I’m making an executive decision here. I’m typing my content for Sunday on Friday night out here in California before going back to packing boxes ahead of a move. Between Saturday’s bankroll blurb being a late Pick Four play on a loaded card and the uncertainties moving brings, I’m hammering this out now so I don’t leave my long-suffering editor on the hook on deadline.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: The post-deadline update, unfortunately, isn’t a positive one. Matareya losing as an odds-on favorite knocked out a bunch of Pick Four tickets, mine included. After scratches, I dropped $30.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ve got two tickets I’ll punch in hopes of finishing out the week with a bang. I’ll start $5 doubles in the fifth with #1 JUST AN ANGEL and #5 TRIBAL QUEEN, ones that finish with #9 DELIGHT as a single in the sixth. Additionally, in the eighth, I’ll play a $5 win ticket on #8 PORTILLA, and use that one in $3 exactas above and below #4 EMPIRE HOPE and #5 COLORFUL MISCHIEF.
TOTAL WAGERED: $27.
Best Bet: Goodnight Olive, Race 3
Longshot: Portilla, Race 8
#8 TALKIN PHAROAH: Ran very well in his debut, where he finished a stubborn second at Keeneland after dueling through solid fractions. Being by American Pharoah, he should love the turf, and the July 19th bullet drill in Kentucky jumps off the page; #7 CERTIFIED LOVERBOY: Flashed brief speed in his unveiling at Belmont Park and is another going dirt-to-turf for his second lifetime start. He’s by Mendelssohn, out of a Malibu Moon mare, and has every right to relish the lawn; #3 CHIRINGO: Hammered for $260,000 earlier this year and has been training forwardly for George Weaver, whose barn has started to heat up this week. Javier Castellano has been making the most of his mounts this season, so seeing him aboard this one is encouraging.
#1 CRITICAL THREAT: Was claimed for double today’s tag last time out, but that doesn’t concern me given the aggressive nature of these connections (especially when it comes to this meet). He has several one-mile races on his sheet from earlier this year at Gulfstream that are very good, and repeats of those races would make him tough; #3 BLUE JAYS: Takes a similar drop for the same barn, one that looks to have the rest of this field over a barrel. He hasn’t won in quite a while, but he attracts Luis Saez and could appreciate the shallower waters; #5 MAJESTIC TIGER: Came from well back to be beaten just a neck going seven furlongs here earlier this summer. He’s run well at a mile in the past, and he’d benefit from several of these challenging one another out of the Wilson chute.
Liberty M D
#2 GOODNIGHT OLIVE: Has won three races in a row and has not been tested at all during that stretch. She did sit a perfect trip last time out, but she’s also pretty flexible and doesn’t need an easy lead in order to run well. If she moves forward second off the bench, I think she’ll crush this field; #5 LIBERTY M D: Has a record that looks far better if you toss her clunker in last year’s Grade 3 Shuvee going a two-turn route she clearly didn’t like. She rallied to win last time out in a race that fell apart late, and this is another spot that seems heavy on early zip; #4 DR B: Has a ton of back class and ships up from Parx for a barn that’s proven dangerous when it shows up. She makes her third start off the bench here, and she exits a fourth-place finish in a stakes race at Monmouth Park.
Promise of Hope
#2 NAUGHTY GAL: Broke her maiden in runaway fashion and seems well-meant heading into the Grade 3 Adirondack. That day’s runner-up has since come back to win, and two of the top three finishers in her June debut also graduated next time out; #3 PROMISE OF HOPE: Won first time out in professional fashion and has been working well here for Tom Amoss, whose barn is due to get going. She’s bred to get better with experience and distance, and I’m expecting her to fire here; #4 SABRA TUFF: Went wire-to-wire in her debut before breaking last in a stakes race at Churchill. Despite the wildly-different setup, she rallied to finish a decent second that day, so there may be plenty of untapped potential here.
Just an Angel
#1 JUST AN ANGEL: Did very little wrong in her debut, where she dueled through legitimate fractions before settling for second. That day’s third-place finisher won the race declared a no-contest a few weeks ago, and Steve Asmussen trainees tend to move forward considerably with experience; #5 TRIBAL QUEEN: Finished second in her debut as the 7/5 favorite, but I’m willing to give her another shot. Her last two workouts are exceptional, Javier Castellano rides back for Tony Dutrow, and that experience should help given this quirky seven-furlong route; #8 PEACE CRUISER: Sports a pretty flashy work tab for connections that don’t often rush horses along. She sold for $180,000 this past May, and while seven furlongs is a tough trip for first-time starters, it’s possible she’s ready to navigate it.
#9 DELIGHT: Was all but eliminated at the start of her debut, but she stayed interested enough to salvage third money. Her pedigree says stretching out to two turns won’t be an issue, and if she gets clear sailing this time around, I’m expecting a big performance; #3 GIFTED: Has every right to be a strong runner for an ownership group that’s excelled with homebreds. She’s by Tapit, out of a mare that was Grade 1-placed at two, and has a female family that includes champion Dreaming of Anna, the dam of sire Fast Anna (among others). Bill Mott’s numbers with firsters are just so-so, but ignore this one at your own peril; #4 PINK HUE: Figures to take money in her debut for Chad Brown, and for good reason. She’s a three-quarters sister to Group 1-placed turf sprinter Man of Promise, and her dam is kin to a pair of stakes winners as well.
With The Moonlight
#2 MCKULICK: Has never run a poor race and put forth a career-best effort to win the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks last month. She did so rating behind a moderate early pace, and given that this barn has half the six-horse field in this Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks, I’m expecting one of her barn buddies to go early; #3 WITH THE MOONLIGHT: Shipped across the Atlantic and ran second to McKulick that day. William Buick sticks around for the mount, and he piloted her to a very impressive score in her 3-year-old debut this past spring at Newmarket; #4 WALKATHON: Comes in on a three-race win streak and bested my top pick in the Grade 3 Regret. That was a quirky turf course that Churchill Downs has since stopped running on, but there’s no denying the progress she’s made since being switched to the grass by Ian Wilkes earlier this year.
#8 PORTILLA: Ran a big race in her 4-year-old debut, when she battled through the stretch to just miss at Churchill. That day’s third-place finisher came right back to win at Horseshoe Indiana, and I think this one figured some things out in her time away from the races. A move forward gives her a big chance at a nice price; #5 COLORFUL MISCHIEF: Tried winners and two turns for the first time a few weeks ago and settled for third money. She cuts back to one turn and won at this distance two back over an impressive next-out winner; #4 EMPIRE HOPE: Won at first asking for Chad Brown and steps up in class. Second-out improvement is never out of the question with this barn, but her lone race to date didn’t come back with the best speed figures. I think she’ll need to move forward considerably, and that I’ll need more value than I’m likely to get.
Love And Thunder
#4 PLUM ALI: Chased some very nice fillies last time out when fourth in the Grade 2 Nassau at Woodbine, which boasts a one-turn mile. This horse’s best recent efforts have come around two-turn configurations, including a score in a similar-level stakes race at Aqueduct in April; #1 LOVE AND THUNDER: Runs the same race every time out, it seems, and it wouldn’t be stunning if her usual effort got her the money here. However, her running lines indicate she regularly finds trouble, and the rail draw on the inner turf course isn’t kind to horses like this. Still, if I’m asked to take a short price, I prefer this one to…; #5 JOUSTER: …who did run well to win the Perfect Sting but did so with a picture-perfect trip. Prior to that effort, she hadn’t won in more than a year. It’s possible she’s moved forward, but I just can’t stomach the short price she’ll likely be come post time.
#1 DIGITAL SOFTWARE: Comes back off a long layoff and is protected from being claimed, which is one of my favorite angles in racing. It hints at some confidence from the barn, and this one has run well here in the past. He’s clearly had his issues, but if Chad Brown’s got him going the right way, the 4-1 morning line could be an overlay; #10 MERCI: Takes a big drop in class and keeps Joel Rosario, which are both noteworthy ahead of the Sunday finale. He fits on figures, but Christophe Clement has won with just one of his last 10 “allowance to claiming” droppers on this circuit since July of 2020; #13 SKYLANDER: Needs a scratch to draw in off the also-eligible list but deserves a long look if he does. He’s never run for a tag before, and his last-out effort was a dirt allowance race won by graded stakes winner Keepmeinmind. This is a far, far softer spot, and he’s a contender if he’s allowed to run.