It’s Whitney Day at Saratoga, and it’s tough to argue with the quality of the program despite the highlighted divisions both experiencing “down” years. The Whitney attracted McKinzie, Thunder Snow, and Preservationist, while the Test drew Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress and the fleet Bellafina, who may be running at her ideal distance.
It’s a great card, the type that horseplayers and casual fans alike can get excited about. We can go on and on about how the older horses and 3-year-old fillies are likely not great groups. In fact, I’d largely agree with that assessment. However, the horses that could’ve shown up for Saturday’s marquee races did, and sometimes, that’s all we can ask for. Enjoy the day, everyone!
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Our key horse in exactas failed to fire in the seventh, but we almost broke even thanks to hitting a $4 seventh-eighth race double. In total, we dropped just 40 cents.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: My action comes early in the card, and I’ll attempt to extract value out of #1 WORLD OF TROUBLE in the fifth (the Grade 3 Troy). I’ll play $5 doubles starting in the fourth that use #2 BATTLE OF BLENHEIM, #3 PATRIOT DRIVE, and #7 HAY DAKOTA and single World of Trouble. I’ll also single World of Trouble in $5 doubles starting in the fifth that end with #6 PICASSO and #8 FREE ENTERPRISE in the sixth. Finally, I’ll play a $1 Pick Three starting in the fourth that uses all of these horses.
TOTAL WAGERED: $31.
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BEST BET: World of Trouble, Race 5
LONGSHOT: Battle of Blenheim, Race 4
#8 OUR COUNTRY: Had a troubled trip in his debut earlier this meet and has every right to move forward off of that performance. He gets Lasix for the first time, and experience can be very helpful for 2-year-olds in route races; #6 BREWMEISTER: Debuts for Chad Brown and has the pedigree to be a good one. He’s by Point of Entry, and his dam is a daughter of Giant’s Causeway and Canadian champion Ginger Brew; #10 SHAMROCKET: Doesn’t draw a great post, but merits a look at a price. He’s a half to four winners, his second dam is Grade 1 winner Nany’s Sweep, and Flavien Prat has the mount.
Grumps Little Tots
The Rock Says
Felix in Fabula
#3 GRUMPS LITTLE TOTS: Was last seen running second in the Easy Goer Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Toss the Wood Memorial, and his record looks considerably better; #8 THE ROCK SAYS: Hung a bit when third at this route on opening day. He’ll add blinkers for this event, though that may make it tough to see if he’s giving the field the people’s eyebrow; #6 FELIX IN FABULA: Prevailed earlier this meet at this route against weaker competition. He was claimed by an astute barn that day and may be ready for the jump in class.
#3 EXTREME FORCE: Was third in his debut, and that day’s runner-up came back to win earlier in the meet. This barn isn’t known for success with first-time starters, so it’s conceivable that he may have needed the initial outing; #5 WAYNE O: Has trained like a very good horse leading up to his debut for Steve Asmussen. He hammered for $750,000 at auction last summer and may be ready to run right away; #9 GLORY ROAD: Fetched $220,000 at auction last September despite a modest pedigree and has worked well for Todd Pletcher. If there’s any hesitation here (or with my runner-up), it’s because it’s tough for a horse to debut at this tricky distance.
Take Your Place (MTO)
Battle of Blenheim
#2 BATTLE OF BLENHEIM: Ran fifth against a few of these rivals earlier this meet, but may not have liked the wet turf course. He does his best running over firm going, and this barn has had plenty of success with new acquisitions on turf in the past; #7 HAY DAKOTA: Responded to the claim last time out with a strong win at Churchill Downs. The faster they go early, the better this one’s chances figure to be; #3 PATRIOT DRIVE: Has won three in a row and jumps up in class for this event. He’s never finished out of the money in three local starts and seems to be in career-best form.
World of Trouble
Wet Your Whistle
#1 WORLD OF TROUBLE: Is one of the top sprinters in the country and looms large in this spot. He rolled home in the Grade 1 Jaipur back in June, and his best race would thump these; #5 WET YOUR WHISTLE: Has won four in a row, including the Grade 1 Highlander at Woodbine. My top pick represents a different kind of animal than the ones he’s been facing, but a speed duel would certainly work in this one’s favor; #2 DISCO PARTNER: Has been a mainstay on the New York circuit, but it’s fair to wonder if the 7-year-old’s best days are behind him. He’s won just once in his last seven starts and has lost to World of Trouble twice during that stretch.
#8 FREE ENTERPRISE: Was beaten less than a length in his debut at Belmont and seems like the one to beat here. He’s worked well since that performance and should be prominent early; #6 PICASSO: Rallied to be third in his unveiling back in May, and that day’s runner-up has since come back to win. His pedigree (by Tapit, out of an Unbridled’s Song mare) suggests he’ll improve with experience; #1 MUCHACHO: Has run fairly well in two starts to date and has turned in two strong local drills ahead of this event. He adds Lasix here, and forward progression would give him a shot to hit the board at a price.
#8 TICONDEROGA: Drops down in class and goes back to a two-turn route of ground, one that he’s shown he appreciates. There’s a lot of speed signed on, and he should come rolling late; #7 VOODOO SONG: Almost certainly needed the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple, which was his first start since October. His most recent work was sparkling, and a return to top form would make him a major player; #2 LUCULLAN: Came back running off of a long layoff and steps back into stakes company here. He’s hit the board in eight of his 10 lifetime starts, and some of those have come against top-class turf horses.
#2 BELLAFINA: Makes her first start since May, and does so at what may be her favorite distance. She doesn’t necessarily need the lead, and that could be huge in a race with so much early speed signed on; #1 SERENGETI EMPRESS: Stole the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on the lead and followed it up with a good second in the Grade 1 Acorn behind Guarana. She’s got enough speed to not be hindered by the rail, which could be key; #5 ROYAL CHARLOTTE: Has won all four of her starts to date and tries Grade 1 company for the first time. These are pretty deep waters, but she’s got the right running style to make an impact in the Grade 1 Test.
#6 MCKINZIE: Nearly overcame an eventful trip in the Grade 1 Met Mile, where he steadied several times and was even hit by a bird. He’s shown some flexibility with regard to his running style, and his best race would make him tough; #4 THUNDER SNOW: Was third in the Met Mile, but may want more distance than he got that day. An extra furlong could help the globe-trotter, and he may sit a comfortable trip on or near the lead; #8 PRESERVATIONIST: Overpowered Catholic Boy in the Grade 2 Suburban and may be improving. However, this seems like a much tougher group on the whole, and he might need to take that step forward in order to contend.
Stella di Camelot
#7 CAPLA TEMPTRESS: Broke through with a win last month at Delaware Park and gets another try going two turns here. She was second in the Grade 2 Lake Placid last summer, and also won a Grade 3 at a similar two-turn configuration late last year; #8 GOT STORMY: Has chased some of the top horses in the division and gets a bit of class relief here. Most recently, she was second in a Grade 2 at Churchill Downs, and she earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure in that race; #9 STELLA DI CAMELOT: Made up a lot of ground late when third in the Grade 3 Intercontinental at Belmont. She won at this distance last fall at Belmont, and it’s tough to poke holes in the connections.
#11 THREE OUTLAWS: Makes his second start off of a long layoff and gets Lasix for the first time. His comeback race was fine, and Luis Saez chooses to ride him back for Brian Lynch; #12 VETERANS BEACH: Was second in the race my top pick exits, but must overcome a very tough post. He may need to use some of his speed to clear this field going into the field; #6 BROCKMONINOFF: Hasn’t run since October, but he likes this route and will be dangerous if he’s ready to run. This barn is due to get going and knows how to win with horses coming off of long layoffs.