SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/2/22)


BANKROLL: $756.95

You’re going to hear a lot about Flightline in the next few days. The undefeated John Sadler trainee will go postward in Saturday’s Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar, and he’s been installed as the 1/5 morning line favorite. If Flightline takes to the 1 1/4-mile distance at all, he almost certainly wins. However, I find it very tough to get enthusiastic about a horse that may only run three times in an entire season.

I miss when horses just showed up. I want our best horses able to run consistently at ages two, three, four, and beyond. With very rare exceptions, that doesn’t really happen anymore. Horses either run fast or run often, with very little in the way of a middle ground. The breed’s simply far weaker than it used to be, and trainers are doing what they can to keep those runners healthy.

Flightline may win, and he may do so in sensational fashion. However, how can fans of all levels get behind racing’s most talented runner if that horse barely runs? Fans want stars they can follow and be excited by. With horses running fewer and fewer times per season, those runners are tougher to come by, and that’s a real shame.

THURSDAY’S RESULTS: Beatable favorite Dream of Change was nowhere in the seventh, but so was Masabeeh, who I leaned on heavily in this space. I dropped $30.

FRIDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to keep this simple with a trio of $10 win bets throughout the card. I’ll have action on #10 LISHEEN (race 5), #1 WICKED HALO (race 9), and #4 MEDIA SENSATION (race 10). The bookend horses may provide value in wide-open races, and I think Wicked Halo may prove very tough in the Friday feature, the Grade 2 Prioress.



Best Bet: Wicked Halo, Race 9
Longshot: Lisheen, Race 5


Boy Is She a Lady
My Sweet Summer
Nice ’n Spicy

#5 BOY IS SHE A LADY: Has worked very well ahead of her unveiling in what looks like a wide-open race for state-bred maidens. Her dam is a Grade 3 winner that has thrown five winners to date, and judging by the drills, she looks like a runner, too; #1 MY SWEET SUMMER: Debuts for a barn whose lone starter at this stand won the Grade 3 Schuylerville. This daughter of Accelerate has worked strongly at Keeneland, and she may be talented enough to overcome the tricky inside draw; #10 NICE ’N SPICY: Was one-paced in her debut on turf and may not have wanted the grass. This barn’s runners usually improve with experience, and offspring of first-crop sire Sharp Azteca have shown plenty of ability.


Piece of My Heart (MTO)
Mail Order
Mischievous Dream

#3 MAIL ORDER: Sure looks like the main early speed in a rare turf sprint that doesn’t seem to have much zip signed on. She’s had a history of pressing very fast paces, and I think she’ll be able to get much more comfortable against this bunch; #5 MISCHIEVOUS DREAM: Was rated behind a very slow pace last time out and has a right to improve here. That day’s top two finishers came right back to win at next asking, and this one’s two-back victory was a solid one; #2 HIT THE WOAH: Came back running when third in a similar race last month at this route. She’s a bit too pace-dependent for me to endorse on top, but any forward movement second off the bench would make her a logical “underneath” horse here.


Tiz a Giant
Most Wanted Man

#3 TIZ A GIANT: Gets the “now or never” treatment after four consecutive second-place finishes (two at this meet). It helps, however, that he’s shown some early interest in a few of his races, which could help him in a turf marathon with no apparent speed horses in the field; #2 MOST WANTED MAN: Stretches out in distance for his third start off the bench, which is often when horses fire their best shots. He ran third in the same race my top pick exits, and there’s nothing saying he can’t get this 11-furlong trip; #4 OUTPERFORM: Is one of two in here trained by Todd Pletcher, and he’s had some gate issues in each of his last two outings. Still, he was beaten less than two lengths last time out in his turf debut, and perhaps they’ve found what this son of Gun Runner wants to do.


Khali Magic
Bustin Bay

#4 KHALI MAGIC: Won two back but regressed last time out when fourth as a 7/5 favorite. However, she was stuck inside at a time when that wasn’t the place to be on this track. I think she’s in line to improve with both a better trip and the stretch-out to seven furlongs; #8 MOSIENKO: Looked sharp in victory last time out and has moved forward since a rider switch to Luis Saez earlier this summer. I do think she’s at her best going a bit shorter, but she draws favorably here, and a repeat of her last-out effort would make her a formidable foe; #5 BUSTIN BAY: Ran away with a one-mile race out of the Wilson chute against what sure seemed like a weaker group than this one. Maybe it’s a class jump, but she’s 2-for-4 with a third at Saratoga and is 3-for-4 at this seven-furlong distance, so she certainly cannot be ignored.


Santa Giulia

#10 LISHEEN: Came back running in her first start since September when she cruised home against overmatched foes at Laurel. That day’s runner-up came right back to win, and this event should have plenty of pace signed on. Between the race shape and the potential for a step forward, I think the 12-1 morning line price is a considerable overlay; #7 TRANSIENT: Makes her first start for Saffie Joseph and hasn’t raced since a November outing at Woodbine. She’s been working consistently ahead of her 2022 debut, though, and she’s flashed enough form in her prior races to make me think she’s a contender if she’s ready to run; #8 SANTA GIULIA: Came over from Europe and was greeted with a race that had no early speed in it, which she clearly didn’t enjoy. This race shape seems a bit friendlier, and it’s good to see Flavien Prat stay aboard when he probably had a few options in this fantastic betting race.


Security Code
Stonewall Star
Super Slide

#10 SECURITY CODE: Settled for second behind a very nice 2-year-old that came back to win a stakes race last week. Improvement is logical at second asking, and that combined with the cushy outside draw makes me think this will be a tough favorite to go against; #2 STONEWALL STAR: Is a full sister to a multiple stakes-winning 2-year-old named La Fuerza, who was a very nice horse. This dam is one of six multiple winners out of her dam, so there’s plenty of talent in the pedigree, and the August 19th gate drill looks very flashy; #7 SUPER SLIDE: Is worth a look underneath at a big price. The pedigree says he probably wants to go longer, but he comes in off of a bullet five-furlong work over the Oklahoma track and there are other drills that suggest the fast clocking was no fluke.


Ria’s Angel (MTO)
Topic Changer

#5 TOPIC CHANGER: Had a legitimate excuse last time out, when he was bumped hard preparing to make his run and didn’t kick on. He drops into a restricted claiming race here, and anything close to his good-looking, two-back score downstate would give him and new jockey Joel Rosario a big chance; #3 FIELDSTONE: Hasn’t won in quite a while but did respond to the drop to this level when third last month in a similar race. The rider switch to Luis Saez is a big one, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this gelding a bit closer to the pace early on; #2 HE’S GOT IT: Finally broke cleanly last time out in a stakes race for state-breds and was beaten less than five lengths by the classy Dakota Gold. He goes back on Lasix for this one, which comes against a weaker bunch, and his best effort could get him a slice at a price.


Wudda U Think Now (MTO)
Voodoo Zip
Dancing Buck

#6 VOODOO ZIP: Probably moved too soon in the Grade 2 Highlander at Woodbine, which was won by strong turf sprinter/ageless wonder Bound for Nowhere. His one-turn turf races prior to that performance were excellent, he reunites with Joel Rosario, and I think he’ll be the one to hold off in the Lucky Coin; #4 DANCING BUCK: Has won two in a row in two wildly different ways and certainly deserves this opportunity against stakes competition. He’s shown tactical speed, but he also doesn’t need the lead in order to run well, which could come in handy in a group with some fast turf sprinters; #5 THIN WHITE DUKE: Was beaten just a neck by Golden Pal in the Grade 3 Troy, and a repeat of that effort could get him into the winner’s circle for the first time in a while. On figures, though, that was a significant move forward. He may need to show he can string that effort together for multiple races, and this field isn’t comprised of slouches.


Wicked Halo
Hot Peppers

#1 WICKED HALO: Won the Grade 2 Adirondack here last summer and, I think, has a big chance to add another Grade 2 score here in the Prioress. She comes in off of two big stakes wins at Churchill Downs, and I just don’t love some of the races many runners in here exit; #6 ANGITUDE: Did the dirty work up front in the Wilton last time out before fading to third behind two classy fillies. The cutback to this distance should be a welcome one, and she’s trained very well for Brad Cox leading up to this event; #2 HOT PEPPERS: Fended off heavy favorite Matareya in the Grade 1 Test, but couldn’t do the same to late-running winner Chi Town Lady. She may go off favored after that performance, but the Test didn’t come back well on figures and this barn’s been on a long cold streak ever since the meet kicked off.


Media Sensation
Curlin’s Wisdom

#4 MEDIA SENSATION: Was claimed last time out by David Donk, who doesn’t reach in for many runners. That last-out effort is a total toss, given that it was rained off the turf. His races two and three back were solid, and I think he’s got a big shot at a big price; #6 CONQUIST: Set the pace last time out in his local debut before finishing second and being DQ’d to fourth for interference. The cutback to a mile should help him, and he once again looks like the main speed, just as he did last time; #8 CURLIN’S WISDOM: Got moved up to third in the race my top pick exits and goes two turns on turf for just the second time in what will be his 10th career start. He’s had lots of chances, sure, but he does seem to fire every time out, and that means he can’t be ignored in a head-scratcher of a finale.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/1/22)


BANKROLL: $786.95

If you’ve been played by Bruce Willis in a movie, befriended professional wrestlers and MMA fighters, and garnered respect from some of the most grizzled veterans in the gambling world, chances are you’ve lived a full life. Unfortunately, the full life I’m referencing ended Wednesday.

Alan Denkenson passed away after a long battle with cancer. He started out as a bookmaker in New York and New Jersey, and after serving a prison sentence for that, moved to Las Vegas and established himself as a sharp bettor. I tweeted a link to an interview he did with VSIN in 2020, and if you haven’t seen that, it’s worth a read.

I never knew the man they called “Dink.” I wish I had. A lot of people I like and respect posted heartfelt tributes to him on social media, and for good reason. The gambling world lost an incredibly smart man, and by all accounts, he was a good man, too.

WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: My Pick Three fizzled when it turned out I had the wrong alternative to a beatable favorite in the middle leg. However, both singles won, and playing $15 win tickets on those runners allowed me to turn a $51.50 profit.

THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the seventh, where #6 MASABEEH hits me as a very interesting value play. In addition to a $10 win bet, I’ll play $3 exactas using her on top of #2 BELLA CONCHITA, #4 COMMAND POINT, and #9 DREAM OF CHANGE, as well as $2 exactas with Masabeeh beneath that trio. I’ll also have a $5 cold double starting in the sixth that singles #6 INFLATION NATION to start and Masabeeh to finish.



Best Bet: Sirius Light, Race 3
Longshot: Gucci Boy, Race 6


Scorpion’s Revenge
Freddy Flintshire
Decisive Triumph

#6 SCORPION’S REVENGE: Came from way back to win a listed stakes race last time out, and he’s 3-for-3 going 2 1/4 miles or longer over fences. This 2 3/8-mile trip should hit him right between the eyes, and I think he’ll be tough to hold off; #2 FREDDY FLINTSHIRE: Made it two in a row with a solid score over allowance foes earlier this summer. He goes out for one of the top barns on the steeplechase circuit, gets one of the top riders, and is a major player provided he takes to the added distance; #5 DECISIVE TRIUMPH: Hasn’t won in a while but has hit the board four times in as many starts this season, all in stakes races. Most recently, he was second in the Kiser a few weeks ago, and he figures to be prominent from the jump (no pun intended).


Ragtime Blues
Bronx Bomber

#1 RAGTIME BLUES: Is ultra-consistent with six top-three finishes in his last six starts, including a second-place effort going longer last time out. The cutback to six furlongs should suit him, and he’s a candidate to sit a perfect stalking trip just off the speed; #2 BRONX BOMBER: Looms large on speed figures, as he usually does, and he’ll likely be favored here. However, he’s 0-for-6 in his career over this track, and he’s 1-for-18 dating back to the start of 2021. I’m hesitant to trust him too much, especially at a short price; #7 CASALSA: Is a proven early speed threat and goes first off the claim for Peter Walder, who can win with new acquisitions. The far outside draw should be a big plus, and he’s done some of his best running with today’s pilot, Luis Saez, in the irons.


Sirius Light
Bourbon and Honey

#4 SIRIUS LIGHT: Came flying late after a rough beginning to be second last time out in her first turf race. Not only does this race figure to set up for her running style, it figures to do so with some of the ones she beat last time out likely to dictate terms again. A smoother journey could make her tough to hold off; #8 BOURBON AND HONEY: Debuted in an off-the-turf race at Horseshoe Indiana and was third behind a pair of next-out winners. The pedigree says she wants grass, and she has every right to improve at second asking for a barn that’s going very well right now; #6 INFLUENTIALOUS: Set the early pace last time out before fading to fourth in the race my top pick exits. Top speed rider Kendrick Carmouche retains the mount, and I expect her to be prominent from the jump once again.


Claytnthelionheart (MTO)
Value Engineering
Street Ready

#4 VALUE ENGINEERING: Ran well when third last time out in his 2022 bow and has every right to be sharper second off the bench. The recent bullet drill over the Oklahoma turf course indicates he’s doing well, and he should get plenty of pace to run at; #6 STREET READY: Did almost all of the work up front last time out and got nailed on the wire by Soldier Rising, who came back to run third in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer. That day’s jockey rides back, and the slight cutback in distance should be a welcome one; #5 BYE BYE MELVIN: Came up just a neck short in his first start since June of 2021 when fourth in a stakes-caliber optional claimer. The blinkers come off, but John Velazquez stays on, and this Grade 3 winner merits respect even if he may not be alone up front.


Bees and Honey
Sweet Willemina
W W Fitzy

#4 BEES AND HONEY: Gets significant class relief after running fourth in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap. She captured the Grade 3 Comely late last year, and this is probably the weakest field she’s faced since winning that event; #3 SWEET WILLEMINA: Stretches out to two turns, but she’s shown she can handle such a trip and is a closer in what looks like a race with plenty of early speed. The race shape favors her, and she’s a hard-knocking mare that’s won 12 of 33 lifetime starts; #6 W W FITZY: Faded to finish a distant third last time out in a race out of the Wilson chute. She’ll likely be very prominent early on again in this spot, but the presence of fellow speedster #2 FAMILY TIME means she may have to work hard to clear this bunch from her outside post.


Inflation Nation
Gucci Boy

#6 INFLATION NATION: Did everything but win in his debut, when he lost a photo and finished more than six lengths clear of the third-place finisher. There are some promising first-time starters in here, but he’s the one to beat if he runs back to that performance; #10 ANTARES: Makes his debut for Wesley Ward, which automatically merits attention. The far outside post is a problem, but this American Pharoah gelding is kin to a stakes-place turfer and boasts an eye-catching turf work on August 12th; #3 GUCCI BOY: Is worth a look at a bonkers price. This son of Hard Spun is out of a mare that won first time out at this route. That dam went on to place in a stakes race, and the work tab has some hints that say this one can run a bit.


Monshun (MTO)
Dream of Change

#6 MASABEEH: Was a close-up third at this level and route last time out and gets a notable rider switch to Jose Ortiz for this event. This race doesn’t have a ton of early speed signed on, and Ortiz, an aggressive rider, should be able to put this filly in an ideal spot going into the first turn; #9 DREAM OF CHANGE: Just missed in a first-level allowance race at Monmouth Park last time out and figures to be favored given the powerful connections involved. However, her speed figures aren’t overwhelming, and that wasn’t the best field she faced last time out. She can win, but her likely price hits me as a bit of an underlay; #2 BELLA CONCHITA: Made a middle move last time out and flattened out late after going wide turning for home. Perhaps she needs more pace than she’ll get here, but I do think she’s better than the last-out performance might indicate.


Short Summer Dress
Rossa Veloce
Melting Snow

#1 SHORT SUMMER DRESS: Takes a big class drop to run here for local, aggressive connections that are probably eager to find the winner’s circle a few times between now and Monday evening. She was a good third against a tougher group of optional claimers last time out, and that day’s runner-up has since come back to win; #2 ROSSA VELOCE: Ran too poorly to be true last time out, when she faltered as a 7/5 favorite. She comes back in this spot for new trainer Michelle Nevin, and unlike many others in here, she doesn’t need the lead in order to run well. A return to her early-2022 form gives her a shot at a nice price; #4 MELTING SNOW: Is winless in five 2022 starts but was claimed by a sharp outfit last time out and could benefit from a hot pace. The faster they go early, the better this one’s chances figure to be, and I don’t think they’ll be walking up front.


Tell Me When
Ticker Tape Home

#1 TELL ME WHEN: Has run well in a pair of outings, including one earlier this meet when she was second behind a very well-meant runner in an off-the-turf race. She’s worked consistently since that effort, and I think further improvement is in the offing here; #11 COWICHAN: Needs a scratch to draw in but merits plenty of respect if she does. She was beaten just a half-length in a similar spot earlier this summer, and she’s improved in all three of her starts to date for trainer Wesley Ward; #4 TICKER TAPE HOME: May have bounced or gone too far last time out, when she faded to finish eighth at a pretty short price going two turns. She cuts back to a sprint, and anything close to her debut effort from early-July at Woodbine would make her formidable for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse.


Leave No Trace (MTO)
Be Your Best
Lady Jasmine

#6 BE YOUR BEST: Debuted with a smashing performance against a decent group, one where her 3 1/4-length win was rewarded with a 70 Beyer Speed Figure. This barn doesn’t always have firsters fully-cranked, so that effort’s a notable one. A similar trip may make her tough to fend off in the P.G. Johnson; #1 LADY JASMINE: Won first time out for another outfit whose runners tend to improve with experience. John Velazquez sees fit to ride back, and she may have enough speed to use the inside draw to her advantage; #8 RECOGNIZE: Took a significant step forward when switched to the turf last time out and comes back here on short rest for a pretty patient barn. I’m interpreting that as a sign of confidence, and she may be able to clear most of her rivals early on.


Power Agenda
Got the Gold
Once a Giant

#8 POWER AGENDA: Was through early last time out, but gets one more chance from me in a wide-open Thursday finale. He got stuck dueling on the inside, which wasn’t the place to be on this track that day. The outside draw should help him here, and Luis Saez riding back is a point in his favor; #3 GOT THE GOLD: Might have been a bit too close to the pace last time out when sixth at this route in mid-August. His prior local effort was a decent second against a similar bunch, and I think he’ll have some speed to chase and potentially reel in here; #9 ONCE A GIANT: Ran fourth at this level going a mile in July and was claimed out of that race by a barn hitting with 28% of new acquisitions. He’s since put forth a big half-mile drill in mid-August, and he’s a contender if he runs back to his lone winning effort (which came at Aqueduct back in April).

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.