SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/3/21)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $823.90

I’ll need to be very careful with how I word this, but here goes: It’s downright weird seeing the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Flower Bowl being run at Saratoga.

I get the logic. Horses simply do not run nearly as much (trainers, be sure to take note: This is a criticism of the breed, not your skill as conditioners or judgment with regard to the horses in your barns), and the New York Racing Association wants to maintain the importance of races that were very prominent in past years but have been skipped by many thoroughbreds aiming for the Breeders’ Cup.

That doesn’t, however, mean I can’t miss the days when our best horses ran both fast and often, as opposed to one or the other. It meant something when the same horses came back for races like the Whitney, the Woodward, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup in succession. I was also a huge fan of the Saratoga Breeders’ Cup, a race won in my youth by the likes of Evening Attire and Aptitude. That race was one of the first casualties of the modern era, and while I can’t blame NYRA for making adjustments it felt it had to make given the state of the game, it’s a shame we’re moving and modifying these great races without attacking the industry’s bigger issues in meaningful ways.

THURSDAY’S RESULTS: Our action was cancelled for the second straight day, as turf races were moved off the grass.

FRIDAY’S PLAY: Whether or not we’ll be on the turf is a mystery as of this writing, and six of the day’s 10 races are scheduled for the lawn, which means this may get washed out again. However, assuming we’re on the turf, I’ll tackle what looks like a fun late Pick Four sequence. My 50-cent ticket starting in the seventh reads as follows: 4,5,6,8 with 1 with 2,3,4,5 with 2,3,4,8,9. I’m trying to beat #8 MAVEN in the Lucky Coin, and if that happens, I think this has the potential to pay very well.

TOTAL WAGERED: $40.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Risk Profile, Race 3
Longshot: Ruse, Race 4

R1

Mo Rewards
Lanzoni
Coastal Chaos

#1 MO REWARDS: Is one of two in here trained by Rudy Rodriguez, and I think that conditioner has this field in a very precarious spot. This son of Uncle Mo has been working pretty well ahead of his unveiling and may be quick enough to compensate for the rail draw; #3 LANZONI: Is the other Rodriguez runner, and he turned in a very fast work on August 24th. Leading rider Luis Saez sees fit to ride, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a 1-2 finish for the barn in either order; #4 COASTAL CHAOS: Debuts for Todd Pletcher and may go favored because of that, but I have my doubts. He spent lots of time down at Monmouth Park, and Pletcher’s first move when he got here was to breeze him on turf. That’s a red flag, and at his likely price, I’ll try to beat him in the Friday opener.

R2

Speedometer (MTO)
Bubble Rock
Old Pho

#3 BUBBLE ROCK: Ran well to finish second in her debut and looms large at second asking for an outfit whose trainers usually improve with experience. She earned a 79 Beyer Speed Figure in her unveiling, and any step forward would make her a handful; #6 OLD PHO: Hammered for $210,000 at auction last September and makes her debut for a world-class horseman in Al Stall, Jr. Offspring of American Pharoah tend to love the turf, and her dam was quick enough to be a stakes-winning sprinter; #2 NAY SAY: Is one of two Wesley Ward trainees in here, and this one hits me as the most live. She exits a recent bullet drill at Keeneland and attracts Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez.

R3

Risk Profile
Repo Rocks
Cousin Andrew

#3 RISK PROFILE: Drops in for a tag after finding starter allowance company downstate a bit too tough. He romped two back to break his maiden, and he has several back races that show that effort was no fluke. Luis Saez’s presence here is also a plus, as he likely had a few options; #5 REPO ROCKS: Didn’t have a smooth start last time out in a starter allowance event just a few weeks ago and is another dropping in class. His two-back effort here was solid enough, and he has enough speed to sit close in the early going; #6 COUSIN ANDREW: Earned the diploma last time out at this route and was claimed by a sharp horseman that excels with new acquisitions. These are far deeper waters, to be sure, but draw a line through the adventurous trip he had two starts ago and you have a gelding that hasn’t done a heck of a lot wrong.

R4

Ruse
Panster
Austrian

#5 RUSE: Is a tepid top pick in a race with a 10-horse field and seven or eight runners that could conceivably win. This one gets my selection because he may find himself alone on the front end. He capitalized on that trip last time out, and he’s never finished worse than third going long on the turf; #8 PANSTER: Rallied to take a pretty tough start allowance race last time out and comes back into the state-bred ranks for this event. It can be argued this race is a drop in class for him, and he’s won two of his three starts this season since coming back to the track for Christophe Clement; #3 AUSTRIAN: Disappointed when third as the 2-1 favorite at this level and route early in the meet. However, that was his first start in three months and he rated behind a pretty slow pace. He may be sharper here, and a logical step forward would give him a big chance.

R5

Dee Bo
Papa Smooth
Litterbox

#2 DEE BO: Found $25,000 claimers too tough last time out and drops back into the $16,000 non-winners-of-two condition in this spot. He was a good third two back at this level and route, and I think he could sit an ideal stalking trip just off the speed; #5 PAPA SMOOTH: Was claimed out of his last race by Orlando Noda, who’s one of the better trainers on the circuit when running horses back off the claim. His wire-to-wire win two back at Belmont was solid, and he attracts Irad Ortiz, Jr., for this event; #8 LITTERBOX: May provide some value in the exotics due to the likely race shape. Not many runners here want to pass others, and this one’s shown he does his best running late. The faster they go early, the better this longshot’s chances figure to be.

R6

Call Sign Charlie (MTO)
Howdyoumakeurmoney
Rooski

#2 HOWDYOUMAKEURMONEY: Showed speed in her debut on the main track and goes to the turf, a surface she’s bred to love. She’s by Freud, out of an Elusive Quality mare, and runs for a trainer that has done well with second-time starters and runners trying the grass for the first time; #14 ROOSKI: Needs lots of luck to draw in, as she’s the last runner on the AE list. However, she made a bit of a move in her debut despite a very wide trip, and if the recent workout is any indication, she got quite an education in her initial outing; #3 DOC DOC ROCK: Was a heavy favorite in her debut last month but faded after briefly contesting the early pace. She tries turf here, and perhaps that will wake her up, but after that first-out clunker, I simply cannot endorse her on top, especially at what’s likely to be a pretty short price.

R7

Fort Peck (MTO)
Emaraaty
Hieroglyphics

#8 EMARAATY: Has been going up against some pretty good horses since coming over from Europe several years ago. He was beaten a length by Grade 2 winner Olympic Runner two starts ago, and this is nowhere near as tough a spot as the ones he’s been running in; #6 HIEROGLYPHICS: Loves Saratoga and must be given a long look due to the races he’s run over this turf course. This is a step up in class, but he fits on speed figures and should get a pace to run at, so his likely price hits me as an overlay; #4 VOODOO ZIP: Has won two of his last three starts and showed a new dimension when rating effectively in July at Belmont. His win that day earned him a 92 Beyer Speed Figure, and it’s easy to root for a horse that’s never missed the board in 10 career outings.

R8

Gold Panda
Big Bobby
Luna’s in Charge

#1 GOLD PANDA: Never looked like a loser in his maiden-breaking score and gets wheeled back quickly by a barn that’s heated up in the back half of the meet. Joel Rosario rides back, and he should be quick enough out of the gate to avoid getting shuffled back in the early going; #4 BIG BOBBY: Chased a much-the-best winner in his first start against allowance company earlier this summer, but it’s not like he ran poorly that day. He matched the 83 Beyer Speed Figure he earned in victory two back, and his recent drills look sharp; #5 LUNA’S IN CHARGE: Is unlikely to win but has shown a strong closing kick in several local dirt sprints. The seven-furlong distance is an unknown, but he may be presented with a scenario that could allow him to hit the board at a pretty big price.

R9

Pulsate
Maxwell Esquire
The Connector

#4 PULSATE: Goes back to the turf after a failed dirt outing, and that should move him forward considerably. He ran the ultra-fast Fiya to a head two starts ago at Belmont, and he ran second in this very race a season ago (along with a competitive fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Troy that same year); #5 MAXWELL ESQUIRE: Will likely sit back and make one big late run. He’s never been worse than second in three local starts, and there certainly seems to be enough early speed signed on to set up for what he wants to do; #2 THE CONNECTOR: Merits a look at a big price, as he’s been very competitive at this level on the mid-Atlantic circuit. Among others, he ran into The Critical Way several times this summer, and that one went on to win the Parx Dash earlier this week.

R10

Gauff
Sitting Pretty
Federalist Papers

#3 GAUFF: Debuts for Brad Cox, and while it’s tough for some horses to go two turns at first asking, she’s bred up and down for this route and has worked well. She’s a half-sister to a Group 3-placed runner, and her second dam is a stakes-winning turf sprinter; #2 SITTING PRETTY: Was one-paced in her debut earlier at this stand, but if several works since that unveiling are any indication, she’s sitting on a significantly-improved effort here. The jockey switch to Joel Rosario is noteworthy, and perhaps she just needed a race to get going; #9 FEDERALIST PAPERS: Was very far back in both of her two prior starts and gets blinkers in her New York debut. We haven’t seen her since March, and that’s not the best sign, but she hasn’t run badly to this point and maybe the blinkers will get her a bit more interested early on in the Friday finale.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/2/21)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $823.90

School may not start in New York for another week or so, but the academic year is already in full swing here in California. Students went back to classrooms in mid-August, and I’ll use this space to send a very simple, very important message: Be nice to teachers.

Everybody’s been struggling during the pandemic, and when it comes to a topic as complex as education, there are no easy answers to questions every family faces. With that in mind, though, teachers have been calling audibles and pivoting how they do very difficult jobs for a year and a half now, and they’re not immune to the stresses and fatigue that exist in everyone’s mind, in one way or another.

I’m admittedly biased. My girlfriend’s an elementary school teacher, and I hear stories about what she’s dealing with now that kids are back in the classroom (for now, at least). This isn’t easy on anyone, and it costs nothing to be kind, especially to those who are underpaid and largely under-appreciated.

WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: Everything was cancelled when Mubarmaj, who would’ve been a very heavy favorite in the second race, scratched out of that event.

THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’m looking forward to seeing #5 SILVERY RILL run back in the ninth, the P.G. Johnson. I’m a believer in the maiden race she exits, and I’ll single her to finish off the Grand Slam, which starts in the sixth. My $2 ticket reads as follows: 1,6,10 with 6,7,9 with 4,10 with 5. I’ll also have a $14 win ticket on her as well.

TOTAL WAGERED: $50.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Java Buzz, Race 2
Longshot: Hot Doctor, Race 10

R1

Yes I’m Evil
Blue Atlas
Coworth Park

#6 BLUE ATLAS: Almost certainly needed her return to the races, which came off of a layoff of nearly a year. Her last race at this level came in July of 2020, and she was clearly best that day. Improvement second off the bench is logical, and Jose Ortiz sees fit to ride back in the Thursday lid-lifter; #4 COWORTH PARK: Takes a suspicious drop in for a tag after racing against stakes foes at Gulfstream Park two and three starts ago. She spent a lot of time at Monmouth Park after her last-out effort, which is sometimes a red flag, and she’s a 3-year-old going up against a decent group of older horses for the level; #8 MOPOLKA: Drops back to the claiming ranks after running two competitive races against state-bred allowance foes at this stand. She won both of her last two starts against claimers, and she figures to be prominent from a very early stage.

R2

Java Buzz
Liza’s Ready
Slipstream

#1 JAVA BUZZ: Didn’t break well in his unveiling at this route, but he still managed to run a very good second that day. The rail draw isn’t ideal, but he likely gained a ton of experience in his debut and would be tough to beat if he takes a logical step forward; #9 LIZA’S READY: Seems like the best-meant of the two Wesley Ward trainees entered to run in this event. This daughter of top turf influence More Than Ready sports a very fast drill on August 13th, and John Velazquez sees fit to ride; #2 SLIPSTREAM: Comes back to the turf after running a distant third in a race rained off the grass back in July. He’s bred to love the lawn, and he’s also got a pedigree that suggests he’ll get better with experience.

R3

Esotica
Red Pepper Grill
East Wing

#2 ESOTICA: Capitalized on a perfect trip last time out to thrash state-bred maiden claimers earlier in the meet. On paper, this seems like a big class jump, but there isn’t a ton of speed in this event, she’s worked well downstate, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride back for Mike Maker; #4 RED PEPPER GRILL: Cuts back to a sprint distance after a failed two-turn experiment last time out. Her two-back effort saw her run second at this level and route despite a wide trip, and the faster they go early, the better this closer’s chances figure to be; #7 EAST WING: Showed brief speed against higher-priced claimers last time out and returns from a brief freshening in this spot. The outside draw is certainly a plus, and if she can find the form she showed earlier this season at Tampa Bay Downs, she wouldn’t be a big surprise.

R4

Aloha West
Three Technique
American Power

#4 ALOHA WEST: Got his nose down over optional claiming foes last time out, and he’s really never run a bad race to this point in his career. He comes in off of a string of eye-catching workouts, and he’s certainly a legitimate favorite in a fun optional claimer; #5 THREE TECHNIQUE: Was third two starts ago in the Grade 2 John Nerud downstate and exits the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt, where he couldn’t keep pace with some very fast horses. He’s shown an affinity for this seven-furlong distance, and he’s shown enough early speed to where he could be pretty close to the early pace; #2 AMERICAN POWER: Seems like the most logical early speed horse in this compact field and is another with significant back class. He won the Grade 3 Toboggan over the winter at Aqueduct, and that victory came at this seven-furlong distance.

R5

Boldish (MTO)
Mubtadaa
Brown entry

#3 MUBTADAA: Drops in for a tag for the first time and hasn’t done much wrong in four starts against maiden special weight foes. He looks like the main speed in here, and that trip usually makes horses tough to catch in races run on the inner turf course; BROWN ENTRY: Both #1 DEREGULATION and #1A DEFERRED TAXES are dropping in class, and they’ll likely take significant money due in large part to their red-hot trainer. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because both runners are closers and they may not get a closer-friendly race shape; #8 ARUBA: Boasts a 345 turf Tomlinson figure, and that’s no shock given his world-class pedigree. He’s by Kitten’s Joy, out of an Anabaa mare, and finally makes it to the races for his career debut as a 4-year-old.

R6

Illuminato
The Institute
Ava K’s Boy

#10 ILLUMINATO: Hammered for $220,000 and draws a great outside post in his debut for red-hot trainer Brad Cox. His recent gate works jump off the page, leading rider Luis Saez sees fit to ride, and the 9/2 morning line hits me as a pretty significant overlay; #1 THE INSTITUTE: Debuts for a barn that’s quietly hit at a 20% clip this summer and one that’s shown it can have first-time starters ready to run. Sire Into Mischief throws some of the most precocious foals around, and the last two drills indicate he may be ready to run; #6 AVA K’S BOY: Is a heck of a hunch play (I’m the uncle of an Ava K.) and a second-time starter that should improve off of a decent debut. He was third in his unveiling a few weeks ago, and his pedigree suggests he’ll only get better as he gets older.

R7

Gotta Go Mo
Tiple
Time Limit

#7 GOTTA GO MO: Chased Caravel in a pair of stakes races two and three back and suffered a dirty beat last time out, when she was beaten a nose at this level and route a few weeks ago. She’s a consistent turf sprinter with plenty of early speed, and she hits me as the one they’ll have to catch turning for home; #6 TIPLE: Came back running off of a long layoff and was beaten less than two lengths in the same race my top pick exits. That was her first race since September, and with a pretty significant amount of early zip in the starting gate, she could be sitting on significant improvement at a price; #9 TIME LIMIT: Has taken to this route like a duck to water and will go for her third consecutive win in this spot. She stepped forward to top allowance foes last time out, but she may need another career-best effort here against a good group, and the outside post isn’t ideal.

R8

Candy Tycoon
Two Thirty Five
American Tattoo

#4 CANDY TYCOON: Takes a drop into the claiming ranks and has been fancied enough by his barn to run in some pretty tough spots. He was fifth at this route last month behind a stakes-caliber runner in Danny California, and anything close to his best would make him a formidable favorite; #10 TWO THIRTY FIVE: Has found stakes company too tough in both of his last two outings. Most recently, he showed some speed before fading to last in a $100,000 stakes race at Pimlico, but he’s shown an ability to beat runners at this level in the past, and this trainer/jockey combination merits respect; #3 AMERICAN TATTOO: Exits a third-place finish for a slightly higher tag and will likely show the way into the first turn. He chased a runaway winner last time out, but did set a solid pace and may not need to go quite as quickly early on in this spot.

R9

Silvery Rill
Mystic Eyes
Expand the Map

#5 SILVERY RILL: Exits one of my favorite 2-year-old races of the summer, one that’s already produced a next-out winner. She may have moved a bit early that day, but it’s not easy to debut going two turns and her pedigree says she’ll move forward as she gets older and gains seasoning; #9 MYSTIC EYES: Never looked like a loser in a very strong debut, where she routed a field of turf sprinters by nearly five lengths. This is a significant jump in class, and the two-turn route is a question mark, but the Pletcher/Velazquez tag team merits respect and it’s not like her pedigree says she can’t go long; #3 EXPAND THE MAP: Was a beaten odds-on favorite earlier this summer, but she’s worked well since then for Chad Brown and may very well go favored in the P.G. Johnson. She’s another that could improve at second asking, but I prefer the race my top pick exits to the one this filly comes out of.

R10

Stonecoldwarrior (MTO)
Hot Doctor
Babagram

#3 HOT DOCTOR: Goes back to a sprint distance after a failed two-turn experiment against maiden special weight foes. His races going shorter were not bad, and between the return to his preferred distance and the class drop, I’m expecting an improved effort at a bit of a price; #6 BABAGRAM: Looked to have every chance last time out at this level and route when second beaten just a length. He has tactical speed, but doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well, and that should give jockey Manuel Franco plenty of options out of the gate; #7 SANDOR CLEGANE: Likely needed her return to the races off of a very long break, and he gets Lasix for the first time while returning to the lawn. He finished fourth against maiden special weight foes two back at Belmont, and he hits me as the most likely leader as the field rolls along the far turn.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/1/21)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $823.90

My girlfriend and I went out to dinner Sunday after I got back from my whirlwind trip to the first of four weddings in six weeks. Shortly after we sat down for dinner in San Ramon, California, a gentleman walked in wearing a Saratoga t-shirt.

To my abject horror, he had no clue who I was (how DARE he?!?!), but we had an amazing 10-minute conversation about the wonders of the Spa and how amazing it is to go to one of horse racing’s last remaining cathedrals. That my girlfriend, by no means a racing fan but someone who got Saratoga’s appeal about five minutes into her first trip there, could understand what we felt made it even more special.

As we head into the last week of the 2021 meet, I urge you to savor that feeling. What Saratoga inspires isn’t something present at every racetrack in the country, and the passion that gets poured into the product each summer is a big reason why I do what I do every season.

SUNDAY’S RESULTS: Beau Liam was a cinch, but a strange series of events left Montauk Daddy alone on the front end in the race prior to that. He was a chalk I tried to beat, so when he coasted home, I dropped $40.

WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: I’ll employ the same strategy here as well. #2 MUBARMAJ shouldn’t lose the second. I’ll play $5 doubles starting in the steeplechase opener that use #3 RITZY A.P., #4 PERFECT TAPATINO, and #7 PRAYER HOPE, as well as $5 doubles ending in the third that use #1 STATIC FIRE, #6 SWEET SURPRISE, and #12 STORMY STELLA. I’ll also use all of these horses in a $2 Pick Three.

TOTAL WAGERED: $48.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Mubarmaj, Race 2
Longshot: Vivazano, Race 10

R1

Prayer Hope
Perfect Tapatino
Ritzy A.P.

#7 PRAYER HOPE: Gets a tepid nod in the final jump race of the meet, an event that hits me as very wide-open. He’s run three strong races this season and comes back to the steeplechase ranks after springing a 12-1 upset on the flat at Colonial Downs; #4 PERFECT TAPATINO: Was on or near the lead most of the way last time out and held on for third. His tactical speed could be an advantage here, and he may have every chance to lead them a long way; #3 RITZY A.P.: Was a bit one-paced last time out in his first start over fences against winners, though he was forced to steady a bit early on in that event. He figures to do his best running late, and he’d benefit from an early speed duel that sets things up for his run.

R2

Mubarmaj
Grit and Glory
Schettino entry

#2 MUBARMAJ: Has won two in a row over higher-level claimers and looms very large in this spot. His lone career defeat going two turns came in the Grade 3 Discovery back in 2019, and if he’s right, the race is for second money; #3 GRIT AND GLORY: Won at this route last summer and has been rested after a claim in June at Belmont Park. It’s possible he’ll need a race off the brief freshening, but he has some prior races that would make him a worthy opponent; SCHETTINO ENTRY: I prefer #1A LEGIT, who sheds blinkers in his first start off the claim by this outfit. He’s chased my top pick a few times, but he’s had trouble at the start in each of his last two outings and could get closer with a clean trip.

R3

Static Fire
Stormy Stella
Sweet Surprise

#1 STATIC FIRE: Makes her debut and has been working very, very fast for trainer Brian Lynch. The rail draw isn’t ideal for a debuting runner, but it sure seems like her connections found a fairly soft spot for her unveiling, and she may be ready to run them off their feet; #12 STORMY STELLA: Needs some luck to draw in off the AE list, but debuted in a much tougher spot and adds blinkers at second asking. I think there are several reasons to expect a step forward, and she may be good enough to overcome a wide draw; #6 SWEET SURPRISE: Rallied to be third in her debut earlier this summer and retains the services of Joel Rosario. She may have gained plenty of seasoning that day, and a step forward would put her right there.

R4

Ice Princess (MTO)
Clara Peeters
Sun Summers

#8 CLARA PEETERS: Hasn’t run in more than a year, but she’s working like a mare ready to get back to business. She fired three consecutive bullets over the turf course at the Oklahoma track, and anything close to the form she showed last season would make her tough; #4 SUN SUMMERS: Hasn’t won in a while but was a deceptively-good third here earlier this summer. It says the turf condition was “good,” but there was a significant storm that hit just before that event, and it says something that she was able to make up any ground at all; #3 CHOATE BRIDGE: Was sixth in a pretty loaded stakes race last time out at Indiana Grand, and she may have needed that race after a two-month break. She’s certainly eligible to improve second off the bench, and she’d benefit if the pace is faster than anticipated.

R5

Speed Effect
Lokoya Road
Breaking Stones

#2 SPEED EFFECT: Sure looks like the main pace presence in a race otherwise light on early zip. His last-out effort was his first try since February of 2020, and his lone win to date came going two turns on dirt at Gulfstream, so the stretch-out should agree with him; #5 LOKOYA ROAD: Showed late interest when third against similar-level competition in mid-August. He’s certainly talented enough to win this and is a logical favorite, but the likely race shape might work against him; #3 BREAKING STONES: Probably lost all chance at the break last time out in his first try against winners. This is a significant drop in class from that event, and a repeat of his winning effort two back could get him a piece of this one at a bit of a price.

R6

Freudian Fate
Big Little Risk
A Colt Named Susie

#9 FREUDIAN FATE: Takes a big drop in class to race against state-bred maiden claimers for just the second time in his career. He also comes back to the dirt for this one after a few failed starts on grass, and some of his dirt races look strong compared to those of his opponents; #6 BIG LITTLE RISK: Was third at this level and route earlier in the meet and was prominent in the lane before fading in the final furlong. Luis Saez sees fit to ride back for H. James Bond, and he figures to be prominent early; #8 A COLT NAMED SUSIE: Exits a key maiden special weight race on turf that produced three next-out winners. The drop in for a tag is notable, and while his dirt races aren’t special, he boasts a very strong five-furlong dirt drill earlier this month. He may not have to be much to hit the board in a race where the field is a combined 0-for-83.

R7

Jill’s a Hot Mess
Social Whirl
Bonus Baby

#1 JILL’S A HOT MESS: Has found a home sprinting on turf and topped starter allowance foes in her first start at this route. That was a solid field she beat that day, and she has enough early zip to avoid being shuffled back along the rail in the early stages; #9 SOCIAL WHIRL: Has won both of her starts here this summer and attracts Irad Ortiz, Jr., for her stiffest test to date. This isn’t an easy group, but she’s in form, she’s had plenty of success at this route, and when trainer Tom Morley gets horses on the right track, they tend to stay there; #11 BONUS BABY: Makes her first start since February but sports several sharp drills downstate and ran well at this route when second behind the talented Robin Sparkles last summer. The post position isn’t ideal, but she should still be able to drop back and make one run at a price.

R8

Runnin’ Ray
Maker entry
Vindictive

#3 RUNNIN’ RAY: Has won both of his starts this season, including a starter allowance at this route very early in the meet. That day’s runner-up came back to win (albeit in controversial fashion), and this one should have every chance to sit a perfect stalking trip and keep the streak going; MAKER ENTRY: Both #1 MR. TIP and #1A FIRST LINE seem live in this spot. The former exits a very tough allowance race with several legitimate prospects, and the latter boasts several strong efforts earlier this season and exits a failed turf experiment against classier runners; #6 VINDICTIVE: Earned a 97 Beyer Speed Figure in his maiden-breaking score and tries winners for the first time. That effort was a significant step forward from a disappointing debut, though, and if this one is so well-meant, why did the Pletcher barn also enter #4 TEXAS SWING? At his likely price, I’ll try to beat him.

R9

Portfolio Company
Limited Liability
Gooch Go Bragh

#4 PORTFOLIO COMPANY: May have moved a bit early in his debut, but was good enough to hold on that day despite being a bit green. Chad Brown has enjoyed great success with first-out turf routers this meet, and I think it’s telling this one is his only runner in the Grade 3 With Anticipation; #1 LIMITED LIABILITY: Came storming home to win his debut going away for trainer Shug McGaughey, who doesn’t always have his first-time starters fully cranked. If there’s hesitation here, it’s that a few runners from that race came back on Travers Day, but none won the maiden special weight they ran in; #3 GOOCH GO BRAGH: Was second behind a promising runner that put forth a head-turning performance (in more ways than one) last time out. That day’s winner would be one of the favorites in this spot, so I can’t hold the defeat against this one too much.

R10

Vivazano
Tingling Mint
Fist Full of Dice

#9 VIVAZANO: Gets one more chance from me in the Wednesday finale after a tough beat last time out in an off-the-turf race. Her lone turf race to date was a pretty strong effort, as she was third against what seems like a better group, and I think she’ll be forwardly-placed in a group without many that want to pass others; #8 TINGLING MINT: Is bred up and down to want to go long on the lawn, and debuts getting that precise route of ground for a trainer that excels with first-time starters on turf. This daughter of Lemon Drop Kid is out of a Footstepsinthesand mare, and she may not have to be all that much to win on debut; #5 FIST FULL OF DICE: Ships in after several strong late runs at Belterra Park and merits a look at a big price. Unlike others in this field that haven’t shown an ability to pass others, this one will do her best running late, and the price figures to be right.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/29/21)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $863.90

I’m typing this from Boston’s Logan Airport, which I’d always considered to be one of my favorite airports on the east coast. However, that perception changed Saturday afternoon, when I got through security, settled down at my gate, and tried to boot up several different ADW websites. All of them were blocked by the airport’s wireless internet, which apparently prohibits any sort of gambling activity (even what can be accessed through a smart phone not using that WiFi network).

I find this insane. ADW’s are legal in the state of Massachusetts, and the airport itself is a 20-minute drive from what’s left of Suffolk Downs. I haven’t encountered a restriction like this at any other airport, and I’ll take this opportunity to once again thank NYRA for streaming their daily show on YouTube. That allowed me to watch several races on Travers Day when Logan Airport decided doing so through ADW’s would somehow be irresponsible.

SATURDAY’S RESULTS: Third-race upsetter Kitten by the Sea knocked me out of doubles and Pick Fours. I dropped $32.

SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll attempt to extract value out of #2 BEAU LIAM, who will be a very heavy favorite in the eighth (and justifiably so). Since I like several prices in the seventh, I’ll play doubles starting there. $10 tickets will start with #4 STANHOPE, #7 DETERMINED FURY, #8 BARDOLINO, and #10 ELUSIVE EDGE.

TOTAL WAGERED: $40.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Beau Liam, Race 8
Longshot: Stanhope, Race 7

R1

High Heater
First Homestead
Moonachie

#2 HIGH HEATER: Was second at this level last summer and makes a lot of sense in the Sunday lid-lifter. His two misfires on dirt for this barn came against higher-level competition, and leading rider Luis Saez rides back when he probably had a few other options; #6 FIRST HOMESTEAD: Has reeled off three wins in a row at Finger Lakes and ships in with his regular rider in tow. That’s one of my favorite angles at Saratoga, and this 6-for-14 gelding certainly fits on speed figures; #1 MOONACHIE: Takes a drop in class and may be favored in this spot, but I have some doubts despite an arrival in shallower waters. The rail draw can be tricky, and while his best is good enough to win this, I simply can’t stomach the likely price given the chance of a less-than-ideal trip.

R2

Charleston Strong
Partner’s Hope
Ring of Fire

#9 CHARLESTON STRONG: Drops in for a tag and cuts back to a sprint distance, and I think he’s going to respond favorably to both changes. His effort two starts back going seven furlongs at Belmont was a career-best one, and anything close to that performance will make him tough; #4 PARTNER’S HOPE: Drops back in for a tag after running fifth against maiden special weight foes just a few days ago. This barn can win with quick turnarounds, and he figures to be heard from late; #3 RING OF FIRE: Has been gelded since his last start and tries turf for the first time for a barn making lots of right moves this summer. His 321 turf Tomlinson rating indicates he’ll relish the grass, and he’s shown plenty of early zip in starts against straight maidens at Indiana Grand.

R3

Analyze It
Breaking the Rules
Dubb entry

#4 ANALYZE IT: Has an abundance of back class and boasts several races that would top this group if repeated. This multiple Grade 3 winner was fancied enough to be favored in last year’s Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, and I think Chad Brown will have him primed for this one; #2 BREAKING THE RULES: Makes his return to the races off a long layoff but presents an alternative to the likely chalk. He did enough to be 9-1 in the Grade 1 Pegasus Turf Cup at Gulfstream Park, and if a faster-than-expected pace materializes, he stands to be the main beneficiary; #1A SACRED LIFE: Has taken a lot of money since coming to the U.S. in 2019, but he’s only won twice and this is far closer to a graded stakes field than most we’ll see at this level. He’s another that will do his best running late, and the Brown/Irad tag team always merits respect, but at this likely price, I’ll try to beat him.

R4

Perfect Munnings
Too Early
Blue Gator

#2 PERFECT MUNNINGS: Comes off the bench and gets Lasix for the first time in this spot. I’m a bit tentative to endorse Aqueduct form given how quirky that track was this winter, but he’s worked well enough over this track and Luis Saez sees fit to ride; #3 TOO EARLY: Seems to run the same race every time out and has established himself as a consistent stalwart at this level. This means he can’t be ignored, but the problem for win bettors is that he’s been at this level for a while because he’s run second on four straight occasions; #7 BLUE GATOR: Is another coming in off of a freshening and getting Lasix for the first time. He ran well against stakes company before going to the sidelines, and the outside draw should give Tyler Gaffalione plenty of options.

R5

Mommasgottarun
Rosebug
A Mo Reay

#2 MOMMASGOTTARUN: Ran well in her debut when she was second and topped the third-place finisher by five lengths. She didn’t have it easy that day, as she led through very fast fractions early on, and she certainly looks like a type that will improve given the experience she gained that day; #9 ROSEBUG: Has been working very well for Bill Mott and is bred to be a very sharp filly. This daughter of American Pharoah is out of Grade 3 winner Taittinger Rose, and the times that are on the tab are atypical of most Mott trainees before their initial outings; #7 A MO REAY: Hammered for $400,000 at auction last year and debuts for Todd Pletcher, so she must be respected. She’s got a few sharp gate works on her tab, and the My Racehorse money will almost certainly be in on this filly by top sire Uncle Mo.

R6

Vagaries
Pearl Earring
Gun Boat

#10 VAGARIES: Fetched a bit more than $217,000 at the Tattersalls sale and, like most of Chad Brown’s acquisitions from that sale, is bred to want this route of ground. Her dam is a half-sister to Group 1 winner Mail the Desert, and she’s a tepid top pick in a fun 2-year-old maiden race; #7 PEARL EARRING: Has been working consistently for Michael Stidham and is worth a look at a price. She’s a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Pixelate, her dam is kin to Grade 2 winner Skylighter, and everything says this Godolphin homebred wants to go a long, long way; #3 GUN BOAT: Is a Stuart Janney homebred with a female family many will recognize. Dam Onus was a Grade 3 winner on turf, and her third dam is the dam of top-class turf runners Ironicus and On Leave, so this first-time starter has every right to be a runner.

R7

Stanhope
Determined Fury
Elusive Edge

#4 STANHOPE: Cuts back to a turf sprint, and given the way he ran off last time, that’s probably for the best. His races two and three back were sharp, and I’m willing to take a swing at a bit of a price in what seems like a wide-open event; #7 DETERMINED FURY: Broke his maiden two back in his turf debut and ran a decent third at this level earlier in the meet despite a wide trip. This is his second start off a layoff, so he could take a step forward, and this barn’s one of the best in the business with turf sprinters; #10 ELUSIVE EDGE: Took a big step forward in his first start on the lawn, when he romped by nearly six lengths a few weeks ago at Colonial. These are far deeper waters and he’ll have to navigate a trip from an outside post, but Saez will hop aboard and maybe he’s finally found what he wants to do.

R8

Beau Liam
Night Time
Amundson

#2 BEAU LIAM: Wouldn’t have been without a chance in the Grade 1 Allen Jerkens Saturday, but winds up in a far softer optional claiming event a month after winning a loaded allowance in his first start against winners. He earned a 106 Beyer Speed Figure that day, and anything close to his first two efforts would mean the race is for second; #4 NIGHT TIME: Was nosed earlier in the meet at this level and was certainly good enough to win that afternoon. He’s been running well against tough horses, and his usual effort would likely get him a big piece of it; #1 AMUNDSON: Relished the mud last time out, when he beat a solid group of state-bred optional claiming foes. He’s run very well at this 6 1/2-furlong distance in the past, trainer Horacio DePaz has quietly enjoyed a strong meet to this point, and he could provide plenty of value in the exotics.

R9

Sifting Sands
In Effect
Danzigwiththestars

#8 SIFTING SANDS: Was somehow sent away at 28-1 last month and got his nose down over a solid group, one that included a third-place finisher that came right back to win. He’s worked consistently since that performance, and a repeat of that day’s effort would give him a big shot in the Better Talk Now; #6 IN EFFECT: Was third in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame won by Public Sector, who would lay over this group. He didn’t have the smoothest trip that afternoon, and it sure seems like there’s enough pace in here to set up for his big late run; #4 DANZIGWITHTHESTARS: Will go for his third win of the meet in this spot, and he’ll do so taking a big jump in class. He’s run back-to-back career-best races since shipping north, however, and the presence of Saez is a big plus. He’ll be an in-form horse at double-digit odds, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

R10

Mr. Briggs (MTO)
Molino
Chulainn

#2 MOLINO: Wasn’t claimed out of a maiden claiming race in May, one he won despite rating behind a pretty slow early pace. That day’s runner-up, another Chad Brown trainee, came right back to win, and this pedigree suggests he’s about to take a significant step forward at second asking; #6 CHULAINN: Was beaten less than two lengths at this level last time out, and I felt that was a pretty classy field. This seems like a slightly softer spot, Joel Rosario rides back, and a clean trip (something he hasn’t had in his last two outings) should move him up; #11 LORD FLINTSHIRE: Came flying from last to run second in his first start against winners, and he’s improved considerably since going to Jorge Abreu’s barn this past spring. The big field increases the likelihood of some pace in front of him, and if the race shape is a closer-friendly one, he and Jose Lezcano could easily factor at a bit of a price.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/28/21; TRAVERS DAY)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $895.90

It’s Travers Day, and I’m going to take advantage of what’s likely the biggest audience I’ll have all year to make a very important statement. In a shocking turn of events, it’s not my usual mocking of the ludicrous, unenforced “no running” rule. This one’s actually serious, and it’ll almost certainly get me hate mail. Then again, I’ve gotten plenty of that this summer for some pretty stupid reasons, so why break precedent?

Longtime readers know I lost my grandmother to COVID-19 last summer. She spent most of her life as a nurse, and if she was still here, she’d be telling everyone she knew (and urging me to tell everyone I know) to get vaccinated.

I’ll add my own spin to it. You’re not going to grow a third arm. You’re not getting microchipped with a tracking device. You’re not going to be safer taking substances meant for horses and cows than you would be getting a vaccine manufactured by Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson and Johnson. This has become a politicized topic, and it shouldn’t be. Get the (insert your expletive of choice here) shot.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Miss Alacrity scratched, so my action was cancelled.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ve got a 4:15 pm plane to catch, so I’ll focus early on in the card. I’ll play $5 doubles starting with #1 BACK TO NORMAL and #5 JACK CHRISTOPHER in the second and ending with #1 PRINCESS FAWZIA/#1A SPARKLING SKY and #3 GOLDEN PLUME in the third. Additionally, that’ll start a 50-cent Pick Four ticket that goes like this: 1,5 with 1,3 with 3,6 with 3,4,6.

TOTAL WAGERED: $32.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Essential Quality, Race 12
Longshot: Charmed, Race 6

R1

Sweeping Giant
Doctor Davis
Pletcher entry

#10 SWEEPING GIANT: Ran very well to finish second in his debut last month and is very logical at second asking in the Travers Day opener. The far outside post isn’t ideal, but Joel Rosario is among the best in the game at saving ground on the turf, and if he gets a good trip, he’s probably the one to beat; #7 DOCTOR DAVIS: Was highly-touted in his unveiling, which came in the same race my top pick exits. He faded after setting the pace, but Bill Mott’s horses often need a race or two to get going, and if you were willing to take 8/5 last time, you’ll be happy to know you’ll likely get at least double that price here; #1 ROYAL SPIRIT: Sold for $450,000 at auction last year and boasts a top-notch female family. Her dam is kin to Grade 1-placed runner Beautician, as well as graded stakes winners Mo Tom and Red Ruby, both of whom did their best work going long.

R2

Jack Christopher
Back to Normal
Be Better

#5 JACK CHRISTOPHER: Has been working up a storm for Chad Brown ahead of his debut and looms large here. He’s by strong sire Munnings, and his dam is a half-sister to another strong sire in Street Boss. Between the drills and the pedigree, there’s an awful lot to like; #1 BACK TO NORMAL: Ran a decent race in his debut to finish second behind a runaway winner that has since come back to win again. He’s one of only two runners in this field with prior experience, and his local workouts hint that he’s bounced out of that performance in good order; #3 BE BETTER: Has been working consistently for Todd Pletcher and is another bred to be any kind. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because I think the six-furlong distance may actually be shorter than his preferred trip, given a bottom-side pedigree that boasts an abundance of stamina.

R3

Trinni Luck (MTO)
Golden Plume
Black Swan entry

#3 GOLDEN PLUME: Won for fun in her debut back in January at Tampa and will look to get back to business here. I’m not sure what she beat in that initial effort, but she looked great doing it, and world-class jockey Flavien Prat sees fit to ride for Brown; BLACK SWAN ENTRY: Both of these runners seem well-meant at a price, but I slightly prefer #1A SPARKLING SKY. She’s never run a bad race at Saratoga and had every right to need a race last time out off of a very long break. If she channels her 2019/2020 form, she’s got a chance to light up the tote board; #6 SECRET TIME: Hasn’t won in more than two years but boasts plenty of back class and didn’t run badly when third in her local debut. That was her first start since moving to Danny Gargan’s barn, and any step forward would make her a threat to grab a piece of this.

R4

Viadera
Kalifornia Queen
Platinum Paynter

#3 VIADERA: Didn’t have a great trip when fourth in the De La Rose a few weeks ago. She rated behind a slow pace and didn’t have clear running room until it was too late. Between the likelihood of a cleaner journey and the fact this is her second start off the bench, I think she’s a formidable favorite in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa; #6 KALIFORNIA QUEEN: Makes up the other half of a powerful 1-2 punch for this barn and exits a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth. Prior to that, she chased classy turf distaffers War Like Goddess and Antoinette, and this spot seems a bit softer than those; #5 PLATINUM PAYNTER: Appears a bit outclassed on paper, but she’s also the likeliest early pace-setter in a race light on gate speed. Jose Lezcano is a very sharp turf rider, and if the race shape works in this one’s favor, she could lead them a long way at a price.

R5

Whittington Park
Miracle Nicky
Brady’s Legacy

#4 WHITTINGTON PARK: Was a bit one-paced in his unveiling last month, but the blinkers go on at second asking and this barn’s second-time starters are usually very live. His 63 Beyer Speed Figure is the highest such number in the field by daylight, and if he moves forward, this seems like his race to lose; #3 MIRACLE NICKY: Has been working unusually fast downstate for Rudy Rodriguez, who doesn’t often ask his horses for all that much in the mornings. His dam is a half to a nice horse named Curious Conundrum, who won multiple stakes races, and the $110,000 purchase price hints at some potential; #6 BRADY’S LEGACY: Sold for $250,000 despite not much of a bottom-side pedigree, so he obviously impressed some folks at the OBS sale this past April. He’s got a few solid works, and Jose Ortiz has been enticed to ride this Jeremiah Englehart trainee.

R6

Charmed
Big Package
Shiraz

#6 CHARMED: Was anything but in his last-out effort, when he fell to his knees at the break and somehow found a way to run third. Prior to that, he was a sharp third behind the talented Fauci at Monmouth, and with a clean trip, I think he can get the job done at a bit of a price; #11 BIG PACKAGE: Was second in the race my top pick exits and is a consistent sort that always seems to fire. The outside post isn’t ideal, but Irad Ortiz, Jr., should be able to drop back and make one run, and that’s a strategy that’s worked very well for this one in the past; #9 SHIRAZ: Topped a classy group of state-breds last time out over yielding going and steps back into open company here. Luis Saez sees fit to ride back, and he’s run some of his best races over this route of ground.

R7

Gamine
Ce Ce
Estilo Talentoso

#1 GAMINE: Is one of racing’s most star-crossed horses, but when she’s right, few are better (especially going one turn). Controversy still swirls around trainer Bob Baffert, but assuming his star female sprinter has shipped to Saratoga in good order, she’s strictly the one to beat; #7 CE CE: Is 2-for-2 this season going seven furlongs and is no stranger to Grade 1 glory, having won a pair of events at this level last year. Her win in the Grade 2 Princess Rooney was very impressive, and if Gamine doesn’t fire, this one’s probably the likeliest beneficiary; #6 ESTILO TALENTOSO: Is very easy to root for because, quite simply, she always shows up. She’s never been worse than third in 15 lifetime outings, and the faster they go early on in the Grade 1 Ballerina, the better her chances figure to be.

R8

Lexitonian
Whitmore
Yaupon

#3 LEXITONIAN: Ensured a spot in this handicapper’s gambling Hall of Fame with a 34-1 victory in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt earlier this summer. He stretches out to seven furlongs here, but he’s shown he can handle this distance and could sit an ideal trip just off the pace in the Grade 1 Forego; #2 WHITMORE: May have needed the race, to an extent, when third in the Vanderbilt following a freshening. He generally races his way into form, and this 8-year-old gelding figures to be heard from late; #7 YAUPON: Was going really well last season and was the 6/5 favorite in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, which Whitmore won. His comeback race at Pimlico was fine, and the main hesitation here is the stretch-out to seven furlongs. That’s not an easy task against a good group, but if he can handle the distance, he may be tough to run down.

R9

Jackie’s Warrior
Life Is Good
Judge N Jury

#2 JACKIE’S WARRIOR: Romped in the Grade 2 Amsterdam after dueling through torrid fractions in the slop. As long as he’s kept around one turn, he’s going to be very tough to beat, and his seasoning edge over his primary rival is enough to give him my nod in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens; #6 LIFE IS GOOD: Was brilliant (my goodness, I hate that word) in three wins on the west coast, including two over eventual Kentucky Derby winner (sort of) Medina Spirit. He’s since been transferred to Todd Pletcher and has been working lights-out over the Oklahoma track, but this is a very tough ask for a horse that hasn’t run since March; #5 JUDGE N JURY: Earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure with an eye-catching romp in a state-bred allowance race at this route last month. This is a gigantic step up, but he may be the only horse in this field that can comfortably rate, and that could be enough to allow him to hit the board at a big price.

R10

Letruska
Swiss Skydiver
Royal Flag

#6 LETRUSKA: Has turned into a freakish distaffer and looms large in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign. She’s won five of her last six starts, with the lone defeat coming to Shedaresthedevil (who doesn’t show up here). She may not be alone up front, but I don’t think it matters; #4 SWISS SKYDIVER: Chased Knicks Go in the Grade 1 Whitney a few weeks ago, and that came after trainer Ken McPeek’s barn was quarantined. She had every right to need that race off a bit of a layoff, too, so I can’t hold it against her in any capacity. She won last year’s Alabama, could sit just off the pace, and is very dangerous; #5 ROYAL FLAG: Came flying late to take the Grade 3 Shuvee over Horologist, who came back to jog in the Summer Colony last weekend. She could once again get a terrific setup, and I expect her to be going the right way late at a fair price for a red-hot barn.

R11

Tribhuvan
Japan
Cross Border

#1 TRIBHUVAN: Has gotten very good, very quickly, and is a threat to wire the field in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer. That was the trip he sat in the Grade 1 United Nations last time out, and if he’s allowed to get comfortable going under the wire the first time, he’ll have a big chance to be in front the second time around, too; #6 JAPAN: Is an intriguing shipper coming across the pond for Aidan O’Brien. Back in 2019, he won two of Europe’s most prestigious races, the Grand Prix de Paris and the Juddmonte International. I’m not sure he’s quite the same horse, but if he brings that type of effort, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with; #7 CROSS BORDER: Is nearly perfect at Saratoga and was pretty impressive in winning the Grade 2 Bowling Green for the second consecutive season. This seems like a stronger group, to be sure, but he was a fair second in this race last August and his best effort would give him a chance.

R12

Essential Quality
Midnight Bourbon
King Fury

#2 ESSENTIAL QUALITY: Is impossible to go against in the Grade 1 Travers. He’ll love the distance, he’s in terrific form, and he exits what hit me as a perfect prep in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. If he comes with his usual effort, I think he takes a big step to clinching his division’s Eclipse Award; #1 MIDNIGHT BOURBON: Miraculously came out of what looked like a terrible fall in the Grade 1 Haskell with no injuries, and he’s worked well since coming to the Spa after that series of events. He was a good second in the Grade 1 Preakness behind Rombauer, and he’s got enough early speed to make his own trip, which might label him as the one they’ll have to catch turning for home; #7 KING FURY: Is a horse that’s seemed to be crying out for as much distance as possible since his 2-year-old season. He didn’t like the turf last time out, and he’s been snakebitten with rotten luck on several occasions, but now that he’s finally doing what it looks like he wants to do, he’ll be on all of my exotics tickets.

R13

Bella Principessa
Sister Luck
Constitutionalrage

#14 BELLA PRINCIPESSA: Needs some luck in order to draw into the Saturday finale, but she must be respected if she runs. She rated behind a very slow pace last time out and should get a bit more speed in front of her here if two horses scratch and she’s allowed to compete; #12 SISTER LUCK: Has a few red flags, but also has several qualities I can’t ignore. She’s worked well on turf a few times since going to Todd Pletcher’s barn, she drops in class, and she’s shown a lot of early speed going shorter. If she’s got the stamina to go two turns, she could be a handful; #6 CONSTITUTIONALRAGE: Comes back to the turf after being eased in an off-the-turf event last month. Turf is absolutely her preferred surface, and her one start on the lawn at this level resulted in a good second in a race downstate, one where that day’s third-place finisher came back to win.