Three notes today. First (and most importantly), the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund is holding its annual Jockey Karaoke Night this evening at Vapor. It’s always a fun time and a great way to support a lot of former riders that are in need of assistance. Just bring earplugs, especially if Mike Luzzi and David Cohen attempt to re-enact their “performance” from five years ago (I still have nightmares).
Next, this week’s edition of “The Dark Day Files” will go online Monday night and examine the retirement of Justify, the social media reaction to it, and how it reflects a much bigger problem within the sport. Finally, I’ll be in the Saratoga backyard today for my once-a-year visit. If you see a tall guy in sunglasses near the paddock that resembles my headshot and doesn’t shut up, it’s probably me. Come say hi!
SUNDAY’S RESULTS: Scratches reduced the cost of my Pick Four ticket to $18, and that’s a good thing, as Wow Cat ran out of racetrack in the Shuvee. In total, we dropped $23.
MONDAY’S PLAY: How will I celebrate my one day at the Spa this summer? By using part of my bankroll on a steeplechase race! In all seriousness, I think #5 MODEM is a beatable favorite given his apparent addiction to running second, as well as the weight he’s giving to his rivals. I’ll play $4 doubles using #1 IRANISTAN and #2 PERSONAL START, as well as #1 NOMINAL DOLLARS and #4 SAL THE TURTLE in the second. Also, I need some action on #4 SURVEY in the sixth, just in case he makes an easy lead and forgets to stop. I’ll play $1 doubles singling him that start in the fifth with #1 RHYTHMIA, #2 GUMP, #5 BACKTOHISROOTS, #7 JOHNNY TICKETS, and #10 CATCH ME IF U CAN.
TOTAL WAGERED: $21
Best Bet: Lady Camille, Race 10
Longshot: Survey, Race 6
#1 IRANISTAN: Has reeled off four wins in a row (three over fences, one on the flat) and looms large for powerhouse steeplechase trainer Jonathan Sheppard. He wired a stakes field going longer, and it helps that Nagle (who could’ve ridden another contender in here) is aboard this one; #2 PERSONAL START: Is another on a hot streak, as he comes in having won three straight. Most recently, he aired by eight in a Grade 2 event, and he seems to be in career-best form; #5 MODEM: Will likely be favored, but he’s burned plenty of money since coming over from Europe. He’s run second five times, and while he can’t be left off of vertical exotics tickets, I can’t be too excited about him on top, especially given the short price and that he’s giving up to 20 pounds to the rest of the field.
Sal the Turtle
#4 SAL THE TURTLE: Had a rough trip against much better last time out and gets a rider switch to Ricardo Santana, Jr., who’s been riding very well to this point in the meet. He’s got plenty of back form and should be prominent early; #1 NOMINAL DOLLARS: Has three straight seconds against similar company and may go off favored. However, he’s burned plenty of money lately, and he may need more moisture in the track than he’s likely to get; #7 CRAFTY CONCORDE: Hasn’t run since October, but has worked well at Finger Lakes ahead of his seasonal debut. Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride, and if he’s ready, he could be a player.
New York Song
#8 BATTLE STATION: Has yet to run a bad race sprinting and graduated at this route last summer. For a turf sprint, there isn’t much speed signed on, and he may be the one they have to catch; #7 NEW YORK SONG: Came back running last time out, when he missed by a neck downstate. His lone start over this turf course was a win, and he’d benefit from someone challenging my top pick early; #3 MCERIN: Was thought of highly enough by his prior connections that they sent him to Royal Ascot. His first start for this barn was a decent effort at Monmouth, and he could improve off of that.
Zap Zap Zap
#7 ZAP ZAP ZAP: Was claimed by the always-dangerous Brad Cox barn last time out, and that effort was too bad to be true. His two races here last year were OK and came against solid fields for that level; #2 BENEFACTOR: Drops way down in class and shortens up a bit off of an OK third against $25,000 claimers earlier in the meet. This is a much softer spot, and these connections had a lot of success this past weekend; #1 LIGHTNING BUZZ: Was claimed out of his last race by Jeremiah Englehart. He generally runs the same race every time out and merits respect on the trainer switch, but he certainly seems to enjoy settling for minor awards.
Catch Me If U Can
#5 BACKTOHISROOTS: Ran well to be second in his debut at Churchill Downs, even though he raced greenly that day. His most recent work earned a bullet, and Joe Sharp has done very well with similar stock so far this meet; #10 CATCH ME IF U CAN: Fetched $55,000 at auction despite a very modest pedigree and has a few flashy works for a trainer that can win with first-time starters. Jose Ortiz has been enticed to ride, and that’s also a plus; #2 GUMP: Debuted with a solid performance before losing all chance at the break last time out. He drops in class and adds blinkers, and a repeat of his debut would give him a big shot.
Midnight Tea Time
#9 COURSE CORRECTION: Exits a fast race for the level at Belmont Park and looms large for top-flight connections. It’s tough to tell how any of these runners will take to this route, but this one seems formidable; #5 MIDNIGHT TEA TIME: Was impeded late in his last start, which was his first try going close to today’s distance. I’m not crazy about the field he ran against that day, but he did have a legitimate excuse; #4 SURVEY: Will be a big price, but he’s bred up and down to run as long as possible. Additionally, he’s shown some early speed, which this field is light on, and that’s always a recipe for success on the inner turf course.
#2 BRATTATA: Has never run a bad race on turf and most recently finished third behind Got Stormy, who won a Grade 3 at next asking. She ran well when second at this route last summer and gets a tepid nod in what strikes me as a wide-open turf sprint; #7 ORIGINATOR: Was second behind Road to Victory in a similar stakes race at Woodbine. Woodbine turf form sometimes doesn’t translate, but that one is a legitimate filly, and she’s never misfired going short on the grass; #4 MOMINOU: Has two wins and two seconds in four starts since switching to turf. She’s got plenty of speed and could be formidable, even though she’s trying stakes company for the first time.
#8 SPECIAL RELATIVITY: Was third against similar at Belmont in his first start for these connections. Her record looks much better if you toss her turf races, and a repeat of the two-back win at Churchill would make her a major player; #5 CURIOUSNCURIOUSER: Romped against much weaker at Belmont in her first start for Chris Englehart. She’s 2 for 2 at this distance, and it’s possible that the trainer switch woke her up; #1 HAYNESFEST: Just missed going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs. The Tom Amoss barn merits lots of respect, and she’ll take money, but it’s worth noting she may be at her best going longer than today’s route.
#4 FOCUS GROUP: Is 2 for 2 at this distance and longer and gets my top pick in a confusing turf marathon. There isn’t a ton of pace signed on, but he may be talented enough to overcome it, and at least you know he has the stamina for this trip; #7 CLASSIC COVEY: Was third in the Grade 2 Pan American two back before misfiring as an odds-on favorite last time out. However, that race aged well when Funtastic came out of it to take the Grade 1 United Nations, and he could easily bounce back in this spot; #1 SOGLIO: Was third in a Grade 3 last time out, and two starts ago romped at Churchill, but this barn had an ice-cold start to the meet and the rail draw isn’t ideal.
#3 LADY CAMILLE: Adds Lasix second off the layoff after missing by a half-length downstate in her first start since September. She nearly overcame a very wide post that day, and a repeat effort would make her tough to beat; #7 MERLINS MUSE: Seems like a difficult horse to ride, as she’s found trouble in all three career starts. Still, she only finished a length behind my top selection two back, and she may still be improving; #6 FREDERICA: Took a big step forward when third at this level earlier this month. That wasn’t a particularly strong field, but this doesn’t seem like the most inspiring group, either.