Hey, Eclipse Award voters? Good freaking luck.
That was the message delivered in the Travers, when West Coast became racing’s newest Grade 1 winner and gave the Mike Smith/Bob Baffert duo a second straight win in the Midsummer Derby. Always Dreaming faded, Cloud Computing never fired, and Tapwrit was one-paced while finishing fourth.
Who’s your Champion 3-Year-Old Male? Your guess is as good as mine. The door is wide-open for an unconventional winner, like turf specialist Oscar Performance or Allen Jerkens winner Practical Joke. Here’s the bigger, obviously-sarcastic question: If no deserving winner emerges, can voters decide to just not give out the award for a year?
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: We made it four winning days in a row with our win-place strategy. Of the four horses we gave out, three won, all at 6-1 odds or higher. Ultimately, our $40 investment returned $180.50.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the early part of the card and play doubles starting and ending with #5 PORTFOLIO MANAGER in the third. My $10 bets use the Chad Brown and Mike Maker-trained entries in the second and #3 TRUTH IN THE LIES and #6 CINDER in the fourth.
TOTAL WAGERED: $40
Best Bet: Portfolio Manager, Race 3
Longshot: Amity, Race 10
Thirst for Victory
THIRST FOR VICTORY: Drops way down in class for aggressive connections that have won lots of races with this move in the past. He broke his maiden sprinting here last year, and he’s been running against much better horses; NOTORIOUS: Returns from a long layoff for a new barn and drops to the lowest level he’s ever run at. The workout pattern here is steady, and his best race makes him a player; CANIFORM: Won here last week in his first start for Steve Asmussen. That race came against a weaker group, but he’s a consistent sort that merits a look.
Spring On Curlin
BROWN ENTRY: I prefer DATA ROOM, who stretches back out to two turns and should embrace such a switch. His two duds both came at Belmont in one-turn races, and he hooked some tough competition in some of his prior efforts; MAKER ENTRY: I most fancy MARKITOFF, who was second at this level earlier in the meet behind a runaway winner. His races at this level have been fine, and note the rider switch to Luis Saez; SPRING ON CURLIN: Hasn’t won in a while, but drops in for a tag for the first time and exits a swiftly-run race at Belmont. This barn has quietly had an excellent meet.
PORTFOLIO MANAGER: Was fourth in a classy allowance race won by a good 3-year-old named Petrov earlier in the meet. He drops in for a tag for the first time and is met by a less-than-imposing group; HARLAN PUNCH: Hasn’t won since 2015 and ships in for a high-percentage barn that’s been unusually cold this meet. He’s been second against similar in each of his last two starts at Churchill; KARMA DELIGHT: Cruised against maiden claimers last time out and faces winners for the first time in his first start for Steve Asmussen. I’m not sure what he beat that day, but a repeat effort probably gets him a piece of this.
Just Got Out (MTO)
Truth in the Lies
TRUTH IN THE LIES: Was a close-up fourth behind a next-out winner at this level last time, and was claimed out of that race by Jason Servis. He and Irad Ortiz have done spectacular work together this meet, and they team up on this one; CINDER: Gets a huge rider switch to Javier Castellano after a strange trip last time out. She probably needs a pace to run at, but she should be going well late; HOLD ME DOWN: Has hit the board in five of six starts this season and merits a look shipping in from Parx. Having said that, she’s 0-for-12 on turf, so if the morning line holds up, I’ll look elsewhere for value. DIRT SELECTIONS: JUST GOT OUT, HOLD ME DOWN, RANGER LADY.
Everybody Loves Me
Quick Quick Quick
EVERYBODY LOVES ME: Was second behind a runaway winner last time out in her debut, and that came for a barn whose horses often need a race or two to get going. Improvement is logical at second asking, and the blinkers come off this speedy horse, which is usually a plus; QUICK QUICK QUICK: Was also second in her debut, and she did so while rallying from off the pace, which is uncommon for first-time starters to successfully do. This is another barn whose horses often improve with experience; TWOFER: Fetched $290k at auction earlier this year and has worked well of late ahead of her unveiling. This is an outfit that has stellar numbers with debuting runners.
IMPAZIBLE CREEK: Boasts an improving work pattern ahead of her debut and has attracted Javier Castellano to ride for a fairly small barn, which is intriguing. The rail draw isn’t ideal, but it’s not like she’s lining up against any monsters in this spot; FROST WISE: Figures to be prominent early in a race that otherwise seems devoid of early speed. She’s had issues holding on to early leads of late, but she’ll likely have a very easy trip here; SHE’SAKITTYKAT: Was forced to rate behind a slow pace last time out, but rallied for third. However, she’ll likely face a similar situation today, albeit for powerful connections.
FIRST APPEAL: Has run well here twice this summer, with a win and a solid third-place finish. She’s won three of four since going to trainer Linda Rice, and first-call rider Jose Ortiz will be aboard; TREATHERLIKESTAR: Broke through for her first win in a while last time out in her local debut. That was against a weaker field, but horses that like this route of ground can’t be thrown out; SWAYED: Threw in a clunker in a race rained off the turf last time out, but was a close-up third two back at this level and route. The rail draw is a concern, but we may get a bit of a price on a horse that’s run well at these conditions before.
ASTOUNDING: Hasn’t run a bad race on the lawn in four such starts and was second at this level earlier this month. This is another Servis/Ortiz collaboration, and his usual race would make him the one to beat; JUPITER RISING: Won two back against maiden claimers and was probably left with too much to do late last time out against winners. Todd Pletcher takes over the training duties, and it’s not often we get this sort of a price on a horse from that barn; ANY QUESTIONS: Has won two of his last three, including a win against weaker company here earlier in the meet. David Jacobson does strong work with new acquisitions, and Runhappy’s little brother could improve in his first start for that outfit.
MISS ELLA: Has not finished worse than second in three starts at Saratoga, and that record includes a win in last month’s Caress Stakes. There’s plenty of pace in this race, and she could come running late in a race that came up very tough for this level; FAIR POINT: Meets my top selection once again after running second to her in the Caress. Both horses ran well that day, and it wouldn’t be too surprising if this one turns the tables; AVA’S KITTEN: Is another that likes Saratoga, having won two of four local starts. That includes a win in an optional claimer at this route, and this distance seems to suit her.
DATA DEPENDENT: Is bred up and down for turf. She’s by More Than Ready and out of a Street Cry mare, and she’s worked very well for Chad Brown ahead of her debut; AMITY: Is listed at 20-1, and anywhere close to that price is an overlay. Her dam is a half to Forever Together, who won an Eclipse Award as the Champion Female Turf Horse of 2008, and this one has worked pretty well for a top-notch barn ahead of her unveiling; REALITY QUEEN: Showed some early zip in her turf debut last time out, and she’s the only proven early speed in this field. The rider switch to Luis Saez is notable, and she figures to be prominent early on.