SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/31/22)


BANKROLL: $735.45

I’m not the biggest fan of bashing the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority. Racing had a long, long time to get its house in order on its own. It didn’t do that, and that’s why HISA’s here and not going away (despite an epic temper tantrum being thrown by the Texas Racing Commission, which has opted to drop a proverbial nuclear bomb on pari-mutuel operations at its tracks rather than comply with federal legislation).

However, that isn’t to say HISA is perfect, and one of the holes in that legislation exposed itself over the weekend. Drafted, who finished fifth in the Forego over the weekend, was disqualified due to jockey Luis Rodriguez-Castro using the whip 10 times, four more than the six allowed under HISA rules. As a result, Drafted’s connections are now out $26,000 for reasons they had nothing to do with.

I saw Lisa Lazarus speak a few weeks ago at the Racing and Gaming Conference. I believe she and the rest of the folks at HISA mean well. However, there are certain rules and regulations that need to be re-examined and re-written promptly. This is one of them.

SUNDAY’S RESULTS: My price play early in the card was off the board, and my late Pick Four fizzled in the Ballerina. I dropped $34.

WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the middle of the card. I really like #5 SCOTTISH STAR in the fourth and #5 SALS DREAM GIRL in the sixth. In addition to $15 win bets on both runners, I’ll play a $5 Pick Three starting in the fourth using those two singles as bookends and including #6 ROAD TO SUCCESS and #7 SCOTTY in the fifth.



Best Bet: Sals Dream Girl, Race 6
Longshot: Banyan Breeze, Race 8


Proven Innocent
Smith entry
Who’s Counting

#7 PROVEN INNOCENT: Was a very good second in his local debut earlier this summer and stretches out in distance, which he should love. He broke his maiden over fences going 2 1/4 miles, and there sure seems to be enough speed in here to set up for his late kick; SMITH ENTRY: Both #1 BANDUA and #1A PROJECT TWO seem well-meant. I slightly prefer the former, whose flat racing days included a third-place finish behind champion Bricks and Mortar in the 2019 Grade 1 Arlington Million; #3 WHO’S COUNTING: Has three wins and two seconds from five starts this year and has shown some flexibility. He can sit close to the pace or rally from behind, and his last-out win over a weaker group at Colonial Downs was a sharp effort.


I’m Nervous Now
Summer Snow

#3 LAUGHTER: Was a close-up second in a similar spot a few weeks ago and topped that day’s third-place finisher by more than eight lengths. The rider switch to Luis Saez is a notable one, and it’s tough to imagine anyone else in this field outpacing her early on; #6 I’M NERVOUS NOW: Debuts for a barn that’s had some success at this stand. She’s been working well since shipping up here from Gulfstream Park, and this filly may not need to be much in order to win first time out; #8 SUMMER SNOW: May have needed her 2022 debut downstate, which came off a very long layoff. She almost certainly needs to take a step forward, but doing so second off the bench wouldn’t be unheard of, and the outside draw isn’t a bad thing.


Rock Chalk
Iron Man Jimmy

#2 WEBSLINGER: Was one-paced in his debut at Ellis Park, but there’s reason to believe sprinting on turf is what he wants to do. His female family includes broodmare sire and top turf influence Hard Spun, and his second dam is kin to Group 1-placed turf miler Clearing; #5 ROCK CHALK: Rallied to be second in a similar race earlier this month, one that doubled as his career debut. I’m not crazy about the quality of that group and think this may be a slightly tougher spot, but it’s often not easy for debuting horses to rate and pass others, and he wouldn’t be a shock; #6 IRON MAN JIMMY: Runs for a barn whose horses tend to need a race or two to get going. However, he’s kin to graded stakes winner Maftool, his dam is a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Abraaj, and he sports a recent four-furlong turf drill that looks very solid.


Scottish Star
Nevisian Sunrise

#5 SCOTTISH STAR: Makes her first start for Todd Pletcher off a long layoff, but she boasts a lot of back class and a work tab full of very strong drills on the grass. Add in that there isn’t much early zip signed on for this one, and that she was fast enough to challenge the likes of Ce Ce last year, and I think there’s a lot to like; #4 NEVISIAN SUNRISE: Was sent away at just 10-1 in the Grade 3 Intercontinental against some tough turf sprinters two starts ago. Both of her wins have come at two-turn mile configurations, though I wonder if she’s stepped forward from age three to age four; #3 ZAINALARAB: Has hit the board twice in as many starts since being switched to the turf earlier this year. This, however, is her first start going two turns, and it comes against what seems like a tough group for the level.


Road to Success
Will E Sutton

#6 ROAD TO SUCCESS: Goes back to two turns first off the claim by George Weaver, and he’s run some of the best races of his career at similar routes. His last two-turn start came at Aqueduct in February, and he romped by more than 16 lengths that day; #7 SCOTTY: Is 0-for-4 since being claimed by this barn over the winter, but the last two outings seem like steps forward. He hasn’t gone two turns recently, but he’s shown an ability to pass others late that could prove valuable; #4 WILL E SUTTON: Would be a major player if he runs back to his winter form in his first start for Rob Falcone. However, his last three starts have been dreadful, including one at this route earlier in the meet. At his likely short price, I’ll try to beat him.


Sals Dream Girl
Eau Claire

#5 SALS DREAM GIRL: Got stuck in a horrid, far-outside post last time out and gets a friendlier draw in her first start against maiden claimers. Her race two back at Belmont was very good, as she ran second sandwiched by a pair of next-out winners. A repeat of that effort would make her very tough to top; #10 CERRETTA: Was one-paced in her local debut and is another dropping in out of a race against maiden special weight foes. The draw wasn’t kind to her, but she does have some early speed and could clear some of this field very early; #4 EAU CLAIRE: Has shown speed against better groups, and her dirt sprint last time out is a throw-out. She’s shown she’s a turf horse, and these shallower waters should be to her liking.


Xy Speed
Seven Scents

#4 XY SPEED: Is a proven closer and looks like the one they’ll have to hold off in a $32,000 claimer that looks more like an ungraded stakes race. The extra half-furlong he gets here should be to his benefit, and there’s certainly enough zip signed on to set up for what he wants to do; #6 SEVEN SCENTS: Ran a clunker last time out at Ellis Park and is certainly a contender if he runs his usual race. The drop in class is a big one, but Brad Cox isn’t afraid to be aggressive with his runners, so it’s not much of a red flag at all; #2 BALLYDOOLEY: Probably needed his last-out effort on the Fourth of July, which was his 2022 debut. He’s got enough early speed to be prominent out of the gate, and improvement second off the bench could get him a piece of it at a bit of a price.


Double Shot
Banyan Breeze
Joe Di Baggio

#6 DOUBLE SHOT: Lost all chance at the break earlier this summer and comes back first off the claim for half the tag. He’s a closer in a sprint with plenty of early speed, and the faster they go out of the gate, the better this one’s chances figure to be; #2 BANYAN BREEZE: Ships in from Finger Lakes, and these shippers are always dangerous in lower-level races. He’s won two in a row in central New York, and he fits if his form travels with him from that venue; #4 JOE DI BAGGIO: Hasn’t won in quite a while at his home track in Florida and makes his local debut here. Some of his recent races have come against better competition, but the last two have been clunkers against Florida-breds, and it’s fair to wonder if this 6-year-old’s best days are behind him.


Our Dream Rye’d

#9 OUR DREAM RYE’D: Rallied from last to first last time out and has already run up against several next-out winners in just two lifetime outings. We know he can win at this distance and that he can pass others late, which is enough to earn a tepid nod in a wide-open renewal of the Grade 3 With Anticipation; #2 ANDTHEWINNERIS: Won impressively first time out on turf at Keeneland before finishing third in the Bashford Manor on dirt at Churchill Downs. He’s back on his preferred surface here, and Flavien Prat, who rode him in his unveiling, sees fit to climb aboard again; #8 LACHAISE: Topped New York-breds at first asking and did so the right way. There wasn’t much pace in that event, but he made up ground and had plenty left late. Prat goes elsewhere, but Jose Ortiz is certainly no slouch.


Devil Boy
Basis Risk
Sinful Dancer

#3 DEVIL BOY: Drops into the maiden claiming ranks for the first time and makes the most sense in a confusing finale. He may have bounced last time out off of a solid third-place finish two back. If the two-back form comes with him here, he’s got a big chance; #10 BASIS RISK: Has been gelded since a first-out clunker back in April and has worked consistently ahead of his return to the races. This is, indeed, a pretty big drop for a one-time $310,000 purchase, but these are aggressive connections who don’t mind doing this sort of thing; #5 SINFUL DANCER: Is another running for a tag for the first time and seems like the main early speed. Perhaps the drop wakes him up, but he’s had plenty of chances, including ones where he’s sat dream trips. At 0-for-10, how much can one trust him, at least on top?

THE DARK DAY FILES: Winners, ROI, And A Plan For Saratoga In 2023

As you know, I see the Saratoga all-media handicapping standings as a big deal. I was raised reading the likes of Russ Harris in the New York City papers, examining the pick boxes in every publication, and seeing who handicappers liked on a given day.

It’s why I’ve taken a more active role in tracking this stuff this summer. For the most part, the interest has been there, and that makes me happy.

I woke up Sunday morning, though, to a bunch of Twitter notifications, most of which included the same three letters: ROI.

This is where I need to pause for a few key reminders.

  • I have access to win totals for most of Saratoga’s print handicappers (save for a few in the Times Union, which puts its stuff behind a paywall).
  • The TU (which, again, is behind a paywall) has daily ROI totals for handicappers. The Pink Sheet posts totals each Wednesday (mine stinks).
  • The Daily Gazette and Saratoga Special do not post ROI totals, at all.

In general, I’m going off of data that’s readily available to me as I sit approximately 3,000 miles from Saratoga. What you see when I compile that and post it to Twitter is what I can get my hands on at that point.

I’m not saying ROI is not an important characteristic. It absolutely is, and it’s something every public handicapper should be keenly aware of. If your problem is that not enough handicappers post or publish their ROI totals, you have a valid gripe.

(Note: Saying so is not a knock on papers that don’t publish these totals, nor should it be interpreted as such. The people behind The Saratoga Special, for instance, barely sleep as it is.)

However, a few tweets I saw insinuated (and, in one case, outright said) that tabulating this should be something I do for every handicapper whose win totals I’ve tracked. In a word…no.

In many more words: My Saratoga content comes on top of a full-time job. This summer also included a move and a trip east for a conference. Honestly, it’s sort of a miracle the biggest problem I have this summer is winding up on too many favorites, and furthermore, a lack of data on the part of other handicappers does not constitute an emergency on mine.

What I propose for next summer is a compromise/collaboration of sorts. Public handicapper standings at Saratoga will always matter to me, and if I can do something that resonates with others in the ways public handicapping content resonated with me as a kid, I’m going to do it. It has to be within reason, though, and there are certain crosses I’m just not willing to bear.

I propose an open challenge, to every handicapper at every horse racing publication and/or media outlet that picks every race, every day, for 40 days at Saratoga. I want to provide a one-stop shop where people can evaluate data that matters to them. Some may want winners. Some may want top-three finishes. Some may want ROI. I want all of this included, too, provided it’s made available in ways that don’t require a crazy amount of additional legwork. In addition to being a sucker for things I grew up with, I’m hyper-competitive and love seeing where I stack up against some really sharp people.

Below is what I’m volunteering to do next July through next Labor Day, as well as things I refuse to do out of respect for what’s left of my sanity:

  • I will figure out a spreadsheet format that works and can be accessed by anyone who’s interested.
  • On my own, I will plug in data that’s easily accessible. This means daily Pink Sheet winners and weekly ROI numbers, and whatever numbers I can get from other publications (the Saratoga Special, Daily Gazette, and the Times Union, provided the TU works with me and gives me a workaround for the paywall).
  • I will gladly accept the assistance of volunteers that want to help make this better.
  • I will open this up not just to members of the local media, but to the racing industry at large. Participants must pick every race, every day, for 40 days, and do so in a way where top-pick winners, and top-pick winners only, are publicly tracked by either the handicapper or the handicapper’s outlet. If you want in, contact me and let me know the best way to find your content.
  • I will not pay for content. If your stuff is behind a paywall and you want it included, it must be sent to me independently.
  • I will not do initial tabulations for wins or ROI (though I will double-check if there’s something that merits it). That data has to be available and tracked.
  • Most importantly, other handicappers lacking data will not be my problem. If someone doesn’t want to track or publish their own ROI, in no way is that my fault.

I will gladly be the curator of such an exhibit. However, I cannot, and will not, do all of the work, all of the time, for everyone involved, for no pay, in a futile attempt to satisfy people on horse racing Twitter that would complain about a free lunch. If I’m met halfway, though, I think this could be a wonderful resource that makes all of us better and provides another way to enjoy what happens during the summer at Saratoga.

Speaking of that: Let’s enjoy what’s left of this one, shall we?

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/28/22)


BANKROLL: $769.45

The Grade 1 Ballerina has been on the Travers Day program for the last few years. It got moved to the following day this season, and that’s a switch I applaud. Travers Day doesn’t need every single Grade 1 race, and the Ballerina’s a cool event that’s able to stand on its own.

This year’s Ballerina is more than worthy of “main event” status. Ce Ce has won nearly $2.3 million in taking races like the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Obligatory and Bella Sofia are Grade 1 winners. Goodnight Olive tries graded stakes company for the first time after four wins in a row for the meet’s leading trainer.

This card is a good one. The feature race is a good one. And the decision to give this race center stage was, you guessed it, a good one. Kudos, NYRA.

SATURDAY’S RESULTS: My Pick Five went down in flames early, as I got nosed in the first leg and dropped $40 after scratches.

SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll primarily focus on the late Pick Four, where I think there’s value to be had thanks to wide-open races in the first and last legs. My 50-cent ticket starts in the seventh and goes as follows: 1,2,3,6 with 4 with 1,2 with 2,4,6,8,9,12. I’ll also have a $10 win bet on #7 BUSTIN BULLET in the third, where I’ll hope to get something close to the 8-1 morning line price.



Best Bet: Wit, Race 8
Longshot: Lupo’s Legacy, Race 10


My Betsy (MTO)

#2 XIGERA: Ran second behind one of the better 2-year-olds we’ve seen all summer in her debut and has every right to improve at second asking. This barn has been sending out live runners from its small string this meet, and I think she may prove tough to catch; #7 AKAYLA: Sold for $650,000 at auction earlier this year and is by top European sire Kingman, who’s proven to be an amazing turf influence. That 446 turf Tomlinson rating jumps off the page (it’s rare to see one much above 350), and this barn always merits respect in these races; #1 JUSTIFIABLE BELLE: Is bred in the purple (by Justify, out of a Giant’s Causeway mare) and comes in off of a turf drill that’s very fast by this barn’s standards. Luis Saez has been enlisted to ride, and she’s got an opportunity to show some talent in the Sunday opener.


Bold Victory
Higher Quality

#4 BOLD VICTORY: Generally runs the same race every time out and has shown he can pass others late. He was third in a race at this level last month, one that didn’t exactly set up for his running style. The faster they go early, the better this one’s chances figure to be; #3 CRYO: Hasn’t won in a while but has been second twice at this stand and gets a big rider switch to Javier Castellano. He’s shown an ability to stalk and have something left for the stretch run, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he ends the drought here; #5 HIGHER QUALITY: Topped my second choice at this route in the opening days of the meet and is protected first off the claim in a spot that didn’t come up overwhelmingly strong. A repeat of his efforts for his prior connections may be good enough for him to record his third win in just five career outings.


New York Banker (MTO)
Bustin Bullet
Abuse of Power

#7 BUSTIN BULLET: Had a very eventful trip last time out and was beaten just a length in that event. Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride back, and the outside draw in a smaller field may ensure a cleaner trip for a runner that could be a bit of a price; #3 ABUSE OF POWER: Topped a group of claimers at this route earlier in the meet and may very well go off favored here. She’s run reasonably well against OK groups in the past, but I can’t help but wonder how much what seemed like a perfect trip moved her forward last time out; CORMS ENTRY: I prefer #1 MISPELLED MOOON, who’s hit the board in each of her last five starts. That includes a good second in a similar race last time out, and I think she may prove to be the one they have to catch turning for home.


Cloud Forest

#2 GASOLINE: Probably bounced off of a career-best try two back last time out, when he faltered as a 6/5 favorite. That effort two starts ago saw him come within a length of next-out Curlin winner Artorius, and his pedigree says this two-turn trip will hit him right between the eyes; #5 SIDEKICK: Made a middle move while racing wide last time out, and it’s not surprising he tired late to finish a distant second. He’s got every chance to improve in his second start at this route, and the switch to John Velazquez is a notable one; #3 CLOUD FOREST: Has run back-to-back clunkers, but this is his first two-turn dirt outing and his career debut going long was good enough to make me think there’s still potential here. He earned an 87 Beyer Speed Figure in that event, and such an effort would likely get him a piece of this one at a price.


Tiwanaku (MTO)

#4 MICROPHONE: Was a disappointment when third as the 3/5 favorite last time out downstate, but his best efforts have come going two turns and he gets such a route in this spot. It also helps that that day’s winner came back to win again, and that this doesn’t seem like an overly strong first-level allowance; #5 EXULT: May have needed his last-out effort, which was his first start in 13 months. He didn’t have a great trip that day, and he’s a candidate to improve with that seasoning and a cleaner journey; #6 IRWIN: Was fourth in the race my second choice exits and possesses enough tactical speed to be able to work out a favorable trip. He’s another that seems to improve with two turns, and he might be the one to catch when the real running starts.


High Class
Alpha Bella
Love to Shop

#4 HIGH CLASS: Dueled with Prank last time out, and that, predictably, didn’t end well for her. She comes back here, and while this is another tough spot, her experience edge over her competition should prove valuable, and that’s enough to earn a tepid nod in a wide-open event; #11 ALPHA BELLA: Needs a scratch to draw in off the AE list but will be a major player if she’s allowed to run. This daughter of Justify is kin to five winners, including multiple stakes winner Andina Del Sur, and she’s been working very well for Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher…; #9 LOVE TO SHOP: …who also saddles this promising daughter of Violence. Her dam is a half-sister to Grade 1-placed Talk Veuve To Me, and this one’s two local drills after shipping up from Monmouth Park look very sharp.


O’Gotten Girl
Train to Artemus

#2 FREEDOMOFTHEPRESS: Has been competitive against starter allowance foes and drops into this restricted claiming event for non-winners of three. It’s a significantly weaker spot than the ones she’s been running in, and I think she sits an ideal stalking trip just outside of…; #1 O’GOTTEN GIRL: …who probably gets back to the right level after trying starter allowance company first off the claim. She’s got enough early speed to make the rail draw an asset, and the rider change to Irad Ortiz, Jr., is a big one; #3 TRAIN TO ARTEMUS: Took a big step forward to spring a mild upset last time out, and that day’s rider, Flavien Prat, sees fit to ride back here. She’s improved in each of her three starts since coming off a very long layoff, and if my top two choices tire themselves out up front, this one stands to benefit.


Napoleonic War
Riot House

#4 WIT: Came flying late to be second behind a loose-on-the-lead winner in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame last time out. This race not only seems a bit weaker than that one, it also seems to have drawn more runners with early zip. Put all of that together, and I think this one will be tough to fend off in the Better Talk Now; #7 NAPOLEONIC WAR: Ran too poorly to be true in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, when he was 11th behind the likes of Classic Causeway and Nations Pride. This is obviously a step down from that level of competition, and perhaps it’s enough to get this one his first stakes score; #8 RIOT HOUSE: Is 2-for-2 going two turns on turf, albeit against weaker groups at Gulfstream Park. However, maybe his connections have just found what he wants to do, and the recent local turf drills sure seem to hint this one is relishing his time in upstate New York.


Ce Ce
Goodnight Olive

#1 CE CE: Sure seems like she hasn’t lost a step since winning last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Her win in the Grade 2 Princess Rooney at Gulfstream Park was dominant, and a similar effort would make her tough to top in the Grade 1 Ballerina; #2 OBLIGATORY: Wants to drop back and make one big late run, and she may get a race shape conducive to that running style. If she gets a scorching pace, which might well materialize in this spot, she and jockey Jose Ortiz will be licking their chops coming off the far turn; #7 GOODNIGHT OLIVE: Has won four in a row, and while this is a significant step up, she’s done nothing wrong of late and draws a cushy outside post in this one. Her flexible running style should provide plenty of options for Irad Ortiz, Jr., and the 5-1 morning line price hits me as a slight overlay.


Steady On
Lupo’s Legacy
Rocket’s Red Glare

#4 STEADY ON: Debuts for Todd Pletcher and has been training forwardly ahead of his unveiling. His second dam won multiple Grade 1 races as a 2-year-old, so there’s some potential for precocity here, and the recent five-furlong turf drill jumps off the page; #8 LUPO’S LEGACY: Has been working well ahead of his debut, and his bottom-side pedigree includes plenty of turf. His dam was stakes-placed on the lawn at two, and his second dam, Queen Amira, was a stakes-winning turf sprinter. 12-1 hits me as way too big a price; #2 ROCKET’S RED GLARE: Was one-paced in his debut after having some issues at the gate. Linda Rice trainees often need a race or two to get going, and I think improvement is logical given the experience he gained a few weeks ago.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/27/22; TRAVERS DAY)


BANKROLL: $809.45

It’s Travers Day, which means I’ll have one of my biggest audiences of the year. After last week’s sojourn to Saratoga, there’s only one thing I could use this space for. If it resonates with just one casual track-goer, I’ll consider it a victory.

For 150 years, it has been tradition to observe seats with newspapers, coolers, or other things on them as taken. Yes, seating is at a premium, but folks who get to the track when the doors open, set up camp, and go to the bathroom between races shouldn’t come back to see their picnic tables, benches, or chairs vultured by other people.

My father and I had our clubhouse bench vultured five different times last Saturday, a few when we were standing just a few feet away talking to friends (once when I was sitting down and someone decided they were entitled to the rest of the bench, which was covered). I was raised to believe this is unacceptable behavior, and I’ll always feel that way.

Several people I call friends feel differently about this. They’re incorrect. This has been a tradition for 150 years, and the beauty of Saratoga is that traditions that don’t matter elsewhere matter here. Keep that in mind when you’re at the track, both today and each time you head to the Spa.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Unfortunately, the Yaddo was one of several intriguing grass races washed off the turf. My action was cancelled.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: If you watched Thursday’s live-streamed HHH Racing Podcast, you saw me give out a 50-cent Pick Five beginning in the seventh race. I’ll play that ticket here, and it goes as follows: 1,2,3,5,7,8 with 6 with 1,2,3,5 with 1,3,6,8 with 6.



Best Bet: Jackie’s Warrior, Race 5
Longshot: Soldier Rising, Race 10


Game Warden
Standard of Proof

#3 VERIFYING: Hammered for $775,000 at auction last year, and for good reason. He’s by Justify and out of a mare named Diva Delite, which makes him a half-brother to Midnight Bisou. He’s worked well for Brad Cox and looms large in his unveiling bright and early on Travers Saturday; #1 GAME WARDEN: Has several strong works for Bill Mott and may be talented enough to overcome the inside draw. His female family includes the dam of champion Saint Liam, and my biggest hesitation is thinking he may well want more than this six-furlong distance; #7 STANDARD OF PROOF: Sold for $170,000 last fall and has been working consistently for the meet’s leading trainer. The outside draw is a plus, and while I think there’s more turf to his bottom-side pedigree than dirt, offspring of Gun Runner can generally perform on anything.


America’s Guest
Triple Start
Take Me to Jimmy

#7 AMERICA’S GUEST: Rallied a bit to be fifth in his debut for a trainer whose horses tend to need a race to get going. This colt gets a big rider switch to Irad Ortiz, Jr., and sports a recent four-furlong drill that hints he’s sitting on a considerable move forward at second asking; #5 TRIPLE START: Has a pedigree that says he’ll love this two-turn trip. He’s a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Persistently and stakes-placed runner Award It, his second dam is Hall of Famer Heavenly Prize, and offspring of American Pharoah tend to like turf; #8 TAKE ME TO JIMMY: Is a half-brother to multiple Grade 3 winner Tammy the Torpedo and has plenty of class in the bottom side of her pedigree. This daughter of Kitten’s Joy sold for $335,000 across the street last summer, and this outfit must be respected in these races.


On the Hill
Great Workout

#1 ON THE HILL: Won an open starter allowance event last time out and comes back into the state-bred ranks for this seven-furlong event. Luis Saez sees fit to ride back, and I certainly don’t see this spot as a class hike. A repeat of the last-out effort may very well be enough; #9 GREAT WORKOUT: Cuts back to one turn after going too long when fifth in a two-turn race last month. His two-back effort was a winning one, albeit against claimers, but that 89 Beyer Speed Figure shows his best may be good enough to win this at a bit of a price; #3 COLORMEPAZZI: Didn’t have an ideal trip last time out, when he was forced to rate behind a fast pace and never kicked on. He wants to be on the lead, and I don’t think he’ll need to overextend himself in order to get there in this event.


Technical Analysis
Fluffy Socks

#5 TECHNICAL ANALYSIS: Hasn’t run a poor race in more than a year, a stretch that includes two local graded stakes wins and a second in the Grade 1 Diana. She certainly looks like the lone speed in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa, and I think she’ll get very comfortable early on and prove tough to catch; #2 LEMISTA: Ended a two-year drought with a win in the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth Park last month. She seems to connect with Flavien Prat, who also rode her to a Grade 1 placing last summer, and she has enough tactical speed to sit a good stalking trip; #4 FLUFFY SOCKS: Has hit the board in 12 of 15 lifetime starts, most of which have been graded stakes races. Her usual race gets her a piece of this one, but it’s fair to wonder if she’s turned into a bit of a hanger given an inability to capitalize on some very nice setups this season.


Jackie’s Warrior
Cody’s Wish
Baby Yoda

#3 JACKIE’S WARRIOR: Will look to run his local record to 6-for-6 in the Grade 1 Forego, and it’s tough to see him getting much of a test here. He couldn’t have won the Grade 1 Vanderbilt any easier, we know he can get the extra furlong this race carries with it, and I think he’ll be a popular single; #5 CODY’S WISH: Has won five of his last six and has clearly turned into a very good one-turn miler. He’s posted back-to-back triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, but I wonder if this seven-furlong trip is a bit shorter than his best distance; #1 BABY YODA: Is another that loves Saratoga, with a 3-for-3 local mark. One of those races saw him post a freakish 114 Beyer Speed Figure, and he exits a solid score at this route early in the meet.


Luni Sima
Life Changer

#8 LUNI SIMA: Lost all chance at the start last time out, when he settled for fourth behind some talented runners at this level downstate. His races prior to that this season were pretty solid, his lone start at seven furlongs was a win at Gulfstream Park, and I think he’ll be going the right way late; #2 LIFE CHANGER: Was second earlier this meet after setting a legitimate early pace, and he’s another that sports a win at this tricky seven-furlong distance. Joel Rosario rides back for John Terranova, and he seems like the main early speed; #5 BALTASAR: Is a consistent sort that generally runs the same race every time. He was fourth last month in the same race my second choice exits, and he has enough tactical speed to work out an ideal stalking trip in what hits me as a wide-open starter allowance.


Ranger Fox
Maxwell Esquire

#5 RANGER FOX: Sure looks far better if you toss his route races. His last-out victory going short on turf at Belmont was very good, he seems like the main speed here, and a step forward second off the bench would make him a tough one to reel in; #2 MAXWELL ESQUIRE: Cuts back to his preferred trip after not finding a two-turn mile to be to his liking last time out. This 5-year-old veteran has run well against tough groups downstate, and he does sport a win at this route (though not a recent one); #7 CAZADERO: Has been off seven months, but a quick glance at his PP’s shows he’s a very fast horse that can run a big race when he’s right. This is his turf debut, but he’s got a grass-friendly pedigree, being by Street Sense and out of a mare who’s a full sister to a stakes-placed turf sprinter.


Jack Christopher

#6 JACK CHRISTOPHER: Is 4-for-4 around one turn and has never been seriously tested in those races. His first career defeat came last time out in the Grade 1 Haskell, but that was going much longer. He’s back doing what he wants to do and looks like a handful in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens; #8 GUNITE: Has a pair of graded stakes wins over this surface, including the Grade 2 Amsterdam from a few weeks ago. He’s also got two victories going this seven-furlong distance, and he could be sitting right off the favorite’s flank going into the turn; #1 CONAGHER: Has developed into a very fast horse with wins in three of his last four outings. One of those was a score in a seven-furlong stakes race at Colonial Downs, and he handed Gunite a resounding defeat three back when earning an impressive 105 Beyer Speed Figure.


Search Results

#3 CLAIRIERE: Has won three of four starts this season after taking a big leap forward from age three to age four. She comes in on a two-race win streak over many of the rivals she faces in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign, and her usual effort gives her a big chance to extend it; #5 MALATHAAT: Has run second behind Clairiere twice in a row, but did win last year’s Grade 1 Alabama over this surface. Todd Pletcher blames the heat for a bit of a dud in the Grade 2 Shuvee, and it’s tough to hold much against a horse that’s never missed the board in 11 career tries; #2 SEARCH RESULTS: Shipped to Monmouth Park to win the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher, and that day’s runner-up came back to win the Summer Colony last week. This is a considerable step up in class, to be sure, but she pressed a scorching pace in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps and may be up to the task.


Soldier Rising

#3 BROOME: Ships back across the Atlantic for Aidan O’Brien and looms large in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer. His lone prior U.S. start was a hard-luck second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf where he did everything but win, and he’s since been running against some of the top thoroughbreds in Europe; #8 SOLDIER RISING: Got up in the last stride to win his local prep for this event and has a load of back class. He ran second behind Melbourne Cup winner State of Rest and Breeders’ Cup Turf hero Yibir a season ago, and there should be plenty of pace signed on to set up for him to come flying late at a price; #1 ADHAMO: Earned his first Grade 1 win in the United Nations at Monmouth Park last time out. He’s yet to fire a bad shot in North America since coming here over the winter, and Flavien Prat is riding as well as anyone in the colony at this stand.


Early Voting

#6 EPICENTER: Has danced a lot of dances this season and looms large in the Grade 1 Travers. The runner-up in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes won the Grade 2 Jim Dandy impressively despite rating behind a pretty moderate pace, and this ultra-consistent colt’s usual effort would make him tough to deny; #7 EARLY VOTING: Came up empty in the Jim Dandy, but I expect an improved effort here. For a race of this magnitude, there isn’t a lot of early pace signed on. Of the three runners from this barn, he’s the one I think could get very comfortable on or near the lead and be in prime position when the real running starts; #1 CYBERKNIFE: Benefited from a picture-perfect ride to win the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth Park over some talented horses. This field’s lone two-time Grade 1 winner has a sheet that looks far better if you toss his Kentucky Derby clunker, but that Haskell effort was a significant move forward on figures. Can he repeat that performance? He might have to.


Empire Sky
Sir John

#7 HEYMACKIT’SJACK: Has run second against similar foes in back-to-back tries and seems to be in a “now or never” situation against this bunch. Blinkers come on, Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride back, and I think he sits a perfect stalking trip just off the pace; #4 EMPIRE SKY: Has run third in a pair of open events at Monmouth Park and ships here to go against state-bred competition. These may be shallower waters, and he’s lightly-raced enough to still have some room for improvement (which would put him right there); #8 SIR JOHN: Cuts back to a sprint in his second start off a long layoff and probably needed his last-out effort. He showed some early interest that day before fading to sixth, but this barn keeps him at this level and retains the first-call rider. At his likely price, he hits me as a must-use.


Jane Grey (MTO)
Miss Tapirado

#6 SALIMAH: Gets a tepid nod in a wide-open finale. She was very impressive breaking her maiden at Tampa Bay Downs by nearly five lengths over the winter, and it helps her cause that that day’s runner-up came back to win at next asking; #9 MISS TAPIRADO: Took a step forward last time out when second at this level and distance at Belmont. She’s won going two turns before (albeit prior to a very long layoff), and the new dimension she showed sitting off the pace last time out will be helpful here; #2 INVINCIBLE GAL: Ran reasonably well when third in her first start off the bench last month. She’s logical on figures, but she also hasn’t won in more than two years. Much of that time has been spent running against stakes foes, so some of that is easily forgiven, but her likely price does hit me as a bit of an underlay.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/26/22)


BANKROLL: $809.45

Horse racing is a pari-mutuel game. We all pool our money against one another and root our lungs out trying to get our individual tickets home. However, there’s an unspoken respect among those who handicap and post picks for every race, on every card, at one of the hardest places to win in the game (side note: If anyone thinks that respect doesn’t exist on my end, with regard to anyone who does this in any publication, go take a long walk off a short pier).

With that in mind, I’ll use this space to plug fellow Pink Sheet handicapper Liam Durbin’s latest book. “Fathers Wait” is available on Amazon in paperback form. Liam didn’t ask me for this space, or for my opinion, but I’ll simply say this: Having worked with him in some form or fashion for the better part of a decade, I can tell you anything he does is going to be good.

THURSDAY’S RESULTS: I was dead right in trying to beat St. Joe Louis, who did indeed falter as a post-time favorite for the ninth time in 10 career outings. However, I only had winner Royal Spirit underneath, not on top, so I found a way to simultaneously be correct and drop $32.

FRIDAY’S PLAY: In a card full of fantastic betting races, I’ll focus on the eighth, the Yaddo Handicap. My top pick is #7 MARVELOUS MAUDE, who I’ll key in $4 exactas above and below #1 ICE PRINCESS, #5 RUNAWAY RUMOUR, and #10 CLASSIC LADY. I’ll also have a $6 win bet on her, and she’s a single in a cold $5 double ending in the eighth that uses #5 ANDIAMO A FIRENZE in the seventh (the Funny Cide).



Best Bet: Maple Leaf Mel, Race 1
Longshot: Slow Decision, Race 11


Maple Leaf Mel
Les Bon Temps
Song Parody

#3 MAPLE LEAF MEL: Drew off with something in reserve earlier this month, and in doing so ran to her lofty $150,000 price tag from a sale earlier this year. Any sort of step forward would make her very tough to beat in this New York-Bred Showcase Day opener; #2 LES BON TEMPS: Comes in to face state-breds for the first time after chasing the talented Wonder Wheel in the Debutante at Churchill Downs. These are shallower waters, at least on paper, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she takes a step forward; #1 SONG PARODY: Made her debut a winning one downstate back in June and has since moved to the barn of Christophe Clement. She may not be alone up front early on, but she may have the early speed to turn the rail draw into an asset.


Clement entry
Funny How

CLEMENT ENTRY: I prefer #1A VOLEUSE, who cuts back to six furlongs and has an experience edge over much of this group. She’s shown an ability to pass others late, which could come in handy in a race with some early zip; #3 PHOTON: Was second last time out in a race my top pick exits, and this one beat that one home on that occasion. I think there’s a chance she wants more ground, not less, but she also certainly seems to be moving forward; #4 FUNNY HOW: Was third last time out downstate and sports a few flashy local drills ahead of her second lifetime outing. Improvement is logical at second asking, and she doesn’t need to step forward much to be a factor here.


Price Discipline

#4 BARESE: Has been running exclusively against stakes company since breaking his maiden as a 2-year-old. He was an impressive winner of the New York Derby at Finger Lakes last time out, and perhaps two turns is the route he’s wanted all along; #1 PRICE DISCIPLINE: Cruised home to top first-level allowance foes last month and takes a logical step up into stakes company in the Albany. It wouldn’t be a shock if he goes off favored given the connections, and we know he relishes this route of ground; #3 MONTEBELLO: Capitalized on a perfect trip last time out and will try two turns here in his first start for new trainer Todd Pletcher. I don’t love betting horses off of perfect-trip scores, though, and in this case, I’m not sure he’ll be able to get comfortable in the early stages.


Quick to Accuse
Michael Leis

#4 CHULLIGAN: Is by Justify, out of Grade 1 winner Bar of Gold, and fetched $825,000 at auction last summer. He’s been working like a very promising 2-year-old for Christophe Clement, who’s enlisted first-call rider Joel Rosario to hop aboard; #2 QUICK TO ACCUSE: Fetched $200,000 at the OBS sale this past spring and sports a few solid local drills ahead of his unveiling. If my top pick doesn’t fire, it’s anyone’s race to win, and it wouldn’t be surprising if this one was a runner; #8 MICHAEL LEIS: Earned a bullet for a three-furlong drill a few days ago and makes his debut for Mike Maker and Luis Saez. This trainer/jockey combination is one of the best on the circuit, and both prior foals out of this dam to race have won.


Fingal’s Cave
Venti Valentine
Let Her Inspire U

#2 FINGAL’S CAVE: Improved to 3-for-3 with an easy score in her first two-turn outing last month. She’s shown this distance won’t trip her up, and while the Fleet Indian Stakes does represent a class hike, it certainly seems like she’s read to handle it; #5 VENTI VALENTINE: Earned a spot in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks earlier this year and certainly seems fast enough to go with my top pick early on. I do wonder if she’s better going slightly shorter, but she may be fast enough to clear this bunch from her outside post; #1 LET HER INSPIRE U: Stretches out to a route of ground after two straight wins sprinting. One of them came over this surface late last month, and while the pedigree doesn’t scream “two turns,” she does fit on figures and wouldn’t be a gigantic stunner.


Kiss Me Smile (MTO)
U Should Be Dancing
Tis a Pity

#10 U SHOULD BE DANCING: Seems to have found her form after taking a long time to break her maiden. She’s won twice in her last four starts, where she hasn’t been worse than third and has shown a much-improved closing kick; #9 TIS A PITY: Was second at this level and route last time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s bet down from her 9/2 morning like price. She beat my top pick two back going seven furlongs and has been second at this route twice in as many local outings; #4 AUNT VIRGINIA: Has run well in both starts of her two-race career and tries winners for the first time. She chased a heavy favorite home in her debut at Delaware, won a photo here last time out, and is lightly-raced enough to have plenty of room to improve.


Andiamo a Frienze
Acoustic Ave
Donegal Surges

#5 ANDIAMO A FIRENZE: Headlines the Funny Cide, which has drawn several promising state-bred 2-year-olds and is one of my favorite races of the day. He splashed home to win his debut in the slop before running third in the Grade 3 Sanford, and he seems like the one to catch; #1 ACOUSTIC AVE: Won his debut like a very good horse, when he was less affected by a very slow, tiring surface than his rivals and won by nearly eight lengths. This is a much tougher group than that one, but he may very well be talented enough to win here, too; #4 DONEGAL SURGES: Rallied from sixth to win his unveiling and is wheeled back pretty quickly by a barn that doesn’t usually do this. No works since that victory is a bit of a red flag, but it takes a mature horse to rate and win at first asking and he’d benefit from a pace meltdown.


Marvelous Maude
Runaway Rumour
Ice Princess

#7 MARVELOUS MAUDE: Has never missed the board in eight career starts and won at this route earlier this summer despite a rough trip. She’s one of the higher weights in this Yaddo Handicap (which puzzles me since she’s giving weight to stakes winners despite not being one herself), but it’s tough to go against a consistent horse doing what she wants to do; #5 RUNAWAY RUMOUR: Hasn’t won since June of last year but has spent most of the past year-plus going against much better horses. Her running lines feature the likes of Bleecker Street, Princess Grace, and Plum Ali, among others, and this spot represents significant class relief; #1 ICE PRINCESS: Is an ultra-consistent mare that seems to fire the same shot every time out regardless of surface. She was second last time out in her first start since April, and the inside post on this inner turf course could be an asset given her tactical speed.


Key Point
Who Hoo Thats Me

#3 KEY POINT: Gets a reluctant nod in an optional claiming event that looks much more like a stakes race. He’s never fired a bad shot, is a nose away from being 3-for-3, and has enough flexibility in his running style to give Manny Franco plenty of options out of the gate; #7 WHO HOO THATS ME: Is a closer in a race that seems full of early speed, which makes him one that’s hard to ignore. His last-out win at Belmont was a career-best race, Flavien Prat sees fit to ride back, and the recent uptick in his morning workouts is hard to ignore; #12 ANEJO: Does his best running over this surface and was a fast-closing second behind a very nice horse in a similar spot a few weeks ago. Toss the turf and synthetic races, and this late-runner’s form looks much, much better.


Bankit (MTO)
Cross Border

#3 SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN: Ran off in the Lure earlier this month and comes back against state-bred competition. Assuming he can relax a bit, his best shot will make this multiple graded stakes-winner tough to beat in a fantastic renewal of the West Point; #7 CROSS BORDER: Completes a powerful 1-2 punch for trainer Mike Maker, even though this 8-year-old’s all-time best efforts may be behind him. Even so, he was beaten just four lengths in the Grade 2 Bowling Green, and it’s tough to ignore a local record that features six wins in nine starts over this turf course; #5 CITY MAN: Comes in off a victory in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple, but doesn’t get much in the way of class relief here. He’d benefit from a hot pace, and there is some speed signed on, but that last-out 104 Beyer Speed Figure came with a picture-perfect trip that may not replicate itself here.


On Palm Sunday
Addicted to You
Slow Decision

#2 ON PALM SUNDAY: Gets another shot from me after probably going a bit too fast last time out when he didn’t necessarily have to. He once again seems like the lone speed, which is dangerous on the inner turf, and unlike last time, he doesn’t have to clear most of the field to get to the rail; #11 ADDICTED TO YOU: Is 0-for-12 but has run second in each of his last three starts, including the race my top pick exits. The far outside post is a problem, but Flavien Prat knows this gelding well and he’d benefit from another runner going with my top pick; #10 SLOW DECISION: Comes back to the turf in his first start off the claim by Peter Walder, who has shown over the years that he can win with new acquisitions. He probably moved a bit early in his debut on the lawn down at Belmont, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he moves forward off of the last-out clunker despite the wide post.