It would be foolish not to comment on the death of Kentucky Derby and Travers winner Sea Hero, who passed away a few days ago. If you’ve been to Saratoga at all, you’ve seen the statue immortalizing him in the paddock. It would be misleading to say he was an all-time great, but in 1993, he became the first horse in more than 50 years to pull off the Derby-Travers double. Only two other horses have done it since.
With the racing world’s increased focus on, ahem, “brilliance,” pulling off that double may only get harder as the years go by. Horses simply aren’t bred like they used to be, and a relic of a time period when top-tier horses were campaigned aggressively and could handle it is now gone.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: Payne was left with too much to do and could only salvage third, which turned exacta and doubles tickets into confetti. We dropped $25.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll turn my attention to the seventh race, which seems like it’s going to set up for a closer. I’ll play #2 ZONIC and #4 CERRETALTO on top of $3 exactas that use those two, #1 SUDDEN SURPRISE, #7 SHAMROCK KID, and #8 BINKSTER underneath. I’ll also box my top two horses in $2 exactas, which puts me in a better position to score if the race falls apart.
TOTAL WAGERED: $28
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BEST BET: Positive Skew, Race 5
LONGSHOT: Bohemian Bourbon, Race 9
Sign of the Times
#9 SWEET MELANIA: Gets a very tepid nod in a confounding opener. She has an experience edge over her rivals in this spot, and she’s bred to love the two turns she gets here; #3 LUCKY JINGLE: Hails from a barn whose first-time starters often need a race to get going, but has been working well ahead of her debut. Her 311 turf Tomlinson number is solid, and she may be a price; #8 SIGN OF THE TIMES: Debuted last month going two turns, which isn’t easy for a young 2-year-old. She didn’t do much running that day, but she may have gotten something out of that race.
Keeping the Peace
Bustin to Be Loved
#3 KEEPING THE PEACE: Tries winners for the first time after a sharp win in May at Monmouth. This barn tends to keep horses on the right track, and he could be tough to catch if he makes the lead; #8 ELIOS MILOS: Likely needed his last effort, which came after a layoff of nearly a year. He ran well twice last year before heading to the sidelines, and a return to that form would make him a contender; #2 BUSTIN TO BE LOVED: Tried pretty deep waters last year as a 2-year-old and drops down sharply in class for this event. Maybe he peaked early, but he’s worked well here and merits a look in the exotics at a price.
Bassman Dave (MTO)
#4 CRACK SHOT: Ran very well when second off of a long layoff last month downstate. He was beaten just a length despite making the lead from his far outside post, and he’ll likely get a much easier trip from this post; #3 WILD WILLIAM: Has shown speed in his career and ran reasonably well here in two starts last summer. Luis Saez riding back is certainly encouraging; #9 ADIOS AMIGOS: Rallied a bit last time out and will likely take money here. The post is tough, but top turf rider Leparoux does get the call. DIRT SELECTIONS: BASSMAN DAVE, WILD BOAR, BULWARK.
Blame the Cake
#8 NO SALT: Fetched $200,000 at auction last summer and has been working well here for Bill Mott, who’s already scored with one 2-year-old this meet as of this writing. The outside draw could allow for some flexibility, and he sure looks like a runner; #7 SOUTH AFRICA: Has kicked it into gear in his last two works at Belmont and attracts Jose Ortiz for his unveiling. The June 30th work looks particularly impressive; #2 BLAME THE CAKE: Hammered for $160,000 earlier this year, and while the pedigree says turf, his steady works on dirt at Churchill Downs are notable.
Free to Fly
#8 POSITIVE SKEW: Takes a gigantic drop in class to run here just two starts after being beaten less than three lengths in a stakes race at Gulfstream. Simply put, if this stays on the turf and she’s right, the race is for second money; #10 FREE TO FLY: Comes back to the claiming ranks after two starts against allowance foes on the mid-Atlantic circuit. Her last start when in for a tag was a win, and this seems like the right level; #12 ZABAVA: Rolled home when dropped way down in class last time out and may be seen as the logical alternative to my top selection. However, the post is a killer, and I don’t think she beat much last month at Belmont. DIRT SELECTIONS: SHARPIN, TAPPANZEE, DESTINY OVER FATE.
Carlisle Belle (MTO)
#4 FETCHING: Rallied to finish third in a race that didn’t have much pace. There seems to be more speed signed on here, and her pedigree hints that she’ll embrace two turns; #5 FLUSH: Was second in that race, but had a perfect trip and got reeled in late. Maybe two turns will help, but I usually don’t like endorsing horses coming off of races like that on top; #10 DOODER: Was off 11 months and almost certainly needed her return race in May at Belmont on dirt. She gets back to her preferred surface, and she graduated over this turf course back in 2017. DIRT SELECTIONS: CARLISLE BELLE, TRI COUNTY ENTRY, HIT A PROVISIONAL.
#2 ZONIC: Is a closer in what seems like a race full of early speed. He’s been gelded since his last start, and the fact that he boasts a win in his lone prior start over this surface is a big, big plus; #4 CERRETALTO: Has been off since December, but his 2018 form was quite good. At one point, he reeled off three wins in four starts, and he’s another that may benefit from a fast pace; #8 BINKSTER: Certainly seems like the speed of the speed, and he exits a very fast race for the level. He may make the lead, but the question is, will he have anything left when the field turns for home?
Cap de Creus (MTO)
Catch a Bid
#8 CATCH A BID: Debuted with an authoritative score at Belmont, one where she covered the last quarter-mile in less than 23 seconds. I’m not sure what she beat that day, but any progression at all would make her tough to beat; #11 VARENKA: Has been ambitiously-spotted in her career and most recently ran third in the Grade 3 Regret at Churchill Downs. Any speed duel would work to her advantage, but Jose Ortiz will need to work out a trip from a tough post; #3 QUIET DIGNITY: Gets Lasix in her American debut for Chad Brown, who also saddles my top pick. Lasix tends to move European invaders way up, so I think she’s worth consideration. DIRT SELECTIONS: CAP DE CREUS, GODOLPHIN ENTRY, EBULLIENT.
#4 BREAK EVEN: Is undefeated in five career starts, including a Grade 2 win earlier this year at Churchill. It’s her first time trying turf, but this barn has historically been excellent in turf sprints, and Bridgmohan comes in to ride; #3 BOHEMIAN BOURBON: Is a pace play for me, as she’s a closer in a race full of horses who will go very fast early. Perhaps she isn’t good enough to win, but she figures to be flying late at a big price; #2 LYRICAL LADY: Is bred to like turf, and when she’s good, she’s very good. Her race two back was excellent, and she’s a contender if she can channel that form in this spot.
Mine the Coin
Star of the West
#8 MINE THE COIN: Takes a big drop in class and has been gelded since his last start. It seems like he’s caught a weak field on the drop, so while the layoff is a slight concern, he still seems like the one to beat; #11 STAR OF THE WEST: Debuts for a trainer who has strong numbers with first-time starters at this level. He’s been working well, and he may not need to be much to pick up a check here; #1 DARK STORM: Didn’t run well at all last time out, but his debut against straight maidens was OK and that day’s rider gets the call here. This is Weaver’s “other” entrant in this race, and I think he’s got two live runners.