Earlier this week, the implementation of the $20 million Saudi Cup was announced with great flair and panache. The first renewal will be run in February of next year, and at least one major set of connections (Phoenix Thoroughbreds, which owns Gronkowski) has already said the race is a target.
On one hand, I refuse to cast aspersions on those who opt to participate in the race next year. Like it or not, money talks, and the winner’s share of a $20 million purse is far more than almost every great horse in history made in their careers. On the other hand, this concept makes me queasy, and I know I’m not alone among racing people in feeling that way. Saudi Arabia oppresses the female and LGBTQ communities, and that country’s government was likely involved in the brutal massacre of an American journalist.
Here’s the compromise I’m making: I will not consider results of the Saudi Cup in voting for either Eclipse Awards or the Hall of Fame, nor will I support the race at the betting windows. If you’re an American owner and want to send your horse there, go ahead. I hope you win. However, I can’t support your journey beyond those well-wishes.
THURSDAY’S RESULTS: This may have been a first, as I got nosed in two different ways in Thursday’s ninth race. Not only did my top pick in the print box get nosed for the win, but Belgrano, my longshot of the day and key horse in exactas, got nosed for second. We dropped $20.
FRIDAY’S PLAY: This is a solid card, and I particularly like the late Pick Four sequence. My 50-cent ticket, which starts in the seventh, goes like this: 2,7,10 with 4,5,9 with 1,2,3 with 1,8.
TOTAL WAGERED: $27
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BEST BET: Lone Sailor, Race 5
LONGSHOT: Uno Mas Modelo, Race 9
#4 EL DULCE: Drops in for a tag off of a race I’m more than willing to throw out. He’s run well on both turf and dirt, and was beaten less than two lengths in a Grade 2 event early in his career; #9 NO REGRETS: Hasn’t won in a while and doesn’t draw a great post, but has been second in his last two tries at this level. Dermot Magner claimed him last time out and he’s got speed; #5 QUEST FOR FIRE: Has never tried turf before this event, and that’s puzzling given his pedigree. He’s by City Zip, out of a Freud mare, and has every right to love the lawn.
#8 SUPER SILVER: Did everything but win last time out at this level and route and comes back for another try. That was a fast race, and his dirt efforts are miles better than his turf and synthetic races; #2 BEBEAU: Hasn’t been seen since January and drops in for a tag for powerful connections. If he’s right, he probably wins, but given the layoff and the $400,000 auction purchase running for a $40,000 claiming price, there are red flags; #7 FREEDOM PRINCE: Came back running off the bench when second against similar company at Belmont. Two turns is an unknown, but a repeat effort would put him right there.
Derby Memories (MTO)
#6 MUCH TROUBLE: Came flying late when beaten just a neck in his first start off the claim last month at Belmont. He’s run well going two turns, and Irad riding back is a plus; #1 STOCK TRADE: Broke a long drought with a win last time out at Belmont and steps up in class. He’s in form, but his best efforts have come downstate, which is a concern; #5 RED RIGHT HAND: Ran pretty well when third at this level earlier in the meet. He got stuck in traffic briefly late and would be a contender with a clean trip here.
Fly Fly Away
Love Me Tomorrow
#7 PORTFOLIO HEDGE: Is bred for turf and debuts for Chad Brown. He’s worked steadily ahead of this event and gets a tepid nod to graduate at first asking; #9 FLY FLY AWAY: Debuted in an off-the-turf event last month and was one-paced, but gets to the surface he probably wants here. If there’s any hesitation, it’s because the post isn’t ideal; #5 LOVE ME TOMORROW: Goes to the grass after tiring in a pair of dirt efforts. She has the experience edge, but stamina questions still linger.
#1 LONE SAILOR: Has been running against far better horses, even with this race coming up tough for the level. The class drop should be a welcome one, and they’ll likely go fast enough early to set up for his late kick; #2 SPINOFF: Is another dropping in class, and does so off of three straight Grade 1 races. He should appreciate the shallower waters as well, although he may want to go even longer than this race’s distance; #4 BACKSIDEOFTHEMOON: Hasn’t won in a while, but is a closer in a race with lots of early speed. Based on the likely race shape, he could clunk up for a piece of it at a price.
#8 DIVIDED SKY: Is bred up and down to be a strong turf horse and debuts for 2-year-old wizard Wesley Ward. She’s worked very, very well on the Oklahoma turf course, and if she runs to those works, she’ll be formidable; #7 INDOCHINE: Represents half of a powerful 1-2 punch for Chad Brown. She hammered for $470,000 last September at Keeneland and boasts some strong local drills (though she may want longer than this distance); #4 VOTING AGREEMENT: Is a filly by More Than Ready, and that alone gives her license to like the grass. She didn’t hammer for as much as her stablemate, but she’s another with several good workouts here at Saratoga.
#7 SHAREHOLDER VALUE: Comes in on a two-race win streak, and one of those victories came at this route earlier in the meet. This barn has won twice already here, and a repeat of the last two efforts would make this gelding the one to beat; #10 BIG MUDDY: Rallied to defeat bottom-level claimers at this route in the first few days of the meet and was claimed that day by Linda Rice. The faster they go early, the better this one’s chances figure to be; #2 HOLLYWOOD CRITIC: Cuts back in distance and drops in class for a barn that’s due to get rolling at the meet. Horses that cut back from two turns tend to have success going seven furlongs, and he could get brave on the front end beneath Luis Saez.
Andina Del Sur
#4 MALAKEH: Was a respectable fourth in a stakes race back in June and comes back to the allowance ranks here. She was Group 2-placed overseas, and she looms large in this spot; #9 ANDINA DEL SUR: Hasn’t won since March of 2018, but is a Grade 3 winner that has run some big races in bigger spots than this. She figures to be running well late; #5 DREAM PASSAGE: Was a good second over yielding going earlier in the meet. Brad Cox has lots of success with turf runners, and she seems to be in career-best form, but she may need some give in the ground to fire her best shot.
Pat On the Back
Uno Mas Modelo
#3 PAT ON THE BACK: Hasn’t run a bad race in a year and a half and comes in off of two straight wins downstate. He seems to be at his peack, and his flexibility is a big, big plus; #2 KILLYBEGS CAPTAIN: Chased Promises Fulfilled in a Grade 2 last time out and drops back to a level he’s run well at previously. In fact, he won a similar race at Tampa in February, and among those he beat was Imperial Hint; #1 UNO MAS MODELO: Looked like a very sharp sprinter here last summer, and his form looks fantastic if you simply toss the graded stakes races in which he was outclassed. He loves Saratoga and could easily channel his 2018 form to factor in this event.
#1 FOOLISH LIVING: Chad Brown likely runs 1-2 in here if this stays on turf. I prefer this second-time starter, as she won impressively in her debut downstate and is bred to be any kind; #10 DANCING VEGA: Has worked very impressively ahead of her North American debut. She was bet like a good thing in a Group 3 earlier this year, and if she runs to that billing here, look out; #10 PANTHER HIT: Seems best of the rest after a close-up third against a tough allowance group last time out. That day’s winner runs in the eighth, and the runner-up is a two-time stakes winner.