The monsoon that hit Saratoga Friday afternoon came at a much-needed time for yours truly. The track had turned into one that was heavily tilted to horses with early speed, and given that I submit picks about 36 hours before each day’s first post, chances are any bias that pops up will work against me. Heavy rain like that, though, tends to reset the track, and a fair track definitely benefits me given the way I handicap and submit my content.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: I got washed out for the second straight day, as both of the horses I used in the second race scratched.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll have two main plays on the card. Assuming the second race stays on turf (no cinch given Friday’s weather and the overnight forecast), I’ll put $5 to win and place on #2 CALIFORNIA SWING, my top longshot of the day. Additionally, I’ll play a cold $20 double beginning in the seventh race that singles both #3 ENGAGE and #4 IMPERIAL HINT.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30
Friday’s Results: 3 for 9
Meet Results (to date): 19 for 68
Best Bet: Engage, Race 7
Longshot: California Swing, Race 2
Party With Friends
#11 CARTER CAT: Improved at second asking and was beaten just a half-length in an off-the-turf event at Churchill Downs. He’s bred up and down for turf, and merits a long look if he draws in off the AE list; #6 PARTY WITH FRIENDS: Has several flashy works on the tab, as well as a high turf Tomlinson rating (314). He’s a full to a four-time winner, and the bottom side of his pedigree is incredibly strong; #5 HALLADAY: Is bred in the purple and goes out for Todd Pletcher, whose debut runners must always be respected. If there’s a concern here, it’s that he’s bred to go much further than 5 1/2 furlongs.
St. Louie Guy (MTO)
#2 CALIFORNIA SWING: Could benefit from the likely race shape, one that should set things up for a closer. He was a good second at this level downstate, and he won over this turf course last season; #11 NILEATOR: Was claimed out of his last race by Eddie Kenneally, whose numbers with new acquisitions are very strong. He’ll need to work out a trip from the far outside, but his tactical speed should help; #3 WESTERN RESERVE: May be bet pretty heavily on the drop in class, but he hasn’t won in more than a year and there’s plenty of other speed signed on. On most of my tickets, I’ll try to beat him. DIRT SELECTIONS: ST. LOUIE GUY, DRIVEN BY THUNDER, NILEATOR.
Air On Fire
#5 CONSENSUS THINKING: Drops in for a tag after two solid efforts downstate. He’s been working well up here, and he looms large on the drop in class for powerhouse connections; #3 GRAY NILE: Went way too far last time out, so it’s easy to toss that race. His efforts two and three back against similar-level foes at Churchill were fine, and it helps that the two-back winner repeated at next asking; #7 AIR ON FIRE: Has been gelded since his last start, which came at Prairie Meadows against straight maidens. His best race gives him a shot, but he’s had lots of chances, and it’s tough to trust him at a fairly short price.
Bowl of Kisses
Trouble for Skylar
#4 FAIR REGIS: Has run seven strong races in a row and comes in off a sharp win at Belmont at this level. Falcone has enjoyed great success with a smaller barn, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., chooses to ride this filly when he almost certainly had other options; #6 BOWL OF KISSES: Has won two in a row, including prevailing in a head-bob over my top pick last time out. There’s other early speed in here, though, so she may have to work a bit harder early on than she’s accustomed to; #2 TROUBLE FOR SKYLAR: Wants no part of turf and comes back to her preferred surface. She romped in her debut here last July, and I think she has a big shot to outrun her odds.
#3 AURELIUS MAXIMUS: Is one of the best-bred 2-year-olds on the grounds. He’s by Pioneerof the Nile, and his dam, second dam, and third dam were all graded stakes winners. He’s a half to Grade 2 winner Chief Havoc and has been working lights-out ahead of his debut; #10 COAST: Is a well-bred first-time starter from the Todd Pletcher barn that cost $500,000 at auction earlier this year. His dam was a Grade 2 winner, and he’s a half to multiple stakes-winning sprinter Balandeen; #11 MUCHO: Was second to Whiskey Echo last month, and that one came back to run third in the Grade 3 Sanford. Bill Mott trainees sometimes need a race to get going, and he could show improvement if he draws in off the AE list.
Honorable Treasure (MTO)
#11 LUNAIRE: Gets my top pick in a race where half the field could conceivably win. This one hasn’t won in a while, but exits some pretty tough races and could get some speed to rate behind beneath Javier Castellano; #4 UNCLE GIO: Has run six solid races in a row, and has only finished worse than third once in that stretch. He cuts back to a friendlier distance, and John Velazquez keeps the mount; #9 PENALTY: Has run two solid turf races in a row and has a pedigree that suggests he wants this two-turn route. He’s a bit one-paced, but that could work to his advantage here given the added distance. DIRT SELECTIONS: HONORABLE TREASURE, CHRIS AND DAVE, DR. SHANE.
World of Trouble
#3 ENGAGE: Beat a number of these rivals when second in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens, and he should once again be able to watch as a sizzling pace is set in front of him. He’s this race’s lone true closer, and he could come flying late; #2 PROMISES FULFILLED: Led into the stretch of the Woody Stephens before yielding and finishing third behind two closers. His one-turn races are strong, and he’s certainly got plenty of early zip; #6 WORLD OF TROUBLE: Looked like a future star when he smashed stakes foes at Tampa three back, but his last two races have been a bit of a disappointment. However, the Servis barn has been going great, so he can’t be completely dismissed.
#4 IMPERIAL HINT: Has seven wins in his last eight starts if you toss the Grade 2 Churchill Downs (which was contested in an absolute quagmire). He’s one of the best sprinters in the country, and he’s been working very well at Parx leading up to this event; #1 SWITZERLAND: Has come to hand for Steve Asmussen, having won four in a row. His win in Maryland was sharp, but he wasn’t exactly flattered when runner-up Long Haul Bay didn’t fire earlier this week; #3 WARRIOR’S CLUB: Looks much better if you toss his races at longer than seven furlongs. He may not be as talented as the top two, but this is his preferred trip, and he’s run well at Saratoga in the past.
#7 HI HAPPY: Seems like one of the few potential speed horses in a wide-open renewal of the Grade 2 Bowling Green. He’s one of many exiting the Grade 1 Manhattan, but unlike a few of them, he’s proven at this level given the wins two and three back; #6 SADLER’S JOY: Won last year’s Grade 1 Sword Dancer here and nearly added another such score in the Manhattan, when he was second beaten just a neck. He’s a consistent sort, but the question is, will he get enough of a pace to rate behind?; #8 MONEY MULTIPLIER: Was second behind stablemate Funtastic in the Grade 1 United Nations after winning the Grade 2 Monmouth two back. His best effort would give him a big shot, but one has to wonder if his favorite track is at the shore, not the Spa.
#1 FLAMEAWAY: Has danced a lot of dances this year and run well against high-level competition. He’s got plenty of speed, his recent workouts have been sensational, and Jose Ortiz signing on can’t be ignored; #5 VINO ROSSO: Took a brave run at Justify in the Belmont before running out of gas and settling for fourth. His Wood Memorial win three back was good, but it’s worth noting he lost to Flameaway twice at Tampa earlier this year; #2 TENFOLD: May be favored given his third-place finish in the Preakness two back. Having said that, he’s still eligible for allowance conditions, and the Preakness being contested amidst a storm of epic proportions doesn’t give me confidence that the effort in question can be repeated.
#6 REVERSETHEDECISION: Was a fast-closing second in a stakes race at Monmouth last time out, and that day’s winner has since come back to win again. There’s speed signed on here, and this filly could finish off a big day for trainer Chad Brown; #4 FRIPPERY: Made a big middle move last time out at Delaware Park and couldn’t sustain it, settling for second in a minor stakes race. Arnaud Delacour means business when he ships here, and Joel Rosario’s presence can’t be ignored; #11 CASH OUT: Gets necessary class relief after spending much of her career in graded stakes races. She’s hit the board in two of them, and she’s another that could be moving well late in a wide-open finale.