Over the past few years, I’ve wondered aloud why the Curlin Stakes is carded for the same week as the Jim Dandy. Every year, without fail, an ungraded, $100,000 race takes one or two horses that may have been contenders in Saratoga’s main prep for the Travers. Simply put, it doesn’t make any sense to me.
Here’s the idea I seem to pitch annually: Move the Curlin to Travers Day. I’d rather lose a few 30-1 shots from that race than lose 8-1 shots from the Jim Dandy. This would give the Curlin a similar purpose to that of the Easy Goer, which is run on the Belmont Stakes undercard. It would be a far better fit on the calendar in that spot, and I sincerely hope rational logic prevails sooner rather than later.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Doubles were rendered null and void when the second race was moved from turf to dirt.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ve never been a real believer in this year’s bunch of American turf horses (aside from Bricks and Mortar). With that in mind, I’ll put some money behind Chilean invader #3 YA PRIMO in race 10, the Grade 2 Bowling Green. I’ll put $10 on him to win and place, and I’ll also play $5 doubles singling him that start in the ninth (the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt) with #1 MITOLE and #4 FIRENZE FIRE.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30
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BEST BET: Grandview entry, Race 4
LONGSHOT: Ya Primo, Race 10
#3 TEACHABLE MOMENT: Takes a big drop for formidable connections in just his second start of the season. A return to his 2018 form would almost certainly be good enough to beat these; #8 WILD WEEKEND: Debuts for Joe Sharp and sports several solid works ahead of his unveiling. This barn has had success with firsters in maiden claimers, and he may be a square price; #6 BLACKTOP LEGEND: Cuts back in distance after tiring a bit going a mile downstate. His lone turf sprint to date was OK, and Rosario riding back is a plus.
#1 RAPIDO GATTA: Raced very wide when third last time out at Belmont. The rail draw, while not ideal, should ensure she covers less ground, and she seems to have enough early zip to establish position; #3 DOLL COLLECTION: Regally-bred daughter of Tapit and star sprinter Groupie Doll cuts back in distance after finishing second going a mile at Churchill. The blinkers seem to have helped, and she may be on the improve; #7 QUASAR: Comes back to dirt after a failed experiment on turf last time out and also adds blinkers. Her races two and three back were fine, and the recent clunker could mean a solid price.
Flying P entry (MTO)
#5 MISSION COMMAND: Clearly prefers the grass and relished a return to the lawn last month at Belmont. That race came at this level, and while this came up as a pretty salty race for the level, his best would make him a contender at a price; #8 SPECTROLITE: Drops in class for this event and certainly seems like the main speed in here. His lone start at this route was a win in a 2017 starter allowance, and he’s hit the board in 11 of 13 career outings; #6 SCOUT’S HONOR: Found himself on the lead last time out, and that’s not his game. The 10-year-old veteran is best when stalking the pace, and he may get that trip here.
GRANDVIEW ENTRY: Both #1 SHOPLIFTED and #1A SOVIET can win this, and it wouldn’t be a shock if the two colts ran 1-2. I prefer the former, who fetched $800,000 earlier this year at auction and boasts a very strong gate drill on July 14th; #5 KOWALSKI: Ran pretty well when third in his debut, and this barn doesn’t usually have firsters ready to roll. His pedigree says he’ll get better with more experience; #7 COMPLEXIFIER: Will likely be a big price, as this barn’s horses usually need a race or two to get going. However, his workouts are sharp, and I think he has a big shot to outrun his odds.
Control Group (MTO)
#7 EMARAATY: Makes his first start in more than a year after coming over from Europe, where he ran against some of the best horses on the continent. His running lines are dotted with names like Expert Eye, U S Navy Flag, and Mendelssohn, and if he’s ready, he likely wins; #9 KEEP QUIET: Loves Saratoga and has run well in all four of his starts this season. This will be his first start for the Steve Asmussen barn, and he should be running well late; #2 FRONTIER MARKET: Won two in a row late last year before heading to the sidelines and merits respect for the Brown barn. If his stablemate isn’t 100%, he has a big shot.
#9 MORE MISCHIEF: Was second in her return to the races back in May and flashed talent as a 2-year-old. Her recent local drills look strong, and she may be able to rate off of what figures to be a fast early pace; #1 MAKIN’ OUT: Romped here last year, but hasn’t been seen in the afternoon since September. She’s worked well of late and may be ready to run; #5 FLASHPACKINBARBIE: Waltzed home by more than eight lengths in her debut at Aqueduct and earned a strong 77 Beyer Speed Figure. She’s been freshened up since then and may be ready to take a step forward at second asking.
Blanket of Roses
Are You Kitten Me
#5 ECONOMIC POLICY: Fetched $210,000 at auction in 2017 and is a half-brother to two winners. He’s bred to love two turns on turf and gets my nod in a tricky 2-year-old race; #2 BLANKET OF ROSES: Completes a strong 1-2 punch for Chad Brown and is another that should like this journey. His dam is a full sister to Grade 3 winner Derby Kitten, and the presence of Javier Castellano doesn’t hurt; #6 ARE YOU KITTEN ME: Isn’t necessarily bred to be precocious, but he’s been working well for a very capable outfit and attracts Jose Ortiz. He’s cross-entered in a race at Ellis Park, but if he runs here, I think he’s a contender.
#5 FORTUNE’S FOOL: Dueled through fast fractions last time out before being reeled in by a talented 3-year-old, and this seems like a weaker spot. Castellano rides back, and a repeat effort should be enough to get the job done; #4 CHATEAU: Reeled off three wins in a row not long ago and figures to be on or near the lead early on. He’d likely prefer a wet track, but his fast-track form is still fine; #9 OVERDELIVER: Has a record that looks far better if you toss the Grade 2 Wood Memorial. He cuts back in distance and draws favorably here, but this seems a hair shorter than he wants to go.
#1 MITOLE: May be the best older male in training right now and looms large in the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt. The rail draw isn’t ideal, and there’s other early speed signed on, but anything close to his best would make him a formidable foe; #4 FIRENZE FIRE: Was fifth behind Mitole in the Grade 1 Met Mile, but shortens up and may get plenty of pace to run at. That convergence of factors may make him a contender at a square price; #3 IMPERIAL HINT: Looks to defend his title in this race, but may have lost a step from his 2018 form. He makes his first start since a third-place finish in Dubai here, and he’ll need to have his running shoes on.
#3 YA PRIMO: Makes his American debut for Chad Brown after establishing himself as one of the top horses in his native Chile. This doesn’t seem like a strong race for the level, and foreign invaders getting Lasix for the first time often take big steps forward; #5 CHANNEL MAKER: Ran fourth behind Bricks and Mortar, America’s top older male on turf, in the Grade 1 Manhattan and returns to defend his title in the Bowling Green. He likes this turf course, and there may be enough pace signed on to set up for him; #1 ARKLOW: Is a consistent sort that generally runs the same race every time out. He was a neck behind Channel Maker in the Man o’ War and is another that would benefit from a fast pace.
War of Will
#6 WAR OF WILL: Ran like a tired horse in the Belmont, which was his sixth race in less than five months. He’s been freshened up for this event and could sit an ideal stalking trip, which would allow him to channel the form he showed winning the Preakness; #5 TACITUS: Was a good second in the Belmont and has won at this distance and two-turn route configuration before. He may want more early speed, and this isn’t the goal, but if he’s ready to run, he’ll be tough; #4 GLOBAL CAMPAIGN: Wired the field in the Grade 2 Peter Pan, which included eventual Belmont winner Sir Winston. He’s certainly got talent; the question is, does he want two turns?
#5 SURGE PRICING: Won his debut and was fourth against winners last time out at Belmont. He adds blinkers and takes a big drop in class back to the claiming ranks, and he looms large in the Saturday finale; #4 MY MACHO: Raced wide last time out at Laurel and is another dropping in for a tag. This is his second start off the bench, and he’s won going two turns on turf before; #12 LETTERMAN: Faded to eighth in his first start against winners last time out, but won impressively two back at Aqueduct. That was a two-turn race, and he returns to that configuration here.