When you read this Sunday morning, chances are I’ll already be on a plane coming east. Thanks to the wonderful folks at Catena Media, I’m headed to this week’s Racing and Gaming Conference, then taking a few days of vacation to see family and, of course, watch horses turn left in-person at one of the sport’s last remaining cathedrals.
I’m an easy guy to find (I’m 6’5”, so many times the answer is, “just look up”). If you’ll be at the conference or at the track this coming week/weekend, come say hi! Saratoga’s a truly special place, and it’s always exciting to make the cross-country trek from California to enjoy it in-person.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: Mount Athos lost all chance at the start of the second race and ran exceptionally well just to hit the board. I dropped $25.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll look to the fourth and try to beat the 7/5 morning line favorite. #2 COST BASIS isn’t without a shot, but I prefer #7 FIRE SWORD, especially at that one’s likely price. I’ll have a $20 win ticket on that runner and key him in $5 doubles starting in the fourth that end with #2 MRS. GREEN and #9 PARENTS PRIDE in the fifth.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30.
Best Bet: Big Invasion, Race 9
Longshot: Shesjustanicegirl, Race 2
#5 KBCYA LATER: Has improved in each of his three career outings and boasts a pedigree that says he may like the turf. He’s by Broken Vow, out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, and was third behind an impressive runaway winner earlier in the meet; #1 DECCAN PRINCE: Flopped going two turns last time out and cuts back to a sprint distance here. His debut at Belmont going short was fine, and a repeat of that effort gives him a chance; #8 ROCK CHALK: Debuts for George Weaver and has a right to be precocious. His dam was a first-out winner, and that one is kin to eight other winners, too. The downstate bullet on July 30th is notable, and he’s got as good a shot as any in this wide-open lid-lifter.
#7 CONSEILLANTE: Is one of two Chad Brown trainees, and she’s got a pedigree that’s very, very interesting. She’s a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Paradise Woods and stakes-winning turf sprinter Forest Chatter, and her dam is kin to multiple Grade 3-winning grass runner Tajaaweed; #6 SHESJUSTANICEGIRL: Is by Justify, out of a Galileo mare, and may be far too big a price given that pedigree. This $170,000 yearling purchase is out of a half-sister to champion Escena, and if she runs to her bloodlines, that 12-1 morning line price could be a massive overlay; #8 MOMA: Debuts for Todd Pletcher and is another bred to be any kind. This daughter of Uncle Mo is out of a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Awesome Maria, who hails from the female family of fellow Grade 1 victors Discreet Cat and Discreetly Mine.
#4 BIG Q: Takes a big drop in class after several tries against optional claiming company. Her last effort came against stakes-quality turf sprinters and is a total throw-out. Her dirt races earlier this year were very strong, and she hits me as a logical favorite; #1 PRAIRIE FIRE: Was claimed back by Charlton Baker, who had some success with her earlier this season. She topped similar-level foes two starts ago downstate, and that day’s runner-up has come back to run well twice here so far this summer; #3 SHADOLAMO: Won a race against slightly higher-level competition three starts back, and there are reasons to draw lines through her last two clunkers. She flopped in the mud two back, didn’t take to the turf last time out, and has a right to improve now that she’s doing what she wants.
#7 FIRE SWORD: Almost certainly needed his last-out effort, which doubled as his first start since November. The 1-2 finishers from that race came right back to win at next asking, and it sure seems like this one has the ability to dictate terms from the jump; #2 COST BASIS: Is another exiting a key race, having chased Mr Phil and Jaxon Traveler back in April. He’s been off four months, but his best race could certainly win this and he merits respect if he’s ready to go; #6 EBBEN: Was claimed by Tom Amoss in mid-June and makes his first start for that outfit here. This spot didn’t come up light, but he’s shown an ability to run well at this distance and he’d benefit from a pace meltdown.
#2 MRS. GREEN: Did everything but win earlier this summer, when she fell by a nose in her first start at the Spa. She’s exited some pretty classy races, and this may be a bunch she can beat in order to earn her diploma; #9 PARENTS PRIDE: Boasts a stellar bottom-side pedigree, being out of a stakes-winning turfer that’s a full sister to Grade 1 winner Real Solution. Sire Maclean’s Music can certainly throw runners, and while the far outside post isn’t ideal, she’s been working well ahead of her unveiling and shows some promise; #7 YAMAS: Debuted with a fourth-place finish in the same race my top pick exits. This barn’s first-out numbers aren’t great, so I’m expecting a significant step forward, especially given the rider switch to Luis Saez.
#10 FIRING BULLETS: Has been doing just that ahead of her debut, one where she’s drawn a cushy outside post. She hammered for $210,000 at auction earlier this season, is a half sister to stakes winner I Get It, and certainly looks like she’s got lots of ability; #6 TWIN MISCHIEF: Has the Steve Asmussen work pattern I really like, with a strong two-back move followed by a more recent slower, maintenance-style work. She traces back to the classy Lakeway on the bottom of her pedigree and has a right to be a runner; #8 CHOCOLATE GELATO: Flopped at odds of 1/2 earlier this summer, when she was a one-paced third without any real excuses. She does have an experience edge over most of this field, though, and it’s not like that race came back slowly on speed figures.
Home for Christmas
#3 SPUNGIE: Has every right to need this event after a year-long layoff, but she’s definitely the one to beat if she’s ready to run. Her speed figures from last year tower over the rest of this bunch, and Bill Mott can certainly get horses ready off of long breaks like this one; #2 HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: Seems to have meshed with jockey Joel Rosario, who piloted her to a wire-to-wire score two back and rode her to a solid second a few weeks ago. Her tactical speed is a real asset, and she figures to be a big part of the early pace; #6 OUT OF SIGHT: Was inexplicably rated last time in the same race my second choice exits. She likely wants to be up closer, which explains the rider switch, and while I think she prefers the downstate venues, her best race puts her right there.
#5 BRATTLE HOUSE: Has yet to finish out of the exacta in six starts to date and has looked very impressive so far this season. Her two runaway wins at Belmont going a bit longer were strong, and I can’t see anyone keeping her honest early on here; #4 BETSY BLUE: Is another consistent runner, with six wins and 14 top-three finishes in 15 tries. She most recently flew late to finish a close second against similar-quality foes, and she’d benefit from another runner going with the likely favorite early; #6 SWEET WILLEMINA: Comes in off of two wins in a row at Parx and gets a major class test here. However, Frankie Pennington sees fit to make the trip up from Pennsylvania for just one mount, which I see as a sign of confidence.
Sky and Sand
#2 BIG INVASION: Has won five turf sprints in a row and will likely be an odds-on favorite in the Mahony. He earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Grade 3 Quick Call last month. Anything close to that sort of effort would mean the race is for second; #3 SKY AND SAND: Gets a rider switch to Jose Ortiz for this event, one that could move him forward at a price. His three-back win at Churchill Downs was solid, and I think he’s got a chance to hit the board and spice up the vertical exotics; #1 CADAMOSTO: Is this race’s wild card. He runs here after tackling some of Europe’s best turf sprinters, and he was a very credible fourth in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. However, they don’t necessarily breed for sprinter speed over there, and this race came up very strong for the level.
#3 RECKLESS SPIRIT: Ran second in a race that’s turned out to be a key one. That day’s winner and third-place finisher came back to win at next asking, and it seems like this 5-year-old gelding is in top form for trainer H. James Bond; #2 BRAZILLIONAIRE: Has won two in a row and stretches out to two turns first off the claim for Jeremiah Englehart. I’m not quite sure two turns is in his wheelhouse, but he’s gotten pretty good of late, so it’s logical to take a shot here while protecting a new acquisition; #1 WAR STRATEGY: Found new life at Woodbine, where he’s run well in a pair of 2022 outings. He tries winners for the first time, and his connections seem to have found a fairly soft spot for the level.