The section you’re reading right now was inspired by the “Battle of Saratoga” feature that once ran in the New York Daily News. Handicappers like Dave Little, Jerry Bossert, Bill Finley, and Sherry Ross (among others) would trade barbs while offering daily plays. It was the first serious horse racing analysis that I ever read, and it’s an honor to do my own version of it.
If you saw the news about that publication yesterday, you know where this is going. Upon purchasing the paper, its new owners laid off some of the best newspaper journalists in the northeast. Local newspapers are vital to communities in many ways, and given the wages, the hours, and other external forces obvious to anyone who follows current events, it’s tougher than ever to be a newspaper journalist.
I could go on, but we’re probably short on space at this point. At any rate, my thoughts are with the writers who worked their rear ends off and were shown the door. I hope they land on their feet.
MONDAY’S RESULTS: Another good day in the pick box, another bad day in the bankroll. Triple Chelsea didn’t take to the soft turf course at all, and we dropped $30.
WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: My action comes in the fifth race, a fascinating maiden event for state-bred fillies. My top two are #4 BULL FEATHERS and #6 TIME WARP, who could both be nice prices. I’ll start $4 doubles there that also use #4 PURRFECT MISS and #5 PRAY FOR LESLIE in the sixth, as well as a $2 Pick Three that uses those horses (as well as #6 COME DANCING in the sixth) and singles #6 HOLLYWOOD CAT (my best bet of the day) in the seventh.
TOTAL WAGERED: $28
Monday’s Results: 4 for 9
Meet Results (to date): 14 for 40
Best Bet: Hollywood Cat, Race 7
Longshot: Bull Feathers, Race 5
#5 LORD JUSTICE: Has yet to run a bad race over fences since coming to America last summer. He’s got some tactical speed, and the likely race shape could benefit him in the first steeplechase race of the season; #2 OFFICER SYDNEY: Has turned a corner in his last four starts, a stretch that includes a pair of wins. He was third behind two of today’s rivals last time out, but the cutback in distance should work to his benefit; #6 MUTASAAWY: Would benefit from a fast pace and figures to be going best of all late. He won an allowance here last summer, and his win two back was sharp, but he may need a specific setup.
#4 RAGING TOWN: May desperately need the drop in class, but I’m willing to give her a shot. She seems like the main speed, and the addition of blinkers could give her an even bigger edge in that regard; #2 TERRALSOLE: Hasn’t run since December, but merits a look at a price. The Bond barn has quietly had a solid year to this point, and she ran third against a much better group when she was last seen; #6 NORTH END: Makes her first start for Jorge Abreu and drops in class. I’m willing to consider that she hates Aqueduct’s new main track, and the most recent workout indicates she could be ready to run off the bench.
Consensus Thinking (MTO)
Ding Dong Ditch
#6 DING DONG DITCH: Comes to the Todd Pletcher barn and drops in class after being beaten as the favorite on Kentucky Derby Day. That was a funky turf course that day, so I’m more than willing to excuse it, and he’s got back races that, if repeated, would make him tough here; #4 SPORT: Has had plenty of chances, but came back running off a long layoff when second at this level. I usually don’t like betting horses that have had this many opportunities, but his usual race probably gets him a big piece of it; #9 WISELY: Has been gelded since his last start and drops in for a tag for the first time. His two-turn turf races aren’t bad, and this seems like the right level. DIRT SELECTIONS: CONSENSUS THINKING, CURLIN’S NEW MOON, HOT MESA.
#5 SUMMER BOURBON: Just missed last time out at Belmont Park when rallying from much further back than he’d been accustomed to racing. He may show more tactical speed today, and it’s tough to quibble with these connections; #2 RIFF RAFF: Is another that could benefit from the likely race shape. He hasn’t won in a while, but he was a good second last time out and it’s worth noting the presence of Joel Rosario; #3 RECTIFY: Loves Saratoga and comes in off a clear win against lesser foes. He’ll be one of a few in here that wants the early lead.
#6 TIME WARP: Fetched $230,000 at auction here last year and has been working well for a trainer whose horses often need a race or two to get going. Her female family has links to high-quality horses Editor’s Note and Hold That Tiger, so she’s got every right to be a runner; #4 BULL FEATHERS: Merits a look, especially at her morning line price. Her dam has thrown four winners (including two full siblings), and was herself a full sister to an 11-time winner. The most recent work may have tipped her hand; #9 CHILLINWITHFRIENDS: May be favorite given trainer Rudy Rodriguez’s high profile. It’s tough to read too much into her work tab, but Rudy’s snuck a few firsters by in recent years that fit this profile.
Pray for Leslie
#4 PURRFECT MISS: Rebounded from a lackluster run in a Grade 3 to take an allowance downstate. She ran two very good races here last year, and there’s a chance she’s getting better for a strong trainer; #5 PRAY FOR LESLIE: Is undefeated through two starts and goes out for one of the hottest barns in the country. If she brings the Churchill Downs form here, she’ll be tough, but she set a pretty easy pace last time and likely won’t get a similar trip in this spot; #6 COME DANCING: Hasn’t raced since January, where something clearly went amiss in a stakes race at Aqueduct. Her recent workouts are sharp, but this race came up pretty salty for the level.
Stay Fond (MTO)
#6 HOLLYWOOD CAT: Makes her first start for Jason Servis and returns to Saratoga, where she earned a stakes placing last summer. She gets a big rider switch to Irad Ortiz, Jr., and this seems like a weaker-than-average race for the level; #11 CODRINGTON: Was claimed by Mike Maker after being compromised by a slow early pace last time out. She ran well here three times last season, but must negotiate a trip from a tricky outside post; #5 SWEET CONNIE GIRL: Merits respect if for no other reason than her trainer/jockey combination of Chad Brown and Javier Castellano. She was an OK fourth at this level when last seen in late-May. DIRT SELECTIONS: STAY FOND, HOLLYWOOD CAT, SOLITARY GEM.
Ivery Sisters entry
#4 MO DIDDLEY: Has gotten better with every start this season since coming back in turf races. His connections thought enough of him to run him in two graded stakes races a season ago, and his last effort was a good second behind a next-out winner; IVERY SISTERS ENTRY: #1A FOX RULES seems like the main speed in this race, while #1 OSTROLENKA merits a big chance should this race be moved to the main track; #2 MASCARELLO: Has won three of his last five, including a last-out victory at Suffolk Downs. He’s got a win and a second in two local starts and may get first run at the leaders turning for home. DIRT SELECTIONS: OSTROLENKA, MORRISON, ROYAL BLESSING.
#5 FAYPIEN: Has a lot of speed, but has shown an ability to sit just off the pace that may be helpful in a speed-heavy renewal of the Honorable Miss. Cross out her dud in December’s La Brea, and you’ve got a filly that’s missed the board just once for the always-formidable Bob Baffert barn; #6 FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM: Ran a bang-up race in defeat in last year’s renewal of this race. Her best effort could certainly win this, but her chances do suffer slightly if there’s moisture in the track; #1 VERTICAL OAK: May not be as fast as these on a fast track, but would love a wet track (which she could very well get). She romped in last year’s Grade 2 Prioress here in a bog, and a repeat of that race would put her right there.
Spring On Curlin
#7 SPRING ON CURLIN: Has had a ton of chances, but drops to the lowest level he’s ever run at and gets a very significant rider switch to Joel Rosario. Arguably his best race came here last summer at this route; #11 FOUR KNIGHTS: Has been gelded since being claimed by Joe Sharp. He goes back to the turf, and his two-turn grass races are OK enough to give him a big shot here; #2 MONEIGH MOPROBLEMS: Drops down in class and exits the same race my top pick comes out of. He’s shown a solid closing kick, but he may not get much pace to run at in this spot. DIRT SELECTIONS: RUCKSACK, SPRING ON CURLIN, SACRED WALK.