SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/5/22; CLOSING DAY)
It’s closing day at Saratoga, and that means it’s time for me to say thanks. First of all, thank you to editor Joe Boyle, who edits not just The Pink Sheet, but the main sports sections of The Saratogian and The Troy Record. In an age where deadlines get earlier and earlier and staffs get smaller and smaller, this isn’t easy to do. I’m also grateful for a decision made by Catena Media, which graciously agreed to allow me to continue my duties in this capacity when I got hired by that company in January.
Thank you to the New York Racing Association for another stellar Saratoga season. I’m a tough critic sometimes, but I have high standards because I grew up going to this place, which doubles as one of the last cathedrals in American horse racing. In particular, kudos to the TV talent and crew that put together the FOX Sports broadcasts, which bring Saratoga into my living room 3,000 miles away as effectively as anything possibly could.
Finally, I’d like to thank you, the reader. It’s a privilege to be able to put together content enjoyed by tens of thousands of people each summer. I hope I’ve been able to make you some money. If not, we’ve got one more day to do it!
SUNDAY’S RESULTS: Neither horse I used on top in the sixth was anywhere close. I dropped $36.
MONDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to wait until the very last two races of the meet for my final wagers. The more I look at #11 SUE ELLEN MISHKIN in the 12th, the more I like her. I’ll have a $50 win ticket on that one, and I’ll also single her to finish off a $20 cold double that begins with #4 GULFPORT in the 11th (the Grade 1 Hopeful). See you next summer!
TOTAL WAGERED: $70.
Best Bet: Crowding Out, Race 4
Longshot: Night Ops, Race 8
#15 SOUFFLE: Needs a lot of defections in order to draw in off the AE list but will be formidable if she does. She did everything but win in her debut, where she lost by just a nose, and a repeat of that performance would make her strictly the one to beat; #5 ATOMIC GIRL: Has been training very forwardly ahead of her debut, and she’s bred to love the turf. Her dam was a Grade 3 winner on the lawn, and she sold for $50,000 at auction, which is a lot considering her sire’s stud fee is just $2,500; #1 KARA PARA: Makes her unveiling for a barn whose first-time starters aren’t often cranked-up, but she exits a bullet drill at Belmont and is another who likely wants turf. Offspring of The Factor tend to be turf horses, and she’s one of the ones to consider in a wide-open Closing Day opener.
Blame It On Daddy
#5 ATLANTA’S ACUNA: Makes his debut after a string of solid local drills for a trainer whose first-out numbers are very strong. This son of Cross Traffic is out of a stakes-winning mare, one that’s thrown two winners from three foals to race; #6 BLAME IT ON DADDY: Was second behind a runaway winner in his debut last month and retains the riding services of Luis Saez. He’s got every right to move forward, but I can’t help thinking his best running will come going longer given his pedigree; #3 UNCLE MARTY: Debuted going two turns on turf, which isn’t an easy ask. He didn’t run well that day, but this outfit does far better with second-time starters than first-out runners, and his last two workouts hint that he’s come out of his first race in good form.
#5 CITY MAN: Ran a career-best race to win the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple early in the meet. His races around two turns seem far better than his one-turn efforts, and his flexibility should give Joel Rosario plenty of options in the Grade 3 Bernard Baruch; #2 MOUILLAGE: Was second in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream behind Mira Mission, who recently ran second in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer. He’s been working consistently on the Oklahoma track’s turf course, and he’s never missed the board in 12 lifetime starts; #6 EMARAATY: Won a stakes-caliber allowance event here last month to move to 3-for-4 lifetime over this turf course. Flavien Prat rides back for the meet’s leading trainer, and he’d benefit if a pace battle materializes early.
#3 CROWDING OUT: Takes a gigantic drop in class after faltering as a 5/2 favorite in a first-level allowance race in mid-August. This barn wheels her back pretty quickly, by their standards, but anything close to her two-back score over an impressive next-out winner would make her a formidable favorite; #8 MOSTLY HARMLESS: Has had plenty of chances and is a maiden running against winners. However, she’s a closer in a race with plenty of early speed, so it wouldn’t shock me if she clunked up for a piece of it at a big price; #1 SMOKIN’ HOT KITTY: Ran fourth against starter allowance foes and drops down to what’s probably the right level. The rail draw is a tricky one, but her two-back win at this route was good and she’s a contender if Flavien Prat can work out a trip.
She Caught My Eye
#5 AIDANIKE: Hasn’t misfired in her 2022 campaign, which has included three wins from six starts. Unlike many of her rivals, she can sit back and do her best running late, which could come in handy given what figures to be a pretty fast pace set by several of these runners; #6 BACKYARD MONEY: Has run well up here twice this summer and gets Lasix for the first time in this spot. The cutback from seven furlongs to six could help her, and she’s another that doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well; #4 SHE CAUGHT MY EYE: Wired a field of maiden claimers off a long layoff and tries winners for the first time. This is a considerable class test, but the most recent drill was a good one and first-call rider Junior Alvarado retains the mount for Hall of Famer Bill Mott.
Sweet Mystery (MTO)
SCHWARTZ ENTRY: I prefer #1 WHATLOVELOOKSLIKE, whose two local efforts this season have been very good. She’s a head away from being 2-for-2 in those starts, and she should get plenty of pace to run at (especially with the presence of barn buddy #1A JUSTOK IS NOT OK); #2 NEW GINYA: Has been very close in her last two tries at this level and has every right to break through here. She could sit close to the pace beneath Dylan Davis, who’s been riding very well since coming back from his way-too-long suspension for his role in an accident earlier in the meet; #7 LOOKIN TO FLY: Beat a group of restricted claimers two back before being left with too much to do last time out. Still, she was beaten less than three lengths by my top selection, and the two-back win rider returns to the saddle here.
#10 RADIO RED: Draws a cushy outside post for his debut in this wide-open baby race for state-breds. His pedigree is very modest, but he’s been training forwardly for this outfit and attracts Joel Rosario, who probably had a few options; #8 SOUNDS SPOOKY: Merits respect based on the connections alone, and this $100,000 yearling purchase exits a solid four-furlong gate drill. All four of this dam’s runners to date are winners, though I wonder if this one maybe wants a bit more ground than this six-furlong trip; #2 NOBILIS: May or may not run, as he’s entered in a spot on Sunday as well. However, he’s been working well for George Weaver prior to his unveiling (whenever that is), and we may get a bit of a price.
#3 NIGHT OPS: Drops way down in class after spending most of the last few seasons running against stakes company. This field is a good one for the level, but it doesn’t contain runners like Maxfield and Art Collector, who appear in this one’s running lines, and I think he’ll be the one they have to hold off; #8 AMERICAN TATTOO: Got loose on the lead last time out at Keeneland and responded with one of the best efforts of his career. I’m not sure he’ll be quite so comfortable up top early, but of the likely pace-setters, he’s the one I want most; #7 PORTOS: Cuts back after running fourth to stablemate Fearless in the 1 3/4-mile Birdstone, and at a minimum, you know the 1 1/8-mile journey won’t be what gets him beat. This is another runner getting class relief, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., takes the call for Todd Pletcher.
Bold Victory (MTO)
#1 DIGITAL SOFTWARE: Was protected off the layoff last time and cruised home over a weaker group in a race he may very well have needed. I think he’ll be better second off the bench in this spot, and that he has a big chance to record his third local win in his fourth start over this turf course; #2 RECKLESS SPIRIT: Was headstrong last time when fourth as a 2-1 favorite at this level. That happened here last year, too, and perhaps he prefers Belmont, but his best race would be good enough to beat these; #7 SPLENDID SUMMER: Chased my top pick last time out but may be moving forward in the back half of his 3-year-old campaign. Further improvement makes him a major player here, and the 8-1 morning line price hits me as an overlay (especially given the connections involved).
#1 COCKTAIL MOMENTS: Is a tepid top pick in the final race out of the Wilson chute this summer. She hasn’t won in a while, but has been running almost exclusively against stakes competition and may have had an excuse last time out given the unlucky trip she had. There’s some speed in this race that could set up for what she wants to do; #3 JANE GREY: Stretches out for Bill Mott after a pair of seconds going shorter. This is her third start off of a long layoff and just the fourth start of her career, so there are plenty of reasons to expect a step forward; #9 MORE AMMO: Almost certainly bounced last time out, when she was nowhere at odds of 2-1 after a big first-out win at Aqueduct. She’s been training well at Monmouth (which is no longer an automatic disqualifying factor for horses from this outfit), and a flashback to her debut performance would put her right there.
#4 GULFPORT: Was second in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, and while I’m not sure checking around the turn cost him a win, he most certainly would’ve been closer to the winner. A cleaner journey would make this Steve Asmussen trainee a handful in the Grade 1 Hopeful; #5 MO STRIKE: Has done nothing wrong to date for Brad Cox, and his two-start career includes a nice win in the Grade 3 Sanford. He ran like a horse that won’t be bothered by more ground, and we may not have seen the best of him yet; #2 FORTE: Was fourth as the 7/5 favorite in the Sanford, but don’t be fooled by the trip notes that say he had no kick. He was moving well late over a very tiring track, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an improved effort here.
Sue Ellen Mishkin
#11 SUE ELLEN MISHKIN: Is very inconsistent, but her best effort would make her the one to beat in the final race of the summer. One of her two wins came here in her debut, so we know she likes this track, and the outside draw is a big plus, too; #1 CUPID’S HEART: Hasn’t run in more than nine months, but gets Lasix for the first time and comes in off of a four-furlong bullet drill over this track. She seems to be doing well ahead of her 2022 debut, and she’s a major player provided she’s ready to run; #2 TOSCONOVA BEAUTY: Has won four of eight career starts and was third in a similar spot a few weeks ago. She gets a huge rider switch to John Velazquez and has enough tactical speed to be sitting in a great spot early on.