Saturday’s card has been drawn, and there’s a lot to take in. First, the good stuff: The Travers has every top-tier 3-year-old not named Justify (except for Hofburg). The Sword Dancer drew a 10-horse field with cases to be made for most of the runners, and multiple Grade 1 winner City of Light will ship east from California for the Forego. On the whole, it’s an excellent card, one that NYRA should be proud of.
There’s one disappointing race, though, and that’s the Grade 1 Personal Ensign. Yes, it has Abel Tasman and Elate. However, they’ll face just four challengers in a race that reflects the staggering lack of depth at the top of the older mare division. With how much Grade 1-placed mares are worth at auction, it’s a bummer that the Personal Ensign (which was shortened to a mile and an eighth just a few years ago to make it more attractive to runners not bred to go a mile and a quarter) couldn’t attract a bigger group.
WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: Cause I’m Alex got the trip I wanted and ran okay at a bit of a price, but had to settle for third. That foiled $20 worth of win-place tickets.
THURSDAY’S PLAY: Assuming races carded for the turf stay there, I really like the late Pick Four sequence. The last two races seem wide-open, which could lead to a nice score. My 50-cent ticket starts in the seventh and is as follows: 1,6 with 4,8 with 4,5,6,9 with 2,4,5,7,8.
TOTAL WAGERED: $40
Best Bet: Our Honor, Race 6
Longshot: Early Retirement, Race 5
#3 IRANISTAN: Ran a winning race in defeat last time out when second in the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick. The winner had the benefit of a perfect trip, while this one didn’t make the lead for the first time in his steeplechase career. It shouldn’t take much to turn the tables; #9 CLARCAM: Exits a romping win in a rich stakes race overseas just a few weeks ago. It’s a quick turnaround, but he’s shown an ability to handle it in the past, and the addition of Lasix could move him up; #4 SHOW COURT: Pulled off a 14-1 upset in the Smithwick, but got the benefit of a hole opening for him turning for home while my top pick raced three-wide. He could be in career-best form, but his past races at this distance aren’t anything to write home about.
#1 MISS MIMOSA: Stretches back out in distance after pressing a fast pace going shorter. Her race two back was quite sharp, and this trip should be much more to her liking (especially given the short field); #2 TIGALALU: May have bounced last time out when third in the slop last month. Her debut win at Belmont was sharp, and a return to that form could make her a major player; #3 WAR VALUE: Won for fun in her first dirt start, but sat a dream trip on a speed-favoring surface that day. There’s plenty of zip to her inside, so the likelihood of her sitting a similar trip here is low.
Not That Brady
#3 CADILLAC FRANKIE: Debuts for Rudy Rodriguez following a steady diet of local workouts. Some of those drills were quick, which is notable given the barn’s tendency to work horses slowly; #2 THE SICARII: Adds blinkers after having trouble at the gate in each of his first two outings. His debut effort was fine, and a clean start could result in a career-best race; #6 NOT THAT BRADY: Debuts for George Weaver and may get some play due to the backstory of his dam, Lisa’s Booby Trap (look it up, it’s a good one). The dirt workouts are solid, but the barn’s been in a bit of a rut lately and we’re not likely to get much of a price.
Salty Smile (MTO)
#2 ROSEBUD’S HOPE: Has yet to run a bad race on turf and exits a win at Monmouth Park. This is a jump up in class, but it sure seems like a weak race for the level; #1 SHEPUTASPELLONME: Responded to the stretchout last time out with a third-place finish against similar-level opposition. Manuel Franco rides back, and she could show some speed from the rail; #3 THEODOSIA: Drops back to the appropriate level following a trip against optional claimers last month. A repeat of the race two back makes her a contender, but she hasn’t won in more than 10 months and won’t be any sort of a price. DIRT SELECTIONS: SALTY SMILE, OVERBOOK, SOLITARY GEM.
Graded On a Curve
#1 GRADED ON A CURVE: Is bred up and down for turf and shouldn’t have much of a problem with two turns in his debut. His dam is a half to multiple graded stakes winner J’Ray, who did her best running at this sort of route; #9 EARLY RETIREMENT: Showed speed going longer in a race run at the wrong distance earlier in the meet and could improve on the cutback. Shenanigans aside, he may have gotten a lot out of that race, and Jose Ortiz sees fit to ride; #8 SCOTTY BROWN: Has a pedigree that looks modest on paper but gets better if you do some digging. He and his dam are both kin to five winners, and John Terranova can pop at a price with first-time starters. DIRT SELECTIONS: WOODBURY, PIPES, SCOTTY BROWN.
#8 OUR HONOR: Drops in for a tag for the first time after a near-miss at Parx and looms large for powerhouse connections. It’s not ideal to see a $435,000 purchase run for $30,000, but anything close to her two prior efforts would make him tough; #6 WON’T BURN: Came off the bench running last time out at Finger Lakes when beaten just a half-length. Finger Lakes shippers can win here, and this barn has enjoyed its share of success this summer; #5 EXPERT: Tries dirt first off the claim by Patrick Reynolds and has worked well enough over it to suggest he’ll be a factor.
Maho Bay (MTO)
DUBB ENTRY: #1A HOPONTHEBUSGUS can win, but I prefer #1 SAMARA, who was claimed last time out by Jason Servis and comes back to the grass. Her efforts three and four back are probably the best races run by any entrant in this field; #6 DREAM PASSAGE: Was third in an off-the-turf race last week and is wheeled back quickly by Brad Cox. Her win two back over maiden claimers was good, and she should be moving the right direction late; #7 AWESOME QUICK: Was headed at the wire last time out at Belmont and has a habit of settling for minor awards but ran reasonably well at this route last summer. Carmouche rides back, and she should show speed once again. DIRT SELECTIONS: MAHO BAY, LEAH’S DREAM, DUBB ENTRY.
Go Big Or Go Home
#4 BRONZE AGE: Was disqualified out of a win last time out and runs here for a barn that’s gotten hot of late. His versatility is a plus, and he’s reunited with the pilot from a sharp three-back effort; #8 SHANGHAI SCHWARTZ: Graduated in a photo finish last time out and makes his first start against winners. Castellano rides back for Brown, and he should show speed from his outside post; #6 GO BIG OR GO HOME: Was second to a runaway winner last time out at this level and route. He dueled between horses that day, which isn’t easy to do, and he’ll likely be prominent out of the gate once again.
Cash Out (MTO)
#9 GOODTHINGSTAKETIME: Has spent most of this year running against graded stakes-caliber foes and could appreciate the slight class drop. She was third in the Grade 3 Lake George last time out, and trainer Jorge Abreu has done well this summer; #4 TAPIT TODAY: Has won two in a row at Monmouth and gets a class test here. This is certainly a step up, but this barn must be respected and there’s a chance she simply took two starts to figure things out; #6 FERDINANDA: Will likely drop back and make one big late run, which means she’s the likely beneficiary of a speed duel going into the first turn. Luis Saez rides back off a second-place finish last month. DIRT SELECTIONS: CASH OUT, GOING OUT, TAPIT TODAY.
#7 SIENA MAGIC: Gets a tepid nod in a contentious finale. He’s by all-world sire Candy Ride, out of a mare that doubles as a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Boston Harbor, and has a work tab that suggests he could be a real runner; #5 IDENTITY POLITICS: Was second in his debut downstate, where he pressed a slow pace and hung late. He could relish the cutback in distance, and improvement is always likely at second asking; #4 MEASURE TWICE: Debuts for first-out maestro Wesley Ward and sports several flashy drills, including an August 16th bullet. He fetched $525,000 at auction two years ago and is bred to be any sort of turf horse.