I understand that there are reasons for it, but it’s still very strange seeing a Thursday card at Saratoga that does not feature a steeplechase race. It’s a departure from decades of tradition at Saratoga, and my first impression was that the card seemed a bit empty without it.
It’s certainly a far cry from the 11-race, “double jump” Thursday cards that were scheduled as recently as 2013, ones that kept many grumpy turf writers in the press box until sunset. If not for Pedro the Press Box Master Chef and his world-renowned hot dogs, the room would have more closely represented a scene from “Mortal Kombat.”
WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: We took a shot in the steeplechase race, but picked the wrong longshot to bet across the board. As such, we dropped $15.
THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’ll take a shot in the seventh with a bit of a price. #4 SARATOGA HEATER has three wins and a third in six local starts and won at this level and distance last time out. He could sit a perfect stalking trip, and 6-1 would be a juicy price. I’ll key Saratoga Heater in $5 exactas above and below the Repole and Dubb/Rodriguez entries, and I’ll also put $5 on him to win and place.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30
Best Bet: Small Fortune, Race 1
Longshot: Saratoga Heater, Race 7
SMALL FORTUNE: Showed speed going longer in his first start for this barn last month. This field doesn’t seem as strong as the one he faced that day, and the lack of other apparent early speed here is a plus; SCOUT’S HONOR: Comes back to the turf after two OK efforts in starter allowance company at Parx. He’s run well going short on the sod before, and that sort of effort would be competitive here; FRANCIS FREUD: Hasn’t run in a while, but he’s run against much better horses of late and finished a late-running fourth at this route earlier in the year. DIRT SELECTIONS: SCOUT’S HONOR, UNO EMAYO, SIR BOND.
Kid from New York
BATTLE READY: Is one of two Todd Pletcher class-droppers in this field and has the pedigree to embrace two turns. His lone dirt start to date saw him rush up early after a bad start; HY BRASIL: Has burned money in each of his last three starts, including his first two-turn effort last time out at Monmouth. He should be forwardly-placed early; KID FROM NEW YORK: Has shown speed going shorter of late and drops in for a tag for the first time. The recent works are sharp, but the distance is a question mark.
BLUE ATLAS: Was a sharp second in her debut going shorter. Her pedigree suggests that two turns will not be an issue, and improvement is logical at second asking; DOODER: Fetched $260k at auction and has been working well for a powerhouse barn. The question is, are they trying turf for the distance (which she’s bred for) or the surface (which she may not be)?; SINGLE MISSION: Is bred to go long on turf and goes out for a barn that can win with debuting runners. Her dam was a Grade 3 winner on turf, and she has a similar female family to Grade 1 turf winner Voodoo Dancer. DIRT SELECTIONS: DOODER, MOLLY’S NIGHTHAWK, BLUE ATLAS.
Love Your Buttons
CONSUMERCONFIDENCE: Was a close-up second at this level downstate when last seen in May. That was his first race since May, and his lone start here last summer is a throw-out due to a bad start; LOVE YOUR BUTTONS: Closed to be fourth in his turf debut and would benefit from a pace meltdown. Javier Castellano signing on is a plus; BIG EXCHANGE: Cuts back in distance and drops down in class for one of the winningest trainers of turf sprinters in the country. The recent works are encouraging and show zip that would come in handy at this route of ground. DIRT SELECTIONS: VALDOCCO, LOVE YOUR BUTTONS, CONSUMERCONFIDENCE.
JACOBSON ENTRY: I prefer DISCREET SENORITA, who makes her first start for this barn and has proven herself to be a win machine. She’s 9-for-15 lifetime, and while SUMMER HOUSE could also win, her stablemate can rate, which figures to be beneficial in this speed-filled race; PAWLEYS EXPRESS: Has not run a bad race to this point in her career. She should be up close early under a top-class rider; FUSAICHI RED: Has not won in a while, but is one of only a few proven closers in this field. The faster they go early, the more this one figures to like it.
Driven by Speed
MUNCHKIN MONEY: Came back running off the long layoff, scoring by more than three lengths in what was easily her best-ever race. She won here last year, and the winning rider from her last start is aboard again today; DRIVEN BY SPEED: Woke up in a big way when switched to the turf last time out. The distance is an unknown, but anything close to her last effort would make her a major player; MISS FREEZE: Likely needed her last race, which was her first outing in a year. She debuted by winning a stakes race, so there’s back class here, and she’s bred to like turf. DIRT SELECTIONS: MISS FREEZE, FAIR REGIS, MAJESTIC BLOOM.
SARATOGA HEATER: Won at this level and distance last time out. He loves this track, is in good form, and may be a price given the two entries with prominent connections that are also in the field; RODRIGUEZ ENTRY: I prefer MARRIEDTOTHEMUSIC, who takes a big drop out of stakes company to run here. His best race easily wins this, but those days may be over and there’s a lot of early speed signed on; REPOLE ENTRY: SUDDEN SURPRISE is 2-for-2 here and is another taking a big class drop. The last two races are alarming, but he’s another whose best race puts him right there.
LOVER’S KEY: Has woken up in a big way with the addition of blinkers. She’s won four of five since the equipment change, and unlike others in this field, she has multiple wins going two turns; LADY JOAN: Hasn’t done much wrong and beat many of these last time out. The only question mark with her is the distance, as her lone dud on turf came in her sole two-turn effort; SHE’S DREAMIN: Has improved with every start and stretches out in her first start against winners. Further improvement is necessary, but not out of the question.
Frost Wise (MTO)
ANDRETTA: Was second in her debut for a barn whose horses often need a race to get going. That was a live race, as the third-place finisher won at next asking; NEW CANAAN: Has strong turf breeding on her dam’s side of the pedigree and has worked well ahead of her unveiling. Of all the first-time starters, this one may be most ready to run well right off the bat; OBJECTIVE COMPLETE: Must be respected if she draws in. She ran up against several next-out winners in her debut, most notably eventual multiple stakes-winner Morticia, and she’s worked well here of late. DIRT SELECTIONS: FROST WISE, HIGH JINGO, LULU’S POM POM.