talent in turf marathons despite a tendency to encounter trouble. Any early pace his rivals show will be welcome, as he’ll likely come flying late; SHAMSAAN: Rallied for third last out despite an early pace that was far from kind to closers. He’ll likely be a price, but note his connections have tried stakes company with him in the past, and he could be starting to figure things out; MEMORIES OF PETER: Hasn’t won in nearly two years, but is one of only a few in here to have shown any early zip. If he gets left alone on the lead, he could be tough to run down. DIRT SELECTIONS: DOGTOWN, SHAMSAAN, HOLIDAY BONUS.
You’re to Blame
OUTPLAY: Was up close to a scorching hot pace in the Easy Goer, which was won by Travers probable West Coast. He shouldn’t have to go nearly as fast in this spot, which is largely devoid of other early speed; YOU’RE TO BLAME: Was second in the Easy Goer and merits a look. He did get a perfect setup in his last outing, but he’s trained well since then and is a contender here; SMALL BEAR: Is 3-for-4 going a mile or longer and 0-for-4 in shorter events. He gets his preferred trip here, and a repeat of his last race likely gets him a piece of it here.
DIGITALDESTRUCTION: Showed speed and faded against better in his debut earlier this month downstate. He needs a scratch to draw in, but logical improvement would make this gelding formidable; ATWITZEND: Showed early interest going longer in his debut for a barn that doesn’t win often with first-time starters. The blinkers come off and speed rider Paco Lopez comes on; COLONEL ANDY: Has collected many minor checks at this level and seems like a candidate for another one. He was second at this level and route last summer. DIRT SELECTIONS: DAB, SICILIA MIKE, MR. CAT.