My girlfriend and I went out to dinner Sunday after I got back from my whirlwind trip to the first of four weddings in six weeks. Shortly after we sat down for dinner in San Ramon, California, a gentleman walked in wearing a Saratoga t-shirt.
To my abject horror, he had no clue who I was (how DARE he?!?!), but we had an amazing 10-minute conversation about the wonders of the Spa and how amazing it is to go to one of horse racing’s last remaining cathedrals. That my girlfriend, by no means a racing fan but someone who got Saratoga’s appeal about five minutes into her first trip there, could understand what we felt made it even more special.
As we head into the last week of the 2021 meet, I urge you to savor that feeling. What Saratoga inspires isn’t something present at every racetrack in the country, and the passion that gets poured into the product each summer is a big reason why I do what I do every season.
SUNDAY’S RESULTS: Beau Liam was a cinch, but a strange series of events left Montauk Daddy alone on the front end in the race prior to that. He was a chalk I tried to beat, so when he coasted home, I dropped $40.
WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: I’ll employ the same strategy here as well. #2 MUBARMAJ shouldn’t lose the second. I’ll play $5 doubles starting in the steeplechase opener that use #3 RITZY A.P., #4 PERFECT TAPATINO, and #7 PRAYER HOPE, as well as $5 doubles ending in the third that use #1 STATIC FIRE, #6 SWEET SURPRISE, and #12 STORMY STELLA. I’ll also use all of these horses in a $2 Pick Three.
TOTAL WAGERED: $48.
Best Bet: Mubarmaj, Race 2
Longshot: Vivazano, Race 10
#7 PRAYER HOPE: Gets a tepid nod in the final jump race of the meet, an event that hits me as very wide-open. He’s run three strong races this season and comes back to the steeplechase ranks after springing a 12-1 upset on the flat at Colonial Downs; #4 PERFECT TAPATINO: Was on or near the lead most of the way last time out and held on for third. His tactical speed could be an advantage here, and he may have every chance to lead them a long way; #3 RITZY A.P.: Was a bit one-paced last time out in his first start over fences against winners, though he was forced to steady a bit early on in that event. He figures to do his best running late, and he’d benefit from an early speed duel that sets things up for his run.
Grit and Glory
#2 MUBARMAJ: Has won two in a row over higher-level claimers and looms very large in this spot. His lone career defeat going two turns came in the Grade 3 Discovery back in 2019, and if he’s right, the race is for second money; #3 GRIT AND GLORY: Won at this route last summer and has been rested after a claim in June at Belmont Park. It’s possible he’ll need a race off the brief freshening, but he has some prior races that would make him a worthy opponent; SCHETTINO ENTRY: I prefer #1A LEGIT, who sheds blinkers in his first start off the claim by this outfit. He’s chased my top pick a few times, but he’s had trouble at the start in each of his last two outings and could get closer with a clean trip.
#1 STATIC FIRE: Makes her debut and has been working very, very fast for trainer Brian Lynch. The rail draw isn’t ideal for a debuting runner, but it sure seems like her connections found a fairly soft spot for her unveiling, and she may be ready to run them off their feet; #12 STORMY STELLA: Needs some luck to draw in off the AE list, but debuted in a much tougher spot and adds blinkers at second asking. I think there are several reasons to expect a step forward, and she may be good enough to overcome a wide draw; #6 SWEET SURPRISE: Rallied to be third in her debut earlier this summer and retains the services of Joel Rosario. She may have gained plenty of seasoning that day, and a step forward would put her right there.
Ice Princess (MTO)
#8 CLARA PEETERS: Hasn’t run in more than a year, but she’s working like a mare ready to get back to business. She fired three consecutive bullets over the turf course at the Oklahoma track, and anything close to the form she showed last season would make her tough; #4 SUN SUMMERS: Hasn’t won in a while but was a deceptively-good third here earlier this summer. It says the turf condition was “good,” but there was a significant storm that hit just before that event, and it says something that she was able to make up any ground at all; #3 CHOATE BRIDGE: Was sixth in a pretty loaded stakes race last time out at Indiana Grand, and she may have needed that race after a two-month break. She’s certainly eligible to improve second off the bench, and she’d benefit if the pace is faster than anticipated.
#2 SPEED EFFECT: Sure looks like the main pace presence in a race otherwise light on early zip. His last-out effort was his first try since February of 2020, and his lone win to date came going two turns on dirt at Gulfstream, so the stretch-out should agree with him; #5 LOKOYA ROAD: Showed late interest when third against similar-level competition in mid-August. He’s certainly talented enough to win this and is a logical favorite, but the likely race shape might work against him; #3 BREAKING STONES: Probably lost all chance at the break last time out in his first try against winners. This is a significant drop in class from that event, and a repeat of his winning effort two back could get him a piece of this one at a bit of a price.
Big Little Risk
A Colt Named Susie
#9 FREUDIAN FATE: Takes a big drop in class to race against state-bred maiden claimers for just the second time in his career. He also comes back to the dirt for this one after a few failed starts on grass, and some of his dirt races look strong compared to those of his opponents; #6 BIG LITTLE RISK: Was third at this level and route earlier in the meet and was prominent in the lane before fading in the final furlong. Luis Saez sees fit to ride back for H. James Bond, and he figures to be prominent early; #8 A COLT NAMED SUSIE: Exits a key maiden special weight race on turf that produced three next-out winners. The drop in for a tag is notable, and while his dirt races aren’t special, he boasts a very strong five-furlong dirt drill earlier this month. He may not have to be much to hit the board in a race where the field is a combined 0-for-83.
Jill’s a Hot Mess
#1 JILL’S A HOT MESS: Has found a home sprinting on turf and topped starter allowance foes in her first start at this route. That was a solid field she beat that day, and she has enough early zip to avoid being shuffled back along the rail in the early stages; #9 SOCIAL WHIRL: Has won both of her starts here this summer and attracts Irad Ortiz, Jr., for her stiffest test to date. This isn’t an easy group, but she’s in form, she’s had plenty of success at this route, and when trainer Tom Morley gets horses on the right track, they tend to stay there; #11 BONUS BABY: Makes her first start since February but sports several sharp drills downstate and ran well at this route when second behind the talented Robin Sparkles last summer. The post position isn’t ideal, but she should still be able to drop back and make one run at a price.
#3 RUNNIN’ RAY: Has won both of his starts this season, including a starter allowance at this route very early in the meet. That day’s runner-up came back to win (albeit in controversial fashion), and this one should have every chance to sit a perfect stalking trip and keep the streak going; MAKER ENTRY: Both #1 MR. TIP and #1A FIRST LINE seem live in this spot. The former exits a very tough allowance race with several legitimate prospects, and the latter boasts several strong efforts earlier this season and exits a failed turf experiment against classier runners; #6 VINDICTIVE: Earned a 97 Beyer Speed Figure in his maiden-breaking score and tries winners for the first time. That effort was a significant step forward from a disappointing debut, though, and if this one is so well-meant, why did the Pletcher barn also enter #4 TEXAS SWING? At his likely price, I’ll try to beat him.
Gooch Go Bragh
#4 PORTFOLIO COMPANY: May have moved a bit early in his debut, but was good enough to hold on that day despite being a bit green. Chad Brown has enjoyed great success with first-out turf routers this meet, and I think it’s telling this one is his only runner in the Grade 3 With Anticipation; #1 LIMITED LIABILITY: Came storming home to win his debut going away for trainer Shug McGaughey, who doesn’t always have his first-time starters fully cranked. If there’s hesitation here, it’s that a few runners from that race came back on Travers Day, but none won the maiden special weight they ran in; #3 GOOCH GO BRAGH: Was second behind a promising runner that put forth a head-turning performance (in more ways than one) last time out. That day’s winner would be one of the favorites in this spot, so I can’t hold the defeat against this one too much.
Fist Full of Dice
#9 VIVAZANO: Gets one more chance from me in the Wednesday finale after a tough beat last time out in an off-the-turf race. Her lone turf race to date was a pretty strong effort, as she was third against what seems like a better group, and I think she’ll be forwardly-placed in a group without many that want to pass others; #8 TINGLING MINT: Is bred up and down to want to go long on the lawn, and debuts getting that precise route of ground for a trainer that excels with first-time starters on turf. This daughter of Lemon Drop Kid is out of a Footstepsinthesand mare, and she may not have to be all that much to win on debut; #5 FIST FULL OF DICE: Ships in after several strong late runs at Belterra Park and merits a look at a big price. Unlike others in this field that haven’t shown an ability to pass others, this one will do her best running late, and the price figures to be right.