Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 8/4/18

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $754.50

When I was a kid, there was one summer where former New York Daily News racing writer/handicapper Bill Finley ran so terribly in the “Battle of Saratoga” that he ran out of money before the meet was over. As a kid, I laughed pretty hard at that and wondered how it could happen.

Well, given the slump I’ve been in in this section since the meet started, I get it now. I don’t think we’ll get to the point where we run out of funds, but some cold streaks do make it easy to see how that may happen. If there’s consolation, it’s that I heated up as last year’s meet rolled along, so hopefully things will begin to pick up sooner rather than later.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: An attempt to get some value out of Sudden Surprise fizzled early, when multi-race exotics horses were nowhere in the second race. We dropped $27.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll take a stand against likely third-race favorite #6 CUARENTA, who debuts for a tag that’s 25% of his 2017 purchase price. That hits me as a big red flag. I’ll box #5 ROGUE NATION, #7 ONE MORE TOM, and #9 PRETERNATURAL in $5 exactas.

TOTAL WAGERED: $30

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Friday’s Results: 2 for 10
Meet Results (to date): 35 for 128

Best Bet: Business Cycle, Race 6
Longshot: Mr. Cub, Race 11

R1

Moss entry (MTO)
Souper Tapit
Hembree

#2 SOUPER TAPIT: Ran well in his return to the races last month at Churchill. When he’s right, he’s a stakes-caliber runner on any surface, and his pedigree hints that he may be getting even better; #4 HEMBREE: Hasn’t run a bad race in a more than a year and exits a win in a swiftly-run allowance downstate. He figures to be prominent early, and he hasn’t finished out of the top two in three local starts; #3 BIRD’S EYE VIEW: Was beaten a half-length by a strong runner last time out and has kept strong company in the past. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because he may want even more ground than he gets in this race. DIRT SELECTIONS: MOSS ENTRY, SOUPER TAPIT, FUNDY’S TIDE.

R2

Noble Nebraskan
Brown entry
Medina Ridge

#4 NOBLE NEBRASKAN: Is bred to be a top-class runner. He’s by promising young sire Noble Mission, his second dam is G1 winner Honest Lady, and his third dam is Toussaud, the dam of Belmont winner/top sire Empire Maker; BROWN ENTRY: #1 SPIRIT ANIMAL is bred to like turf and is a threat if he draws in, while #1A STANDARD DEVIATION fetched $450,000 at auction, has trained like he could be a runner, and may be favored if the race is switched to the main track; #6 MEDINA RIDGE: Is out of a dam who won multiple graded stakes races going long on the grass. This barn isn’t necessarily known for having horses ready right away, but has had success with firsters on turf. DIRT SELECTIONS: STANDARD DEVIATION, SOCIAL PARANOIA, BRONXVILLE.

R3

Preternatural
Rogue Nation
One More Tom

#9 PRETERNATURAL: Drops in for a tag and cuts back to a sprint, which seems like the trip he wants. His debut effort going short wasn’t bad, and that race’s winner has since run well twice against allowance foes; #5 ROGUE NATION: Debuts in this spot for a trainer that can win with first-time starters at this level. His workouts appear solid, and running to those drills may be enough to beat what seems like an underwhelming group; #7 ONE MORE TOM: Has plenty of seasoning and runs for a tag for the first time. His lack of early speed is a concern, but Javier Castellano signing on can’t be ignored.

R4

Broman entry
Vitsal
Not So Quiet Man

BROMAN ENTRY: #1 FAST GETAWAY took to the turf last time out, when he closed to break his maiden at Belmont Park. He merits respect on the lawn, while #1A THE CARETAKER seems like the most logical selection if the race is taken off the turf; #2 VITSAL: Is certainly fast enough to win this race, but I’ll take a shot against him. He’s found trouble in each of his last three starts, and that trend is worrisome for a horse that’s drawn the rail; #10 NOT SO QUIET MAN: Has run well twice at Saratoga and comes in off a win at Monmouth Park. This is a class hike for him, but this barn doesn’t ship to NYRA tracks to sight-see. DIRT SELECTIONS: THE CARETAKER, CALL ME A STAR, BELLEVILLE SPRING.

R5

Precieuse
Uni
On Leave

#5 PRECIEUSE: Won a Group 1 in France two back and gets Lasix for her American debut. This isn’t a bad group, but it’s far from what she’s been running against overseas, and it seems like she’s been working well; #1 UNI: Has been working her way back since coming up sick prior to the Grade 1 Gamely, which she had to scratch out of. On her best day, she can certainly win this, but there’s a chance she needs the race; #7 ON LEAVE: Has been running against some of the best female turf horses in the country and was most recently seen running fifth in the Grade 1 Just A Game. Her best race would make her competitive, but she may be a hair past her peak.

R6

Business Cycle
Hersh
Alkhaatam

#5 BUSINESS CYCLE: Was second in his debut late last year and hasn’t run since, but he’s been working incredibly well for Chad Brown. A repeat of that debut effort would make him very tough to beat; #4 HERSH: Rallied to finish second in his debut last month. He had some trouble that day and could step forward at second asking; #1 ALKHAATAM: Was bet to 2-1 odds in the Grade 2 Remsen, but ran fourth behind Catholic Boy and hasn’t been seen since. He’s got some solid works to his credit, but he’s bred to go much further, so this seems like a prep.

R7

Justice of War
Brown entry
Mucho

#2 JUSTICE OF WAR: Fetched $550,000 at auction and goes out for one of the top trainer/jockey combinations to this point in the meet. He’s got a few very strong gate works that hint he has serious talent; BROWN ENTRY: While #1 FULLNESS OF TIME has some things to recommend, I actually prefer #1A AHEAD OF PLAN, who needs some luck to draw in off the AE list. The latter hammered for $475,000 despite a modest pedigree and has a number of eye-catching workouts; #6 MUCHO: Ran well to be second behind Whiskey Echo in his debut, and that rival went on to run an OK third in the Grade 3 Sanford. Bill Mott’s horses tend to get better with experience, and that experience could help him given the abundance of debuting runners here.

R8

Separationofpowers
Classy Act
Mia Mischief

#6 SEPARATIONOFPOWERS: Gets a tepid top pick in a puzzling renewal of the Grade 1 Test. She missed the break in the Grade 3 Victory Ride, yet rallied to be beaten less than two lengths. She should take a big step forward here with a cleaner trip; #4 CLASSY ACT: Ran a colossal race in defeat in the Victory Ride, when she helped set a very fast early pace, turned back her early rivals, and was nipped by a huge longshot. She’ll likely be prominent again in this race; #7 MIA MISCHIEF: Faded to finish fifth as the favorite in the Victory Ride, but her lesser races have come off of layoffs. She could be more fit here, and if she is, she’s absolutely good enough to win.

R9

Backyard Heaven
Mind Your Biscuits
Diversify

#2 BACKYARD HEAVEN: Bounced badly when sixth in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, and I’m choosing to draw a line through that race. If he runs back to the Grade 2 Alysheba, he may be the horse to beat, and we could get a bit of a price based on the last-out clunker; #4 MIND YOUR BISCUITS: Tries nine furlongs for the first time after just missing in the Grade 1 Met Mile. His pedigree says he doesn’t want to go this far, but you can’t blame the connections for trying given the purse and the likely race shape that could favor his closing kick; #6 DIVERSIFY: Turned in a huge performance in the Grade 2 Suburban, where he smashed several of today’s foes and earned a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. That was easily his best performance to date, though, and given the other speed in the field and lack of any value here, I’ll try to beat him.

R10

Santa Monica
Mom’s On Strike
Lottie

#5 SANTA MONICA: Has won two of three starts since coming to America and most recently took the Grade 2 Dance Smartly at Woodbine. She beat a pretty good group that day, and a similar performance here would likely make her a formidable foe; #2 MOM’S ON STRIKE: Has won five of her last seven starts and was beaten just two lengths in the Grade 2 New York, a race whose second and third-place finishers have already come back to win. Joe Sharp has gotten off to a great start at the meet, and she’s shown she can get this distance; #8 LOTTIE: May be a cut below these, but is one of only a few that’s ever shown early speed. She was up close throughout last time out, and a similar trip here seems likely.

R11

Ticonderoga
Mr. Cub
Zennor

#2 TICONDEROGA: Gets my top selection in a very deep renewal of the Lure Stakes. He’s kept tremendous company throughout his career, and I think he’s significantly better around two turns; #3 MR. CUB: Was beaten just a half-length in the Grade 2 Wise Dan, and with #8 VOODOO SONG likely scratching in favor of next weekend’s Grade 1 Fourstardave, this one figures to be the main early speed. He could get an easy trip, and such a journey would make him an overlay at his morning line price; #7 ZENNOR: Won three in a row, including this race last year, before being sidelined. If he’s back to that form, he’s a contender, but between the long layoff and the jockey switch, I’m treading fairly lightly.

Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Stephen Foster Night, Churchill Downs (6/16/18)

Saturday night’s card at Churchill Downs is a good one. Five graded stakes races are on tap, and they comprise a special all-stakes Pick Five. I’ll take a look at the sequence in a bit.

Before we get there, though, I’d like to announce that, for the next few weeks, I’ll be writing columns on Mondays centering around various subjects that I’m passionate about. I figured this would be a fun project between now and the start of Saratoga, where I’ll look to defend my public handicapping title/look to prove that those six weeks were no fluke.

Quick tangent: If you have an idea for such a column, or just have any sort of feedback on what I’m doing, utilize the “contact” function this site provides. I’m honored that people take the time to read the content I produce, and I read every email I get.

However, now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, let’s get down to business. We need to get a stake for the summer, and the all-stakes Pick Five could provide one. Let’s get to it!

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #5

R5: 7
R6: 1,2,4
R7: 2,3,7,8,9
R8: 6
R9: 1,8,10,11,12,13

90 Bets, $45

The two singles on my ticket will be popular ones. I’ll try to get a price or two home around them, and if we do that, this could pay pretty well.

The sequence starts with the Grade 3 Matt Winn for 3-year-olds. The race has drawn Bob Baffert trainee #7 AX MAN, who figures to be very tough to beat. He may be the shortest price in the sequence, but it’s tough to imagine any other runner in this field challenging him early on. If he’s allowed to dictate terms early, I think it’ll be a tall task for any of his opponents to beat him to the wire.

The second leg is the Grade 2 Wise Dan, and it’s drawn a Breeders’ Cup winner. That’s #4 WORLD APPROVAL, but this race doesn’t start and end with him. His best race wins, but the clunker last time out dulls my confidence in him. I also have to use #1 DIVISIDERO and #2 SHINING COPPER. The former is undefeated in three starts at Churchill Downs and came back running last time out at Monmouth Park, while the latter may be the lone speed in the race and could get brave if he’s left alone on the front end.

The third leg is the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis. This race was won by Forever Unbridled a year ago, but the 2018 renewal has no such standouts. I’m going five-deep because I need plenty of coverage. If #3 BLUE PRIZE runs back to last year’s Grade 2 Falls City, she probably wins. If she doesn’t (and that race was easily the best one she’s ever run), it’s anyone’s race, and the five horses I’m using reflect my relative lack of confidence.

I have no such lack of confidence in the fourth leg, which doubles as the card’s main event. It’s the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, and while I was against #6 BACKYARD HEAVEN in the Grade 2 Alysheba, I’m all-in on him in this spot. He was exceptional that day, and among those he beat in that race was Hoppertunity, who came back to win the Grade 2 Brooklyn on Belmont Stakes Day. He should get a dream trip on or near a modest early pace, and if he brings that type of effort to the track Saturday night, I think he’ll be incredibly formidable.

We’ll finish things off with the Grade 3 Regret, and this is the epitome of a “grass grab bag.” This is especially true because many of the major players have drawn far outside posts, which opens the door for wide trips. If you’ve got conviction earlier in the sequence, or deeper pockets than what I’ve got, you may want to buy the race and give yourself some security. I’m six-deep, and I sincerely hope that’s deep enough. However, giving out a ticket much more expensive than this one goes against what I’m trying to do. I still like this ticket, and if it hits, there’s a chance we can make a nice chunk of change.