The calendar’s rolled over into August, and with it, we’re more than a third of the way through the Saratoga meet. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it every year: It’s a testament to the uniqueness of Saratoga that the meet seems to both fly by and be the ultimate handicapping grind at the same time.
We’re starting to see a few horses that ran very early in the meet entered in other races. Every year, there are some races that figure to be key ones and others that leave you scratching your head and wondering if any horse entered will ever win again. That information can prove very powerful for eagle-eyed, sharp-minded handicappers. Trust your gut, bet accordingly, and you’ll be at a considerable advantage compared to those who don’t.
SUNDAY’S RESULTS: It wasn’t glamorous, but this section’s betting strategy did triple the odds of the most impressive 2-year-old we’ve seen at the meet. Prank went off at 1/2, but $30 worth of plays in this section returned $76 thanks to an overlaid double.
WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: I’ll wait until the finale. #11 CATHEDRAL BEACH takes a huge drop for a barn that’s due to get rolling, while #6 REGALITY is another dropper that may have found his friends and figures to be a price. I’ll key this pair on top of $3 exactas that use those two, #3 BEZOS, and #9 BRACIOLE in the second spot.
TOTAL WAGERED: $18.
Best Bet: Rice entry, Race 5
Longshot: Regality, Race 10
Burn The Evidence
#3 GOING COUNTRY: Is one of three Keri Brion runners in this field, and this is the one that attracts the circuit’s top jump jock. He was favored in a Grade 2 two back and was way too far behind last time out. His best gives him a big shot; #7 BURN THE EVIDENCE: Was second behind Down Royal last time out, and that one came back to win the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick. She’s a consistent sort that’s been in the money every start since November of 2021; #5 HOWYABUD: Has won his two starts over fences by a combined total of 18 lengths and will probably go favored. That’s not totally without merit, but Hendriks rode last time and hops off, which is a legit question mark.
Ace Up Her Sleeve
BOND ENTRY: I prefer #1A GLITTERING PRIZE, who sure seems like the lone speed and attracts top gate rider Luis Saez. I don’t think she’ll have much competition early, and she could prove tough to run down if she gets comfortable; #2 LAUGHTER: Has improved with all three starts and comes in off of a four-furlong bullet drill last week. This barn’s numbers aren’t great this season, but a repeat of the last-out effort on turf probably gets this one a piece of it; #4 ACE UP HER SLEEVE: Hasn’t raced in nearly a year but has been working steadily ahead of her 3-year-old debut. This barn can win with both droppers and second-out maidens, and she doesn’t have to be much to put forth a good account of herself against what sure looks like one of the weaker fields we’ll see at this level.
#6 LEDDY: Merits a tepid top pick in a confusing race with many class-droppers. He’s one, and he gets Lasix ahead of his 2022 debut. His maiden-breaking effort last November was very sharp, and the Asmussen camp must’ve seen something encouraging to ship him up from Ellis Park; #5 NEVER EARLY: Was once a speedball but has gained an ability to rate that could prove helpful. His stalk-and-pounce trip two back was a winning one, and he may sit a similar journey in this event, which seems full of early zip; #7 ACHILLES HEEL: Hasn’t won in quite a while, but that lone win came over this very track almost a year ago. He’s a bit slow on figures, but he also seems like this race’s lone true closer, which could work in his favor.
#6 CHARGE ACCOUNT: Returned to the lawn last time out and ran well despite rating in a race without much early speed and running very wide turning for home. Castellano and Morley have been a very strong tag team to this point in the met, and the return to a two-turn route should help him; #3 WAR CANOE: Is an easy mare to root for and makes her 52nd lifetime start here. She exits the same race as my top pick, may have moved a bit too early that day, and doesn’t have to improve much in order to record her 11th lifetime win; #5 GOLDEN VOICE: Won two in a row this spring before throwing in a clunker as a 6/5 favorite at Horseshoe Indiana last time out. She’s now 0-for-3 over that surface, though, so perhaps it’s an easy race to toss, and this technically represents a drop in class.
#1 JAVA BUZZ: Showed class last year when chasing several nice horses and came back running in his 3-year-old debut. He was beaten a half-length that day despite a slow start, has every right to improve second off the bench, and should get plenty of pace to run at; #4 TRIUMPHANT ROAD: Comes in off a very long layoff but is bred to love the turf. His dam is a multiple graded stakes winner on turf, and this one ran into a very well-meant horse in his debut that wound up being a pretty serious sprinter; #5 SOSUA SUMMER: Has shown a lot of early speed in his career and should be prominent early. He’s also, however, shown a propensity to fade when the real running starts. On speed figures, he fits, but it’s fair to demand more value than we’ll probably get.
Lady Quinn (MTO)
#7 SMOKIE EYES: Hammered for $160,000 last summer across the street and is bred to be a strong turf horse. Her dam was Grade 3-placed on the grass, and her second dam, a multiple stakes-winning turfer herself, threw Grade 3-winning turf runner Emotional Kitten; #3 COLLABORATION: Is by English Channel and out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, which means this two-turn turf route should fit her like a glove. Both of her siblings to race are winners, and her dam is kin to Grade 3-winning mare Genre; #6 SWEETEST PRINCESS: Is another filly with some class to her bottom-side pedigree. Dam Sweet Cause is kin to several strong runners, including Grade 3-placed Stormy Sky, and third dam Sweet Eloise threw an impressive 12 winners (including stakes types Don Dulce and Secret Passage).
#3 TIERGAN: Seems likely to sit a dream trip just behind several early speed horses in this race out of the Wilson chute. Unlike those rivals, he doesn’t need the lead to run well, but he shouldn’t be too far back and may have ideal positioning turning for home; #6 BLEWITT: Has been around the circuit a long time and returns off a three-month break for this event. He ran away with the Stud Muffin two starts ago, but it’s worth noting his lone local win came going longer than this distance, and with a perfect trip to boot; #4 TROUBLESHOOTER: Has turned into a pace-dependent type, but he should get plenty of that here. This is the third start of his form cycle, and it’s encouraging to see Luis Saez ride back when he may have had some options.
Must Be Love
#3 BUCKINGHAM PRINCE: Ships in after running a good second in a race at this level and distance at Churchill Downs, and shippers from that venue have been running well here. His lone local start was a second last summer, one that aged well considering that day’s winner, Stolen Base, has turned into a stakes-winner; #2 MUST BE LOVE: Goes first off the claim for Gustavo Rodriguez, whose barn is firing to this point in the meet. He does strong work with new acquisitions, and Joel Rosario landing here cannot be ignored, especially at this one’s likely price; #9 SWIFT TAP: Hasn’t won since breaking his maiden almost a year ago but makes his first start for Rob Atras, who’s as good as it gets first off the claim. He’s another coming in from Churchill Downs, and his races at this level have been very competitive.
Played Hard (MTO)
BROWN ENTRY: Both #1 ROCKY SKY and #1A AMERICAN BRIDGE can win this optional claiming event. They’re both stakes types getting significant class relief, and I anticipate this entry being the shortest-priced betting interest on the entire card (and a popular single in the multi-race exotics); #4 POCA MOCHA: Made an early move last time in a decent race for the level and should benefit from this two-turn configuration. Prat hops off to ride Rocky Sky, but Joel Rosario climbs aboard, and he rode her to a good second at Keeneland this past spring; #6 BRAMBLE BAY: Merits a look underneath at a pretty nice price. She won a state-bred stakes race at Monmouth last month, and her recent record looks a bit better if you toss her two and three-back efforts on dirt.
#11 CATHEDRAL BEACH: Takes a gigantic class drop from optional claimers to this non-winners-of-two event and draws favorably for an outfit that’s better than its 1-for-16 start to the meet. He’s been training well at Belmont, retains regular pilot Manny Franco, and looms large in the Wednesday finale; #6 REGALITY: Hasn’t won since May of 2021, but goes second off the bench for a capable barn and comes back to what’s probably the right level. He had every right to need his last effort, his first start since November, and this apprentice rider has been putting horses in the right spots this summer; #3 BEZOS: Is a star-crossed runner entered for his lowest tag ever after hammering for $400,000 as a yearling. That said, his races two and three back against far better starter allowance foes weren’t bad, and he figures to be prominent early in a race that doesn’t seem heavy on gate speed.