I was at Saratoga every day during the 2013 season. That season saw a dramatic uptick in the number of races run at The Spa, and the effect on those working on the premises was noticeable. The strangest initiative of all involved running 11-race programs on Thursdays. Most fans left by around the ninth race, and from the press box, several of us could count the number of fans left on the apron for the late double.
There are 11 races on the Thursday program, due in large part to the cancellation of Saturday’s card. I understand that there’s some ground to make up, but this seems more like an endurance test than anything else. I wish there was a better solution, and I sincerely hope this is a one-time thing.
WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: Our Pick Four ticket was null and void after two legs of the sequence were taken off the turf.
THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’ll try to get some value out of my best bet of the day. That’s #6 RATAJKOWSKI in the third race. I’ll play $5 doubles starting in the second race that single her and kick off with #2 PERSIAN QUEEN and #5 WEDONTBELIEVEHER. Additionally, I’ll start $3 doubles with Ratajkowski that end with #3 BAIL OUT, #4 THIRD EDITION, #6 SHENNAN, and #7 NOBLE SPIRIT in the fourth. Finally, I’ll play a $1 Pick Three starting in the second race that uses all of these horses.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30
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BEST BET: Ratajkowski, Race 3
LONGSHOT: Tizaprincessa, Race 6
#6 VOSNE ROMANEE: Makes his American debut after running against some high-quality steeplechasers overseas. He gets Lasix for the first time, and if he channels his 2018 form, he’ll be very tough; #9 BEDROCK: Also debuts in the U.S. and gets Lasix for highly-regarded connections. The layoff is a concern, but his best effort is certainly enough to win; #12 GIBRALFARO: Misfired in the Grade 1 Iroquois, but ran well in stakes company for three starts in a row prior to that. A return to that form would make him a contender at a price.
#5 WEDONTBELIEVEHER: Debuts for Rudy Rodriguez and comes in with an impressive local work tab. Offspring of young sire Bayern look like runners, and she’ll likely be favored; #2 PERSIAN QUEEN: Completes a powerful one-two punch for Rodriguez. Like her stablemate, she seems well-meant in her unveiling, especially off of a strong recent drill; #4 POLISHED COPPER: Debuts for a barn that’s done very well with a limited number of starters this meet. She’s worked consistently here and could be ready to go.
Paved With Gold
#6 RATAJKOWSKI: Tries winners for the first time, but it sure seems like she’s caught a weak race for the level. She’s bred to love two turns, and she figures to be prominent all the way around; #1 LUCKY MOVE: Returns to the state-bred ranks after running third in a starter allowance race at Churchill. She’s run well around two turns before and would benefit from any moisture left in the track; #7 PAVED WITH GOLD: Comes back to dirt after showing a bit of speed last time out on turf at Belmont. She’s another that should like two turns, and it’s tough to poke holes in the connections.
#3 BAIL OUT: Stretches out to a marathon distance and has the pedigree to love such a trip. He’s been close many times, and this might be a “now or never” type of spot; #7 NOBLE SPIRIT: Likely needed his 2019 debut, which was his first start since September. This barn does well with runners second off of long layoffs, and he should be fully-cranked here; #4 THIRD EDITION: Was victimized by a slow pace earlier this month and could get a better setup here. His running lines feature several next-out winners, and he could get a piece of this at a price.
#3 PYRON: Was beaten less than two lengths in a Grade 3 two starts ago and now drops in for a claiming tag. Anything close to his best race would make him very, very tough; #6 DARK MONEY: Makes his first start for Rudy Rodriguez following a claim late last month. He sat a perfect trip last time out against a weaker group, but figures to have more opposition up front early on; #1 HAWAIIAN NOISES: Won a stakes race earlier this year at Turfway, but was most recently beaten at 2/5 odds in an allowance at Belterra Park. He’s a contender on his best day, but it’s fair to wonder if that time has passed.
Righteous Ruby (MTO)
Joy of Treasure
#11 JOY OF TREASURE: Just missed last time out at Churchill Downs and figures to be flying late. This race seems to have a lot of early speed signed on, and such a scenario would set things up perfectly for the morning line favorite; #10 TIZAPRINCESSA: Didn’t break well last time out at Belmont, but has a history of making up ground in the stretch. It’s encouraging that Joel Rosario rides back, and I think she’s got a shot at a big price; #1 SEASIDE DANCER: Has reeled off four wins in a row and seems like one of the main speed horses in the field. This is a class jump on a new surface, but he could be dangerous if he’s left alone on the front end.
#3 RISKY MISCHIEF: Fetched $350,000 at auction last summer and has worked well for a trainer that can get horses ready to go right away. This isn’t an easy spot, but she seems prepared for her debut; #11 AUBREY TATE: Was bet ahead of her planned debut, but was scratched at the gate. As mentioned earlier, offspring of Bayern look like runners, and she’s a threat if she draws in off the AE list; #4 PLAYTONE: Has worked well at Keeneland and ships in for an astute barn having a strong year. It’s a bit early to tell if offspring of Belmont winner Tonalist want to sprint, but the works indicate she may be precocious.
South of the Shore (MTO)
Maid To Remember
#7 MASCHA: Makes her American debut for Chad Brown and showed plenty of potential overseas. She was second in a Group 3 last summer, and that race was won by multiple graded stakes winner Homerique; #2 MAID TO REMEMBER: Has finished second in both of her American starts, including the Grade 3 Eatontown at Monmouth. She’ll be running well late; the question is, will there be enough pace to set up for her?; #4 ENGLISH SOUL: Ran a solid second in her seasonal debut last month at Belmont and could improve second off the bench. This isn’t an easy spot, but she won two stakes races last summer and could be improving. DIRT SELECTIONS: SOUTH OF THE SHORE, ENGLISH SOUL, NONSENSICAL.
Gold for the King
#1 GOLD FOR THE KING: Returns to the state-bred ranks after tackling the likes of Catalina Cruiser downstate. He’s got enough speed to press the pace, which will be helpful given the rail draw; #2 CELTIC CHAOS: Likes Saratoga and has a history of doing his best running in the final quarter-mile. His last-out win was impressive, and the 100 Beyer Speed Figure represents a new career-high; #3 SARATOGA GIRO: Merits a look in the exotics given the likely race shape. There isn’t much early speed signed on, which means this longshot could have a chance to dictate terms going into the far turn.
#4 WAY EARLY: Hasn’t run since December, but raced in several big spots a season ago. He was second in the Grade 2 Penn Mile, and the most recent workout indicates he may be maturing as a 4-year-old; #6 APPEALING BRIEFS: Has never finished worse than third in four starts at Saratoga and stretches back out to a two-turn trip, one that should play to his strengths. Jose Ortiz gets the call, and we may get a price; #5 MACAGONE: Makes his second start for Jason Servis, and runs here off of a second-place finish at Monmouth. At eight years old, he may be slightly past his peak, but it helps that the winner of his most recent race has come back to win again.
#2 MEMORIES ETERNAL: Stalked a fast pace against maiden special weight foes and gets some class relief in this spot. It’s a very tough finale, but there doesn’t seem to be much speed signed on, which could play right into her hands; #6 TWO GRACES: Is another dropping in class, and her lone start at this level was a solid third at Aqueduct behind a next-out winner. If an unexpected speed duel ensues, she could stand to benefit; #1 MOLLY’S NIGHTHAWK: Has stepped forward in two starts this season and stretches out to two turns. The rider switch to Junior Alvarado is noteworthy.