Prior to the start of the Saratoga meet, NYRA management stated a goal of running a large percentage of races on turf. The reasoning for this is sound enough: It’s the racing office’s job to card races that will fill and draw betting money. Turf races tend to check both boxes. However, it seems like NYRA forgot one huge detail: Mother Nature.
It rains during the summer in upstate New York, and it seems like every year, those in power forget this until the first “Saratoga monsoon” (copyright Tom Amello, all rights reserved) descends upon Union Avenue. Last year, the first half of the meet was decimated by surface changes and scratches, to the point where turf races needed to be handicapped four different ways (firm turf, wet turf, fast main track, wet main track). It certainly seems like nobody learned from that.
WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: For the third straight racing day, our action was washed out when turf races were switched to the main track.
THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’ll go after the early Pick Five, which starts in the second race due to the Grade 1 steeplechase that kicks things off. My 50-cent ticket looks like this: 2 with 2,4,5 with 3,4,6 with 6,7 with 1,5,6.
TOTAL WAGERED: $27
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BEST BET: Internet of Things, Race 2
LONGSHOT: Claytnthelionheart, Race 4
Peppay Le Pugh
#2 WINSTON C: Rolled in the meet’s prior Grade 1 over fences and looms very large. Much of this field is comprised of horses he’s already beaten, and someone else would likely need to take a giant step forward; #5 GIBRALFARO: Was fourth behind my top pick in the AP Smithwick, but has back races that would make him a contender. A return to his 2018 form would give him a shot; #7 PEPPAY LE PUGH: May have needed the Smithwick coming off the bench, and that was his first start in America. He could take a big step forward here at a nice price.
Internet of Things
#2 INTERNET OF THINGS: Flopped when favored against better horses on turf last time out. However, he returns to dirt and tries two turns on it for the first time against what seems like a subpar group; #4 PURCHASING POWER: Also exits a failed turf try and has done his best running going two turns on turf. He drops back to a level he ran second at two starts ago; #5 CURLIN’S KNIGHT: Has hit the board in his last four starts and was second against similar earlier in the meet. He’s got tactical speed and may be able to dictate terms on the backstretch.
Cap de Creus
#5 ENGLISH SOUL: Has run second in both of her starts this year, which came against strong groups for this level. This doesn’t seem as strong a spot, and she’ll be even stronger if this race gets moved off the turf; #2 QUIET DIGNITY: Chased a next-out winner when third in her North American debut earlier in the meet. She gets an extra furlong here and has every right to improve second off the bench; #4 CAP DE CREUS: Just missed going longer at a big price here last month. She has back form, most notably running second to eventual Grade 1 winner Cambier Parc in January at Gulfstream.
#4 DERBY MEMORIES: Woke up here earlier in the meet when he stormed home clear by nearly 15 lengths over a weak field. He faces winners for the first time, but a repeat effort would make him very tough; #3 CLAYTNTHELIONHEART: Graduated here last month, and that day’s second-place finisher has since come back to earn the diploma as well. That was a swiftly-run event, and this barn has had success with a small number of starters this meet; #6 SOUL FIGHT: Rallied from last to first downstate and is another trying winners for the first time. That day’s early pace wasn’t particularly fast, and she’s bred to like this two-turn trip.
Project Whiskey (MTO)
Let It Slide
#7 LAS RAMBLAS: Looms large in her debut against what seems like a subpar group of maidens. She’s breed up and down for turf, and first-time starter maestro Wesley Ward has gotten John Velazquez to ride; #6 LET IT SLIDE: Merits a look at a price. Her dam has thrown seven winners, her second dam was Group 3-placed in Europe, and sire Freud throws runners at an alarming rate; #2 BLESSINGSOFLIBERTY: Hated dirt in her debut, but gets the turf here, and she’s bred to like the lawn. This barn’s horses tend to take big steps forward at second asking as well.
CASSE ENTRY: I prefer #1A ENFORCEABLE, a full brother to Mohaymen who had a deceptively rough trip on turf last time out. Stablemate #1 LUCKY CURLIN looks well-meant as well, but Enforceable has been begging for this trip; #6 PORTOS: Is bred up and down for distance, being by Tapit and out of a Tiznow mare. Pletcher saddles two debuting runners, and this is the one that gets go-to rider John Velazquez; #5 COWTOWN: Hammered for $260,000 at auction last year and has been working consistently for Pletcher. The July 20th work looks impressive, although the pedigree says he may need time to mature.
Deep Space (MTO)
#5 FREDDYMO FACTOR: Stalked a hot pace downstate and should get a better trip in this spot. She adds blinkers for a barn that’s far better than its recent record would indicate; #10 TATTERAZZI: Didn’t have a great trip in her unveiling, but Saez sees fit to ride back in her second career start. She’s certainly eligible to improve, especially with a cleaner trip; #7 THE GREAT JOHANNA: Almost definitely needed her start earlier this meet, which doubled as her first race in a year. She showed late interest that day and ran well going long before heading to the sidelines last summer.
#2 FIERY OPAL: Does his best running going two turns, and that’s the route he gets here. He won at this route two starts ago and could sit an ideal stalking trip beneath Irad Ortiz, Jr.; #1 CALCULATED RISKER: Won two and three back before catching a runaway winner at Finger Lakes. He’s got a win and a third in two prior starts here, and this barn has eight top-two finishes in 18 tries at the meet; #5 STORM PROPHET: Hasn’t won since late-2017, but makes his first start off the claim for a solid barn and has caught some tough fields for the level. He was second behind a next-out winner at Belmont, and he’s hit the board in 20 of 28 career outings.
Queen of Beas (MTO)
Catch a Bid
New and Improved
#6 CATCH A BID: Comprises half of a powerful 1-2 punch for trainer Chad Brown. She finished a neck behind Varenka last time out, and before that broke her maiden with an authoritative debut win downstate at this distance; #8 NEW AND IMPROVED: Endured an awful trip in her debut, but rallied to win going away with what seemed like plenty in reserve. Going from a maiden win to a stakes race is no easy task, but she showed lots of maturity earlier this meet and has every right to be a good one; #10 HOTSY TOTSY: Makes her American debut and gets Lasix for the first time. She doesn’t draw well, but she was third in a 27-horse stakes race at Royal Ascot earlier this summer and is a contender if she can channel that form.
Dark Storm (MTO)
#10 NOBLE SPIRIT: Drops into the maiden claiming ranks and gets Lasix for the first time. He ran big race two back off the layoff at Belmont and may have simply bounced going a marathon distance earlier this meet; #4 PERCEIVED: Has been gelded since his debut and is another dropping in class. This barn must be respected, but its shippers from Monmouth aren’t usually its most well-meant runners; #5 SANDY LANE KITTEN: Was claimed earlier this month by an outfit that doesn’t drop many slips in. He was fourth against similar competition that day and attracts Javier Castellano here.