The early portion of Saturday’s card at Saratoga featured at least two 2-year-olds to keep an eye on moving forward. Second-time starter Our Country had some trouble in his debut but stepped up in a big way in the opener, pulling away with authority late. He covered the two-turn race’s last sixteenth of a mile in less than six seconds, which is no small feat for even an older horse, let alone a 2-year-old making his second career start.
Meanwhile, first-time starter Glory Road reminded everyone that, yes, Todd Pletcher still knows how to train 2-year-olds. The first-time starter came from out of the clouds to win at the seven-furlong distance, which is never an easy one for a debuting runner to navigate. His female family is strong (his second dam is a full sister to Grade 1 winner Finder’s Fee), and sire Commissioner was no slouch, either.
One of the most fun parts of each Saratoga meet is seeing promising 2-year-olds flash immense potential. It looks as though these two could have bright futures, and there are undoubtedly more exciting 2-year-olds coming up later in the meet.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: We scratched out of everything when World of Trouble didn’t run in the Troy.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on midday doubles that may extract some value out of my best bet of the day. That’s #4 SANTA MONICA, who is a single for me in the fifth (the Grade 3 Waya). She starts $10 doubles that end with #4 BLUE BELT, #9 SUMMER BOURBON, and #10 SUNDAE ON SUNDAY, all of whom figure to be solid prices in the sixth.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30.
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BEST BET: Santa Monica, Race 5
LONGSHOT: Blue Belt, Race 6
#1 PURE WOW: Showed speed when third in her debut earlier in the meet. Joel Rosario hops aboard, and experience is often a huge advantage in 2-year-old races contested at seven furlongs; #6 ILL WILL: Showed late interest on the turf last time out and has worked well since that effort. This barn’s horses often improve with experience, making her dangerous at a price; #4 DAPHNE MOON: Fetched $525,000 at auction and has worked well leading up to her debut. This barn can win with first-time starters, but it’s tricky to back debuting runners at this distance.
#2 DATA DRIVEN: Makes his first start off the claim for new trainer Danny Gargan, who’s enjoying a strong meet. This is a class drop for him, and he should be running well late (good luck, Dan Feiss!); #5 CURIOUS CAL: Has won two of three starts this year for Jorge Navarro and comes up from New Jersey. He’s won here before and is a threat to go wire-to-wire; #1 ORPHEUS: Hasn’t won in a while, but was a good second at this level earlier in the meet. He should be running well late at a bit of a price.
Gold for the King
T Loves a Fight
#6 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; #1 T LOVES A FIGHT: Has run well at Saratoga and enters this event on a three-race win streak. This is a sizable class jump, but it’s tough to argue with the connections taking a shot.
Sketches of Spain
Livin At the Beach
#5 SKETCHES OF SPAIN: Is bred to be a strong turf horse and debuts here for powerhouse connections. Irad Ortiz, Jr., rides for Chad Brown, and she’ll be tough if she’s ready; #8 SPARKLING SKY: Fetched $650,000 last September and may be prepared to run a big one right away. She’s worked well over the Oklahoma turf course, which makes sense given that she’s a daughter of More Than Ready; #7 LIVIN AT THE BEACH: Ran third in her debut downstate and stretches out here. Improvement is logical at second asking, and she may be a bit of a price.
#4 SANTA MONICA: Looms large in this spot after two straight graded stakes wins this spring. If you toss her Breeders’ Cup dud last fall, she hasn’t run a bad race since coming to North America; #6 GENTLE RULER: Has won four in a row at four different tracks, including a Grade 3 at Delaware Park last time out. There isn’t much speed signed on here, and she may inherit the lead by default; #2 FOOLS GOLD: Was second in a stakes race last time out at Belmont, which came in her first start beyond a mile and a sixteenth. Javier Castellano rides back, and she’s another that could be close to a slow early pace.
Sundae On Sunday
#9 SUMMER BOURBON: Was claimed back by Rudy Rodriguez and could sit a great trip behind a fast early pace. He’s shown a solid closing kick in several starts at this level, including a romp at Aqueduct back in March; #4 BLUE BELT: Seems like the main speed and hasn’t finished out of the money since November. If you’re playing vertical exotics, he seems like a must-use; #10 SUNDAE ON SUNDAY: Has won two in a row at Finger Lakes and ships in for an astute barn. It helps that he’s a closer, and that could make it easier for him to pick up a check.
Ruler of the Nile (MTO)
#1 FINAL FRONTIER: Was a close-up third in a swiftly-run race in May that doubled as his first outing since November. He’s crossed the wire first over this turf course before and draws favorably here; #9 BATTLE STATION: Chased the classy Om last time out at Churchill and loves this route. He’s 2-for-2 at Saratoga, including a solid win in an allowance last summer; #2 PAGLIACCI: Rallied to take a starter allowance less than a week ago and is wheeled back quickly by Linda Rice. That’s usually a sign of confidence, although this field seems tougher than what he beat last time out.
Behind the Couch (MTO)
Star of the East
#8 CHICLET’S DREAM: Returns to the scene of an impressive victory last summer and almost certainly needed her most recent outing at Belmont. She was running very well late that day, and this two-turn trip should be more preferable; #3 STAR OF THE EAST: Rallied to earn the diploma last time out and tries winners for the first time here. There’s some speed signed on, so another strong effort could very well be in the cards; #2 WAY SMART: Hasn’t run since December but is dangerous if she’s ready. Jose Ortiz gets on for a barn that’s quietly had a stellar season to date.
#4 ROCKEMPEROR: Was closing very well when third in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby and nearly overcame a terrible post. He draws much more favorably here and has every right to turn the tables in the inaugural Saratoga Derby; #10 MOHAWK: Ships in for Aidan O’Brien after capturing a Group 3 event last time out. He’s repeatedly tried some of the best horses in Europe and even won a Group 2 at Newmarket last fall; #1 HENLEY’S JOY: Pulled off a 20-1 shocker in the Belmont Derby and won’t be anywhere near that price here. A repeat effort makes him a contender, but a bounce is logical given that his last-out effort was by far the best he’s ever run.
#8 MAGIC DANCE: Pulled away to take the Debutante at Churchill last time out and draws favorably in this event. When Asmussen gets a horse good, they tend to stay good, and she’s done very little wrong; #2 FRANK’S ROCKETTE: Romped in her debut in June and jumps into the graded stakes ranks. She’s worked well here and certainly merits respect for Hall of Famer Bill Mott; #6 MISS PEPPINA: Rallied from way back to graduate at first asking last month at Belmont. 2-year-olds don’t often close in their debuts, and she ran like she’ll appreciate the added distance she gets in this spot.
#10 DOSWELL: Has been a beaten favorite in both of his starts this year, but doesn’t seem to run up against a strong field for the level in the Sunday finale. He’s got a strong closing kick and figures to be the one to hold off late; #3 MALTHAEL: Came back running when second in a similar spot on Independence Day. His running lines are dotted with the names of stakes-caliber runners, and he’s got plenty of back class; #8 STANDUP: Hasn’t run since a failed shot in stakes company back in February. He’s been gelded since then and is a contender if he runs back to his debut effort.