The next few days will feature the return of sales to Saratoga Springs, and with that has come the return of some of my favorite people in racing. After last summer featured no fans in the stands, it’s fun to be able to use this space for shout-outs like this again, so I’m going to enjoy it.
Joe, get cups of Big Red Spring water for everyone. Natalie, make sure Joe drinks all of them or gets them thrown in his face. Nicole, stop levitating as a result of being back in Saratoga. Penelope, take pictures of the responses to this (especially Joe’s).
Most importantly, though, I hope you’re all enjoying being back in town. Don’t work too hard!
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: Bolshoi Ballet was up far closer to the pace than I thought he’d be in the Saratoga Derby Invitational. When he got swallowed up at the top of the stretch, my Pick Five and doubles tickets turned into confetti. I dropped $34.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on a pair of competitive 2-year-old races. #7 FABULOUS FANNY is working like a runner ahead of her debut in the sixth, and #8 MAINSTAY impressed me in the Grade 3 Schuylerville and should run a better race in the eighth (the Grade 2 Adirondack). I’ll have $10 win tickets on each runner, and I’ll play a $2 Pick Three starting in the sixth that singles both of those horses and uses #3 VIADERA and #7 REGAL GLORY in the seventh (the De La Rose).
TOTAL WAGERED: $24.
Best Bet: Mainstay, Race 8
Longshot: Dream Lith, Race 6
#5 SPUN D’ETAT: Takes a big drop into straight claiming races after spending most of her career going against optional claiming foes. There seems to be plenty of early speed signed on, and that could set things up for this one to come pick up the pieces late; #2 SHAKER SHACK: Hasn’t run a bad race in five starts this season and even won a $200,000 stakes race for New York-bred runners two starts ago. She’s a nice horse, but her accomplishments beg the question, why are her connections willing to lose her for $32,000?; #4 CHLOE ROSE: Thumped a weaker group earlier in the meet and was claimed by one of the hottest barns on the grounds following that race. These waters are deeper, but she doesn’t have to improve much on speed figures to have a big shot here.
Love to Run
BROWN ENTRY: I prefer #1A MCKULICK, who’s by the great Frankel and has a terrific bottom-side pedigree as well. She’s a half-sister to stakes winner Just Beautiful, and her dam is kin to a runner that won a Group 2 in Italy; #2 PENNY SAVER: Wasn’t disgraced in her debut, when she ran second behind next-out Schuylerville winner Pretty Birdie. Her dam was Grade 2-placed on turf, so there’s plenty of pedigree saying she’ll like the grass, and her recent workouts look very sharp; #3 LOVE TO RUN: Sold for $640,000 at auction earlier this year and is bred to be a very nice turf horse. Her dam threw stakes-placed turfer Thanks Mr. Eidson, and this is another first-time starter with some fast works on the tab.
Kreesa La Wrote
#1 CAUMSETT: Gets a tepid nod in a turf sprint that hits me as pretty wide-open. She’s shown plenty of early zip, though, and this race seems fairly light on that elsewhere. I think she can make the lead from the rail and potentially get comfortable in a hurry; #6 NO PAYNE: Improved second off the bench when third in a turf sprint at Belmont. Joel Rosario sees fit to ride back for Ray Handal, and further progression would put her right there; #2 KREESA LA WROTE: Ran probably the best race of her career earlier in the meet, when she was second at this route of ground. She’s beaten several rivals that also show up in here, and while David Donk’s won just once at the meet, his charges have finished second five times as of this writing, so his horses are running just fine.
Easy to Bless
Harper’s in Charge
Off We Go
#6 EASY TO BLESS: Was a good second when beaten a neck by a class-dropping Brad Cox trainee last time, and she’s won five of nine career starts. How she’ll respond to a new barn is anyone’s guess, but the outside draw is a big plus and her best race would likely beat these; #3 HARPER’S IN CHARGE: Stopped to a walk in her first start since November, one where Test runner Bella Sofia cruised to a runaway victory. She may have needed that race off of such a long break, and if she’s back to the form she showed in her first-out score at Aqueduct, she’ll be a contender; #1 OFF WE GO: Was regarded highly enough by her connections to be entered in a pair of stakes races in the past. She was fifth of 14 in a race on the Breeders’ Cup undercard, and she’s been working well for Tom Amoss since shipping to Saratoga last month.
I’m Blaming You
#8 DISTRACTANDATTACK: Comes back to the turf after a pair of races rained off the grass and onto the main track. He was second in the most recent one a few weeks ago, his early speed makes him a wire-to-wire threat, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride back; #5 BABAGRAM: Showed speed in his debut for a barn whose horses tend to need a race or two to get going. I’m expecting a step forward, especially since he showed enough to originally be purchased for $180,000 several years ago; #4 I’M BLAMING YOU: Didn’t show much when seventh at this route earlier this summer, but that was his first race since September and he drops in for a tag for the first time here. He may go favored, and I can see why, but his form and figures don’t tower over this group, and at his likely price, I can’t endorse him on top.
#7 FABULOUS FANNY: Hammered for $400,000 at auction and has been working like a very good horse for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen. First-call rider Ricardo Santana, Jr., will have the mount, and if she runs to her works two and three back, she could be a handful; #1 POPULAR VOTE: Raced greenly in her debut, when she checked multiple times and seemed to take a significant amount of dirt in her face. She should be sharper at second asking, and while the rail draw is a concern, she’ll have every chance if she takes a logical step forward; #8 DREAM LITH: Is very well-bred and comes in off a sharp gate drill for an astute trainer. Her second and third dams both won Grade 1 races, and I think she could conceivably wind up with a piece of this at a big price.
#3 VIADERA: Got very good last year when she won three stakes races in a row, including the Grade 1 Matriarch at Del Mar. That run started with a win in the 2020 renewal of the De La Rose, and she’s worked very well ahead of her debut in this year’s event; #7 REGAL GLORY: Won two graded stakes races at the Spa two summers ago and was most recently fourth in the Grade 1 Just A Game. The top two finishers from that event came back to run 1-2 in the Grade 1 Diana, and this one’s best can absolutely win this; #5 RAVEN’S CRY: Seems like the best of the rest and has been very competitive at this level for most of the season. She won a listed stakes race at Sam Houston back in April and cuts back to a mile after running fourth going slightly longer at Indiana Grand.
#8 MAINSTAY: Ran an exceptional race in the Grade 3 Schuylerville, as she lost significant ground at the start. She still ran second and was more than five lengths clear of that race’s third-place finisher. If she gets a cleaner break in the Grade 2 Adirondack, look out; #2 ONTHEONESANDTWOS: Won her debut and then ran second in the Debutante at Churchill Downs, where she was beaten just a length and earned an 81 Beyer Speed Figure. That’s the highest last-out number of any runner in this field, and I like that she’s shown an ability to rate and pass others; #7 WICKED HALO: Set the early pace in the Debutante, and did so while going very, very fast. She went :44 and change for the first half-mile, and while this is a good group, she may not need to go quite so quick early on. If she gets comfortable, perhaps she’s classy enough to get the job done.
#7 CREATIVE FLAIR: Ships across the Atlantic for an outfit that must be respected whenever it shows up stateside. This filly has not run a bad race this season, has shown an ability to get this distance, and seems to have enough tactical speed to make her own trip in the Saratoga Oaks; #5 CON LIMA: Has finished either first or second in all but one of her 12 career starts, and that effort came in a dirt race. She was a close-up second in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks last month, and Flavien Prat has been called in to ride for newly-enshrined Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher; #6 ROCKY SKY: Makes her first stateside start after being shipped to the Chad Brown barn by owner Peter Brant. She ran well last time out to take a minor stakes race in Ireland, and we’ve certainly seen this outfit enjoy great success with European invaders in the past.
Water’s Edge (MTO)
#3 ALBIE: Exits a race that’s come back pretty well. The winner was narrowly beaten earlier this week, while the third-place finisher easily took an off-the-turf race. Danny Gargan’s enjoyed a very strong meet, and he’s got a live one in the Sunday finale; #10 CHROME DIXIE: Stretches out to two turns for the first time but is bred to want some distance. He’s by California Chrome, out of a Dixie Union mare, and comes out of a race where he was a good second going seven furlongs downstate; #5 SARATOGA FLASH: Has taken steps forward in each of his last two starts. He broke his maiden two back, then showed an improved late kick in his first start against winners. His lone two-turn effort to date at Gulfstream wasn’t bad, and regular rider Jose Ortiz should have plenty of options given this colt’s apparent versatility.