There’s no use beating around the bush, so I’ll come out and say it: Fields are short the next few programs at Saratoga. It’s easy to play the blame game, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
Most importantly, 2-year-olds are no longer allowed to run with Lasix in New York. I’ll leave the discussion about the effects of Lasix to the professionals, but it’s apparent that this a real deterrent for some barns, ones that have opted to run their juveniles in jurisdictions that allow them to receive the medication. The other factor to keep in mind, of course, is the COVID-19 pandemic. Many trainers had to stop on horses for weeks at a time, and it’s tough to get them ready to run after such a long time off the track.
It’s certainly unfortunate. Races at Saratoga drawing fields of five or six is a “should not occur” in most years. Having said that, I feel fortunate we have a Saratoga meet at all. NYRA’s doing the best it can in a tough situation, and while I’ve been quick to take them to task on some things, doing so here doesn’t seem smart.
SUNDAY’S RESULTS: While my Pick Five got blasted to smithereens in the first leg, I had some hope with nice double will-pays after Antoinette’s gutty score in the Saratoga Oaks. Unfortunately, those failed to come to fruition. I dropped $28 after scratches.
WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to try to squeeze some value out of likely favorite #6 TOBYS HEART in the eighth race (the featured Bolton Landing Stakes). I’ll play her on top in $10 exactas and $5 trifectas that use medium-range prices #8 AMANZI YIMPILO and #9 MISCHIEVOUS DREAM in the underneath spots.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30.
Best Bet: Snap Decision, Race 1
Longshot: Little Red Button, Race 9
Duc de Meran
#1 SNAP DECISION: Came flying late to record his sixth straight win earlier in the meet. He’ll once again carry top weight (a 165-pound impost), but he’s beaten several of these foes in the past and he may be even better with the added distance; #7 DUC DE MERAN: Makes his U.S. debut after spending the early part of his career in France. He finished third in a stakes race over fences back in February, and he could be live going to firmer turf and adding Lasix; #2 FAST CAR: Rolled home against much weaker company last month and gets a class test here. Mitchell sees fit to ride back, and the lightly-raced gelding could still be on the improve.
Jill’s a Hot Mess
#4 SIESTA KEW: Makes her debut for Mike Maker, whose barn has been firing on all cylinders over the past few weeks. She has several very strong gate works on her tab, and if that form carries over to the afternoon, she could be a handful; #3 RUBY STILETTO: Sold for $65,000 last October and is working well for Rudy Rodriguez. This barn’s horses sometimes need a race to get going, but she’s by strong first-out sire Maclean’s Music and has plenty of bottom-side pedigree, too; #5 JILL’S A HOT MESS: Is the only horse in this field to have run before, and she made a middle move earlier this meet before flattening out. Aggressive gate rider Kendrick Carmouche hops aboard, and a repeat of her two-back effort could put her right there.
BROWN ENTRY: #1 INGRASSIA and #1A REINA DEL SOL are both regally-bred, and they both have big-time chances in a race light on numbers but heavy on potential. I’ll give a slight nod to the former simply because that’s where Irad Ortiz, Jr., lands; #5 STUNNING PRINCESS: Ran well to be second in her debut last month, especially since that was during a time where early speed was not holding on the turf course. She could conceivably move forward at second asking while sitting a similar trip; #4 PUMA PUNKU: Is by Kitten’s Joy and out of a mare named Gypsy’s Warning, who won top-tier races in both America and her native South Africa. She’s bred up and down to be very good, and my one hesitation is that she may need a start under her belt before she’s ready to win.
#1 MAJID: Gets my top selection in a race where I wish I didn’t have to make one. He’s earned that simply because of the likely race shape. I think he’s the only horse that will want to go early, and he did get pretty good a year ago when reeling off four straight wins; #6 CURLIN GREY: Hasn’t won in a while but was a good second behind a heavy favorite at this level and route a few weeks ago. He’s run into some sharp horses for the level this year, including Frost Or Frippery, and this may be the softest spot he’s seen since January; #2 HOFFENHEIM: Makes sense given the drop in class but is simply impossible for me to endorse on top. He hasn’t won in more than two years, flopped at 2-1 in his last start, and will likely be a very short price. Perhaps he wins, but I just can’t bet him.
#8 FINANCIAL SYSTEM: Has won two in a row and takes a curious drop in class when he seems to be in good form. These are aggressive connections that want the owner and trainer titles, though, so I’m not seeing it as a red flag; KANTARMACI ENTRY: I prefer #1A ZERO GRAVITY, who figures to come flying late in his first start for this barn. He’ll likely get plenty of pace to chase, and he ran well at this level two and three back at Churchill; #4 GOLDEN DECISION: Drops back in for a tag, cuts back in distance, and gets Joel Rosario for a high-percentage barn that doesn’t run many horses here. He’s another that does his best running late, so the faster they go early, the better his chances figure to be.
Bossy Bride (MTO)
#1 RIVENDELL: Won like a very good horse in her unveiling downstate. She came flying in the stretch despite very modest early fractions, her pedigree says two turns won’t be an issue, and runners from the Bill Mott barn tend to improve with experience; #5 BAREEQA: Has run several very good races over this turf course, enough to where I’m drawing a line through the last-out effort. That pace wasn’t that fast, and there should be more early zip signed on in this spot; #7 KITTEN BY THE SEA: Came back running off the bench in her first start for Todd Pletcher when she was third beaten a neck last month. She’s got some tactical speed, which could come in handy on the inner turf, and Jose Ortiz riding back is certainly a plus.
#1 GOLANI BRIGADE: Ran well when breaking his maiden here last summer and makes his first start since then in this spot. The extensive Monmouth work tab is a concern, but he’s worked very well since coming to Saratoga and his best race would likely be too good for these; #5 QUICKFLASH: Hasn’t run a bad one in six starts, all of which have seen him finish third or better. He tries seven furlongs for the first time, but I don’t think that will be a big deal; #7 BIG THICKET: Was third against similar at this route earlier in the meet, but that was after a 12-day turnaround, which was probably too quick. He got a month between starts before this race, and I think he’ll have a fuller gas tank for this one.
#6 TOBYS HEART: Put forth a jaw-dropping performance in her debut at Churchill Downs. She missed the break, rallied forward completely on her own, and won by nearly seven lengths while under wraps late. Anything close to that likely puts her in the winner’s circle; #8 AMANZI YIMPILO: Cruised home in her debut at Gulfstream Park and may well be the controlling speed in here. Wesley Ward can get 2-year-old turf sprinters ready to run as well as anyone, and Irad lands here when he likely had a few options; #9 MISCHIEVOUS DREAM: Rallied to top New York-breds in her unveiling at this route last month. That race didn’t come back particularly fast on figures, but she was professional and she’s bred to be a good one. Her dam is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Presious Passion, and she could improve with experience.
Hey It’s Tati (MTO)
Little Red Button
#3 SANDRA’S MINE: Is probably in a “now or never” spot. She’s 0-for-12 lifetime but stretches back out to two turns in her third start off the layoff. She ran well a few times going long a season ago, and those efforts came against slightly better opposition; #10 LITTLE RED BUTTON: Stretches out to two turns and ran a sneaky-good race last time out. She was pretty wide most of the way, yet still rallied to be beaten less than two lengths. Her pedigree’s not bad, and I think she can outrun her odds in a big way; #13 MEMORIES ETERNAL: Merits a look if she draws in off the AE list. Her lone two-turn effort to date came last month, when she made a big move but settled for second at Laurel Park. She’ll be back in with state-breds if she gets in, and that could help her.