A lot has changed in the last 10 months, and this summer features a far, far different Saratoga meet. However, I’m grateful to be back for another go-round in The Pink Sheet, both in the pick box (where I’ll look for a fifth Pink Sheet title in seven years) and with this bankroll section (where I’ll look to grow an initial $1,000 stake between now at Labor Day). Quick reminder: All plays in this section assume races carded for turf stay there, and early scratches void the action of the horses involved.
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THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the ninth race, the Grade 3 Peter Pan. #5 CANDY TYCOON hits me as a square price anywhere close to his 5-1 morning line price. I’ll key him in $3 exactas above and below #3 MODERNIST and #4 CELTIC STRIKER, and play Candy Tycoon to win and place for $4 as well.
TOTAL WAGERED: $20.
Best Bet: Astoria Kitten, Race 7
Longshot: Grudge, Race 10
Grit and Glory
#6 GUY CABALLERO: Hasn’t run in a while but drops down the class ladder for aggressive connections. He was third in a Grade 2 just last year, and he’s shown he can run well going two turns; #2 GRIT AND GLORY: May get a solid setup at a bit of a price. There’s a good amount of early speed in here, and he could be in line to pick up the pieces in his second start off the bench; #7 JEROME AVENUE: Makes his first start for new trainer Rob Atras and is another taking a drop in class. He was third going two turns over this oval late last year, and Atras has hit at a 23% clip of late with new acquisitions.
#10 SCANNO: Might provide a bit of value in here given the field size and runners from higher-profile barns. He and rider Javier Castellano may inherit the early lead given a relative lack of early zip, and he might not have to improve much off of a recent third-place effort downstate; #1 LEADING WEST: Drops in for a tag for the first time after running second several times against straight maidens. On paper, he makes sense, but I’m wary of him given the likely race shape, which may not favor his late-running style; #7 MAGIC MOJO: Might be worth another shot after a dud first time out. He didn’t have the best start in that race, and he’s bred to be far better than what he showed in his unveiling.
#4 GLASS CEILING: Is a pace play for me in a confounding five-horse event. Unlike many of her rivals, she doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well, and her three wins around one turn are also encouraging; #3 PALACE AVENGER: Came back running when second at Churchill in her 2020 debut. Her 85 Beyer Speed Figure may indicate she’s turned a corner, although she may have opposition up front early on; #1 CARRIZO: Hasn’t won since September of last year, but she does her best running at the Spa. She’s won twice in three local starts, and she could easily outrun her odds.
#5 VALLETTA: Cuts back in distance in her first start for Carlos Martin and gets a nod based on experience. Her most recent workout was very solid, and the presence of Javier Castellano is a plus; #4 PALACE DUCHESS: Was bet down to 1/5 odds in her debut last April at Keeneland, when she ran third and went to the sidelines. Her workouts have been consistent, and Wesley Ward can get horses ready to run as well as anyone; #7 GRAN CHEMIN: Was asked to go two turns in her lone career start to date. That’s never an easy thing to do, and that race produced several stakes-quality horses. Perhaps she needs a run off the bench, but if she’s ready, she’s got a shot at a nice number.
#5 DARK MONEY: Has won five of his last eight starts dating back to last summer and recently cruised to a three-length win over allowance foes downstate. He’s one of only a few in here not exiting the same race on June 19th, and his usual race makes him the one to catch; #8 THE CARETAKER: Won that June 19th event in his first start for Tom Morley and returns to a track where he’s won two of four starts. If they go fast early, he’s one of the ones who stands to benefit, and he should be doing his best running late; #7 THORNY TALE: Beat winners for the first time in his 2020 debut and takes a step up in class here. However, Castellano rides back, and there’s a chance he’s figuring things out as a 4-year-old.
Brees Bayou (MTO)
WARD ENTRY: Either entrant can win, but I prefer #2 MR EVERYTHING, who’s been working lights-out downstate and may relish the cutback in distance. #2B GRANDMAS FAVORITE is also a contender, having run several OK turf sprints before an extended hiatus; #9 PROPENSITY: Drops down in class after many opportunities against straight maidens. Perhaps the drop wakes him up, but his best races have come going longer elsewhere, so I’ll try to beat him; #6 NO BAD DAYS: Is worth a look underneath at a big number. He ran into multiple stakes winner Decorated Invader in his lone turf start and may relish a return to the surface against a weaker field.
Summer At The Spa
Ava K’s Girl
#1 ASTORIA KITTEN: Has the speed to utilize the rail to her advantage going long on the inner turf. That could prove dangerous in a race without much other early speed, and she has the talent to lead this field every step of the way; #9 SUMMER AT THE SPA: Is an ultimate hunch play that will benefit if a rival goes with my top pick. She won her debut and was second in her first start off the bench last time out; #6 AVA K’S GIRL: Flew late to be fourth going shorter in her return to the races last month. She won her debut over this surface, and if she can stretch out to two turns, she’ll have a chance to hit the board at a big price.
#3 BEAUTIFUL MEMORIES: Couldn’t have been much more impressive when romping by 10 lengths in her debut at Churchill Downs. She comes in off of two straight five-furlong bullets at Churchill, and she’ll be a legitimate, short-priced favorite; #8 HOPEFUL PRINCESS: Was shipped to the barn of Steve Asmussen after winning her debut in May in fast fashion. The local work tab is promising, and there’s precocity up and down in her pedigree (by Not This Time, out of a More Than Ready mare); #6 QUEEN ARELLA: Had an adventurous trip in her debut, when she overcame trouble to win by four lengths. This spot is a significant step up for her, but Joel Rosario signs on and her closing at first asking may hint at some potential.
#5 CANDY TYCOON: Has chased some of the best 3-year-olds in the country of late and most recently ran second behind the classy Rushie at Oaklawn. This spot can be seen as a class drop, and it’s tough to argue with the Pletcher/Velazquez duo in a Saratoga stakes race; #3 MODERNIST: Had nothing left late when seventh in the Grade 1 Belmont, but he might have needed that race off a bit of a freshening. He’s a definite contender if he runs back to his winter/spring form, which included a win in the Grade 2 Risen Star; #4 CELTIC STRIKER: Beat just one rival in the Easy Goer, but may be worth a look. All three of his wins have been in wire-to-wire fashion, and he might well make the lead in here. If he does, he could get brave and hang on for a piece of it.
#2 DOLL: Gets a reluctant nod in a perplexing Opening Day finale. Her first start for new trainer Brad Cox was solid, as she ran a close-up second when returning to turf. A step forward will make her tough, but she’s run second a lot, and that’s not encouraging; #4 GRUDGE: Drops in for a tag second off the layoff and almost certainly needed her seasonal debut. She won going short on turf at Gulfstream three back, and nothing says she can’t step forward here; #12 SHANNON’S GIRL: Draws a terrible post but is a consistent check-getter that can run on well late. She wasn’t too far behind Doll last time out, and she was an OK second at this route last summer.