I took off from San Francisco at 12 am Pacific time Saturday, got two hours of sleep on the plane, and touched down in Hartford at 8:30 am. After a two-hour drive, I rolled into Saratoga and proceeded to have one of the most fun days at the track I’ve ever had.
After spending last season sheltering in place, the feeling I got walking past the jockey statues and strolling through the clubhouse and the backyard was beyond words. To everyone I ran into, and to everyone who made the day so special for my family and me: Thank you very much.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: I scratched down to a single in the first leg of my Pick Five ticket, and that horse lost all chance at the break. I dropped $18.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll wait until the finale, as my longshot of the day seems live. #2 ALPHA BABE seems to have found a home on the turf, and I’m hoping we get the 10-1 morning line price. I’ll have a $20 win ticket on that one.
TOTAL WAGERED: $20.
Best Bet: Water’s Edge, Race 4
Longshot: Alpha Babe, Race 10
#1 PICKERING CIRCLE: Almost certainly needed his debut effort and gets significant class relief in his second lifetime outing. George Weaver trainees usually improve with experience, and I really like the gate drill on July 24th, which was the seventh-fastest of the morning at that distance; #5 JOHN’S PROTEGE: Merits respect for Wesley Ward, who’s hit at an eye-popping 46% with first-time starters in for a tag. It’s a bit curious to see a recent turf work prior to a dirt race, but it’s not like this is an overly tough spot and he may not have to be much to win on debut; #8 SILIPO: Makes his debut here and may get some attention because his mother, Lisa’s Booby Trap, was a heck of a story (and a pretty nice horse to boot!). Rob Atras doesn’t have much in the way of first-out data, but the workouts seem fine and it wouldn’t be shocking to see he has some talent.
Pletcher entry (MTO)
Kiss the Sky
#9 KISS THE SKY: Was second in an off-the-turf event at Ellis Park last month and ships in for Mike Maker, whose charges must be respected when they’re led over. His pedigree is turf up and down, so him running well at first asking going two turns on dirt is especially noteworthy; #5 ANSEL: Had an eventful trip earlier in the meet when he broke slowly and got stuck rating behind a very slow pace. He may have needed that effort, though, and his work tab hints that he may have turned a corner ahead of his second start; #10 FLIP THE SCRIPT: Will need to work out a trip from an outside post but has every right to improve at second asking. He’s another that debuted in an off-the-turf race, and Tom Albertrani’s runners generally move forward with seasoning.
#10 HERALD ANGEL: Drops in for a tag for the first time after a pair of efforts against allowance company downstate. Her connections saw fit to run her in a pair of stakes races at two, and she earned her career-best Beyer Speed Figure at this route of ground last August; #3 SASSY MELISSA: Has a record that looks far better if you simply toss every race that isn’t a turf sprint. She was an OK third last time out at this level, and that day’s runner-up has since come back to win. Jose Ortiz rides back, and I think she could be live at a price; #4 DEFY EXPECTATIONS: Looks like one of the main early speed horses in this heat and ran second against similar last time out at Belmont. That day’s winner won a race earlier this summer, and most of her misfires came against far better horses than what she’ll line up against here.
#1 WATER’S EDGE: Will likely be an odds-on favorite in here, and for good reason. He earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure last time out in an impressive, maiden-breaking score, and he faces many horses that have been at this level for quite a while. Anything close to the last-out effort should sink these; #4 SARATOGA PAL: Goes second off the layoff here and crushed a weaker group earlier this month at Finger Lakes. He ran a huge race here last summer to break his maiden, and his late-running style would give him a chance if the early pace is faster than expected; #5 QUICKFLASH: Hasn’t won in quite a while and stopped to a walk here earlier in the meet after dueling with a much-the-best winner. He gets the benefit of an outside draw here, and his usual race would likely get him a piece of the purse.
Jester Calls Nojoy
#4 JESTER CALLS NOJOY: Gets a tepid top selection in a loaded 2-year-old maiden race. This daughter of Maclean’s Music doesn’t have a ton of bottom-side pedigree, but she’s zipped through a pair of four-furlong gate drills that certainly imply she’s a runner, and Todd Pletcher’s debuting runners are often well-meant; #9 CELESTIAL: Is another with a strong work tab, and in this case, it’s for Bill Mott, whose first-time starters don’t usually show that kind of speed. She’s a half-sister to champion 2-year-old filly Caledonia Road and stakes winner One of a Kind, though, so she has every right to be ready to roll right away; #5 MIDNIGHT STROLL: Hammered for $225,000 at auction and comes in off a very strong five-furlong move on August 8th. This filly’s pedigree is mostly turf, as her dam is a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Coalport, but it sure looks like she’s working well, and the presence of Luis Saez is a big plus.
Write This Down
#6 CANDY MONET: Drops in for a tag after chasing solid horses in two starts against state-bred maidens. She was up close early last time out, and that day’s winner came back to run well against allowance competition while the second and third-place horses ran 1-2 at this level; #10 ROXEN: Gets Lasix for the first time and exits a decent fourth at this level downstate. I’m far from crazy about the post position, but a repeat of her last-out effort would give her a shot, and if Lasix moves her forward, she could absolutely win this; #1 WRITE THIS DOWN: Was third against similar at Belmont and was claimed out of that race by Rob Atras. She may go favored, and the barn switch certainly helps, but closers breaking on the rail make me nervous, and so does the fact that last-out rider Joel Rosario isn’t aboard here.
Business Model (MTO)
#7 NEVER EXPLAIN: Just missed last time out in a race that boasted several horses that also show up in this spot. He was very wide that day, draws a slightly better post here, and should be forwardly-placed in a race that seems light on early zip; #4 FUTURE VICTORY: Exits that common race and didn’t have a great trip there. Still, she was beaten less than four lengths, Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride back for Todd Pletcher, and if there’s any sort of pace in front of him, he could run on late at a bit of a price; #10 SHAWDYSHAWDYSHAWDY: Goes back to the turf after two tried in off-the-turf races at Belmont. He showed enough class last season to run fourth in the Grade 2 Pilgrim behind Fire At Will and Public Sector, and a return to his preferred surface may very well wake him up.
#4 MONGOLIAN HUMOR: Romped by more than four lengths at this route last month and gets a tremendous trainer change to Robertino Diodoro, who’s one of the best in the game with new acquisitions. A repeat of her last-out effort may well be good enough to win this, and I’m expecting improvement; #7 ABSOLUTE LOVE: Has turned into a “win type,” having found the winner’s circle in three of her last four starts. One of those victories came here going two turns early in the meet; the question is, can she be as effective cutting back in distance?; #8 JESSICA: Hasn’t run since May but has shown plenty of early zip and may make the lead by default here. Joel Rosario doesn’t ride much for this barn, and if she gets an easy lead, she could hang on for a piece of it at a pretty big price.
#8 BYE BYE: Took the Grade 3 Soaring Softly two starts ago and cuts back to a sprint distance in the Galway. She’s undefeated going seven furlongs or shorter on the lawn, and I love that she’ll likely sit just off the early speed before making her run at the top of the stretch; #3 WINK: Has won a pair of listed stakes races and was second in a Group 3 overseas late last year as part of Wesley Ward’s globe-trotting operation. She ran a clunker last time out at Churchill Downs, but she certainly seems like the main speed here and the 12-1 morning line price hits me as an overlay; #7 GOIN’ GOOD: Has six top-two finishes in seven career starts and won the off-the-turf Coronation Cup here a few weeks ago. She’s never run a truly poor race and should be right in the thick of it again here.
Bayshore Foxes (MTO)
Summer in the City
#2 ALPHA BABE: Has found a new home on turf and earned her diploma last time out going a mile at Belmont. She rallied from seven lengths back to win that event, and I think she’ll be closer early on in the Sunday finale (which should help her given how the inner turf course has been playing); #3 SUMMER IN THE CITY: Didn’t seem like she enjoyed running at Belmont Park and drops in class for her upstate New York debut. Her one win came over a two-turn configuration at Gulfstream Park, so a return to a similar route could move her forward; #5 MIRABELL MEI: Hasn’t won in a while but returns to the claiming ranks after two starts against starter allowance foes downstate. The faster they go early, the better her chances figure to be, and top turf rider Jose Lezcano has been enlisted to ride.