Greetings from Saratoga! It’s exciting to say I’ll be here each day through Saturday to watch live racing at one of the sport’s last remaining cathedrals. To do so while spending some time with friends and family is as good as it gets.
I flew in Sunday, and if you want to laugh at my pain, read the latest edition of “The Dark Day Files.” Monday featured a trip to a local mini-golf course, where I had a wonderful time crushing the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of friends Joe Nevills and Natalie Voss. In doing so, I won a trophy Pink Sheet alum Nicole Russo says is possessed, which should make it great friends with my cat once I bring it back to California.
I’ll be in the backyard Wednesday with my parents, my sister, and my two nieces, who are both experiencing Saratoga for the very first time. There is a lot their “funcle” has to teach them before the day is through. By the Wednesday nightcap, I fully expect them to know how to spot a bad favorite, criticize ticket structures of public handicappers (except me, of course), and identify well-meant horses in the paddock.
SUNDAY’S RESULTS: The trip east from Hades was made a bit less painful by Fire Sword, whose romp in the fourth race keyed a very nice day in this section. I had a $20 win bet and a $5 double ending in the fifth, all of which resulted in a profit of $125.50.
WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: I’ll go after the early Pick Four and attempt to extract some money out of a horse that could be a pretty heavy favorite. Remember, this sequence starts in the third race, not the second (due to the opener over fences), and my 50-cent ticket goes as follows: 6 with ALL with 5,6,8 with 2,5,8.
TOTAL WAGERED: $36.
Best Bet: Snap Decision, Race 1
Longshot: Shinsun, Race 9
Song for Someone
#6 SNAP DECISION: Gives plenty of weight to his rivals in the Grade 1 Jonathan Sheppard, but for good reason, as he’s been one of the top steeplechasers in training for the past few seasons. He’s won 10 of 15 career starts over fences, and anything close to his best would beat these; #1 DOWN ROYAL: Pulled off a mild upset in winning the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick earlier in the meet. This is a tougher group, to be sure, but he’s won five of his last six starts and may be the one they have to hold off late; #3 SONG FOR SOMEONE: Has found a power-packed spot in which to make his American debut. His races over very good European hurdlers this past winter were solid, and he wouldn’t be the first European jumper to cross the Atlantic with aplomb.
Greeley and Ben
#1 GREELEY AND BEN: Is an absolutely fascinating favorite. He’s won 20 of 34 starts, many against much better fields, and makes his first start for the David Jacobson barn. Jacobson’s returned to the sport after an absence of nearly four years, and if he’s got this one on the right track, look out; #4 QUICK RETURN: Beat a slightly lower-level group last time out and was claimed by Joe Sharp. While the favorite looms large, this one’s recent record looks far better if you toss the two clunkers at Churchill Downs, and he’s not without a chance; #5 CASALSA: Tried turf first off the claim last time out and didn’t take to it at all. His two and three-back efforts on dirt were just fine, and he sports a win at this route from the 2021 meet.
#6 MOMMASGOTTARUN: Was claimed by Brad Cox last time out and takes a steeper drop than it may appear. The drop in claiming price isn’t alarming, but she was second earlier this meet in an open $25,000 claimer. This one is for non-winners of two, which represents the shallowest waters she’s ever encountered; #3 PERFECT PROVISION: Is another taking a significant drop, and in this case, it comes with a surface switch from synthetic to dirt. She ran reasonably well in a few dirt sprints early in her career, and her recent works haven’t been bad; #2 WICKED HAPPY: Makes her first start since late-April and gets a big rider switch to Javier Castellano, who doesn’t ride much for this barn. Her figures from the winter aren’t bad, and Castellano’s been riding as well as anyone in the jockey’s room this summer.
Tales of Makenna
#6 I’M BUZZY: Ships in for Mike Dini and gets a tepid nod in a wide-open event. She hasn’t won in a while, but just missed last time out, has run against higher-level competition for most of the year, and could sit an ideal stalking trip; #4 TALES OF MAKENNA: Almost certainly needed her last-out effort, which came off a pretty long break. She’s shown a pretty strong closing kick, and a repeat of her effort two back against state-bred allowance foes would make her a player here; #3 SYNONYMOUS: Exits a pretty fast race for the level and was wide after making up some ground on the backstretch. Her win came going two turns at Aqueduct, this is a smaller field, and I think she’s got a puncher’s chance to light up the tote board in a race where I’d advise you to go as deep as you can.
#5 MIJA: Has a pedigree that needs no introduction, but I’ll give it one anyway because that’s just the kind of guy I am (hi, J.D.!). She’s by Curlin and out of Grade 1 winner Rachel’s Valentina, which of course makes her second dam champion Rachel Alexandra. The workouts are strong, John Velazquez rides for Todd Pletcher, and as a fan, I can’t wait to see her run; #8 JUSTIFYING: Sports the pattern I love seeing from Steve Asmussen runners. Her two-back work was very fast, and she’s since recorded a solid drill ahead of her debut. Offspring of Justify have gotten off to fast starts, and the outside draw is a plus; #6 PADMA: Sports a very flashy series of works for a trainer who doesn’t often ask much of horses that have yet to run. The pedigree says she probably wants to go a bit longer, but she may very well be fast enough to run well here on talent alone.
#5 MARITIME WINGS: Ran into Big Invasion in his U.S. debut, and while this bunch is far from bad, there are no such monsters here. He ran well enough as a 2-year-old to finish second behind highly-regarded Point Lonsdale in two graded races, and the addition of Lasix is a big plus; #8 MACKILLOP: Has been gelded since a fourth-place finish behind some talented runners downstate in May. He was talented enough to win going two turns on debut, and the addition of Flavien Prat is a plus; #2 MO REWARDS: Probably needed his return from a 10-month layoff earlier this summer, where he still ran an OK fourth despite breaking from the far outside. This barn hasn’t had the best summer, but Luis Saez sees fit to ride and a move forward makes him a player.
U Glow Girl
#6 U GLOW GIRL: Flashed some early zip before fading to third in her debut. She was, however, on the wrong part of the track that day, racing inside when the rail was dead for most of the first week or so. Experience and a friendlier setup could both work in her favor; #7 CRYPTO MAMA: Closed at first asking, which isn’t an easy thing for most debuting horses to do. She was second that day, but ships up from Monmouth Park, attracts Joel Rosario, and has every opportunity to fire a bigger shot; #4 OH DONNA: Fetched the relatively low price of $35,000 at auction earlier this year, but sports a flashy recent gate drill for a high-percentage barn that can win with first-time starters. Irad Ortiz, Jr., likely had options, but he landed here, and that could be a clue.
Mia Bea Star
U Guys Are No Fun
#5 CARAMOCHA: Goes second off the bench for a smaller outfit that’s already won a few races at this stand. Her last-out effort came going six furlongs, which is shorter than she probably wants. The stretch-out should help, as should the presence of Javier Castellano; #6 MIA BEA STAR: Hasn’t won in a while, and goes out for a barn that’s winless at the meet, but generally runs the same race every time out. Earlier this month, that was good enough for a runner-up finish in a starter handicap, and the faster they go early, the better this closer’s chances figure to be; #1 U GUYS ARE NO FUN: Cuts back in distance after tiring going two turns last time out. She’s run several fast races at Finger Lakes, and she wouldn’t be a huge shock if she runs back to those, but it’s telling she’s 0-for-2 over this surface with no in-the-money finishes.
#8 DAKOTA GOLD: Came up short as an odds-on favorite in a similar race last month and will look to atone here. That day’s winner doesn’t show up, and even with the bigger field signed on, this seems like a softer spot. His usual race would make him tough to beat; #3 SHINSUN: Made a big move against open company to run third earlier this summer in a race without much early zip signed on. There should be a friendlier set-up here, and the New York-bred by a top Japanese runner and out of a German-bred mare merits a long look at a nice price; #5 MARINARA SAUCED: Was a bit one-paced last time out against older foes, and that day’s runner-up has since come back to win. That race’s third-place finisher is in here, too, but this one draws favorably and has a right to move forward in what’s just his fourth career outing.
Go Big Green
#10 OCEAN AIR: Has not run since October and draws a terrible post in the Wednesday finale. However, her 2021 form was very good. She spent most of the year chasing some pretty good horses, such as Giggle Factory and Kitten by the Sea. If she’s ready to run, she’s capable of springing a mild upset; #5 GO BIG GREEN: Drops in class after spending most of her season against allowance and optional claiming-level foes. She’s won both on the lead and coming from off the pace, and I think she’ll appreciate the shallower waters; #2 MORE MANGO: Comes back to what’s probably the right level after a troubled trip last time out in a starter allowance race. Her two-back effort against similar foes of that nature was far from bad, and she broke her maiden at this route two years ago. At her likely price, she hits me as a must-use.