Mother Nature was at it again Thursday. Rain that battered Saratoga in the morning and early-afternoon hours forced all but one turf race to be run on the main track. This stuff happens, and obviously, we can’t control the weather, but I hate the way NYRA dealt with it.
Waiting until after the first race was run to make that decision made the third an “ALL” in the early Pick Five. This penalized players with strong opinions in that race, which is never a good thing (if you singled a horse, you got one payout, whereas if you hit the “ALL” button, you got paid several times). In addition, this came long after the scratch deadline, so most main-track-only horses entered in the event of a Saratoga monsoon (copyright Tom Amello, all rights reserved) didn’t get a chance to capitalize on an ideal situation.
We knew rain was coming. Why not get out in front of it, move races off the turf early, and make the best of a bad situation? I take no pleasure in bashing NYRA, and they do a lot of things right. Handling this in this fashion, though, made higher-ups look unprepared at best and Charlie Brown on a pitcher’s mound in the rain-level naive at worst.
THURSDAY’S RESULTS: Triple Americano prevailed in the fifth, but longshot of the day Ravizzol dropped anchor after a quarter-mile. Scratches reduced our losses to $20.
FRIDAY’S PLAY: My lone bet of the entire day comes in the feature. I think #4 FIRST CAPTAIN is no cinch in the Curlin, and that #6 COLLABORATE will likely be an overlay. I’ll put $20 on him to win, and I hope we get that 6-1 morning line price.
TOTAL WAGERED: $20.
Best Bet: Repole entry, Race 2
Longshot: Little Red Button, Race 10
Sugar and Speights
Free Ninety Nine
#8 SUGAR AND SPEIGHTS: Recorded a flashy half-mile gate drill here on July 15th and drew a cushy outside post in her unveiling. Christophe Clement hits at a 23% clip with debuting runners, and first-call rider Joel Rosario will be aboard; #5 FREE NINETY NINE: Has been working consistently at Belmont, and her two most recent drills represent a significant step forward. Mike Maker’s off to a great start at the meet, and this one seems well-meant; #7 LAOBAN’S LEGACY: Sold for $150,000 earlier this year and may very well go favored, but I have reservations. Her work tab is just so-so, and while Jeremiah Englehart is a world-class horseman, he hasn’t gotten going yet at this stand. 2-1 seems like an underlay, and I’ll try to beat her.
REPOLE ENTRY: Both #1 RESTORED ORDER and #1A HYPERFOCUS are taking big class drops, and they loom large in this spot. I don’t see the class drops as a negative, as owner Mike Repole is very aggressive and wants to compete for owner’s titles every summer; #7 CHAO: Put forth a career-best effort last time out at Gulfstream Park, where he dispatched a field of optional claiming foes. These are deeper waters, but perhaps he’s finding his form midway through his 3-year-old season; #8 BLUE CAT: Responded to a class drop last time out with a narrow win at a similar level in Kentucky. This turned out to be a significantly tougher spot, but a repeat of his most recent effort could be enough for a piece of this.
Advance Notice (MTO)
#4 KASIM: Was claimed by the red-hot Danny Gargan barn last time out and has lots of back form sprinting on turf. His dud last time out came over a wet main track, and if he rediscovers his early-season form for this new outfit, he’ll be the one to hold off late; #10 MONTAUK DADDY: Has stepped forward since being claimed by Rob Atras late last year. The far outside post can be a dicey proposition, but he sure looks like the main early speed here, and he could lead them a long way; #6 AHEAD OF PLAN: Owns a win at this route from last summer, albeit against maiden claiming foes. Based on figures, his best race could certainly win, but it sure didn’t seem like he had any excuses last time out at this level, and that’s a concern.
#6 CONTROL GROUP: Is an incredibly fun horse to root for and has won 17 of 47 lifetime starts. That includes four victories in seven starts over this surface and a solid last-out score at Belmont, and I think he’s a legitimate favorite; #2 SEA FOAM: Had every right to need his 2021 debut off of a layoff of more than five months. He’s another win-type that likes going two turns at Saratoga, and a return to form would give him a shot; #4 TOO EARLY: Has hit the board in each of his last seven outings and broke his maiden at this route of ground last summer. He comes in off of back-to-back 94 Beyer Speed Figures, and another such effort would put him right there in this stakes-caliber optional claiming event.
The Big Kahuna
#10 COACH BAHE: Merits respect on a significant class drop for a barn that’s already saddled several winners at the meet. He was reasonably competitive in his last two outings for $50,000 tags, so it stands to reason he’ll move forward now that he’s in for half of that price; #11 THE BIG KAHUNA: Is a big favorite on the morning line, but I think much of that is due to the barn he comes from. His figures don’t dwarf those of the rest of the field, and while he does drop in class, the recent slow work over this track hits me as a big red flag; #3 LITTERBOX: Has a record that looks far better if you solely consider the dirt sprints. He was an OK second against similar last time out, and he stands to benefit if there’s a pace meltdown in this seven-furlong race.
American Xperiment (MTO)
Fan the Fire
#9 CASTLE LEOCH: Gets a tepid nod in a wide-open turf sprint for 2-year-olds. He ran well when second in his unveiling back in May and has turned in a pair of strong works over the training track since shipping here earlier this month; #8 FAN THE FIRE: Has been working well for Maker, attracts Irad Ortiz, Jr., and owns a strong turf sprint pedigree. Sire Hard Spun is a strong grass influence, and his bottom-side pedigree includes top-class female sprinter/third dam Victory Ride; #5 PIQUA: Has plenty to suggest he’s got some potential. He sold for six figures at Keeneland last September, and his dam is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner and top Canadian sire Silent Name. I’m just not sure if he’ll need a race or two to get going.
Top Gun Tommy
#6 WINTER POOL: Sure seemed to wake up when shipped to Churchill, and he’s run well in each of his last two starts. He just missed in his first start going two turns last time out, and his pedigree says he’s only going to get better with more experience and more distance; #2 HOMBRAZO: Responded to being claimed by Joe Sharp and the addition of blinkers with an easy score over claiming company last month. He’s shown plenty of two-turn form in the past, and the change in surroundings may have helped him put things together; #4 TOP GUN TOMMY: Has won or run second in each of his last four starts, and one of those runner-up finishes came to next-out Grade 1 winner Known Agenda. This is his second start off a layoff, and his tactical speed is certainly a plus.
#8 COMPLIANT: Gets a tepid nod in a turf marathon that hits me as extremely wide-open. Several of his opponents seem to want to go early. That could set things up for a closer, and this one has run well in three starts since stretching out to marathon distances; #3 MUD PIE: Goes second off the bench for patient connections and is another that could benefit from a speed duel. His lone win came going 12 furlongs at Kentucky Downs, and he should improve getting back to that type of route; #10 BOX N SCORE: Will need to navigate a trip from a far outside post, but he’s shown an ability to go a marathon distance in the past. Should he be able to save ground and get a pace to run at, he’ll have every chance to do some damage.
#6 COLLABORATE: Has been working lights-out ahead of his New York debut in the Curlin and looms an attractive alternative to the likely favorite. He was 9/2 in the Grade 1 Florida Derby earlier this season and may now have the maturity necessary to go two turns effectively; #4 FIRST CAPTAIN: Is 3-for-3 and exits a win in the Grade 3 Dwyer downstate. He was 2/5 that day, though, and it sure seemed like he worked far harder than anticipated. Maybe he’s good enough to beat these, but I can’t stomach taking him on top at such a short price; #5 BEREN: Has gotten very good very quickly and comes in having won five times in his last six outings. I’m not convinced he wants to go two turns, but if he stretches out effectively, he could be a handful for connections that must be respected when they show up in big spots.
Little Red Button
#15 LEMON TAFFY: Needs a lot of luck to draw in but may prove tough to beat if she does. Her two turf tries at this level have been solid, and against a largely-unproven group of state-bred maiden claimers, “solid” may well be enough; #9 LITTLE RED BUTTON: Is 0-for-10 but looks significantly better if you solely consider her route races. This seems like what she wants to do, and Jose Ortiz’s presence is certainly encouraging; #4 KILLOEAN ROSE: Makes her career debut in this spot and simply may not have to be much to make an impact. Add in that she’s bred up and down for distance and is a half-sister to five winners, and I think there’s reason to throw her in at anywhere close to her 15-1 morning line price.