Wedding #2 of my “four weddings in six weeks” stretch takes place Saturday afternoon in beautiful Mammoth Lakes, California. It’s extremely remote and not close to anything in particular, but I’m delighted to have the chance to take a five-hour road trip there with my better half and celebrate two fantastic people (congrats, Mike and Monika!).
If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “self, how is Andrew going to have the time and focus to handicap Sunday and Monday?,” know that this is a very, very valid question. I anticipate being yelled at for either going to sleep late or waking up very early, with my defense being, “I’m sorry, honey, but I need to look at the Hopeful!”
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: The best day I’ve ever had in the pick box (eight winners) was accompanied by a nice score here. My ticket scratched down to $30, and it hit for a robust $385.50.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll lean on two strong opinions. The more insane one is that #1 FAITH RUNNER has a big chance at a gigantic price in the sixth, so I’ll have a $10 win/place bet on that longshot. Additionally, and in far more conventional thinking, #3 WAR LIKE GODDESS should not lose the Flower Bowl. She’s a single to end $2 Grand Slam tickets that start in the eighth and look like this: 1,4 with 1,6,10 with 1,3,6 with 3.
TOTAL WAGERED: $38.
Best Bet: War Like Goddess, Race 11
Longshot: Faith Runner, Race 6
#5 WAR SMOKE: Did everything but win in his debut, when he rallied from 10th of 11 and was beaten just a neck. If his most recent drill is any indication, he’s bounced out of that unveiling well, and he looms large as a logical favorite in the Saturday opener; #3 CITIZEN K: Has not run since October, but he tries turf for the first time and is bred to love it. He’s by Mizzen Mast, out of a Proud Citizen mare, and gets first-time Lasix for a barn that’s connected at a 20% clip this summer; #7 GIRAMONTE: Has had plenty of chances and has run second or third in all five of his career turf outings. He was most recently second against similar company, and his usual effort would likely get him a piece of the purse here.
#2 SUPREME AURA: Was claimed for $40,000 after a last-out score at Belmont and drops in for half that price here. This barn’s horses have been running well, with 17 top-three finishes in 40 starts, but only two of those are wins, and I’m guessing this is a “get us to the winner’s circle” drop; #4 ROAMING UNION: Cruised to a victory over a lower-level group last time out, and his record looks considerably better if you toss his Belmont races. He’ll likely be on or near the lead early, and Joel Rosario sees fit to ride back; #7 UNIVERSAL PAYDAY: Hasn’t won in a while but did show improvement when stretched back out to two turns last time out. He has a win at this route and has every right to take another step forward in his third start off of a long layoff.
#6 CODY’S WISH: Lost all chance at the start last time out, and it’s pretty remarkable that he salvaged third in that outing. He was a very heavy favorite that day off of a solid debut downstate, and I’m willing to give him another shot; #1 NORTH CAROLINA: Has been working very, very quickly ahead of his first start since June of last year. That’s atypical of Barclay Tagg trainees, as he’s a very patient horseman. If he runs to his works, I think he’s got a chance to spring a mild upset; #7 PIPELINE: Fell by a head in the same race my top pick exits, and that day’s winner came back to win a first-level allowance several days ago. That was a pretty significant step forward for him, though, and I’m curious as to why he’s being cut back to one turn for this event.
#7 RISKY MISCHIEF: Came up just short in her 2021 debut last month, which was her first outing since late-November. She’s run several strong races at this route, and the faster they go early, the better her chances figure to be; #1 LILLY SIMONE: Came up a head short in a starter allowance race earlier this summer, and that day’s winner came back to win over allowance foes earlier this week. The rail draw is less than ideal, but a repeat of her last-out effort would give her a chance at a nice price; #4 FETCHING: Hasn’t won in quite a while but is extremely consistent and was second behind a next-out winner back in July. Karl Broberg saw fit to claim her out of that race, and her usual effort would put her right there.
#6 SOUPER SENSATIONAL: Was impressive in winning the Grade 3 Victory Ride two starts ago and ran into a buzzsaw when second to Bella Sofia in the Grade 1 Test. She draws a cushy outside post and will likely get plenty of pace to chase in the Grade 2 Prioress, which would make her tough to go against; #1 OXANA: Has shown serious talent in a pair of runaway victories at Parx and gets a significant class test here. She fits on speed figures and attracts Irad Ortiz, Jr., who almost certainly had several options in this spot; #3 LI’L TOOTSIE: Took a pair of shots in the last two starts and likely gets back to what she wants to do here. Her dirt sprint form looks very solid, and trainer Tom Amoss isn’t one to take crazy shots in big races. I think she’ll have every chance to outrun her odds and hit the board at a big number.
#1 FAITH RUNNER: Is a gigantic price on the morning line, but I think there’s a lot to like. He’s bred to be any kind, sold for $300,000 at auction last year, and stretches out to two turns after a bullet five-furlong drill. His likely price hits me as a gigantic overlay; #6 ANNAPOLIS: Debuts for Todd Pletcher and is one of the best-bred 2-year-olds we’ve seen all summer. He’s by all-world sire War Front, out of Grade 2 winner My Miss Sophia, and has been working steadily going long ahead of his unveiling; #9 OHTWOOHTHREEFIVE: Led briefly last time out before fading to third behind a well-meant Shug McGaughey trainee and may find this spot a bit softer. The outside post isn’t ideal, but he did show some tactical speed last time out and that could allow him to get the jump on this group.
#10 BRIGADIER GENERAL: Tired after setting a contested early pace last time out and may have bounced off of a strong second in his debut. He’s since posted a pair of very impressive workouts, and I’m expecting an improved effort at a better price than the one we got last month; #2 CLASSIC CAUSEWAY: Debuts for Brian Lynch and boasts a curious workout pattern. It’s not often you see an unraced 2-year-old with back-to-back six-furlong drills, but this one has them, and that should at least mean he’ll be fit; #3 TEN GAUGE: Dueled in the mud at Monmouth and was beaten just a length in his debut. Offspring of Gun Runner have proven to be runners, and the presence of broodmare sire Empire Maker hints that he’ll only get better as the distances get longer.
Risk Taking (MTO)
#1 PUBLIC SECTOR: Has two wins and two seconds in four starts this season and captured the Grade 2 Hall of Fame last time out. His record looks far better if you draw a line through his puzzling clunker in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and he looks like the class of the field in the Grade 3 Saranac; #4 NEVER SURPRISED: Hasn’t run since January, when he was a beaten 1/5 favorite in the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream Park. He showed plenty of talent as a 2-year-old, when he won a stakes race at Aqueduct, and it’s entirely possible he’s matured in his time away; #5 FOUNDER: Rallied to win an ungraded stakes race on the lawn at Monmouth last time out and may have benefited from a very fast pace. He was a very impressive first-out winner here last summer, and he may be figuring things out in the back half of his 3-year-old campaign.
Just Ok Is Not Ok
#6 JUST OK IS NOT OK: Had a terrible trip last time out in her first start against winners, and I have no problem tossing that effort. Her win two starts ago was solid, and we may get an inflated price given a last-out clunker that probably isn’t reflective of this filly’s ability; #10 ENGLISH BREEZE: Won first time out two summers ago and has been searching for her second score ever since. She exits a very competitive race for the level at Belmont, and that day’s winner and second-place finisher have since come back to win; #1A CARA’S DREAMER: Just missed at this level two starts ago, when she was beaten a dirty nose at 17-1. She’s a closer that will need a lively pace in front of her, and she’ll certainly be going the right direction late when the real running starts.
#6 OLYMPIAD: Was very highly-regarded as a 2-year-old last season and broke his maiden near the end of the meet when he topped eventual stakes winners Caddo River and Greatest Honour. He hasn’t run since, but he’s trained forwardly for Bill Mott and gets Lasix for the first time ahead of his return; #3 DUCALE: Earned a lofty 97 Beyer Speed Figure when topping maidens early in the stand and tries winners for the first time. He’ll likely be a short price and could be good enough with further progression, but this is far from an easy first-level allowance race, and I’d prefer more value than we’re likely to get; #1 TUGGLE: Came back running when second in his first start since April of 2020 downstate. Toss the two turf outings back in 2019, and you have a colt that’s never been worse than third in five dirt starts and one that hit the board in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special as a 2-year-old.
War Like Goddess
My Sister Nat
#3 WAR LIKE GODDESS: Has turned into one of the country’s top turf horses and looms very large in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl. She was extremely impressive in taking the Grade 2 Glens Falls for her third straight graded stakes score, and she’s tough to go against here; #4 MY SISTER NAT: Is one of two upset hopefuls trained by Chad Brown, and she’s an ultra-consistent mare with 14 in-the-money finishes in 18 lifetime starts. She was second behind my top pick in the Glens Falls, and she won the Grade 3 Waya over this turf course a season ago; #6 GREAT ISLAND: Is the second Brown runner and comes in after taking the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth Park. She tries a marathon distance for the first time, but her pedigree says that shouldn’t be a problem.
Forza Di Oro
#1 FORZA DI ORO: Came back running off of a long layoff with an easy win over optional claiming foes and gets a major acid test in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. However, he’s shown he has immense talent and may be in a position where he’s put it all together as a 4-year-old; #4 HAPPY SAVER: Won this race a season ago and will look to rebound from his first career defeat in the Grade 2 Suburban downstate. The sloppy track may have been a factor that day, and at a minimum, we know that the 10-furlong distance will not be a problem; #5 NIGHT OPS: Has come frustratingly close on a number of occasions this season and was most recently second in the Alydar. That day’s winner, Art Collector, won the rich Charles Town Classic in his next start, and perhaps the stretch-out to a mile and a quarter will be what he needs to break through.