Earlier this week, news broke that multiple Grade 1 winner Maximum Security would not ship to Saratoga for next weekend’s Travers Stakes. It’s the latest blow to a race that was already lacking in star power. In addition to the lack of Maximum Security (arguably the best 3-year-old male in training right now), it will not have a single winner of a Triple Crown race in the field, which will now more closely resemble that of a Grade 2 than a Grade 1.
I have a vote for the Eclipse Awards, and those who follow me know I am not afraid to abstain from a category if I feel no horse in a division deserves a championship. We’ve got several months left until I cast my ballot, but this division (which never gave off great vibes to begin with) continues to trend further down with each passing month.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the early Pick Four, which kicks off in the second race and features both nice field sizes and very few heavy favorites. My 50-cent ticket looks like this: ALL with 5,7,10 with 1,4 with 2,7.
TOTAL WAGERED: $36
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BEST BET: Sayyaaf, Race 6
LONGSHOT: Blue Gem, Race 4
#1 DIGITAL SOFTWARE: Debuts for Chad Brown and has some solid works in her tab. She fetched $80,000 at auction and is bred to love turf, as her 351 turf Tomlinson shows; #3 ANACONDA: Completes a strong 1-2 punch for Brown and is bred to love this two-turn route of ground. It’s tough to debut at this distance, but she may be good enough to overcome it; #6 KING’S HONOR: Has a strong European pedigree and attracts Javier Castellano for his unveiling. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because this barn’s horses sometimes need a race to get going.
#1 MISS IMPERIAL: Drops out of four straight stakes races, all of which she picked up checks in, and figures to show speed from the rail. Based on her back class, she certainly looks like the one to beat; #6 CARRIZO: Was claimed after romping against weaker foes and goes out for triple the tag here. The outside draw helps, and Carmouche rides back for the new barn; #2 SLIMEY: Makes her fourth start of the meet and has run well in her three prior events here. There’s plenty of speed signed on, and she should be rolling late.
All About It
#7 ALL ABOUT IT: Makes his first start since October, and it’s a bit jarring to see him in for a tag. He was fourth in a stakes race at Keeneland, and anything close to his 2-year-old form would likely thump these; #5 EMBELLISHER: Drops down in class after fading going a mile earlier in the meet. This barn has a strong record with similar droppers, and he may like the shorter distance; #10 HURRICANE HILL: Showed late interest when third at 37-1 in his unveiling. The post is awful, but he may have gotten a lot out of his debut.
Giant Boo Boo
#1 BLUE GEM: Took a big step forward first off the claim, when he cruised home going seven furlongs earlier in the meet. This is a tougher group, but he could be trending upward at a bit of a price; #4 GIANT BOO BOO: Has shown speed against better and takes a big drop for a strong barn. He romped here last summer and should be on or near the lead early on; #3 DESERT LIGHTS: Runs pretty much the same race every time out. He was third against similar earlier in the meet and should be running well late.
Bird’s Eye View
#2 DEVAMANI: Was second behind a Grade 1 winner earlier this meet and catches a weaker field in this spot. He hasn’t run a bad one yet this season, and this distance shouldn’t be a problem; #7 BIRD’S EYE VIEW: Hasn’t won in a while, but was third in the Grade 3 Oceanport at Monmouth last month. He’s flexible and can run well from pretty much anywhere in the pack; #3 CAPE ANGEL: Was third at this route against similar-level foes earlier in the meet. He’s won twice in three starts over this turf course and gets Luis Saez.
I Can Do Anything
#8 SAYYAAF: Looked very good breaking his maiden earlier in the meet and tries winners for the first time. The full field may ensure a bettable price on a runner that hits me as strictly the one to beat; #1 LONHTWIST: Went too long last time out, so I have no problem drawing a line through that race. Before that, he ran well in a pair of turf sprints at Belmont, so he can’t be ignored; #5 I CAN DO ANYTHING: Cuts back in distance after hanging a bit when third going a mile at Churchill. His turf sprint effort two back was a winning one, and that day’s pilot is aboard here.
#6 IRISH MIAS: Didn’t break well in his debut, but rallied to be second behind a good-looking winner. This barn’s horses often improve with experience, and blinkers coming on means he should be more engaged early; #4 CANDY TYCOON: Fetched $170,000 at auction and is bred to be a runner. His last two works have been excellent, and he debuts for a sharp trainer of first-time starters; #2 EAGLES PALACE: Looks best of the rest. He showed some late interest in his debut and has a pedigree that says he’ll move forward as he gets older.
#3 MORTICIA: Was in tight most of the stretch run last time out and gets a new rider in this event. She’s as consistent as they come, and her usual race would make her a major player; #1 FIRE KEY: Seems to be in good form and likes this turf course. She was second last time out despite a bit of a wide trip, and she draws more favorably here; #5 OLEKSANDRA: Most recently ran third in a Grade 2 at Woodbine and should be running well late. She won two and three back at Belmont beneath Joel Rosario, who rides her once again here.
#5 REGAL GLORY: Has four wins and two seconds in six career starts and seems like the one to beat. She overcame a slow pace in the three-horse Lake George to win, and she should get a better setup here; #4 BLOWOUT: Is Brown’s other major player here and seems like the likely pace-setter. Like her stablemate, she’s never finished outside the top two; #2 AMANDREA: Ships up from Ellis Park and will get a class test, but she ran well two and three back and represents capable connections. She could get a nice stalking trip and grab a piece of it at a big price.
Point of Honor
#7 POINT OF HONOR: Was just a length behind divisional leader Guarana in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and is bred up and down for the Alabama’s 10-furlong distance. With no Guarana in sight, she hits me as the most logical winner; #6 ULELE: Has tactical speed and could get a perfect trip on or near a reasonable pace. Sire Candy Ride won going a mile and a quarter, and she’ll likely be a juicy price; #1 DUNBAR ROAD: May go favored, but I have my doubts. She beat nothing in a weak renewal of the Grade 2 Mother Goose, and her lone defeat came in her only start to date going two turns. At her likely price, I’ll happily try to beat her.
Sweet Meadow Mist
#5 MORE MISCHIEF: Hasn’t run a bad race over a fast main track and makes her second start off a brief freshening. Her third-place finish at this level earlier in the meet was fine, and she may be the one they have to hold off late; #2 SWEET MEADOW MIST: Came flying late when fourth despite a wide journey in the same race my top pick exits. The faster they go early, the better this one’s chances figure to be; #7 MOON HEIST: Held on to graduate at second asking and has since been transferred to a new barn. Jose Lezcano sees fit to ride, and further improvement at third asking isn’t out of the question.
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