Over the past few years, I’ve developed fun relationships with the people at Delta Downs in Louisiana. Track announcer Don Stevens has been incredibly kind to me, and the racing product there is fun to handicap. Some of my biggest Pick Four scores have come handicapping that track.
For various reasons, seeing photos out of Louisiana after Hurricane Laura came ashore has been jarring. 2020 didn’t need another way to make people suffer, and Delta wasn’t spared from the storm’s wrath. The tote board was destroyed, there was plenty of damage to the track, and at least one starting gate was flipped over.
I sincerely hope all people and horses that have to deal with this are okay. It’s been a historically tough year for a lot of folks, and I feel terrible for all who are affected by this in some way, shape, or form.
THURSDAY’S RESULTS: My Pick Five was cancelled when a good, old-fashioned Saratoga monsoon swept through the area and moved all turf races to the main track.
FRIDAY’S PLAY: Without knowing the track condition and the status of the turf course, I can’t dive in as enthusiastically as I’d like. However, if the seventh stays on turf, I’ll have a $20 win bet on #5 NEW YORK’S FINEST. I know a “horse for the course” when I see one, and a win here will give him six triumphs in eight local turf sprints.
TOTAL WAGERED: $20.
Best Bet: Captain Bombastic, Race 1
Longshot: New York’s Finest, Race 7
#2 CAPTAIN BOMBASTIC: Tried much tougher company last time out when fourth in the Grade 1 Allen Jerkens earlier this month. He seems to have come into his own in the summer of his 3-year-old year, and his usual race would beat these; #5 DREAM BIGGER: Has won three stakes races for state-breds and was second in the maiden race that produced Tiz the Law a season ago. He’s got plenty of speed and should be prominent from the first jump; #1 CHOWDA: Got pretty good earlier this year when winning three of four at Aqueduct. He hasn’t been seen since, but he’s worked steadily ahead of his return to the races and could pick up a check if he’s ready to run.
#5 HURRICANE BREEZE: Rallied into a slow pace last time out against several of these, but was still beaten less than two lengths. It certainly seems like there’s more speed signed on here, and if you solely consider her two-turn efforts, her form looks significantly better; #4 PRINCESS FAWZIA: Has come out on the wrong end of two photo finishes since coming off the bench earlier this year. She probably makes the lead; the two-part question is, how hard will she have to work to get there, and how much will she have left late; #7 COME STORMING: Hit the front late last time out but finished third beaten a half-length. She’s gotten better for Tom Bush since coming off the layoff in April, and continued improvement could put her right there.
Bank On This
#6 PRINCIPAL DANCER: Stepped forward when third against similar here last month in his second start off a layoff. Luis Saez hops aboard, and he’s been riding as well as any jockey in the country of late; #7 BANK ON THIS: Merits a long look at a price in what seems like a wide-open event. He hasn’t run since December, but his recent works at Finger Lakes are solid and he catches a suspect field in his first start for a tag; #1 WARDENOFTHENORTH: Improved to earn his diploma at second asking last time out at Belmont. That was his first start off the claim by Linda Rice, and while the rail draw doesn’t seem ideal, it’s not as if he’s completely devoid of tactical speed.
#2 STAGE LEFT: Gets a reluctant top pick in a starter allowance where I could make cases for most of the field. He won two back and was fourth in a tough allowance heat earlier this month. Take out the two-turn clunker four back at Churchill, and his recent record looks far better; #1 COBBLE HILL: Was second in his first start for Rudy Rodriguez last time out. That came against a suspect group of claimers, but he showed a new dimension that day racing very close to the pace. He may very well be reaching his peak; #6 MAJESTIC WEST: May have needed his 2020 debut and still didn’t run badly when third at Churchill. That was his first start against winners, and he was a good second at this route in his debut a season ago.
Party At Page’s
She’s a Majestic
#11 HERALD ANGEL: Will merit much respect if she draws in off the AE list. She debuted with a solid second-place finish at this route a few weeks ago, and this barn’s runners usually improve at second asking; #2 PARTY AT PAGE’S: Did everything but win in her debut early in the meet, when she lost a head-bob and topped the third-place finisher by more than eight lengths. Turf is a question mark, but her talent is not; #7 SHE’S A MAJESTIC: Debuts for Steve Asmussen, who has already unveiled several promising 2-year-olds this summer. She’s bred up and down for turf, and she’s got several solid gate drills to her credit ahead of her debut.
Black Magic Woman
#3 BLACK MAGIC WOMAN: Debuted with much fanfare and several Santana references from yours truly and didn’t disgrace herself in defeat. She got caught after setting a fast pace going seven furlongs, and it wouldn’t take a soul sacrifice for her to improve at second asking (sorry, I had to get at least one); #6 BACK CHANNEL: Has run well in her first two career starts downstate and comes into this event off of a bullet workout on August 17th. She sold for plenty of money two years ago, and it wouldn’t take a huge step forward for her to recoup some of it here; #7 BARISTA VIXEN: Made up a lot of ground in her debut late last year and hasn’t been seen since. She’s been working well of late for Bill Mott, though, and with all the speed to her inside, she could be the beneficiary of what looks like a closer-friendly race shape.
Big Engine (MTO)
New York’s Finest
#5 NEW YORK’S FINEST: Is a true “horse for course,” as he’s won five of seven starts going short on turf at Saratoga. Kendrick Carmouche should fit this front-runner like a glove, and I think he has the speed to wire this classy group; #2 SAYYAAF: Was inexplicably rated off the pace earlier in the meet and disappointed as an even-money favorite. A return to his 2019 form would make him tough, but after a series of defeats as a short-priced favorite, it’s fair to wonder if his best days are behind him; #3 MATTA: Comes north from Laurel Park and hasn’t finished worse than second in three turf starts to this point. It’s interesting that Irad Ortiz, Jr., lands here when he likely had several options, and he could be sitting in a perfect spot just off the pace.
#2 IRISH FRONT: Came off the bench running with an easy score against maidens last time out. This is his first start against winners, and he does face older company, but the Todd Pletcher trainee has all the makings of an exciting prospect; #4 BLINDWILLIE MCTELL: Came off the bench with a solid third-place finish here earlier in the meet. That day’s winner, Yaupon, is a serious racehorse, and improvement is logical second off the layoff; #7 FAMISHED: Hasn’t won in nearly a year, but that victory came at this route and he was an OK third against similar last time out. This trip seems to suit him, and the faster they go early, the better his chances figure to be.
Miss Peppina (MTO)
#1 SWEET MELANIA: Stole the Grade 3 Wonder Again on the lead in her 3-year-old debut, and it certainly seems like the early lead is ripe for the taking here in the Grade 3 Lake Placid. She’s yet to run a bad race on the lawn, and she may well be on the improve for Pletcher, which is a scary thought; #3 WITEZ: Won her local debut last time out and has back races that would make her competitive here. Ian Wilkes trainees tend to get better as they get older, and her form looks more attractive to the eye if you draw a line through the Grade 3 Regret two back; #2 MICHELINE: Won a stakes race two back at Gulfstream before being caught wide in the Regret last time out. She may need more pace than she’s likely to get in this spot, but she’s certainly talented enough to win this on her best day.
Madam Deputy (MTO)
Little Red Button
#1 LITTLE RED BUTTON: Ran well when third in her first start going two turns last time out. She got caught a bit wide that day and gets a friendlier inside draw in this spot, which should help her in what seems like a wide-open finale; #8 CAINUDOTHETWIST: Debuted with a solid second downstate and has every right to step forward with a start under her belt. I’m not sold on the quality of the field she faced in her unveiling, but that race came back pretty solid on figures; #6 BEYOND BROWN: Sure looks like the main speed in her return to the turf. She was a distant second in a race rained off the grass earlier this month, and this will be her first start for a tag on the lawn if it stays there.