Legendary college basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian once said the NCAA was so mad at Kentucky, they put Cleveland State on probation. What came out Friday isn’t quite that, but it’s not far off.
Dylan Davis was suspended seven race days for his role in an incident Wednesday, one where Eric Cancel and his mount fell turning for home. Repeated viewings of that race bear out that the accident was a “wrong place, wrong time” situation. A short suspension would’ve been appropriate.
Seven days, however, seems overly harsh, especially considering the behavior that goes unpunished by stewards on a daily basis. I wrote a few days ago that riding is going beyond “aggressive” and into “reckless” with alarming regularity. Stiffer punishments are a deterrent, but this isn’t an instance in which one should’ve been applied.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Chiara did indeed scratch, which was unfortunate, and my remaining exactas fizzled. I dropped $4.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: My best bet of the day comes in the second race, and I’m against the morning line favorite in the third. As such, most of my action comes in the form of $10 doubles that single #3 MOUNT ATHOS in the second and use #1 NO PAYNE and #3 BLAZING STAR in the third. Additionally, I’ll play an early, 50-cent Pick Four starting in the second that reads as follows: 3 with 1,3 with 4 with 1,2,5,7,8.
TOTAL WAGERED: $25.
Best Bet: Mount Athos, Race 2
Longshot: No Payne, Race 3
I’m Very Busy
#3 I’M VERY BUSY: Debuts for Chad Brown in what hits me as a wide-open turf route for 2-year-old maidens. He fetched $135,000 at auction, is kin to four winners, and his dam is a half-sister to champion Answer Lively (plus a full sister to stakes winner Kiss Me Twice); #1 FULL COVERAGE: Boasts a world-class turf pedigree and has every right to be a runner. This son of Kitten’s Joy is out of a Grade 3 winner on turf, and his female family includes the dam of runners such as Ironicus and On Leave; #7 TORIGO: Debuts for a barn whose routers often need a race or two to get going. However, this son of Munnings is out of a stakes-winning turf runner, one who’s a half-sister to Grade 1-placed grass runner Tamahere.
Cold as Hell
#3 MOUNT ATHOS: Has run well against starter allowance goes and drops in for a tag for the first time in a while. His last race for a tag was an impressive win at this distance, and it came with this rider on board; RICE ENTRY: I prefer #1 LEDDY, who gets wheeled back pretty quickly after a winning effort earlier this month. While he runs for a higher claiming tag, note the $25,000 claimer he won wasn’t restricted, while this one is for non-winners of three; #7 COLD AS HELL: Has lived up to his name, with no wins since May of 2021, but this is the weakest bunch he’s tackled in quite some time. The shallower waters could be to his liking, and the presence of Luis Saez can’t be ignored.
#3 BLAZING STAR: Hasn’t done much running in three stateside starts, but she drops in for a tag here and may not need to improve much from her most recent outing earlier this summer. Saez hops aboard, and I expect her to be prominent early; #1 NO PAYNE: Exits first-level allowance races for state-breds and runs for a tag for the first time. Her lone win came at this route last August, and perhaps a return to upstate New York will put her on the right track; #6 RIGBY: Was third at this level and route in the first few days of the meet, and she’s run well since dropping to this level two back. She’s shown some flexibility, which should give Irad Ortiz, Jr., plenty of options.
#4 GULFPORT: Has gone 2-for-2 with wins by a total of nearly 20 lengths and looms large in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special. He earned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure in taking the Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs, and he could be sitting on another huge performance here; #2 DAMON’S MOUND: Routed a field of maidens in his debut last month and has since been training forwardly at Colonial Downs. Gabriel Saez makes the trip to ride, and he stands to benefit if my top pick misfires; #5 OWEN’S LEAP: Was second in the Bashford Manor and seems best of the rest here. He adds blinkers for Tom Amoss, draws favorably, and has shown an ability to pass others late.
#2 SWEET MYSTERY: Debuted in a key race behind two other next-out winners, and then made it a trio with a come-from-behind win at second asking. Jose Lezcano rides back, and there should be plenty of speed signed on to set up for her late kick; #1 TOSCONOVA BEAUTY: Has won three of four starts this year at Finger Lakes and ships in for this state-bred event. Her regular rider comes along for the journey, and she fits on speed figures, too; #8 CAPTAINSDAUGHTER: Hasn’t won since October but has hit the board in seven of her eight starts since that victory (with the lone misfire coming in a turf race). She was third going two turns earlier in the meet, and this seven-furlong trip should suit her a bit better.
#3 NEURO: Came back running when second in his first start since November earlier this summer. He beat several rivals that also show up in this spot, and Javier Castellano is riding as well as any jockey in the colony right now; #5 GOLDEN HORNET: Ships in for Larry Rivelli after a wire-to-wire score in his debut at Colonial. Turf is an unknown, but his dam is a full sister to 2-year-old turf stakes winner Miss Southern Miss, so it wouldn’t be shocking if he took to the grass; #7 SHERIFF BIANCO: Enjoyed a perfect trip to top claimers two back and was a close-up third in the same race my top pick exits. We know he’ll be prominent early, but the same can be said for many others in this field, and this one has genuine stamina concerns that prevent me from being too enthusiastic to play him at a short price.
#9 BLACK RAIN: Wasn’t an expensive auction buy at just $32,000, but dam Sustained was a runner, and she’s thrown a pair of stakes winners to date. This son of Connect boasts a few strong gate drills for Todd Pletcher, and the post towards the outside of this field is a positive; #7 GENERAL JIM: Hammered for $850,000 last September at Keeneland and is working well ahead of his unveiling. His dam is kin to a pair of graded stakes winners, and several local half-mile works hint that he’s got plenty of potential; #3 SURPRISE PAYOFF: Fetched $170,000 at auction with a pedigree that looks much better upon close examination. Second dam Weekend in Seattle is a full sister to champion A.P. Indy, and dam Bold Lady is a half-sister to Travers runner-up Mambo in Seattle. Add in a few strong works, and there’s plenty to like at a big price.
#1 PORTFOLIO COMPANY: Has been running exclusively against stakes company since breaking his maiden here last summer and should appreciate the class relief this spot offers. He ran the talented Annapolis to a head in last year’s Grade 2 Pilgrim, and he has the speed to make the rail draw an asset; #13 MACKILLOP: Needs a scratch to run but merits respect if he draws in off the also-eligible list. He’s a new gelding that won going two turns at first asking in March, and a return to such a configuration could be exactly what he wants; #8 OHTWOOHTHREEFIVE: Has been kept out of the winner’s circle for nearly a year but is another that’s been chasing some very good horses. He was fourth in a minor stakes race at Monmouth last time out, and he’s been working steadily since coming to Saratoga a few weeks ago.
PLETCHER ENTRY: Both #1 UNLIMITEDPOTENTIAL and #1A EXPRESSMAN can win, and there’s strength in numbers. The former, however, sold for $750,000 last spring and is out of a mare that’s a full sister to Belmont winner Ruler On Ice and a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Champagne d’Oro; #8 FINAL APPROACH: Has earned several bullets ahead of her debut for the legendary D. Wayne Lukas. It’s safe to assume he’s had his issues, since he’s a 4-year-old that hasn’t run yet, but if he runs to his works, he should be a handful; #2 LEADING CONTENDER: Is another first-time starter with a strong work tab, and anything Chad Brown sends out merits a long look. He’s a son of world-class sire Gun Runner, and his dam was a stakes-winning turf sprinter that had plenty of talent herself.
#3 REGAL GLORY: Has won four in a row and will look to take down the boys in the Grade 1 Fourstardave. She doesn’t face any world-beaters in this spot, and anything close to her sensational win in the Grade 1 Just A Game would almost certainly be enough; #4 MASEN: Is a nose away from being 3-for-3 in the U.S. and most recently won the Grade 3 Poker downstate. He didn’t beat a tremendous field that day, but he’s got enough speed to work out a perfect trip beneath Flavien Prat; #5 GET SMOKIN: Came up empty after pressing a legitimate pace in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple a few weeks ago. However, the smaller field could mean a chance for him to get comfortable. If that happens, he’s good enough to lead them a long way and hang on for a piece of it.
Left On Boylston
#7 GREG’S HONOR: Goes first off the claim for Mike Maker, whose numbers with new acquisitions are very solid. He was a fast-closing second in a similar spot at Belmont, and I think there’s a chance he’s figuring things out midway through his 3-year-old season; #9 CALLOWAY PEAK: Was fourth in the race my top pick exits and was even further back in the early going. Carlos Martin adds blinkers, which should keep him a bit more engaged, and it’s not like my top pick blew this one’s doors off that day; #5 LEFT ON BOYLSTON: Has shown this is the right level with a pair of third-place finishes in as many starts for this claiming tag. One of those came at Aqueduct, which boasts a similar two-turn configuration, and that day’s runner-up came back to win at next asking.