Over the past few days, there’s been lots of chatter on social media about the possibility of Horse of the Year honors still being up for grabs. Some fans are backing Accelerate, probably the top older horse in training. Others are rallying behind Travers winner Catholic Boy, who has now won Grade 1 races on dirt and turf.
I respect both of those horses, but let’s get real for a moment. “Undefeated Triple Crown winner” is a resume that tops anything Accelerate or Catholic Boy could potentially put forth by the end of the year. Three and a half years ago, many of us were wondering if we’d ever see a Triple Crown again, and now we’re trying to act like it’s nothing special? Justify is Champion 3-Year-Old Male, Horse of the Year, and a first-ballot Hall of Famer. To those trying to create a debate where there shouldn’t be any room for argument: Stop the madness this instant.
THURSDAY’S RESULTS: We were washed out of our action when the third race was moved to the main track.
FRIDAY’S PLAY: Honestly, this card looks chalky to me, so I can’t invest too heavily. I’ll focus on $5 doubles linking the seventh and eighth races of the day, ones that start with #5 BIG BIRTHDAY and #7 FRENCH EMPIRE and end with #7 NAPLES PRINCESS and #10 DANCING ALL NIGHT.
TOTAL WAGERED: $20
Best Bet: Chiclet’s Dream, Race 1
Longshot: Naples Princess, Race 8
Barrel of Destiny
Dreamers and Me
#1 CHICLET’S DREAM: Has run second at this level on three straight occasions, but seems to catch a below-average field in this spot. She may have moved a bit early last time out and will likely be a very short price; #2 BARREL OF DESTINY: Was fourth in a state-bred stakes race earlier in the meet and comes back to the maiden ranks here. She may have been compromised by the yielding going last time out; #5 DREAMERS AND ME: Rallied to be second in her debut downstate and stretches out to two turns. While the added distance is a question mark, Bruce Levine has had a strong meet to this point.
#4 APARTFROMTHECROWD: Takes an alarming drop second off of a long layoff, but does so for a trainer probably looking to set the record for wins at a single Saratoga meet. As such, the drop doesn’t really scare me; #5 PLAYWRIGHT: Has run one poor race since late-2016, and it came off of a considerable layoff. He was second against similar-level opposition earlier this month and figures to be prominent early; #2 CHAMPAGNE PAPI: Merits a look underneath at a huge price. This race may set up for a closer, and he’s coming off of a runaway win at Monmouth Park.
My Mr. Wonderful
One More Tom
#7 GLOBAL IMPACT: Broke last in his debut but rallied to salvage third money. Chances are he got a lot out of that race, and he’ll be tough (especially with a clean break); #4 MY MR. WONDERFUL: Drops way down in class and comes back to dirt. His best race may have been his debut, where he ran second over this track; #3 ONE MORE TOM: Didn’t do much running earlier in the meet, but he adds blinkers on a drop in class, and that could be enough to wake him up.
#6 RYMSKA: Reeled off three wins in a row last year before going to the sidelines. Horses often take big leaps forward from age three to age four, and her best effort would make her formidable; #5 PENJADE: Won four of six 2017 starts, and like my top pick/her stablemate, she makes her 2018 debut here. She may be a bit more pace-dependent than the fellow Brown trainee, though; #1 MY IMPRESSION: Has run against plenty of top-tier turf distaffers in her career and may have been hurt by the yielding going last time out. These connections must be respected, and she may be a price.
#5 QUIET COMPANY: Led most of the way in an off-the-turf event last month, but had to settle for third money. She could take a step forward at second asking, especially over a surface she’s bred to like; #8 LADY GRACE: Fetched $300,000 at auction earlier this year and has been working well. This barn has been ice cold, but offspring of Kantharos tend to excel on grass, and this filly seems well-meant; #14 EGOLI: Needs lots of luck to draw in but must be respected if she does. Wesley Ward is tremendous with debuting turf sprinters, and the most recent work hints that she’s ready to run.
Scarf It Down
#3 SCARF IT DOWN: Drops in class a bit after tiring at this route earlier in the meet. He hasn’t won in a while, but there doesn’t seem to be much speed signed on, and the likely race shape could play to his tactical speed; #2 BAR NONE: Ships up from Belmont and cuts back in distance. He’s run well going seven furlongs in the past, and the Ortiz/Rodriguez combination merits respect; #6 DIVINE INTERVENTIO: Was impressive when rallying to a runaway win earlier in the meet. This spot seems a bit tougher, and the pace may not be as fast, but there’s a chance he’s recaptured his early-2017 form.
#7 FRENCH EMPIRE: Cuts back in distance after running third going seven furlongs. She appears to have ample tactical speed and could still be improving; #5 BIG BIRTHDAY: Wasn’t sharp at short odds earlier in the meet, but her race two back going today’s distance was solid. A repeat of that effort would make her a player, but chances are we won’t get any sort of a price; #4 BACCARAT FASHION: Has shown lots of early speed on the Mid-Atlantic circuit and ships up for a barn that doesn’t run many horses on the NYRA circuit. Luis Saez sees fit to ride, and she figures to be a sizable price.
Dancing All Night
Quick Quick Quick
#10 DANCING ALL NIGHT: Has made a habit of collecting minor awards, so the addition of blinkers could be a big help. Between that and the cushy outside draw, this seems like a “now or never” spot; #7 NAPLES PRINCESS: Has shown a strong closing kick and could be helped by the likely race shape. She was third in a tough allowance race earlier this month, and the faster they go out of the gate, the more this one figures to like it; #11 QUICK QUICK QUICK: Broke her maiden here last summer, and while she hasn’t won since, she returns to a sprint distance, which could be more up her alley.
#8 POCKET CHANGE: Didn’t break well going a mile and ran into eventual Fourstardave winner Voodoo Song. He returns to his preferred distance and class level and will likely be backed heavily at the windows; #6 BIG ROCK: Found himself on the lead last time out, and that’s not the trip he wants. He’s 3 for 4 at this route of ground, and he could sit a perfect stalking trip; #3 ROCKET HEAT: Aired by four lengths at this route earlier in the meet and was claimed out of that event by a small barn that doesn’t claim many horses. He’ll likely set the early pace, and there’s a chance he’s fast enough to work out a comfortable trip.
#4 HEAVEN’S CREATION: Was claimed by Robertino Diodoro earlier in the meet and comes back to one turn. Toss out her turf races, and you’re left with a hard-trying filly that fits very well in the Friday finale; #5 PROBLEM SOLVING: Comes back to dirt and drops in for the lowest claiming tag she’s ever run for. Rosario and Baker make a very strong team, and she’s shown an ability to do her best running late; #3 CLAIRE’S KITTY: Comes back to dirt after a failed attempt on turf last time out. Her maiden win two back was fine, and she was third at this distance earlier this season.