Seeing a field of five signed on for Saturday’s Woodward was disappointing, but not surprising. Gun Runner is arguably the top older horse in training, and the defections of Grade 1 winners Shaman Ghost and Cupid weren’t small ones. However, the Grade 1 Spinaway only getting a field of five is insulting to that race’s history, as well as the history of the track it’s run at.
Saratoga has the reputation of a track where 2-year-old prospects burst onto the scene. To be fair, the field does include runaway Adirondack winner Pure Silver and flashy first-out graduates Separationofpowers and Lady Ivanka. However, with 2-year-old races run every single day this meet, a field double the size of what will line up Saturday wouldn’t have been shocking. Long story short: This race deserves better.
WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: I was right in my theory that the late Pick Four would pay well. Unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with With Anticipation winner Catholic Boy despite having half the field on my ticket. As a result, we dropped $30.
THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’ll take another swing at the late Pick Four, and my ticket is built around #3 ORBOLUTION in the P.G. Johnson. My 50-cent ticket: 5,6,8,10,12 with 2,6,8 with 3 with 1,4,6,9,11.
TOTAL WAGERED: $37.50
Best Bet: Ultimateenticement, Race 5
Longshot: Saratoga Charlie, Race 10
Balance the Budget
NO WUNDER: Was second at this level earlier in the meet and seems logical here. He found stakes company too tough two back, but he’s fit right in here before; GIZA: Was in good form before his last start, which saw him leave the course early. He should be prominent early for powerful connections; BALANCE THE BUDGET: Was fifth in the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick last time out and gets significant class relief here. He led midway through that race and could make the lead in this spot at a bit of a price.
One More Round
FORGE: Takes an aggressive drop in class after three starts against straight maidens, none of which were bad. The early pace last time out was probably too fast, and he should have an easier go of it here; IRST: Was a close second in his first start at this level a few weeks ago. Few are better with new acquisitions than Linda Rice, who claimed him out of that race; ONE MORE ROUND: Had a strange trip last time out in his first start off a long layoff. He’d traditionally been a speed horse, but was well off the pace in the slop. He fits with a more conventional go of it here.
Born for a Storm
CONTROL GROUP: Has won two in a row, including a wire-to-wire score against claiming company at this route earlier in the meet. This is a tougher spot, but he should make the lead from his inside post; MINSKY MOMENT: Has done very little wrong in four starts and has never finished outside the top two. He was a close second behind a winner who sat a perfect trip last time out, and these connections merit respect; BORN FOR A STORM: Tries two turns for the first time and has the running style to embrace such a route. He’s been a bit one-paced in two starts this meet, and he did run an OK second at a mile last year.
Jules N Rome
COZZY SPRING: Won two in a row before a failed turf experiment last time out. There’s some speed signed on here, but she seems quickest of these out of the gate and is a real threat to go wire-to-wire; SHIMMERING MOON: Cruised home in her first start for Michelle Nevin earlier this meet. This may be a tougher group, but she has the potential to sit a perfect trip just off the speed; JULES N ROME: Comes back to state-bred competition after a third-place finish against open company. She loves this track, and while she may be a bit off her best form, she could easily get a piece of this.
Five Star Bunt
ULTIMATEENTICEMENT: Was a strong second in his local debut to a well-meant Chad Brown trainee. He was four lengths clear of the rest of the field that day, and his experience is a big plus against this largely-inexperienced field; CANDY ZIP: Has worked well of late here for a trainer that can have debuting runners ready to roll. The August 3rd bullet jumps off the page, and he’s clearly one to consider; FIVE STAR BUNT: Was fourth behind two next-out winners last month (including a stakes winner). He’s had issues at the gate in each of his two outings, but Javier Castellano signing on could signal this barn’s intent.
Hard Scramble (MTO)
Rate for Me
GRAND SKY: Took a step forward first off the claim earlier this month, rolling home for powerful connections. He’s got two wins and a second at this route, and he should be rolling late; RATE FOR ME: Has won two in a row and seems to be figuring things out. He may not have beaten a tough field last time out, but this barn has had a strong meet, and further improvement would make him dangerous; HOLD ME BLACK: Was run down late in his local debut and had to settle for second despite a big effort. He nearly overcame a far-outside post, and today’s assignment is a bit more forgiving in that regard. DIRT SELECTIONS: HARD SCRAMBLE, PORTANDO, HOLD ME BLACK.
SUMMER MISCHIEF: Showed improved early speed last time out, pressing a decent pace and hanging on for third. This race doesn’t appear to have a lot of speed signed on, and he could clear most of these going into the first turn; APPEALING BRIEFS: Was second in that same race, but sat a much better trip rating well off the pace. He seems to have a habit of running second, and it wouldn’t be too shocking if he breaks through; GRAND VALOUR: Was distanced early in his debut but somehow rallied to salvage fourth, making up nearly 14 lengths in 5 1/2 furlongs. This is a tougher group, and Castellano taking off isn’t encouraging, but I need to throw him in. DIRT SELECTIONS: ZONIC, GRAND VALOUR, CATCH A CAB.
JUPITER RISING: Was probably left with too much to do last time out in his first try against winners. He’s since been transferred to the Todd Pletcher barn, and two turns shouldn’t be a problem; STORM PROPHET: Is extremely consistent, but has not won since October of 2015. His usual effort almost certainly gets him a piece of it, but I have a tough time endorsing horses like this on top; MANIFEST DESTINY: Hasn’t won since his debut, but he’s woken up a bit going long on turf. He figures to be prominent early, and note that he beat this race’s likely favorite home last time out.
Life Time Citizen
ORBOLUTION: Woke up last time out in her turf debut, rolling home against overmatched maidens. She’s one of just two in here with two-turn experience, and continued development would make her tough to beat; MENTALITY: Went wire-to-wire in her debut downstate back in June and stretches out here. The pedigree suggests she should handle the added distance, and she’ll likely make the lead early on; LIFE TIME CITIZEN: Has a running style that indicates she’ll love two turns. She was one-paced in a similar-level race going shorter a few weeks ago, so this trip could suit her.
BUNYAAN: Was an OK second going two turns last month and makes his first start for new trainer Linda Rice. She’s in the midst of a stellar meet, and this one gets the nod in a wide-open finale; HY BRASIL: Took advantage of the class drop last time out with a win in his first start for a tag. His race three back at this distance wasn’t horrible, and this barn merits respect; SARATOGA CHARLIE: Figures to be a big price off of two clunkers, but those races came against much better horses. Additionally, he’s done some of his best work at this distance, with a win and a second in two starts at seven furlongs.