It’s no secret that there’s been plenty of rough riding on the New York circuit of late. In a recent article for The Daily Racing Form, Dave Grening reported several of Saratoga’s top riders have been handed suspensions for a number of recent incidents. Grening added that all of these riders have appealed and been granted stays, which allow them to continue riding until their cases are heard.
I cannot stress enough how much I hate this procedure. The safety of horses and the humans around them has to be racing’s number-one concern, and there have been times where riders have gone beyond “race-riding” and into dangerous territory. These cases need to be heard immediately, and riders who break the rules and jeopardize the well-being of thoroughbreds and those on their backs need to be handed punishments that fit the crime, not slaps on the wrist with minimal days and exceptions for major stakes races.
If any NYRA stewards are reading, I urge you: Change the way you do this. If you don’t, the culture you’ve allowed to develop on the track will only get worse, and someone might get hurt.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: Serengeti Empress turned in arguably the finest performance we’ve seen at any racetrack all year long in winning the Grade 1 Ballerina. Unfortunately, she wasn’t on my Pick Five ticket. I dropped $21 after scratches.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I think the sixth could be a fantastic betting race, so that’s where my money will go. I’ll key #2 TIMELY TRADITION above #6 PRIMACY and #8 PALIO FLAG in $4 exactas and below those two in $2 exactas. I’ll also put $10 to win on Timely Tradition and single her to start $4 doubles that end in the seventh with #5 MO ME MO MY and #9 STRETCHTHESTORY.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30.
Best Bet: Fouette, Race 4
Longshot: Our Country, Race 8
#2 STONEY BENNETT: Came back running off the bench when second after more than a year away from the races. He goes back to the Linda Rice barn and looks like the speed of the speed in a race that came up pretty salty for the level; #7 DEEP SEA: Got to the winner’s circle for the first time in a long time when eking out a win at this level earlier in the meet. Jose Ortiz rides back for Rudy Rodriguez, and his flexibility is a plus; #1 VINEYARD SOUND: Was a neck behind Deep Sea in that event and ran a winning race when setting the early fractions. The slight cutback to six furlongs could help him, and he has the speed to take advantage of the inside draw.
#5 SEASONS: Has every right to be a special turf horse. She’s by Tapit, out of the great turf mare Winter Memories, and has been working very well ahead of her career unveiling. Jimmy Toner doesn’t have horses stabled at Saratoga, so it’s safe to assume he means business when he ships; #6 ICE QUEEN: Has a few strong gate works for Bill Mott and merits a look at a price. Her 314 turf Tomlinson rating is the third-best such number in the field; #7 MISSPELL: Is one of two in here for Chad Brown, and she’s bred to be a good one. She’s by American Pharoah and fetched $325,000 at auction last year, but the long string of Monmouth works is a red flag. That’s where Brown keeps his second-stringers, so that gives me some pause.
Smooth With a Kick
#4 CRITICAL VALUE: Has won three of five starts, two of which came against state-bred stakes foes. Two turns is a bit of a question mark, but I can excuse her run in the Grade 2 Demoiselle given the long layoff after that effort (it’s safe to assume something went wrong); #2 SAY MOI: Ran a good second downstate after setting the pace in her first try against winners. Two turns shouldn’t be a problem given her pedigree, and Rosario rides back for Mott; #1 SMOOTH WITH A KICK: Comes back to the dirt after two races on the turf, and she holds a win at this route last summer. A repeat of that effort could give her a shot in a field light on numbers, but heavy on handicapping intriguing.
Steal My Sunshine
#7 FOUETTE: Hammered for $400,000 last September and has shown plenty of talent in a few gate drills here and at Keeneland. The outside post should help her in her unveiling, and I think she’ll be tough to catch; #2 STEAL MY SUNSHINE: Is the lone runner in here with any experience, and she tired after setting decent fractions on turf at Belmont. She’s worked well since that effort and could step forward at second asking; #3 LIGHTFOOT MISS: Debuts for Bill Mott and is another that has worked well from the gate. Sire Violence can throw precocious runners, and it wouldn’t be shocking if this one was ready to run.
#6 BASTET: Was wide in her debut on the circuit on Independence Day and may very well get the lead by default here. There isn’t much early zip signed on, and John Velazquez may be able to ration her speed effectively; #5 WINDFALL PROFIT: Has just missed in a pair of efforts this year and will likely take plenty of money here. I can’t say I’d be stunned if she won here, but I also think there’s a chance she’s a runner that finds ways to come up short; #1 VENUS OYZO: Is worth a look at a big price. She took a big step forward in her turf debut, which isn’t shocking given her pedigree, and I don’t think two turns will be much of an issue.
#2 TIMELY TRADITION: Has won three in a row since being claimed by Ray Handal, who has been riding a wave of momentum this summer. She’s got plenty of speed, but she’s also shown she doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well, which could be key; #6 PRIMACY: Earned her diploma in a fast time down at Belmont and steps up in class here. She may benefit from a speed duel, which seems likely, and when Chad Brown gets a horse on the right track, they tend to stay there; #8 PALIO FLAG: Won on debut at Keeneland going seven furlongs, which isn’t an easy thing to do. Her two works on the training track look solid, and she’s bred up and down to improve with experience.
Mo Me Mo My
#5 MO ME MO MY: Drops in for a tag for the first time and didn’t run terribly against better earlier this meet. That day’s winner is a classy runner, and this field doesn’t seem nearly as classy as the ones she’s been running against; #9 STRETCHTHESTORY: Tried stakes company two back and likely needed her return to the races off a six-month break. She’s another class-dropper and is trained by Christophe Clement, who’s won plenty at the meet; #2 SHANNON’S GIRL: Is another runner going second off the layoff, but while she doesn’t win much, she does have a history of running reasonably well in turf sprints. Luis Saez sees fit to ride, and one has to assume he had some options here.
#8 CITY MAN: Was beaten less than a length in the Grade 3 Transylvania against far better runners, and I think he’ll appreciate the class relief. He’s never run a truly bad race, and those efforts have come exclusively in stakes races for almost a year; #2 OUR COUNTRY: Has struggled to find the winner’s circle since impressively winning a maiden race here last summer. I think he’s got enough early speed to be prominent early, and that a return to his favorite track could wake him up; #5 MR JAGGERS: Was a popular winner at even-money last time out at Belmont and tries winners for the first time. He’s improved in each of his 2020 starts to date, but this seems like a tough spot for the level and he may not get a repeat of the last-out dream trip.
Its All Relevant
#1 ENDORSED: Ran Code of Honor to a half-length two back before finding Grade 1 company too tough in the Met Mile. This restricted stakes race seems more his speed, and he’s run well here in back-to-back summers; #5 BODEXPRESS: Has served as racing’s favorite headcase and is best known for unseating John Velazquez in last year’s Grade 1 Preakness. If he’s on his best behavior, though, he can certainly win this, and he’ll likely be prominent from the first jump; #4 IT’S ALL RELEVANT: Has won two in a row and takes a step up into the stakes ranks. He won going two turns two starts ago at Aqueduct, although he’ll likely need to work a bit harder up front in this spot.
#1 IMPERIO D: Gets a reluctant nod in a tough finale to handicap. He ran a decent second against similar earlier in the meet. He’s got some early speed, and it’s encouraging to see Manny Franco ride back in a big field; #8 BRUNATE: Improved to be third in the same race my top pick exits, and he runs for the red-hot H. James Bond barn. The faster they go early, the better his chances figure to be, as he may want to sit back and make one run; #9 PIER FORTY: Drops in class to his lowest claiming level second off the bench, and he has back dirt races that would make him competitive here. The question is, how many more chances can the betting public give a horse that’s 0-for-13 lifetime?