In any industry, one is prone to bonding with colleagues. Horse racing is no different, and I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by some extraordinary people over the course of my career. One of them is making his maiden voyage to Saratoga for Woodward Day, so it’s appropriate that I dedicate this section to him.
Danny Kovoloff is one of the kindest, most good-hearted people you’d ever hope to meet. He kept me sane for several years at a prior stop in my career, and was one of a few people I leaned on during a particularly rough situation about a year and a half ago. I owe him a lot, so here’s my request: If any of you readers out there run into him today, please ask him many questions about the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic, which doubles as his favorite race of all-time.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: We were alive to OK will-pays in our doubles, but could do no better than third in the second leg and dropped $20.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I think today’s Pick Four sequences are pretty attractive, and I’ll focus on the early one starting in the second race. My 50-cent ticket is as follows: 7,9 with 4,8,9 with 2,4,5,8 with 1,4,7. I’m trying to beat morning line favorite Weather Wiz in the payoff leg, and if that one fails to win, this could pay pretty well.
TOTAL WAGERED: $36
Best Bet: Raging Bull, Race 9
Longshot: Hence, Race 11
#6 SIGNALMAN: Ran on late to be second behind an eventual graded stakes winner in his debut. He’s coming off a bit of a layoff, but he’s been working very well here for a barn that’s done well at the meet; #5 FROLIC MORE: Has been working lights-out here for a trainer that won with a debuting runner on Travers Day. If he runs to the work tab, he’s got a big shot to win first time out; #8 FED FEVER: Was bet a bit at first asking and finished well behind the promising Nitrous. He’s worked well since that race, and improvement seems logical at second asking.
#9 PLATINUM PRINCE: Was claimed last time out by Robertino Diodoro, who has strong numbers with new acquisitions. He hasn’t won in a while, but he drops to run here for aggressive connections; #7 ZOOT SUIT: Hasn’t run in a while and drops in class, but he could be tough if he channels some of his back turf form. He’s got plenty of early zip and should be prominent early; #8 NATURAL ORDER: Cuts way back in distance, but has some back turf sprints that aren’t bad. This barn has done well with a limited number of runners this meet, and Franco sees fit to ride back.
#4 BUSINESS CYCLE: Has run well in both of his career starts and looms large in this spot. His most recent race was his first outing since November, and any movement forward off of that race would make him incredibly tough to beat; #9 HOUSE LIMIT: Has been working very well ahead of his debut and draws well towards the outside. This isn’t the easiest spot in the world, but this barn’s gotten hot lately and must be respected; #8 BRASSTOWN: Makes his first start for Jorge Navarro after several outings at Woodbine. His lone dirt effort saw him check right out of the gate, which makes it an easy throw-out, and his recent works are sharp.
#5 TEAM COLORS: Came flying late to miss by just a half-length last time out. He was claimed by Robertino Diodoro, and he could benefit from a race shape that figures to be kind to closers; #8 ATTRIBUTE: Certainly seems like the main speed in here, especially given the presence of aggressive rider Kendrick Carmouche. He chased a very talented horse home last time out, and he could overcome a pace that will likely be swift; #4 NIGHT PROWLER: Hasn’t won in nearly two years, but drops in class and adds blinkers for Chad Brown. He’ll likely get a pace to close into, and these are shallower waters than he’s used to.
#7 PLAINSMAN: Makes his first start following a trainer switch to Brad Cox. This is a pace play, as while he hasn’t won in a while, every other horse wants to be on or near the lead, which could set things up for this one to pick up the pieces; #1 UNCLE SIGH: Was second against similar foes earlier in the meet and generally runs the same race every time out. He may need to go early to secure position from the rail, but his best could certainly win this; #4 WOODERSON: Graduated earlier in the meet, and while he sat a perfect trip, he came home very quickly. Rachel Alexandra’s younger half-brother may be coming into his own, but he’ll likely need to go much faster early on.
#2 NOBLE SPIRIT: Was a solid third in his debut going two turns, which is never an easy route to travel first time out. George Weaver saddles a pair of contenders in this race, and this one’s worked well since his unveiling; #7 NOBLE NEBRASKAN: May finally get a chance to run for Weaver after scratching several times earlier in the meet. He’s bred up and down to be a strong turf horse, and I’ve been waiting for him to debut for weeks; #3 SPIRIT ANIMAL: Was a distant fourth in an off-the-turf event, and every bit of his pedigree says he’s a grass horse, so I can draw a line through that race. This seems like the trip he wants, and these connections merit respect.
Long Haul Bay
Uno Mas Modelo
#6 LONG HAUL BAY: Ran terribly in a state-bred stakes race, but that was such a departure from his prior form that I’m ignoring it. I think it’s likely he bounces back to his early-season form, and if he does, he’s got a big shot in a wide-open event; #3 UNO MAS MODELO: Has won two in a row, including a swiftly-run allowance race earlier in the meet at a big price. Javier Castellano rides in this spot for a barn that’s hit with four of its 12 local runners this summer; #7 DEVILS HALO: Has won two of his three starts and has shown a lot of early zip. This is a class test, but he’s bred to get better with experience, and the outside draw could be a big help.
Strike Me Down
#4 STRIKE ME DOWN: Made a big middle move last time out against similar-level foes, only to be beaten a neck. He always seems to fire, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he shows a bit more early speed in this spot; #10 HIZEEM: Broke his maiden earlier in the meet and tries winners for the first time. He’s worked very well since that race and has a big shot, but he must negotiate a trip from the far outside post; #2 VEGAS KITTEN: Add blinkers for the first time after an OK showing at this level in late-July. His lone win came when he was close to the pace, and the blinkers could get him involved early on.
#3 RAGING BULL: Had a lot going against him in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame, but rallied and got up in the last jump over yielding going. The faster they go early, the more he figures to like it, and there’s some speed signed on here; #7 THERAPIST: Has won six of eight career starts, and while he’s beaten weaker groups in his last two outings, there’s a chance he’s peaking coming into this race. His flexibility is a plus, and he may be a bit of a price given the class jump; #4 GOLDEN BROWN: Prevailed in the Grade 3 Kent two back, where he beat eventual Grade 1 Secretariat winner Carrick. A dirt experiment in the Grade 1 Haskell didn’t go well, but this seems like the right level and spot for him.
#7 CHASING YESTERDAY: Is the younger sister of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and ran very well in her debut at Del Mar. Baffert and Smith mean business when they come to Saratoga, and she’s been working very well ahead of this Grade 1 event; #11 RESTLESS RIDER: Has done nothing wrong to this point, as she’s gone 2 for 2 with two daylight wins. She has a recent bullet work to her credit over the training track, and the outside draw could be a boost; #3 VIRGINIA ELOISE: Made up lots of ground in the Grade 2 Adirondack, where she missed by just a half-length. There’s a ton of speed signed on, and this one’s bred to want the additional distance some of her opponents may be dreading.
Seeking the Soul
#9 GUNNEVERA: Came back running against a much weaker group at Gulfstream in a prep for this Grade 1 event. He was second in last year’s Travers and won the 2016 Saratoga Special here, so the surface isn’t a problem, and there’s a chance he’s only getting better in his 4-year-old campaign; #10 SEEKING THE SOUL: Missed by a head last time out in his first start since January, but that race was not the goal. He’s worked very well since that race, and he figures to be going the right direction late; #5 HENCE: Is inconsistent and sometimes throws in dull efforts, but when he’s right, he’s quite good. He could clunk up for a piece of it in a wide-open renewal of the Woodward.
#5 SANTA MONICA: Has won two of three starts since coming to North America, including the Grade 2 Dance Smartly. She’s taken steps forward in every one of those outings, and her best race would make her very tough; #3 ONTHEMOONAGAIN: Had a rough trip in her North American debut, where she did not get through along the rail. She should improve off of that showing, and her races in France indicate that the added distance won’t be a problem; #8 LADY MONTDORE: Romped at this route earlier in the meet in a race that doubled as her first start in 11 months. A bounce is possible, but she’s another that showed potential overseas and could simply be putting things together with experience.