SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/20/22)


BANKROLL: $934.20

I strongly recommend going to places that challenge you and make you feel small. It’s a surreal experience that’s tough to describe, but I’ll give it a shot.

Last summer, on the way to Mammoth Lakes for a wedding, my girlfriend and I stopped at Yosemite National Park. The winding roads through the mountains will help anyone looking for perspective find it (provided, of course, you also stay focused behind the wheel).

On Sunday, we went to Angel Island State Park. It’s California’s answer to Ellis Island, but with a significant history of its detainees being kept in suboptimal conditions while they awaited processing and entry into the United States (or, in some cases, deportation back to Asia). Chinese carvings in the walls reflect poems written by those who lived in those buildings, and they’re still visible 100 years later.

Put it this way: Bad beats at the racetrack feel awfully insignificant by comparison.

SUNDAY’S RESULTS: I didn’t get rich in Sunday’s fifth race, but I turned a modest $18 post-scratch investment into $36.20. That exacta would’ve paid considerably better the other way, but it beats losing.

WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the eighth race, where #9 MISCHIEVOUS DIANE hits me as a formidable foe despite not being the likely favorite. In addition to a $10 win bet on that one, I’ll also key her in $3 exactas above #1 SHORT SUMMER DRESS/#1A PIECE OF MY HEART, #2 SMASH TICKET, and #8 MOVIE MOXY.



Best Bet: Mariah’s Fortune, Race 2
Longshot: Darknstormy, Race 5


Pistol Whipped
Down Royal

#3 PISTOL WHIPPED: Has finished first or second in all but two of his starts since the beginning of 2021. Most recently, he was a distant second behind top steeplechaser Snap Decision in the Grade 1 Iroquois, and a similar effort would make him tough to top in the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick; #7 IRANISTAN: Did not finish the Iroquois but won two in a row prior to that, including a win over Snap Decision in a Grade 2. He won here twice two summers ago, and his best effort gives him a big chance; #2 DOWN ROYAL: Has won two minor stakes races in a row and figures to be prominent from the jump. This is a significant class test, but she’s done more than enough to merit a look in the first steeplechase race of the summer.


Mariah’s Fortune

#4 MARIAH’S FORTUNE: Takes a big drop in class for this non-winners-of-two claiming event. It wasn’t long ago she was 13-1 in the Grade 3 Fantasy, but these are very aggressive connections and this is probably the weakest bunch she’s ever run against; #6 BABYITSGOLDOUTSIDE: Cuts back to a sprint for a savvy barn and merits a look at a price. She’s been competitive at this level in the past, and this outfit has already found the winner’s circle multiple times at this meet; #1 EVOKING: Cruised home in her debut last spring and went to the sidelines for nearly 14 months. She’s worked consistently ahead of her return, but the rail draw and the long break are both significant concerns, and she’s likely to take plenty of betting money.


Aunt Virginia
Gracefully Wild

#5 AUNT VIRGINIA: Nearly pulled off a 40-1 upset in her unveiling at Delaware Park. That day’s winner, Silvery Rill, can run a bit, and the transfer to a trainer hitting at a 35% clip with new acquisitions cannot be ignored; #7 IZEAMALIBUMOON: Raced greenly when third in her debut at Monmouth Park and completes a 1-2 punch for trainer Jose Camejo (who also saddles my top pick). She earned a 71 Beyer Speed Figure that day and may improve with experience; #8 GRACEFULLY WILD: Has run second three times in as many 2022 starts, including a pair of turf sprints. She’s shown she doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well, and she could sit a dream trip just off the pace.


Epona’s Dream (MTO)
Pure Bode
Out of Sight

#3 PURE BODE: Goes third off the bench and stretches back out to two turns, which should be to her benefit. Her win last year at this route was very solid, and top turf rider Jose Lezcano knows her very, very well; #1 OUT OF SIGHT: Has yet to run a bad race in 2022, a stretch that includes a pair of nice wins two and three back. Her last-out third at this level was fine, and the lone question mark is the two-turn route of ground; #6 INSTINCTIVE: Has shown an ability to rally from off the pace and should benefit from the likely race shape. The faster they go early, the better her chances figure to be, and she may be the one they have to hold off late.


U Glow Girl
Callie’s Passion

#2 U GLOW GIRL: Debuts for Brad Cox after a very strong four-furlong gate drill at Keeneland. Her dam and second dam are both stakes winners, and young sire Girvin is off to a very strong start; #8 DARKNSTORMY: Debuts for Rudy Rodriguez, who doesn’t work his horses quickly. That can make his first-time starters tricky reads, but her dam was a stakes-placed sprinter and the daughter of stakes-winning sprinter Tangier Sound, so there’s plenty to like; #1 CALLIE’S PASSION: Is one of two in this field trained by Joe Sharp and comes in off of a five-furlong bullet work. The rail draw isn’t ideal for a debuting 2-year-old, but this half-sister to Grade 3 winner Scotus has every right to be a runner.


Happy Farm
Shadow Matter

#6 HAPPY FARM: Is a really easy horse to root for, with 11 wins and 24 top-three finishes in 32 career starts. His last-out win has aged beautifully, as runner-up Three Two Zone came back to top a strong field Sunday. Add in he could be in the garden spot just off the pace early, and I think he looks very tough; #3 SHADOW MATTER: Hasn’t won in a while but drops to what’s probably the right level. He’s been facing much faster horses of late, and Luis Saez lands here when he probably had plenty of options; #5 ARISTOCRATIC: Has blazing early speed and goes first off the claim for a barn that hits at a 27% clip with new acquisitions. He may not be alone on the front end, but he’ll likely be the one they have to catch turning for home.


Hey There
Mrs. Green

#3 HEY THERE: Just missed last time out downstate and looms large given her forward progression for a world-class barn. She showed more early zip than ever before last time out, which gives Flavien Prat plenty of options here; #9 LIBRETTO: Has been one-paced going longer and cuts back to a sprint for the first time. Joel Rosario rides and may drop back before coming with one run at a price; #6 MRS. GREEN: Was fourth in the race my top pick exits and makes her third career start here. She’s another that could sit back and come charging late, and there’s enough speed signed on to potentially make that trip a winning one.


Mischievous Diane
Smash Ticket
Movie Moxy

#9 MISCHIEVOUS DIANE: Came back running off the bench last time out, when she drubbed an overmatched allowance field and earned an 86 Beyer Speed Figure. She showed plenty in 2021 to hint this race wasn’t a fluke, and the outside post gives Dylan Davis plenty of options; #2 SMASH TICKET: Romped by 11 lengths last time out at Lone Star Park and has since joined the Rob Atras barn. She was third in last year’s Grade 2 Sorrento at Del Mar and may have enough talent and early zip to overcome a tricky inside draw; #8 MOVIE MOXY: Hasn’t run for 10 months but has been working steadily for George Weaver, who does well with similar stock. She was fourth in a pretty fast race for the level here last summer, and if she’s ready to run, a similar effort could get her a piece of this one.


Classic Lynne
She’s a Mia

#4 CLASSIC LYNNE: Scratched out of a race on Sunday in order to make her 2022 debut in the Suzie O’Cain. Her best race to date, by far, came in her only turf route. Running here hints at some confidence, and I think she’s ready to spring a mild upset; #1 SOLIB: Is the other Joe Sharp trainee in the field and could inherit the early lead by default. She just missed last time and was claimed out of that race. Inside speed has always been tough on this turf course; #5 SHE’S A MIA: Is a heavy morning line favorite, but I have my doubts. She’s run second twice downstate, and those efforts were fine, but hardly ones that tower over her competition. She wouldn’t be a gigantic shock if she won, but 7/5 hits me as a significant underlay.


Super Quality
Wachtel entry
Blinding Light

#3 SUPER QUALITY: Responded to the drop in class last time out with the best effort of his young career. Since then, he’s fired a bullet drill over the Oklahoma track, and Saez will be back aboard in the Wednesday finale; WACHTEL ENTRY: I’m most intrigued by #1A PISTOL OR SHOTGUN, a colt bred up and down for the grass. His dam is a full sister to the dam of a Group 1 winner overseas, and it’s entirely possible he’s wanted the lawn all along; #6 BLINDING LIGHT: Is another entered by George Weaver, who also conditions my top pick. He was second against straight maidens on dirt at Gulfstream in his debut, but hasn’t run since March, and if this 2-1 favorite is so well-meant, why does this barn run two?

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/23/20)


BANKROLL: $908.50

One of the great things about steeplechase racing is the chance it offers for thoroughbreds to have fruitful second careers. Ones that may be underachievers on the flat can find their form over fences, and it’s always cool to see that happen.

Snap Decision won his sixth straight race in taking Wednesday’s Jonathan Kiser. He did so while carrying an enormous impost of 162 pounds and making up lots of ground in the sprint for home, which isn’t something you see very often in steeplechase races. One has to think a graded stakes race is on the horizon for him, and it’ll be cool to see if his ascent continues when he tries those deeper waters.

WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: Money was in on Tenderfoot, who was bet down from 4-1 to 3/2 before the gates were sprung in the fourth. However, he was one-paced and finished off the board, which kept me in the red.

THURSDAY’S PLAY: I really like the late Pick Four sequence, assuming races carded for turf stay there. My 50-cent ticket starting in the seventh race reads as follows: 3,8,9,10,12 with 1,4,9 with 1,4,5 with 11. I think this may be a way to squeeze some value out of a short-priced favorite in the nightcap, one that doubles as my best bet of the day.



Best Bet: Financialstability, Race 10
Longshot: Invest, Race 2


Optimus Prime

#5 MOSCATO: Came back running with an easy score against Grade 3 foes and looms large for world-class steeplechase trainer Jack Fisher. His lone true misfire since a long layoff came in last year’s Lonesome Glory, when he bobbled near a fence; #3 OPTIMUS PRIME: Won the 2018 New York Turf Writers Cup and will be tough if he’s right. The question is, can he fire his best shot off a layoff of more than a year?; #2 PRAVALAGUNA: Is another coming in off a long break, but won her U.S. Debut by eight lengths and is ambitiously spotted by Fisher. She’s got plenty of early zip and will likely be prominent for most of the running.


Thomas Shelby
Northern Haze

#4 INVEST: May be a bit of a price off of a last-out clunker. However, he chased a solid pace that day, and this seems like a bit of a class drop. Rosario sees fit to ride, and if he gets comfortable early, he could be tough to run down; #6 THOMAS SHELBY: Takes a gigantic drop for owner/trainer Wesley Ward and has enough back form to go off of. Is this just a move by an aggressive outfit with lots of horses and wins, or is this an attempt to dump the horse?; #8 NORTHERN HAZE: Makes sense if you toss his last two races, and I think there’s reason to do that. He was off for five months after his race in December and broke terribly in his return downstate. He’s run well here in the past, and this is a barn capable of popping at a price.


Stunning Princess
Lost Lake
Mo Normal

#4 STUNNING PRINCESS: Has been working lights-out ahead of her debut, and I’m looking forward to seeing if that form translates to talent in the afternoons. Danny Gargan and Manny Franco have done great work together of late, and it seems as though there’s lots to like; #7 LOST LAKE: Is the only runner in here with experience, and that could be a big help. She’s by Noble Mission and bred for turf, so I’m not too turned off by the first-out clunker at Monmouth; #3 MO NORMAL: Debuts for the red-hot Christophe Clement barn, but there’s some stuff I’m not crazy about. She’s only got one five-furlong work on her tab, and while her dam was a multiple stakes winner, she hasn’t come close to reproducing herself yet.


Dixie Cannon
Nicky Scissors

#1 FRESCO: May be a heavy favorite, which isn’t something said often about maidens in stakes races. However, she’s run well going two turns against open company for powerful connections, and the rest of this field isn’t any great shakes; #2 DIXIE CANNON: Comes up from Maryland to run against state-breds for the first time. She’s won twice going two turns and likely needed her seasonal debut off of a long hiatus; #6 NICKY SCISSORS: Has left the Jason Servis barn and will make her first start for Brad Cox. She’s here in the event rain hits and moves the race to the dirt.


Instinctive Rhythm
Ahead of Plan

#7 INSTINCTIVE RHYTHM: Hammered for $350,000 at auction last year and has been training very well for George Weaver ahead of his debut. There are lots of bullets on the tab, and Castellano’s presence could be telling; #2 O’TROUBLE: Showed speed last time out in his first race since August, where he tired to finish third in a swiftly-run race. He should be in line for a step forward second off the bench; #4 AHEAD OF PLAN: Has burned money as the favorite in all three prior starts and has not run since August of last year. He’s been gelded and goes out for Chad Brown, but given his likely status as a short-priced favorite, I’m going elsewhere.


Primacy (MTO)

#8 SIMPLICITY: Is a European invader getting Lasix for the first time, which is one of my favorite angles. Her prior connections thought enough of her to run her in five stakes races in France last season, and the Rosario/Clement tag team is formidable; #5 BAREEQA: Is a fun mare to root for, with 13 wins in 44 career starts and earnings of nearly a half-million dollars. She’s shown a powerful closing kick, and I don’t think she’s lost a step as a 7-year-old; #1 BALON ROSE: Goes second off the layoff for Chad Brown and didn’t have a great trip in her return at Churchill Downs. She could win, but her only prior score came with a perfect trip at Aqueduct and this race came up pretty salty.


Fierce Lady
Bustin to Please
My Roxy Girl

#3 FIERCE LADY: Hits me as the one to beat in a huge field, provided she’s ready to run off the bench. She’s been going against stakes-quality opposition since breaking her maiden last year, and she could have the speed to wire this group; #12 BUSTIN TO PLEASE: Came running late to score against claimers at Belmont and certainly deserves a try against this kind of opposition. She’s 6-for-11 lifetime, and sometimes horses just know how to find the wire; #8 MY ROXY GIRL: Returns from the sidelines for Linda Rice, who’s enjoyed a strong start to the summer. Her two-back win against open starter allowance foes was good, and she won here impressively a season ago.


French Reef
Its a Wrap

#4 FRENCH REEF: Showed speed in his debut at Aqueduct, and while he hasn’t been seen since November, he’s worked well for the Brown barn and looms large. It’s tough to debut going long, and I think he may have gotten a lot out of that experience; #1 MODESTO: Has looked like a runner in morning drills for first-out wizard Wesley Ward. He’s by Uncle Mo and has shown zip in several gate drills, which leads me to believe the rail draw may not be a problem; #9 ITS A WRAP: Draws wide second off the bench after being DQ’d from second against similar downstate. He’s got early speed and may have a chance to clear the field from that outside post going into the turn.


Honest Mischief
Wendell Fong

#4 HONEST MISCHIEF: Heads a stakes-caliber allowance event, and has looked like a top-tier sprinter at times during his career. There’s no shame in running second behind Volatile, as he did in his comeback race, and it helps that he doesn’t necessarily need the lead; #5 MIHOS: Cuts back in distance after a dud in the Grade 3 Westchester, and this hits me as the route he wants. His score going seven furlongs two back was strong, and the recent bullet at Belmont indicates he’s in good form; #1 WENDELL FONG: Chased Whitmore twice this spring at Oaklawn and makes his first start for Robertino Diodoro, who tends to move horses up quickly. He’s got enough zip to go early from his inside post, which could make him competitive the whole way around.


Mine the Coin
Deputy Flag

#11 FINANCIALSTABILITY: Appears the most likely winner on the card thanks to his back form and a significant class drop for powerful connections. He draws well with the outside post and doesn’t appear to be facing a strong group for the condition; #9 MINE THE COIN: Was second against similar at Belmont in a race that saw him step forward pretty dramatically. If another step forward is in the offing third off the bench, he could be a player at a price; #3 DEPUTY FLAG: Misfired in a turf experiment that came first off a five-month break. I can easily forgive that race, and despite my concerns about his staying power, I concede he looks like the main early speed.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 7/30/18


BANKROLL: $844.50

Three notes today. First (and most importantly), the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund is holding its annual Jockey Karaoke Night this evening at Vapor. It’s always a fun time and a great way to support a lot of former riders that are in need of assistance. Just bring earplugs, especially if Mike Luzzi and David Cohen attempt to re-enact their “performance” from five years ago (I still have nightmares).

Next, this week’s edition of “The Dark Day Files” will go online Monday night and examine the retirement of Justify, the social media reaction to it, and how it reflects a much bigger problem within the sport. Finally, I’ll be in the Saratoga backyard today for my once-a-year visit. If you see a tall guy in sunglasses near the paddock that resembles my headshot and doesn’t shut up, it’s probably me. Come say hi!

SUNDAY’S RESULTS: Scratches reduced the cost of my Pick Four ticket to $18, and that’s a good thing, as Wow Cat ran out of racetrack in the Shuvee. In total, we dropped $23.

MONDAY’S PLAY: How will I celebrate my one day at the Spa this summer? By using part of my bankroll on a steeplechase race! In all seriousness, I think #5 MODEM is a beatable favorite given his apparent addiction to running second, as well as the weight he’s giving to his rivals. I’ll play $4 doubles using #1 IRANISTAN and #2 PERSONAL START, as well as #1 NOMINAL DOLLARS and #4 SAL THE TURTLE in the second. Also, I need some action on #4 SURVEY in the sixth, just in case he makes an easy lead and forgets to stop. I’ll play $1 doubles singling him that start in the fifth with #1 RHYTHMIA, #2 GUMP, #5 BACKTOHISROOTS, #7 JOHNNY TICKETS, and #10 CATCH ME IF U CAN.



Best Bet: Lady Camille, Race 10
Longshot: Survey, Race 6


Personal Start

#1 IRANISTAN: Has reeled off four wins in a row (three over fences, one on the flat) and looms large for powerhouse steeplechase trainer Jonathan Sheppard. He wired a stakes field going longer, and it helps that Nagle (who could’ve ridden another contender in here) is aboard this one; #2 PERSONAL START: Is another on a hot streak, as he comes in having won three straight. Most recently, he aired by eight in a Grade 2 event, and he seems to be in career-best form; #5 MODEM: Will likely be favored, but he’s burned plenty of money since coming over from Europe. He’s run second five times, and while he can’t be left off of vertical exotics tickets, I can’t be too excited about him on top, especially given the short price and that he’s giving up to 20 pounds to the rest of the field.


Sal the Turtle
Nominal Dollars
Crafty Concorde

#4 SAL THE TURTLE: Had a rough trip against much better last time out and gets a rider switch to Ricardo Santana, Jr., who’s been riding very well to this point in the meet. He’s got plenty of back form and should be prominent early; #1 NOMINAL DOLLARS: Has three straight seconds against similar company and may go off favored. However, he’s burned plenty of money lately, and he may need more moisture in the track than he’s likely to get; #7 CRAFTY CONCORDE: Hasn’t run since October, but has worked well at Finger Lakes ahead of his seasonal debut. Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride, and if he’s ready, he could be a player.


Battle Station
New York Song

#8 BATTLE STATION: Has yet to run a bad race sprinting and graduated at this route last summer. For a turf sprint, there isn’t much speed signed on, and he may be the one they have to catch; #7 NEW YORK SONG: Came back running last time out, when he missed by a neck downstate. His lone start over this turf course was a win, and he’d benefit from someone challenging my top pick early; #3 MCERIN: Was thought of highly enough by his prior connections that they sent him to Royal Ascot. His first start for this barn was a decent effort at Monmouth, and he could improve off of that.


Zap Zap Zap
Lightning Buzz

#7 ZAP ZAP ZAP: Was claimed by the always-dangerous Brad Cox barn last time out, and that effort was too bad to be true. His two races here last year were OK and came against solid fields for that level; #2 BENEFACTOR: Drops way down in class and shortens up a bit off of an OK third against $25,000 claimers earlier in the meet. This is a much softer spot, and these connections had a lot of success this past weekend; #1 LIGHTNING BUZZ: Was claimed out of his last race by Jeremiah Englehart. He generally runs the same race every time out and merits respect on the trainer switch, but he certainly seems to enjoy settling for minor awards.


Catch Me If U Can

#5 BACKTOHISROOTS: Ran well to be second in his debut at Churchill Downs, even though he raced greenly that day. His most recent work earned a bullet, and Joe Sharp has done very well with similar stock so far this meet; #10 CATCH ME IF U CAN: Fetched $55,000 at auction despite a very modest pedigree and has a few flashy works for a trainer that can win with first-time starters. Jose Ortiz has been enticed to ride, and that’s also a plus; #2 GUMP: Debuted with a solid performance before losing all chance at the break last time out. He drops in class and adds blinkers, and a repeat of his debut would give him a big shot.


Course Correction
Midnight Tea Time

#9 COURSE CORRECTION: Exits a fast race for the level at Belmont Park and looms large for top-flight connections. It’s tough to tell how any of these runners will take to this route, but this one seems formidable; #5 MIDNIGHT TEA TIME: Was impeded late in his last start, which was his first try going close to today’s distance. I’m not crazy about the field he ran against that day, but he did have a legitimate excuse; #4 SURVEY: Will be a big price, but he’s bred up and down to run as long as possible. Additionally, he’s shown some early speed, which this field is light on, and that’s always a recipe for success on the inner turf course.



#2 BRATTATA: Has never run a bad race on turf and most recently finished third behind Got Stormy, who won a Grade 3 at next asking. She ran well when second at this route last summer and gets a tepid nod in what strikes me as a wide-open turf sprint; #7 ORIGINATOR: Was second behind Road to Victory in a similar stakes race at Woodbine. Woodbine turf form sometimes doesn’t translate, but that one is a legitimate filly, and she’s never misfired going short on the grass; #4 MOMINOU: Has two wins and two seconds in four starts since switching to turf. She’s got plenty of speed and could be formidable, even though she’s trying stakes company for the first time.


Special Relativity

#8 SPECIAL RELATIVITY: Was third against similar at Belmont in his first start for these connections. Her record looks much better if you toss her turf races, and a repeat of the two-back win at Churchill would make her a major player; #5 CURIOUSNCURIOUSER: Romped against much weaker at Belmont in her first start for Chris Englehart. She’s 2 for 2 at this distance, and it’s possible that the trainer switch woke her up; #1 HAYNESFEST: Just missed going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs. The Tom Amoss barn merits lots of respect, and she’ll take money, but it’s worth noting she may be at her best going longer than today’s route.


Focus Group
Classic Covey

#4 FOCUS GROUP: Is 2 for 2 at this distance and longer and gets my top pick in a confusing turf marathon. There isn’t a ton of pace signed on, but he may be talented enough to overcome it, and at least you know he has the stamina for this trip; #7 CLASSIC COVEY: Was third in the Grade 2 Pan American two back before misfiring as an odds-on favorite last time out. However, that race aged well when Funtastic came out of it to take the Grade 1 United Nations, and he could easily bounce back in this spot; #1 SOGLIO: Was third in a Grade 3 last time out, and two starts ago romped at Churchill, but this barn had an ice-cold start to the meet and the rail draw isn’t ideal.


Lady Camille
Merlins Muse

#3 LADY CAMILLE: Adds Lasix second off the layoff after missing by a half-length downstate in her first start since September. She nearly overcame a very wide post that day, and a repeat effort would make her tough to beat; #7 MERLINS MUSE: Seems like a difficult horse to ride, as she’s found trouble in all three career starts. Still, she only finished a length behind my top selection two back, and she may still be improving; #6 FREDERICA: Took a big step forward when third at this level earlier this month. That wasn’t a particularly strong field, but this doesn’t seem like the most inspiring group, either.