Today’s Grade 1 Forego presents an interesting “would you rather?” question for horseplayers. The race didn’t draw Volatile or Vekoma, which is a bummer. However, it did draw a competitive 11-horse field led by Whitmore, who won this race two years ago and is one of the most fun horses in training to root for.
Had Volatile and/or Vekoma shown up here, it’s safe to assume many runners would have gone elsewhere (possibly even several who figure to get bet). Here’s the question: Is it best to have a small field led by horses such as Volatile and Vekoma, or what we have, an 11-horse field with no overwhelming favorite and, thusly, square prices ensured on whichever horse you like?
There’s no right or wrong answer here. However, with field sizes being dissected on a daily basis, I think it’s a fascinating question. If you’ve got an opinion, tweet me at @AndrewChampagne.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: New York’s Finest stalked a very fast pace and had nothing left late, so my $20 win ticket went up in smoke.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: With the last race scheduled to go off at nearly 7 pm Eastern time, I can’t in good conscience play my late Pick Four. That puts this section in danger of missing the print deadline (you will, however, be able to find it online on social media). Instead, I’ll play four $5 win/place tickets throughout the card on horses that seem well-meant. I’ll back #6 BALLAGH ROCKS (race #2), #4 L’IMPERATOR (race #3, the Grade 3 Saranac), #4 ARCHUMYBABY (race #5), and #7 PEDRO CARA (race #9, the Grade 1 Sword Dancer).
TOTAL WAGERED: $40.
Best Bet: Archumybaby, Race 5
Longshot: Pedro Cara, Race 9
#7 ENOUGH LOVE: Hasn’t run a bad race in five starts this season and was second against slightly better foes last time out. This barn has hit the board with 10 of 14 runners to this point in the meet, and regular rider Luis Saez stays aboard; #6 HAPPY SOPHIA: Drops in for a tag for the first time after fading in a few starts against state-bred allowance foes. She’ll certainly be prominent early, and perhaps the shallower waters will wake her up; #2 LA NEGRITA: Was a distant second behind a runaway winner at this level earlier this month. Irad Ortiz, Jr., rides back for Rudy Rodriguez, and she’s got enough early speed to sit close going into the turn.
Dynamax Prime (MTO)
En Wye Cee
#6 BALLAGH ROCKS: Did everything but win last time out at Belmont Park against similar, when he lost a photo finish after rating behind a slow early pace. I think he’s better around two turns than one turn, and there should be enough pace in here to set up for his late kick; #10 EN WYE CEE: Was somehow five-wide in a six-horse field last time out, yet was beaten just a neck in his first outing since November. He seemed to take to the turf fairly well, and he’s another who may benefit from the likely race shape; #7 KING CAUSE: Pulled off a 17-1 upset earlier in the meet and has won three of his last four starts. He’ll be one of the main pace factors in here, and he may be a price once again given the quality of opposition he’ll face.
Don Juan Kitten
#4 L’IMPERATOR: Gets Lasix in his North American debut, which is one of my favorite angles. He won three in a row overseas before being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean and has worked impressively ahead of his American unveiling in the Grade 3 Saranac; #1 VANZZY: Cruised home in the Jersey Derby at Monmouth, which doubled as his third career stakes score. He was third in the Grade 3 Kent two back behind the talented Gufo, and Joel Rosario has the mount; #5 DON JUAN KITTEN: Won a weirdly-run allowance race earlier in the meet where the early leader ran off while setting wicked fractions. That’s unlikely to happen twice, but his lone misfire came in his first start off a long layoff, so consistency certainly isn’t an issue.
Bustin to Please
ENGLEHART ENTRY: I prefer #1A TIED UP, who certainly seems like the main speed in here. She’s won 12 of 23 career starts, rolled home against weaker opposition earlier this month, and may have plenty left late if she’s left alone out of the gate; #4 STAY FOND: Has won four of her last five starts and returned to the Linda Rice barn after a last-out victory going seven furlongs. She may be best with a speed duel, but she’s shown a bit more early zip than what she’s displayed in her last two outings; #2 BUSTIN TO PLEASE: Drops back down in class after misfiring against state-bred optional claiming foes last month. That was a pretty solid bunch for the level, and a repeat of her winning effort two back at Belmont would give her a shot.
#4 ARCHUMYBABY: Has won 14 of 42 career starts and banked nearly a half-million in career earnings the hard way. She’s got two victories in her last three starts and has four victories and two seconds in six tries at this seven-furlong distance; #1 LETMETAKETHISCALL: Hasn’t won in a while and had every chance when clear late last time out. She got caught in the final strides, but gets a big rider switch to Jose Ortiz and has the speed to utilize her inside draw; #7 PRAIRIE FIRE: Lost all chance at the break last time out and stretches out from six to seven furlongs. I think she’ll respond well to that, and her chances will improve if they fly down the backstretch.
#10 HAPPYMAC: Hammered for $360,000 last year and is a reluctant top pick in the first of two loaded 2-year-old races on the card. He’s been working very well for 2-year-old maestro Steve Asmussen, and if he runs to his work tab, you’d better prepare to see it in commercials for his sire over and over and over and over…; #5 FOUNDER: Has worked very well for Chad Brown, who touted young sire Upstart earlier in the meet when barn buddy Reinvestment Risk romped in his debut. He was a $600,000 purchase in March and has every right to run big here; #1 NEWBOMB: Comes in after a series of strong five-furlong drills for Todd Pletcher and is another who could be sitting on a big first-out effort. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because of the rail draw, which can be a lot for a debuting runner to overcome.
#2 YAUPON: Turned heads with a big win over older allowance foes last month, one where he earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. This is another step up the class ladder, but he may well be the quickest of the quick in the Grade 2 Amsterdam; #1 BASIN: Cuts back to one turn after running in the wrong races for the right reasons. He won the Grade 1 Hopeful here last year and may benefit from being the lone closer in a race full of early speed (I’d love him at 6 1/2 or seven furlongs); #4 PREMIER STAR: Earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure with a nice win at Laurel Park last time out. This is a much tougher spot, but it’s worth noting that Irad Ortiz, Jr., lands here when he likely had options.
#2 WHITMORE: Ran second to Volatile in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt despite breaking through the starting gate prior to the race. He also rated behind one of the top sprinters in the country when that one was gifted an easy lead. There are no such monsters here, and I think he’s got a big shot to notch his second win in the Grade 1 Forego; #10 MIND CONTROL: Was third in the Vanderbilt and finished just a half-length back of my top selection. He won Grade 1 races at two and three at this very route of ground, and he should respond well to the added furlong; #4 FUNNY GUY: Certainly deserves this shot after two strong wins over state-bred stakes foes. He earned Beyer Speed Figures of 101 and 98 for those victories, he’s 2-for-2 over this track, and his best race likely gets him a piece of it.
#7 PEDRO CARA: Makes his first start for Graham Motion after spending the lion’s share of his career overseas. He just missed in a million-dollar race at Belmont last year and was third in another in Qatar back in February. With the American turf horses not knocking my socks off, I’ll take a shot with this one and see if Motion can get his third win in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer; #2 AQUAPHOBIA: May have wanted to be a turf marathoner all along. He won the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth and has found his form since being claimed for $62,500 earlier this year by trainer Mike Maker; #6 CROSS BORDER: Was put up in the Grade 2 Bowling Green to improve to 5-for-5 at Saratoga. He’s another Maker trainee in top form and certainly a “horse for the course;” the question is, can he successfully navigate this 12-furlong distance against Grade 1 competition?
#3 JOUSTER: Sold for $360,000 last summer, and for good reason. Her second dam is Storm Flag Flying, which means she traces back to one of the best female families in racing history (third dam My Flag and fourth dam Personal Ensign). The recent five-furlong gate work indicates she’s a good one, and Velazquez rides for Pletcher; #9 ROOKERY: Came up a neck short at big odds earlier this summer, and that’s notable because Wayne Catalano’s first-time starters very rarely win. I think she’s in line to take a big step forward at a nice price, and the outside post should provide plenty of options for Jose Lezcano; #5 ZAINALARAB: Was a million-dollar baby last year at Keeneland, and that’s not surprising given her pedigree. She’s by War Front, out of a Grade 3-winning Tapit mare, and is one of two debuting Chad Brown runners with very solid work tabs.
#7 MIDNIGHT SURPRISE: Gets a reluctant top pick in a very intriguing Saturday finale. She won her debut here last month, and the runner-up from that race came back to break her maiden a few days ago. Improvement is logical at second asking, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., rides back for Todd Pletcher; #3 ELOQUENT SPEAKER: Cuts back to a sprint after nine furlongs proved to be too far for her. In breaking her maiden two back at Belmont, she beat Jewel of Arabia, who has since come back to win twice; #8 MISS JIMMY: Ships in from Finger Lakes and is worth a long look at a big price. She’s run first or second in all but one of her 11 starts, and this is her third start off a long layoff. This filly always tries hard and cannot be ignored.