When I was a kid, there was one summer where former New York Daily News racing writer/handicapper Bill Finley ran so terribly in the “Battle of Saratoga” that he ran out of money before the meet was over. As a kid, I laughed pretty hard at that and wondered how it could happen.
Well, given the slump I’ve been in in this section since the meet started, I get it now. I don’t think we’ll get to the point where we run out of funds, but some cold streaks do make it easy to see how that may happen. If there’s consolation, it’s that I heated up as last year’s meet rolled along, so hopefully things will begin to pick up sooner rather than later.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: An attempt to get some value out of Sudden Surprise fizzled early, when multi-race exotics horses were nowhere in the second race. We dropped $27.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll take a stand against likely third-race favorite #6 CUARENTA, who debuts for a tag that’s 25% of his 2017 purchase price. That hits me as a big red flag. I’ll box #5 ROGUE NATION, #7 ONE MORE TOM, and #9 PRETERNATURAL in $5 exactas.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30
Friday’s Results: 2 for 10
Meet Results (to date): 35 for 128
Best Bet: Business Cycle, Race 6
Longshot: Mr. Cub, Race 11
Moss entry (MTO)
#2 SOUPER TAPIT: Ran well in his return to the races last month at Churchill. When he’s right, he’s a stakes-caliber runner on any surface, and his pedigree hints that he may be getting even better; #4 HEMBREE: Hasn’t run a bad race in a more than a year and exits a win in a swiftly-run allowance downstate. He figures to be prominent early, and he hasn’t finished out of the top two in three local starts; #3 BIRD’S EYE VIEW: Was beaten a half-length by a strong runner last time out and has kept strong company in the past. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because he may want even more ground than he gets in this race. DIRT SELECTIONS: MOSS ENTRY, SOUPER TAPIT, FUNDY’S TIDE.
#4 NOBLE NEBRASKAN: Is bred to be a top-class runner. He’s by promising young sire Noble Mission, his second dam is G1 winner Honest Lady, and his third dam is Toussaud, the dam of Belmont winner/top sire Empire Maker; BROWN ENTRY: #1 SPIRIT ANIMAL is bred to like turf and is a threat if he draws in, while #1A STANDARD DEVIATION fetched $450,000 at auction, has trained like he could be a runner, and may be favored if the race is switched to the main track; #6 MEDINA RIDGE: Is out of a dam who won multiple graded stakes races going long on the grass. This barn isn’t necessarily known for having horses ready right away, but has had success with firsters on turf. DIRT SELECTIONS: STANDARD DEVIATION, SOCIAL PARANOIA, BRONXVILLE.
One More Tom
#9 PRETERNATURAL: Drops in for a tag and cuts back to a sprint, which seems like the trip he wants. His debut effort going short wasn’t bad, and that race’s winner has since run well twice against allowance foes; #5 ROGUE NATION: Debuts in this spot for a trainer that can win with first-time starters at this level. His workouts appear solid, and running to those drills may be enough to beat what seems like an underwhelming group; #7 ONE MORE TOM: Has plenty of seasoning and runs for a tag for the first time. His lack of early speed is a concern, but Javier Castellano signing on can’t be ignored.
Not So Quiet Man
BROMAN ENTRY: #1 FAST GETAWAY took to the turf last time out, when he closed to break his maiden at Belmont Park. He merits respect on the lawn, while #1A THE CARETAKER seems like the most logical selection if the race is taken off the turf; #2 VITSAL: Is certainly fast enough to win this race, but I’ll take a shot against him. He’s found trouble in each of his last three starts, and that trend is worrisome for a horse that’s drawn the rail; #10 NOT SO QUIET MAN: Has run well twice at Saratoga and comes in off a win at Monmouth Park. This is a class hike for him, but this barn doesn’t ship to NYRA tracks to sight-see. DIRT SELECTIONS: THE CARETAKER, CALL ME A STAR, BELLEVILLE SPRING.
#5 PRECIEUSE: Won a Group 1 in France two back and gets Lasix for her American debut. This isn’t a bad group, but it’s far from what she’s been running against overseas, and it seems like she’s been working well; #1 UNI: Has been working her way back since coming up sick prior to the Grade 1 Gamely, which she had to scratch out of. On her best day, she can certainly win this, but there’s a chance she needs the race; #7 ON LEAVE: Has been running against some of the best female turf horses in the country and was most recently seen running fifth in the Grade 1 Just A Game. Her best race would make her competitive, but she may be a hair past her peak.
#5 BUSINESS CYCLE: Was second in his debut late last year and hasn’t run since, but he’s been working incredibly well for Chad Brown. A repeat of that debut effort would make him very tough to beat; #4 HERSH: Rallied to finish second in his debut last month. He had some trouble that day and could step forward at second asking; #1 ALKHAATAM: Was bet to 2-1 odds in the Grade 2 Remsen, but ran fourth behind Catholic Boy and hasn’t been seen since. He’s got some solid works to his credit, but he’s bred to go much further, so this seems like a prep.
Justice of War
#2 JUSTICE OF WAR: Fetched $550,000 at auction and goes out for one of the top trainer/jockey combinations to this point in the meet. He’s got a few very strong gate works that hint he has serious talent; BROWN ENTRY: While #1 FULLNESS OF TIME has some things to recommend, I actually prefer #1A AHEAD OF PLAN, who needs some luck to draw in off the AE list. The latter hammered for $475,000 despite a modest pedigree and has a number of eye-catching workouts; #6 MUCHO: Ran well to be second behind Whiskey Echo in his debut, and that rival went on to run an OK third in the Grade 3 Sanford. Bill Mott’s horses tend to get better with experience, and that experience could help him given the abundance of debuting runners here.
#6 SEPARATIONOFPOWERS: Gets a tepid top pick in a puzzling renewal of the Grade 1 Test. She missed the break in the Grade 3 Victory Ride, yet rallied to be beaten less than two lengths. She should take a big step forward here with a cleaner trip; #4 CLASSY ACT: Ran a colossal race in defeat in the Victory Ride, when she helped set a very fast early pace, turned back her early rivals, and was nipped by a huge longshot. She’ll likely be prominent again in this race; #7 MIA MISCHIEF: Faded to finish fifth as the favorite in the Victory Ride, but her lesser races have come off of layoffs. She could be more fit here, and if she is, she’s absolutely good enough to win.
Mind Your Biscuits
#2 BACKYARD HEAVEN: Bounced badly when sixth in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, and I’m choosing to draw a line through that race. If he runs back to the Grade 2 Alysheba, he may be the horse to beat, and we could get a bit of a price based on the last-out clunker; #4 MIND YOUR BISCUITS: Tries nine furlongs for the first time after just missing in the Grade 1 Met Mile. His pedigree says he doesn’t want to go this far, but you can’t blame the connections for trying given the purse and the likely race shape that could favor his closing kick; #6 DIVERSIFY: Turned in a huge performance in the Grade 2 Suburban, where he smashed several of today’s foes and earned a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. That was easily his best performance to date, though, and given the other speed in the field and lack of any value here, I’ll try to beat him.
Mom’s On Strike
#5 SANTA MONICA: Has won two of three starts since coming to America and most recently took the Grade 2 Dance Smartly at Woodbine. She beat a pretty good group that day, and a similar performance here would likely make her a formidable foe; #2 MOM’S ON STRIKE: Has won five of her last seven starts and was beaten just two lengths in the Grade 2 New York, a race whose second and third-place finishers have already come back to win. Joe Sharp has gotten off to a great start at the meet, and she’s shown she can get this distance; #8 LOTTIE: May be a cut below these, but is one of only a few that’s ever shown early speed. She was up close throughout last time out, and a similar trip here seems likely.
#2 TICONDEROGA: Gets my top selection in a very deep renewal of the Lure Stakes. He’s kept tremendous company throughout his career, and I think he’s significantly better around two turns; #3 MR. CUB: Was beaten just a half-length in the Grade 2 Wise Dan, and with #8 VOODOO SONG likely scratching in favor of next weekend’s Grade 1 Fourstardave, this one figures to be the main early speed. He could get an easy trip, and such a journey would make him an overlay at his morning line price; #7 ZENNOR: Won three in a row, including this race last year, before being sidelined. If he’s back to that form, he’s a contender, but between the long layoff and the jockey switch, I’m treading fairly lightly.