Longtime readers of The Saratogian will remember that I was a full-time sportswriter there for about a year and a half. Among the best perks of the job was where the office was. The front steps of that brick building on Lake Avenue were a full pitching wedge or less away from The Parting Glass, Gaffney’s, D’Andrea’s, and a number of other fun places, as well as the police station (which the news department certainly found handy!).
I’m not criticizing the decision to move, as the rationale for it makes sense. With that in mind, though, it was pretty tough to leave that building for the last time in October of 2013 after filing the recap of a Saratoga Springs-Shenendehowa football game. I imagine the friends and colleagues I have that work for The Saratogian felt similarly this week.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: We got blanked after neither of our key horses in doubles won (although longshot of the day Jewel Heist ran a huge race in defeat). As such, we dropped $24.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the fifth race, which houses my best bet of the day. That’s #4 AZAR, and I’ll key him in $5 exactas above and below #9 MADE IN DETROIT and #10 ITALIAN CHARM. I’ll also single him in $5 doubles that start in the fifth and use #3 CHANNEL CAT and #8 SPORTSWEAR in the sixth.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30
Best Bet: Azar, Race 5
Longshot: Promotional, Race 8
Will Did It
SCARLY CHARLY: Takes a colossal drop in class, but if he’s anywhere close to his best, he’s strictly the one to beat. The recent bullet drill inspires confidence, and he ran well here twice a year ago; WILL DID IT: Makes his first start for Gary Gullo, who excels with new acquisitions. He hasn’t won in a while, but there’s some speed signed on and he’ll be running well late; AT GUARD: Beat weaker foes earlier in the meet and makes his first start for a new barn. The rail draw isn’t ideal, but a repeat performance may be good enough to win.
AIRTOUCH: Fetched $450k at auction last summer, and for good reason. This dam threw Grade 1 winner Sweet Loretta, and this son of Tapit has been working very well ahead of his unveiling; BASE COMMAND: Made up a lot of ground in his debut, rallying from 11 lengths back to be beaten less than a length. This barn’s runners tend to improve with experience, and the added distance should be a plus; INDIMAAJ: Is by Tapit and out of a Grade 1 winner that’s produced a Grade 1 winner. He’s worked steadily, and while this barn’s runners tend to benefit from experience, it wouldn’t be shocking if he was ready to run right away.
Killybegs Captain (MTO)
Driven by Thunder
DR. EDGAR: Stretches out on turf for the first time, which is unusual given his pedigree. He’s never been better than he is right now, and he merits my top pick in a confusing race with many horses stretching out; DRIVEN BY THUNDER: Ran well in his turf debut last time out. His best race came at a challenging, seven-furlong distance, so he could take to the distance; SIX SHILLINGS: Was a good second earlier in the meet going shorter. It’s unclear if he wants this sort of distance, but class-wise, he fits. DIRT SELECTIONS: KILLYBEGS CAPTAIN, DRIVEN BY THUNDER, PIONEER SPIRIT.
PURE SILVER: Has done nothing wrong in two starts, including a stakes win last time out. The rail draw is a concern, but she should have enough speed to overcome it; LIMITED VIEW: Scratched from the Schuylerville due to pre-race antics, but that may have been a blessing in disguise, as the winner freaked. This seems like a softer spot, provided she holds it together; SLY ROXY: Ran away with an off-the-turf race earlier in the meet. It’s unclear how strong that race was, but she’s bred to be a good one and could have untapped potential.
Old Upstart (MTO)
AZAR: Spent most of 2016 against top-class competition, so it’s jarring to see him in for a $25k tag. Anything close to his best would make him very difficult to beat; ITALIAN CHARM: Makes his first start since March and has been gelded since his last outing. He reeled off three wins in a row last year and finished just two lengths behind eventual Grade 1 winner American Patriot two back; MADE IN DETROIT: Turned heads with a wire-to-wire romp downstate back in June. He had a dream trip that day, and these are deeper waters, but he seems like the main speed. DIRT SELECTIONS: AZAR, OLD UPSTART, RICH DADDY.
Variant Perception (MTO)
SPORTSWEAR: Couldn’t possibly be bred any better. He’s by the undefeated Frankel, out of a Group 1 winner, and gets the two-turn turf route his pedigree screams for; CHANNEL CAT: Was a close second in his debut, which came last month at Gulfstream going much shorter. He’s bred up and down for more distance, and he should improve given that he gets it; HAVE AT IT: Is by Kitten’s Joy and out of a multiple Grade 3 winner. He’s worked consistently ahead of his debut. DIRT SELECTIONS: VARIANT PERCEPTION, SUPER SERMON, PETE MARWICK.
Song of the Nile
COLTANDMISSISSIPPI: Sold for $400k back in 2015 and has a strong series of five-furlong drills ahead of his debut. This is a tough distance to debut at, but the work tab tells the story of a horse who may want this trip; WYATT’S TOWN: Was third in his debut, but didn’t have the best of experiences that day. Improvement is logical at second asking, especially for a barn whose horses often improve with seasoning; SONG OF THE NILE: Fetched $575k last year at auction and has worked like a promising horse. This barn’s first-time starters don’t usually win, but he can’t be ignored in what looks like a loaded race.
Rachel’s Temper (MTO)
OFF LIMITS: Burned plenty of money in 2016, but seems to have figured things out in two 2017 starts. She was a good second in a stakes race last time out, and this seems like a much softer spot; PROMOTIONAL: Won here last year and has been facing top-class horses since then. She may want longer, and this may be a prep race, but if she’s right, she’s a contender at a price; ALL IN FUN: Hasn’t won in a while, but is another that’s been running against substantially better horses. She won here last year, and this barn merits respect. DIRT SELECTIONS: PUCA, RACHEL’S TEMPER, ALL IN FUN.
GIFT BOX: Makes his 2017 debut and looks to pick up where he left off. He was fourth in the Travers behind Arrogate, and while this distance isn’t ideal, his talent may be enough to get him home; CERRO: Has won three of his last four and ran a big race last time out at Churchill Downs. John Velazquez rides, and it’s safe to assume his new owner claimed him with Saratoga in mind; LEWYS VAPORIZER: Is a proven sprinter with top-end early speed. His race here last year was forgettable, but his best effort would make him the one to catch turning for home.
DISCO PARTNER: Has reeled off three wins in a row, including a record-setting performance going six furlongs and a subsequent romp at a mile. He’s never been better than he is right now; TIME TEST: Cuts back in distance after two second-place finishes downstate. He won a Group 2 at this distance overseas, but the question is, is he past his peak?; AMERICAN PATRIOT: Flopped at Royal Ascot but won a Grade 1 at Keeneland two back over a top-class field. He appears ready to run, and his best race would make him a player in this top-class event.
DANNY’S RUSH: Cuts back in distance after being badly beaten going much longer. His best races have come going short on turf, and a repeat of his effort two back (which came against better horses) could win this; SOURCE CONTROL: Rallied to be second at this level last time out at Belmont. The pace was fast that day, but with this large field, such a scenario could easily repeat itself; GRAND VALOUR: Is a bit of an unknown since he’s making his career debut, but this barn can get first-time starters ready, and Javier Castellano signing on is a big plus. DIRT SELECTIONS: DAB, QUAI VOLTAIRE, GREAT BLAKE.