Putting together a list of people I was delighted to run into over the past week or so would make my editor very displeased, because it’d take up most of this page. I’ll simply say that it’s been amazing to reconnect with a bunch of people (and connect with some new folks, too).
I get asked sometimes if I miss working in horse racing on a full-time basis. I don’t. My income is tied to the gambling industry in general now, not just racing, and I work for an amazing company that values content production and invests in people who are passionate about what they do. The work I do in racing is an added bonus, and I do it because I want to, not because I have to.
However, I very much miss the people I’ve come to know and value not just as colleagues, but friends. If you’re reading this, and we’ve talked for any length of time over the last few days at Saratoga: Thanks.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: Neither of my closers in the Smart N Fancy fired. I dropped $29.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the fifth race. #3 DEVAMANI looks imposing there, so I’ll have a $15 win ticket on that one. I’ll also single him in $5 doubles ending with #5 RARIFY, #7 SPELTERINI, and #8 ROSIE’S ALIBI in the sixth.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30.
Best Bet: Love Reigns, Race 9
Longshot: Miscreant, Race 10
#5 COOKIE CRUMBS: Has a few big works since shipping up from Monmouth Park for Todd Pletcher, who probably wouldn’t have moved her here without a good reason. Both prior runners out of this dam are winners, her second dam was a Grade 1 winner, and Luis Saez has been enticed to ride; #8 CORNINGSTONE: Rallied to finish third in the “no contest” race last month, and of the ones that exit that race, this is the one I want to bet back. The pace of that race was very slow, and I think this one may be a bit more lively; #7 HOLA GATA: Was one of the horses that slowed to a stop in the “no contest” race, and they’ll try again here. Her works since that race have been slow, which isn’t ideal, but dismiss this barn, in these races, at your own peril.
#6 YARROW: Rallied to win his second straight start over an OK group, one that included a runner-up which came right back to win at next asking. There’s some speed signed on in this one, and he and Joel Rosario look like the tandem they’ll have to hold off late; #7 PHANTOM SMOKE: Was third behind two “horses for courses” at this level and route last month. On speed figures, he’s definitely got a shot, but I’m worried there’s a bit of “hang” to him, and there are some talented runners in this one, too; #2 DEEP COVER: Didn’t make the lead last time and faded to run sixth, which was probably the impetus for a rider change to Eric Cancel. My guess is he’ll be prominent from the jump, and a repeat of his two-back performance would put him right there.
#3 FORTY SMOOTH: Is protected from being claimed given the long layoff, and I love it when trainers utilize that rule. It hints at confidence and not wanting to lose the horse, and if she takes her Woodbine and Gulfstream form with her, she’ll have a big chance; ENGLEHART ENTRY: I prefer #1 VIRADIA, who goes back to this barn after running second going a bit longer downstate. She’s won twice already this season and seems to be in good form; #5 NURSE RACHETT: Hasn’t won in a while but goes to a barn that wins with new acquisitions at an astonishing 40% clip. How she’ll perform in her first start on this circuit in a while is anyone’s guess, but she’ll be a price and a step forward would give her a chance.
#7 ICON: Has run third in two starts against similar since coming off the bench, and he cuts back in distance for this event. The field he faced going a mile last time out was probably better than this one, and he doesn’t have to move forward in order to be a major player; #2 VINCENT: Broke his maiden two back before finding allowance foes just a bit too tough. This is probably the right level, and he could work out an ideal stalking trip; #4 ARTHURIAN: Flashed speed earlier in the meet in his first start against winners. That race was won by a much-the-best class-dropper, and he was beaten just 2 1/2 lengths by the runner-up. This seems like a weaker group, and he should be prominent early once again.
Royal Tryst (MTO)
#3 DEVAMANI: Has spent the bulk of his career running against much, much better horses. He’s a multiple graded stakes winner that shows up for a $32,000 tag, and I have a tough time believing we’ll get something close to the 5/2 morning line price (though I’ll gladly take it if it’s available come post time); #6 GRAND JOURNEY: Has run well in all three New York starts this season, including a race for a slightly higher tag where he was second and earned a solid 87 Beyer Speed Figure. This barn has been very cold at this stand, but this gelding’s a consistent runner that merits a long look; #8 TIBERIUS MERCURIUS: Was likely worn down by a very quick third quarter last time out, when he finished fourth in the same race my second selection exits. He’ll likely be prominent from an early stage again here beneath Luis Saez.
#7 SPELTERINI: Came from well back to be second in what sure seems like a live race. That day’s third-place finisher came back to win impressively at second asking, and the pedigree says this one will appreciate the extra furlong she gets in this spot; #5 RARIFY: Showed speed when second in her unveiling earlier this summer, when she was reeled in by the talented Kaling. She should make the lead here once again, and it wouldn’t be surprising if she proves tough to run down; #8 ROSIE’S ALIBI: Figures to take plenty of money given the ownership group and the fact she’s been outworking the talented Moma, who won last weekend. She hammered for $625,000 last summer across the street, and she’s got a shot in this intriguing 2-year-old maiden event.
#3 BALTHUS: Comes in off of two wins in a row at long distances downstate and looms large in this 12-furlong marathon. Some horses just relish these trips. He sure seems to be one of them, and if he’s right, this race is probably for second; #9 OFFLEE NAUGHTY: Hasn’t won this year, but has been keeping some pretty tough company. It wasn’t too long ago he was 5-1 in a Grade 3 at Santa Anita, and I expect him to be running on late at a price; #1 MUD PIE: Makes his first start as a gelding here, and perhaps the ultimate equipment change will help him. He seems to be pace-dependent, but we know he can run well at this distance, and that’s a huge asset.
#2 REPEALING: May have bounced a bit off of a very sharp two-back score when third as the 9/5 favorite in her first start against winners. I’m expecting a return to form here, and such a race would make her a formidable favorite; #4 CHLOE ROSE: Won a starter allowance event here in the first few days of the meet and has clearly shown an affinity for the Spa. She’s 2-for-3 with a second over this surface, and I think she could benefit from rating just off of a fast pace; #3 AWESOME INDRA: Didn’t make the lead last time out and paid dearly for it when off the board at this level and route. However, I think she’s capable of much better. She won four of six starts prior to that race, and the switch back to Irad Ortiz, Jr., is a notable one.
#2 LOVE REIGNS: Romped in her debut before finishing a competitive fourth in the Group 2 Queen Mary at Royal Ascot. All indications are she’s trained forwardly since her return, and a repeat of her debut effort likely trounces this Bolton Landing field; #7 REDIFINED: Won first time out for a barn that doesn’t win with many firsters, so you know there’s talent there. John Velazquez likely had several options, but he lands here, and the maturity she showed when rating in her debut isn’t common; #6 AZTEC NIGHTS: Came running late to win her debut and seems like one of several precocious Sharp Azteca offspring. The lone work since that win looks excellent, and a move forward would give her a big shot to hit the board at a nice price.
#8 VAGARIES: Drops in for a tag after misfiring downstate in her 2022 debut. Her two runs last year weren’t bad, including a third-place finish in her debut last August, and I think she’ll appreciate the shallower waters in the Sunday finale; #6 MISCREANT: Improved considerably in her first turf start, when she ran second behind a horse that came right back to top winners at next asking. The rider switch to Jose Ortiz is noteworthy, and she’s lightly-raced enough to still have some improvement left in her; #9 CANDLESTICK MAKER: Showed some interest when fourth for a higher claiming tag and drops in class a bit here. She may have been a bit too close to the pace last time, and given the late kick she showed two back at Belmont, she’d likely benefit from a pace meltdown should one occur.