Every summer for the past few years, I’ve done handicapping seminars at the Alameda County Fair. It’s a beautiful place with wonderful people who are passionate about the game, and that fact isn’t lost on those who are well-known around the area.
On Saturday, for instance, I left the seminar and walked the length of the stretch to the paddock. There, in a white cowboy hat and a Hawaiian shirt, was Steve Coburn, the former co-owner of future Hall of Famer California Chrome. I introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes, and I’m happy to report he seems like a wonderful guy.
Side note: If you ever get the chance to go to a Northern California fair track, go without hesitation. The passion is infectious, and the people who work there bust their butts to provide a fun experience for fans.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: My exactas didn’t cash, but my $20 cold double did. Chattalot won the fifth, Portfolio Company won the sixth, and I pocketed $140.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’m taking a stab at the late Pick Four, which starts in the seventh and ends with a horse that should be a very heavy favorite. My ticket reads as follows: 3,9 with 4,6,8 with ALL with 10. I’m against the 2-1 morning line favorite in the opening leg, and if we get a price home in the wide-open Coronation Cup, this could pay pretty well.
TOTAL WAGERED: $27
Best Bet: Before You, Race 10
Longshot: Group Hug, Race 2
#5 MISCHIEF MOGUL: Debuts for Todd Pletcher and looks like a formidable favorite. He’s by top sire Into Mischief, boasts several solid half-mile drills, and doesn’t seem to be running up against the strongest group for the level; #3 SILVER SAMURAI: Showed some speed in his debut, when he finished second behind a runaway winner. Kelly Breen has enjoyed plenty of success with second-out maidens, and we know he’s got the zip to be prominent early; #4 DOIN’ITTHERIGHTWAY: Went extremely wide in his debut at Lone Star last month and has since moved to the Rob Atras barn. He shines with new acquisitions, and he may be talented enough to rally for a slice of it.
#7 GROUP HUG: Returns to the turf after several dirt outings and has shown he can handle the lawn. He was a good second in his lone turf start to date, and he won’t be out of place if this event gets moved to the main track, either; #5 TALLIS: Drops in for a tag for the first time in his turf debut, and he’s bred to like this surface. Dam Isabella Sings was a very strong turf horse, and he sports several solid moves on the Oklahoma track’s turf course; #2 CHARLESTON STRONG: Goes from a sprint to a route second off the layoff and also adds blinkers. This is a lot of moves to keep track of, and the drop in for a $75,000 tag is alarming since he sold for $600,000 back in 2019, but he ran well last time out and a step forward would give him a shot.
Get the Candy
Jill’s a Hot Mess
#5 GET THE CANDY: Wired a field of maidens last time out and tries winners here. It’s entirely possible she bounces, but I also think Lasix may have moved her forward, and it’s encouraging that Saez sees fit to ride back; #3 JILL’S A HOT MESS: Faded to fourth against open claimers, and this state-bred race is probably a step down in class. Her win two starts back was solid, and a repeat of that effort gives her a chance at a price; #9 SNICKET: Finds trouble as often as any horse on the circuit, but has still hit the board in eight of 11 lifetime starts. Rosario rides for Clement, and perhaps the outside post will allow her the clean journey she needs to be a factor here.
#2 MISTY VEAL: Just missed last time out at Churchill in her first start for the Tom Amoss barn. Her two dirt routes are the two best races of her career, and she should be prominent early beneath Irad Ortiz, Jr.; #4 HIGH FASHION: Rallied to be beaten just a neck in her first try against winners and may be coming to hand for one of the most patient horsemen around. She needs a pace to run at to be at her best, but she should get one here; #6 HONOR HOP: Won going long in the slop two back and returns to dirt after finishing fifth on turf last month. An off track shouldn’t faze her, and the presence of John Velazquez is noteworthy.
#5 LIL STEVIE: Ships up from Maryland for a high-percentage barn and is bred to be a good one. He’s a full sibling to two other runners, and both of them have won multiple times. Irad Ortiz, Jr., signing on to ride sure seems like it signals positive intent; #1 SENBEI: Hammered for $280,000 in January of 2020 and comes in off a strong half-mile gate work on July 1st. The rail draw isn’t ideal, but if this son of Candy Ride runs to the pedigree, he’ll have a big chance; #6 COZZY’S ATTITUDE: Has fired back-to-back bullets downstate ahead of his unveiling, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s got talent. However, this barn’s runners tend to need a race or two to get going. Watch the tote board carefully after the fourth race goes official.
Free Enterprise (MTO)
Summer to Remember
Blue Lou Boyle
#9 SUMMER TO REMEMBER: Runs in a straight claiming race for the first time and looms large as the one to beat. He ran third in three stakes races a season ago, and based on figures, he’s going to be formidable if this stays on the lawn; #3 BLUE LOU BOYLE: Won two in a row this spring and will look to make it three straight here. He showed a new dimension when rallying from way back last time out, and Rosario sees fit to ride back for Mark Casse; #8 HANDY: Hasn’t run a bad race since being claimed by Robertino Diodoro in April. He most recently ran a good second against a starter allowance group at Churchill Downs, and that sort of effort could be good enough to get him a share.
#9 PERFECT GRACE: Ran second in two starts this spring at Gulfstream Park and draws a cushy outside post. This daughter of Horse of the Year Havre de Grace should appreciate the slight cutback in distance, and it helps that the winner of her last start has since won again; #3 MEZCAL: Sold for $625,000 in 2019, and for good reason. She’s a daughter of Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia and has been working well for Todd Pletcher, who’s enticed first-call rider John Velazquez; #1 EQUAL PAY: Bizarrely steadied and threw her jockey in her debut downstate. She was in contention that day and will be bet because of it, but I just don’t think that was a strong heat, and if she’s still green, the rail is not where she’ll want to be.
#6 TIMELY TRADITION: Does her best running at Saratoga and takes a significant drop in class. The only time she’s finished worse than second here came when she had a horrible trip in a race last August, and anything close to her best would make 4-1 an overlay; #8 AWESOME DEBATE: Got very good this past winter at Aqueduct and was claimed out of her last race by Danny Gargan, who’s hitting at an absurd rate with new acquisitions. She’s won six of 13 lifetime races, and she’s got the early speed necessary to clear this field early; #4 DIVA BANKER: Comes in having won two races in a row, and the second-place finisher from her race last month at Belmont came back to win as well. She completes a strong hand in this race for Ray Handal, who also conditions my top pick.
#5 BYE BYE: Probably found a mile a bit too far last time out, when she led early and faded to seventh. Her two turf starts going shorter were both wins, and Rosario lands here when he likely had several options; #8 WINK: Won a similar-level stakes race two starts back before being wrapped up at Churchill Downs in the lone poor race of her career to date. It’s fair to wonder if she can make the lead here, but she’s way more talented than she showed last time and that may result in some value; #1 STAR DEVINE: Cuts back to a sprint after finishing third going longer at Belmont. She won her debut going six furlongs quite impressively before being beaten just a length in the Grade 3 Soaring Softly, and she’d be far from a shock in a wide-open renewal of the Coronation Cup.
#10 BEFORE YOU: Flopped in a pair of turf starts and takes a huge class drop in her return to dirt. Her two main track efforts dwarf those of the rest of this field, as she was second in her debut before finishing fourth behind three next-out winners; #7 SHINING COLORS: Has run second in two starts following a long layoff and probably represents the logical alternative to the heavy favorite. She’ll likely be on or near the lead early on, and that could position her for success, as few runners in this field have shown an ability to pass others; #6 SHIRLEY GREENE: Improved in her second career start, when she rallied mildly to be fifth at a big price at Churchill Downs. She’ll get blinkers for the first time here, and Rosario will have the mount for a small barn.