As one boutique meet winds down, another ramps up. Saratoga’s Sunday card is the penultimate one of the summer, and it comes on the same day that Kentucky Downs welcomes folks in for its opening day. If you want world-class turf racing for big purses, with big fields, that’s where you’ll want to look, and you only need to be right once or twice in order to come away with a big score.
This week’s episode of “Champagne and J.D.” featured handicapper Kaitlin Free, and the three of us looked at the late Pick Four sequence. We offered a trio of tickets with wide-ranging opinions, and if you’re handicapping the card, you won’t want to miss it. Check it out on YouTube, and make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss any of our weekly updates!
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: I had a mispunch, as the listed total wagered accounted for a $1 Grand Slam ticket, not $2. My actual investment was $56, not $38, but that benefited me, as I hit $16 worth of wagers when War Like Goddess won the Flower Bowl. Thanks to that, I cashed out for $94.40.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the ninth race, which I think will set up for a closer. I’ll box #2 BASELINE DRIVE, #8 THEODORA GRACE, and #10 CLADDAGH’S RUN in $3 exactas, and I’ll also use them to close out $3 doubles that start with #2 MALIBU KENDALL and #3 JESTER CALLS NOJOY in the eighth.
TOTAL WAGERED: $36 (and this time, I’ve made sure it’s accurate!).
Best Bet: Classy Edition, Race 7
Longshot: Scotty Brown, Race 12
Hope Over Fear
Sweet Lady Ivanka
#7 HOPE OVER FEAR: Debuted going two turns on turf before fading to fourth behind several well-meant debutantes. She’s turned in several strong works of late, including a four-furlong bullet on August 30th, and I think she’s sitting on an improved effort at second asking; #4 SWEET LADY IVANKA: Debuts for Chad Brown and is bred to be any kind. She’s by Candy Ride and out of a mare named Lady Serena, who is a half-sister to champion and sire Honor Code and two other stakes winners; #8 ALSANAH: Debuts for Todd Pletcher and has a distinguished female family. Her second dam is multiple Grade 1 winner Spun Sugar, and everything about her says the seven-furlong distance in Saturday’s opener won’t be a problem.
Hollywood Gina (MTO)
Little Dutch Girl
#5 MADAM MACLEAN: May have needed her last-out effort after a bit of a break, but she was beaten less than three lengths by Time Limit and Risky Mischief, who are both talented turf sprinters. She drops in class second off the bench and attracts top turf pilot Jose Lezcano; #6 LITTLE DUTCH GIRL: Has stepped forward in speed figures in each of her three starts to date, including a good third last time out at this level and route. There’s certainly plenty of early zip in this group, and further improvement would certainly make her a major player; #11 SASSY MELISSA: Came flying late to be beaten just a neck last time out and certainly has the talent to run well here. The outside post is a bit of a problem, and this is a decent field for the level, but at a minimum, she’ll be going the right way late.
#7 COALITION BUILDING: Has taken a lot of money this season and is 0-for-5 despite being favored in all five outings. However, this is a significant class drop, and her lone poor effort this year came when she clearly didn’t take to the dirt in an off-the-turf event back in July; #8 CHECKSANDBALANCES: Hasn’t run in nearly a year but showed enough last season to make me think she’s got a shot at a price. She’s been working consistently for Linda Rice, and she was third in a pair of maiden claiming events for this price last summer; #4 NEVER CONTENT: Gets a mulligan for the last-out clunker, as she was left in when the race was moved off the turf. She ran several decent turf races over the winter and spring and may have enough speed to establish positioning going into the first turn.
Spin a Yarn
#1 SPIN A YARN: Has won seven of nine career starts and gets Lasix for the first time here. For a rich allowance race, there isn’t a ton of other early speed signed on. I think she’ll break on top and get comfortable, and such a trip would make this Finger Lakes invader tough to catch; #5 LADY TRAVELER: Hasn’t won in a while but has run in several big spots. She hit the board in a pair of graded stakes races earlier this year, and while the layoff is a bit of a concern, she’s been working very quickly ahead of her return to the races; #2 JADES GELLY: Romped in an off-the-turf race last time out and earned a career-best 82 Beyer Speed Figure. This is a much tougher spot that represents a significant class test, but she’s in good form for a barn that does strong work with last-out winners, and she’ll likely be a decent price.
#5 IMWAYTOOCOOLFORYOU: Finally gets to run on the turf after competing in a pair of off-the-turf races on the mid-Atlantic circuit. This is also her first start for a claiming tag, and she seems like the speed of the speed in this event; KLARAVICH ENTRY: #1 MILESTONE PAYMENT and #1A PARTY LINE VOTE will take plenty of money, and it’s not like they’re impossible. However, the former ships up from Monmouth (which is a red flag for lower-level Chad Brown runners) and the latter has been working very slowly ahead of her debut. At their likely price, I need to try to beat them; #4 THEGODDESSOFSNAKES: May have needed her last-out effort off of an 11-month layoff and tries turf for the first time. Sire Street Boss is a strong turf influence, and at least she showed a little early zip in her return effort.
#9 CLEVER FELLOW: Broke through when dropped in for a tag last time out and tries winners for the first time, but does so against a group that lacks any monsters for the level. Irad Ortiz, Jr., rides back for Chad Brown, and it’s entirely possible the lightbulb has gone off now that he’s gotten the money once; #10 RISK MANAGER: Found starter allowance company a bit too tough last time out and drops back into the claiming ranks in his second start off a brief freshening. He was second for a slightly higher tag last time out, and the faster they go early, the better this closer’s chances figure to be; #5 ACTUARY: Drops in for a tag after two underwhelming starts against allowance foes. However, the winner of his last race is a legitimate stakes prospect, and perhaps he’ll benefit from the cutback in distance.
#2 CLASSY EDITION: Hammered for $550,000 at auction earlier this year and has been working very well for Todd Pletcher ahead of her unveiling. She’s a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Newly Minted and stakes-placed New Girl in Town, and she’s got every right to be a runner; #11 BELARUS: Needs some luck to draw in off the AE list but may be a factor if she does. She’s got several flashy works on the tab for a trainer that does well with debuting runners, and her dam was a stakes-winning sprinter that has thrown two multiple winners from as many foals to race; #6 SUMMER SNOW: Debuts for Mark Hennig, whose horses tend to need a race or two to get going. However, she’s shown potential with several sharp gate drills, and her dam is kin to multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter Merry Meadow.
Jester Calls Nojoy
#2 MALIBU KENDALL: Fetched $335,000 at auction last year, and for good reason. She’s by Curlin, out of an Awesome Again mare, and she flashed serious speed at Keeneland earlier this year. Her works here have been a bit slower, but Steve Asmussen doesn’t always ask his workers for much, and if she runs to her earlier works, look out; #3 JESTER CALLS NOJOY: Ran a good second in her debut a few weeks ago and must be respected at second asking. Leading rider Luis Saez sees fit to ride for Pletcher, and she’ll likely be an unsurprising favorite in this spot; #4 TEXIAN: Didn’t do much running first time out, but Shug McGaughey’s first-time starters are rarely fully-cranked. She’s bred to get better as she gets older, and she comes in off of a strong gate drill downstate at Belmont.
Trumpet Lilly (MTO)
#2 BASELINE DRIVE: Makes her first start for Mark Hennig after running well at Gulfstream Park in the first half of the year. Hennig does great work with new acquisitions, and this one has shown plenty of talent and versatility to this point in her career; #8 THEODORA GRACE: Is worth a look at a big price despite a last-out clunker. She ran very well two starts ago to break her maiden at Belmont, and perhaps the last-out effort was a bounce second off of a very long layoff. A repeat of her two-back effort would give her a shot; #10 CLADDAGH’S RUN: Might have needed her last-out effort off of a three-month break, and she was still a decent fifth that afternoon. The likely race shape favors closers, and she got very good earlier this year at Tampa Bay Downs, where she won three of four races during the winter/spring meet.
#3 DANNY CALIFORNIA: Was wheeled back on very short rest in the Evan Shipman and salvaged third behind a loose-on-the-lead winner. He’s gotten a bit more of a breather prior to this event, and there’s no denying he loves going two turns over the Saratoga main track; #8 FIRST CONSTITUTION: Makes his American debut after a strong 2020 campaign in his native Chile, where he won one Group 1 race and ran third in another. His work tab hints at some serious talent, and he could move forward getting Lasix for the first time; #9 SUPERFECTO: Set a legitimate pace in his local debut last time out before being reeled in by my top selection. He earned a career-high 95 Beyer Speed Figure that day, and he and Luis Saez will almost certainly be on the lead again here. If Saez can ration his considerable early zip, he could be tough to catch.
Girl With a Dream
#3 ECHO ZULU: Dazzled in her debut, when she romped by more than five lengths and earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. She’s bred to only get better as the races get longer, and anything close to her lone prior effort would make her tough to beat in the Grade 1 Spinaway; #2 GIRL WITH A DREAM: Came home very quickly to win a five-furlong dash at Ellis Park in late-July. Florent Geroux sees fit to come to New York and ride for Brad Cox, and that’s not a small statement. She’s shown a lot of speed and may be the one they have to catch; #7 DREAM LITH: Lit up the tote board at 36-1 when she won at first asking earlier this summer. That race hasn’t come back super strong, but she’s worked forwardly since her unveiling and is another that shouldn’t have a problem with the seven-furlong distance.
#5 SCOTTY BROWN: Goes to the Wesley Ward barn and is a tepid top pick in a wide-open Sunday finale. He ran well in a trio of turf sprints at Gulfstream during that track’s championship meet, and the cutback to a 5 1/2-furlong trip should suit him; #1 VETERANS BEACH: Is probably the one to beat based on speed figures, but he’s been at this level for more than three years after breaking his maiden in August of 2018. He was a good second last time out, but he’s been “a good second” a lot and is very difficult to trust on top; #6 KING ANGELO: Broke his maiden in wire-to-wire fashion last time out and tries winners for the first time here. He did get a perfect trip in that score, but there isn’t an abundance of early speed signed on here, and if he gets a dream trip again, he could easily capitalize with another victory.