Saturday is my personal “getaway day,” as I fly back to Northern California Sunday. Saratoga is a special place for me, for any number of reasons, and being able to experience part of the meet in-person has been fantastic.
That should only continue with what hits me as one of the best cards of the summer to date. The Grade 1 Alabama, featuring Nest and Secret Oath, is the main event, but it’s far from the only intriguing race on the program. Big fields of top-tier thoroughbreds are a large part of what makes Saratoga the best meet in the country every year, and I’m beyond appreciative for the opportunity to enjoy it as much as I do.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: My Pick Five went up in smoke early. The silver lining is I dropped only $18 after scratches punched some holes into my initial ticket.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: If this isn’t an ideal Grand Slam sequence, I don’t know if one exists. Let’s try to extract value out of Nest with the following $2 ticket starting in the seventh: 1,2,5 with 1,3 with 5,6 with 4. I’ll also have a $5 win ticket on #3 MY CARA MIA MINE in the fourth, where that one seems like a lone closer in a race full of speed.
TOTAL WAGERED: $29.
Best Bet: Nest, Race 10
Longshot: Steinbeck, Race 3
#6 STREET VENDOR: Ran too poorly to be true last time out and drops further down the ladder for aggressive connections. His two-back effort against maiden special weight foes was pretty good, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., lands here when he probably had a few options; #4 FIOKI’S FLIGHT: Looks like the main speed in the Saturday opener and attracts top gate rider Luis Saez. This barn has been cold all meet long, but it’s entirely possible this one gets to the front early and forgets to stop; #2 SEBARAY: Ran reasonably well in his first start on turf, when he was third behind a horse taking a gigantic class drop. That race came back reasonably fast on speed figures, and Joel Rosario will hop aboard here.
U Cant Handle This
#4 SPOOKY ROAD: Takes a significant drop from an open $40,000 claimer to a $16,000 claiming event for non-winners of two. Her lone dirt start to date was an OK second at Fair Grounds against straight maidens, and these connections are aggressive enough to where I don’t see the drop as a red flag; #6 U CANT HANDLE THIS: Showed speed going a bit shorter before fading to fourth. She’s shown she can win at this distance, and she may be the main early pace factor in this race; #1 HOLIDAY JAZZ: Was third last time out and was claimed by a barn hitting at 24% on the year. She’s run reasonably well against better groups in the past and could have a shot if she’s able to work out a trip from the inside post.
#4 FAVORITE OUTLAW: May have bounced a bit last time when a distant third earlier in the meet. This is his third start off the bench, and when Joel Rosario rides for Steve Asmussen, it usually means a horse is live; #3 PEACEFUL WATERS: Has a lot of early speed and has chased the likes of Cyberknife, Happy Jack, and Osbourne, among others. There are stamina issues here, but if the track is playing kindly to speed and this one gets comfortable early, he could prove tough to run down; #7 STEINBECK: Hasn’t won in a long time and figures to be a big price. However, he exits a pretty fast race at Colonial, which doubled as his first start since March. A step forward from that could conceivably make him a player here.
My Cara Mia Mine
#3 MY CARA MIA MINE: Came with a rally in her first start since February, and that running style should serve her well here. She’s a closer in a race full of speed horses with stamina issues, and any sort of step forward second off the bench gives her a big chance to earn the diploma: #2 RENT CONTROL: Is the one I like most of the speed horses. She did everything but win last time out at Belmont, where she led by three in mid-stretch and got nailed in the final strides. This is technically a class hike out of the maiden claiming ranks, but she’s still facing state-breds, so it’s not a huge one; #6 ARD MACHA: Has a right to improve in what’s just her third lifetime start. She was one-paced in her debut before fading to fourth last time out, which means she could potentially be rated here and pounce late beneath Flavien Prat.
Desert Wolf (MTO)
#6 ACTIVIST INVESTING: Was eliminated early on last time, when he was taken, well, wide right on the first turn by #7 WIDERIGHT. Still, he rallied to be beaten less than five lengths, and I’m expecting significant improvement in his second career start; #1 COACH PETRO: Hit the front in the stretch of that same race before settling for second, but he ran a pretty solid race that day and showed he has some talent. Brad Cox’s numbers with second-out maidens are as good as those of any trainer in the game; #5 RARIFIED FLAIR: Didn’t have much room to run in the stretch last time out, and while that day’s winner was probably best, you can argue this one should’ve been second. He’s got the top last-out Beyer Speed Figure in this field, and a clean trip would give him a chance.
REPOLE ENTRY: I prefer #1A BEST IDEA, who’s been chasing stakes foes in each of his last two starts (both seconds). This one-mile trip ought to hit the Todd Pletcher trainee right between the eyes, and he sure looks like the one to beat; #6 DANGEROUS EDGE: Won two in a row before finishing fourth in the slop here last month. That was a two-turn route, and that’s probably just a bit too far for him. The return to this one-mile trip should be a welcome one, and I expect him to be prominent early given his tactical speed; #4 WHITTINGTON PARK: Probably needed his 2022 debut, which came as his first start since September against an OK group. He gets first-time Lasix here, which is an outstanding angle for trainer Brad Cox, and he ran well over this track twice a season ago.
Good News Rocket
#5 ECHO AGAIN: Is a tepid top pick in one of the most fascinating 2-year-old maiden races we’ve seen this summer. A half-brother to stakes winner Pneumatic, this son of Gun Runner is out of a strong female line that’s produced stakes types Pyro, Farrier, War Echo, and Wild Wonder, among others; #1 EXPECTED VALUE: Sold for $180,000 at auction as a weanling and is working like a very strong prospect. This colt out of stakes-winning mare Midnight Visit has turned heads in the mornings and may be talented enough to overcome the tricky inside draw; #2 GOOD NEWS ROCKET: Hammered for $700,000 earlier this year, and trainer Bill Mott has shown he can win with first-time starters in this crop. He doesn’t usually work his young horses too quickly, so that four-furlong gate drill on August 7th jumps off the page.
With The Moonlight
#1 WITH THE MOONLIGHT: Ran very well to take the Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks less than two weeks ago and is wheeled back quickly by world-class horseman Charles Appleby. William Buick won’t be making the trip to ride in the Grade 2 Lake Placid, but Luis Saez is far from a slouch, especially on horses with gate speed like this daughter of the great Frankel; #3 EMINENT VICTOR: Did everything but win last time in the Grade 3 Lake George, when she fell by a nose to a stablemate (more on that one later). She’s one of four runners from this outfit in this race, and I think she’s the most…eminent victor of the bunch (I can hear you booing); #5 DOLCE ZEL: Won the Lake George in a head-bob, but while the running lines say she had trouble, I thought Eminent Victor had a worse trip. This one, though, is certainly talented enough to run well, and we know she has an affinity for this turf course.
Miss J McKay
#6 MISS J MCKAY: Encountered a lot of trouble last time out in the Grade 3 Caress, where she was beaten less than a length despite steadying several times. At her best, she’s an excellent turf sprinter with a devastating turn of foot, and I think the Smart N Fancy will set up for a closer like her or…; #5 TOO SEXY: …who almost certainly needed her run in the License Fee off a long layoff. She ran well here twice a season ago, Joel Rosario sees fit to ride back, and she’s another that should be flying coming down the lane; #3 ROBIN SPARKLES: Prompted backers to enthusiastically sing “Let’s Go To The Mall” after winning the Caress in wire-to-wire fashion at odds of 21-1. She did have a perfect trip, and she may have more opposition up front early, but she’s also never been worse than third in four local starts.
#4 NEST: Put forth a freakish performance in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, where she romped by more than 12 lengths and earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure. She’d need to regress off of that race for others to have a chance in the Grade 1 Alabama, and even if that happens, another runner may still need to fire a career-best shot; #7 SECRET OATH: Chased Nest that day in what was initially seen as a battle of divisional heavyweights. The winner of the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks has back races that would be competitive here, but it’s worth wondering if perhaps she’s feeling the effects of a campaign that’s included four Grade 1 races at four different tracks; #3 GERRYMANDER: Didn’t beat many in the Grade 2 Mother Goose, but she earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure in doing so and topped next-out stakes winner Shahama. This distance is a major question mark, but she’s been training well and retains Joel Rosario.
Air Show (MTO)
#4 WICKED FAST: Is one of several taking a big drop to run in this $35,000 claiming event, and he does so two starts after topping first-level allowance foes downstate. He was beaten just four lengths by Good Governance, who would likely thump this field, and a similar effort may be enough in the Saturday finale; #7 AVIANO: Exits a very tough race won by next-out stakes winner Dynadrive, and he’ll run for a tag for the first time here. His two-back win at Churchill was very solid, and that day’s rider returns to the saddle here; #6 SARATOGA FLASH: Exits a pretty fast race where he was beaten just three lengths by a horse that does his best running over this turf course. Javier Castellano will ride for the first time, and this is a gelding with some versatility.