Just how bad was my luck Thursday? After 10 top picks led to nine in-the-money finishes but just one win, I went to an establishment near my apartment for dinner. I ordered a sandwich with no mushrooms or onions, and it was delivered in two halves. One half was made as ordered. The other half of the same sandwich, you guessed it, had mushrooms and onions. When something as confounding as that happens, you know you’re having a strange day.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Petrov was ultra-impressive in victory in the eighth race. Our exactas got split by a longshot, but our $22 post-scratch investment returned an even $30 thanks to a successful win-place bet.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll take a shot in the early Pick Four, which begins in the second race. I’m punching the “ALL” button to start things off, and I’ll use #1 APPLE BETTY and #4 SUFFUSED in the third, include #5 STRONG CURRENT, #6 ECLIPSED MOON, #8 SEABHAC, and #10 SURVEY in the fourth, and single #5 DELTA PRINCE (one of my best bets of the day) in the fifth. I’m hoping we get a price or two home early in the sequence before Royal Delta’s little brother takes the stage. As usual, this wager assumes all races carded for the turf stay there.
TOTAL WAGERED: $32
Best Bet: Projected, Race 7
Longshot: Schivarelli, Race 11
DUBB ENTRY: This owner has a powerful hand, as GRAND SKY is a major player if this stays on turf and stakes-winner MARRIEDTOTHEMUSIC is strictly the one to beat if it gets rained off; SANDY’Z SLEW: Improved last time out in his second start off a layoff and has run some strong races at this route in the past; UNCLE YOUDGE: Ships up from Monmouth Park and seems like the main speed in here. The outside draw isn’t great, but he may be fast enough early to clear the field. DIRT SELECTIONS: MARRIEDTOTHEMUSIC, LOVE THAT JAZZ, NOBODY MOVE.
Zap Zap Zap
Ride On Faith
ZAP ZAP ZAP: Goes to the barn of Todd Pletcher and exits a very fast race at this level downstate. The runner-up came back to crush similar company earlier in the meet, and this gelding gets a big rider switch to John Velazquez; GODOLPHIN ENTRY: Either part of this entry could win this, but I prefer FULLY VESTED, who was a solid second in his debut for a barn whose horses often need a race to get going. The addition of Lasix could make a big difference; RIDE ON FAITH: Ran into the promising Phi Beta Express last time out and has improved with every start. Further progression would likely lead to a piece of it here.
SUFFUSED: Loves this turf course and gets a bit of class relief. She was beaten less than a length in a contentious Grade 2 last time out, and this seems like a bit softer of a spot; APPLE BETTY: Took advantage of a slow pace last time out against a number of rivals that also show up here. A similar scenario could present itself here, as there isn’t much other speed signed on; GUILTY TWELVE: Has won two in a row, including a Grade 3 at Delaware. She’s in career-best form and boasts a win over this turf course.
Super Sermon (MTO)
ECLIPSED MOON: Came flying late in his unveiling and was beaten just a neck. This barn’s horses usually get better with experience, and given the $400k pricetag, it’s safe to assume big things are expected; STRONG CURRENT: Didn’t do much running in his debut, but he’s bred to go long and adds blinkers here. First-crop stallion Orb has already sired one turf winner this meet; SURVEY: Is another who was one-paced in a sprint debut, but this pedigree says he’ll love going long on the lawn. He also didn’t get an ideal setup in his unveiling, which featured a very slow early pace. DIRT SELECTIONS: SUPER SERMON, VARIANT PERCEPTION, ROAMING UNION.
Gift Box (MTO)
DELTA PRINCE: May not be the same kind of horse as sister Royal Delta, but he’s shown plenty of ability. He was a close second in a Grade 3 earlier this year, and if he’s ready to run off the bench, he’s strictly the one to beat; MUTAZEN: Was third in a classy allowance race downstate and has shown plenty of early zip. Lezcano getting off is a bit befuddling, but this one should be prominent early; STRIKE MIDNIGHT: Hasn’t won in a while, but has plenty of back class. His last win came off a long layoff similar to what he returns from here, and he was third in a Grade 2 on this turf course last summer. DIRT SELECTIONS: GIFT BOX, DELTA PRINCE, VULCAN’S FORGE.
ENGAGE: Has worked like one of the top 2-year-olds on the grounds ahead of his debut. He boasts a lofty $550k purchase price, and these connections must be respected; SLOT: Has a dam whose full brother is Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Trinniberg. He’s bred to be a rocket ship, and it’s tough to ignore the tag team of Pletcher and Castellano; ARRIVAL: Probably lost all chance at the start in his debut. He salvaged fourth that day, and improvement is logical at second asking.
PROJECTED: Has run second in back-to-back graded races and drops into the ungraded ranks. A repeat of either of those efforts would make him very tough to beat; RING WEEKEND: Won a Grade 1 in 2015 and captured a pair of Grade 2 events last year, but hasn’t shown as much in his 2017 campaign. His best race wins this, but it’s unclear if he can channel that form; CAMELOT KITTEN: Won four graded events as a 3-year-old and makes his seasonal debut here. His back class is substantial, but he faces many heavy hitters here (including my top pick, a stablemate).
AMERICAN GAL: Is undefeated in sprint races and was extremely impressive in her 2017 debut. She won the Victory Ride by nearly five lengths, and her recent works indicate she bounced out of that race very well; FAYPIEN: Has won three in a row and merits respect shipping east for Bob Baffert. She won a Grade 2 going longer when last seen, and the recent works are very strong; CHALON: Took advantage of an easy lead in an ungraded stakes race downstate. She’ll be prominent early, and this California-based barn is firing on all cylinders.
GUN RUNNER: Has gone from a very good 3-year-old to an excellent 4-year-old. His only loss since the 2016 Breeders’ Cup came when Arrogate put forth an otherworldly performance in Dubai, and while the likely wet track is a bit of a concern, note that it was wet in Dubai, too; BREAKING LUCKY: Hasn’t won in a while but may benefit from the likely race shape. Unlike many in here, he does not need the lead, and he could sit a perfect stalking trip just off the ample early speed; KEEN ICE: Sprang an upset in the Grade 2 Suburban downstate for his first win since the 2015 Travers. The race shape figures to suit him, but he may want even more ground than the nine furlongs he’ll get here.
Sassy Little Lila
SASSY LITTLE LILA: Was a close second in the Grade 1 Just A Game last time out and figures to be the main speed in here. Her back class is substantial, and she ran a massive race over this turf course last year on closing day; ON LEAVE: Is a Grade 2 winner and the other major player in here. She may be best around one turn, but she’ll certainly be running well late; ELYSEA’S WORLD: Drops down in class a bit after spending her entire 2017 campaign to date against graded stakes company. Her best race puts her right there, but this isn’t much easier than the fields she’s faced of late.
NEOLITHIC: Ran third to Arrogate twice earlier this season and begins his summer/fall campaign here. This may be a bit shorter than he wants to go, but if he’s right, he’ll be very tough to beat; SCHIVARELLI: Drops back down the class ladder after chasing some tough sprinters in his last two. He won at this route last year, and this distance hits him right between the eyes; MO TOWN: Is very tough when he’s right, but his two 2017 efforts were total duds. He’s been working well, though, and he’d certainly benefit from a wet track.