Today’s card at Saratoga may be the best one of the meet to this point. Several of the top 3-year-old fillies in the country will be in action, and the card also boasts a number of intriguing races for 2-year-olds. There are plenty of great wagering opportunities on tap, and it’s a pleasure to handicap programs like this that reflect what Saratoga should always be: One of the last remaining cathedrals in horse racing.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Shang Shang Shang scratched scratched scratched, so our $20 cold double was refunded.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to take a stand against #3 MIDNIGHT BISOU in the Alabama. She’s a very nice horse, but the distance is a big question mark, and I can’t endorse her at her likely price. I’ll play doubles starting and ending in that race that use #4 SHE’S A JULIE and #8 TALK VEUVE TO ME. My $8 doubles starting in the eighth single #6 RUSHING FALL, and my $4 doubles ending in the tenth use #3 NEOCLASSIC, #4 REFLECTED STAR, and #11 EXPECTED RULER (assuming, of course, that the race stays on turf). Additionally, I’ll play a $1 Pick Three starting in the eighth that uses those horses.
TOTAL WAGERED: $34
Best Bet: Rushing Fall, Race 8
Longshot: Noble Nebraskan, Race 2
End of an Era
#2 AZZEDINE: Drops further down the ladder after falling as a 7/5 favorite earlier in the meet. This doesn’t seem like a distinguished field, and it seems like one he’ll beat with his usual race; #8 CAUSEUR: Had an eventful trip last time out, so it’s easy to draw a line through that race. He has back races that would make him a contender here, and we may get a price given the recent clunker; #9 END OF AN ERA: Adds blinkers for his local debut after an OK performance at Delaware Park. The blinkers could get him more involved early, and the presence of speed rider Kendrick Carmouche could also signal that he’s going early.
Standard Deviation (MTO)
#10 NOBLE NEBRASKAN: Is bred up and down for turf and has a solid series of works ahead of his debut. George Weaver can win with first-time starters, and we may get a price in what seems like a wide-open event; #9 MEDINA RIDGE: Is another bred to be a strong grass horse. He’s by War Front, out of a Smart Strike mare, and goes out for a barn that’s had success with firsters on turf; #6 SOUTHERN BRIDGE: Was fifth in his debut earlier in the meet, and was beaten just two lengths that day despite a wide trip. Improvement is logical at second asking for a patient barn. DIRT SELECTIONS: STANDARD DEVIATION, GOOSE DRANK WINE, PERCEIVED.
#1 FORGE: Did everything but win last time out in a very fast race for the level. He was claimed by Mike Maker that day, and he retains the services of jockey Javier Castellano; #7 NIGEL’S DESTINY: Is the only runner in this race with multiple wins at the seven-furlong distance. He was third behind a next-out winner in an allowance event downstate, and his last start for a tag was a win; #5 HELOOKSTHEPART: Didn’t fire last time out in a race several of today’s foes also exit, but is a closer in an event with plenty of early speed signed on. He may be past his peak, but the race shape will almost certainly benefit him.
Ahead of Plan
#7 AHEAD OF PLAN: Has a purchase price ($475,000) that jumps off the page given his very modest pedigree. He’s worked well of late and figures to be tough if he runs to those drills; #2 PRINCIPLED: Is the other logical first-time starter. He’s by Medaglia d’Oro and out of Grade 2 winner Teen Pauline, who set the five-furlong track record here at Saratoga in her 2012 debut; #8 CROMWELL AVENUE: Didn’t do much running in his debut, which was won by an impressive 2-year-old named Nitrous. He didn’t have a great trip that day and could improve here at a price.
Our Girl Abby
#3 OUR GIRL ABBY: Got the dirty end of a photo finish last time out but has a right to turn the tables on that rival here. There’s lots of early speed in this race, and she’s shown an ability to rate; #6 TEE UP: Was the winner of that photo finish following a perfect trip and smart ride by Joel Rosario. A repeat isn’t out of the question, but Rosario’s in California and there’s much more early speed signed on today; #4 RICHIE’SLILWILDCAT: Has won two small stakes races and ships in for a prominent Midwest outfit. She’ll likely make the lead, and it wouldn’t be a shock if she wires the field, but she may have to work hard out of the gate to get to the front.
#5 WILD MEDAGLIAD’ORO: Close well to be second in his debut after racing very wide most of the way. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because he’s bred to go much longer (and ran like it in his unveiling), but this certainly seems like the weaker split of the same race (the fourth has the same conditions); #3 MOST MISCHIEF: Improved at second asking when third behind Nitrous despite a trip that didn’t do him many favors. He has an experience edge on this group, which could prove valuable; #7 FED FEVER: Was bet in his debut but raced very wide and likely wasn’t fully persevered with. He’s continued to work well and has every right to step forward with a start under his belt.
Lovely La La
#8 LOVELY LA LA: Was much the best in her maiden win downstate, and that day’s third-place finisher has since come back to win. The pedigree says two turns won’t be an issue, and speed’s always a plus on the inner turf course; #3 HOLLYWOOD CAT: Flopped when fourth as a 3/2 favorite earlier in the meet, but the turf course was very wet that day. If the ground is on the firmer side, she has a big chance to improve for a proven barn; #4 WAY SMART: May have moved a bit too soon last time out at this level, but still ran an OK third. She’s yet to run a truly bad race and has shown some flexibility in her running style.
#6 RUSHING FALL: Was very rank last time out and still only missed by a neck in what doubled as her first career loss. She wants to rate and should be able to do that behind several others in this field; #1 THEWAYIAM: Hasn’t run a bad race this year and was a good second in the Belmont Oaks. The rail draw isn’t ideal for a closer, but she was only a length behind Rushing Fall earlier this year at Keeneland; #4 SIGNIFICANT FORM: Was fourth in the Belmont Oaks in a race that may have been longer than she wants to go. The cutback in distance should help her, and she’ll likely be on or near the lead given her ample tactical speed.
Talk Veuve to Me
She’s a Julie
#8 TALK VEUVE TO ME: Chased Mia Mischief and Monomoy Girl earlier this year, but cruised in the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks and showed she could go two turns. This field isn’t heavy on tactical speed, and she’s worked really well here of late; #4 SHE’S A JULIE: Romped in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks and is another that shouldn’t be too far back early. Take out the Fair Grounds races, and you’re left with a much better resume; #3 MIDNIGHT BISOU: Was second in the CCA Oaks, but had every chance that day and just couldn’t stick with Monomoy Girl. It seems like she struggles going further than a mile and a sixteenth, and I’m not sure this is the trip she wants.
#4 REFLECTED STAR: Gets a tepid nod in a wide-open finale. He’s shown early speed and was claimed out of his last race (a weirdly-run event) by a barn that’s done great work this year with a fairly small outfit; #11 EXPECTED RULER: Just missed at 25-1 last time out against much better, and is a major player if he draws in off the AE list. His effort two back has aged well, as he was third behind next-out Grade 3 winner Sandy’z Slew; #3 NEOCLASSIC: Has won two of his last three, and in those wins, he topped many of today’s rivals. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because he seems to prefer one-turn routes to two-turn trips, and he gets the latter here. DIRT SELECTIONS: BRIMSTONE, BITUMEN, CALIFORNIA SWING.