SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/31/22)
We saw something really special Saturday in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt. Jackie’s Warrior ran his local record to 5-for-5, a mark that includes an unprecedented run of Grade 1 victories in three straight seasons.
Longevity isn’t valued in racing anymore. Horses run fewer times, over shorter spans, and are whisked to the breeding shed much faster (often leaving fans wondering just how good they really were). Seeing horses keep running at the game’s highest level is inspiring, and those horses make it easy to be a fan.
I posted this question to Twitter, and it’s worth asking here, too: Which streak is more impressive, this one or Fourstardave’s run of eight straight years with a win at Saratoga? Right now, it’s probably the latter. However, if Jackie’s Warrior somehow stays in training as a 5-year-old and runs that streak to four years, I think it’s a very, very legitimate question.
Here’s a fun #Saratoga poll.— Andrew Champagne (@AndrewChampagne) July 30, 2022
Fourstardave won a race at the Spa in eight straight years. Jackie’s Warrior has now won Grade 1 races at Saratoga in three straight seasons.
Which record streak is more impressive?
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: The whole “ran great, second-best” thing leaves a lot to be desired. First-race single Tatum didn’t run poorly (far from it), but him not winning meant my $30 of tickets turned into confetti.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I can’t wait to see #5 PRANK run in the sixth. I think she’s exceptionally well-meant, and I’ll key her a few different ways. She’s a single to finish $10 doubles that start with #6 CAPITAL STRUCTURE and #9 BABY BLYTHE in the fifth, and I’ll also punch a cold $10 exacta using Prank atop #6 HIGH CLASS.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30.
Best Bet: Prank, Race 6
Longshot: Guajira, Race 3
#2 TRUANCY: Ran well at first asking for a barn whose first-time starters often need a race or two to get going. She split a pair of next-out winners, and her two local works since that unveiling were very, very fast; #1 VOLEUSE: Benefited from a race that fell apart from a pace perspective in her dirt debut. She did show improvement to run second that day despite an awkward start, and Joel Rosario rides back for Christophe Clement; #6 PHOTON: Passed tired ones in her debut, which is the same race my second selection exits. A recent bullet drill indicates she’s moving forward, though, and she has every right to improve in her second career start.
Ticker Tape Home
#8 TICKER TAPE HOME: Did everything but win in her debut at Woodbine, where she may have moved just a bit early when beaten a half-length. That previous run gives her an experience edge over most of this field, one that could prove very valuable; #10 FREE LOOK: Hammered for $300,000 at Keeneland last year, and for good reason. She’s by Tapit and out of a full sister to Grade 1 winner and strong sire Violence. The outside post is far from ideal, but she’s got every right to be a runner; #9 CALLIE’S GRIT: Carries a heck of a story behind the name and has several works that suggest she’s got some talent. She’s also got a ton of turf pedigree, especially on the bottom side, and 12-1 hits me as way too big a price.
Let’s Be Clear
#2 LET’S BE CLEAR: Goes first off the claim for Linda Rice and returns to a track where she ran well twice a season ago. She’s also excelled at this seven-furlong route, and she could sit an ideal stalking trip beneath Irad Ortiz, Jr.; #7 GUAJIRA: Has been off since January and returns while protected from the claim by a very astute barn. I love when barns do that. It hints at confidence, which can also be inspired by a pair of very sharp local drills ahead of this one’s return; #3 KNOWING GLANCE: Isn’t the most consistent runner, but her best is good enough to make her a player here. The question is, which filly do we get? The one that ran well at this level last time out has a shot. The one that seemed to tail off over the winter does not.
Tap’n de Bank
#5 STREET TSAR: Won at first asking after prevailing in a duel with another runner many, many lengths ahead of the rest of the field. That runner-up ran a decent second a few days ago, and a logical move forward would make this Todd Pletcher trainee tough to beat; #7 TAP’N DE BANK: Was beaten just a neck in his first start against winners downstate. Like many others in this field, he’s got plenty of early speed, and he and John Velazquez figure to be prominent from a very early stage; #6 DAUFUSKIE ISLAND: Comes back to state-bred competition after topping starter allowance foes a few weeks ago. He’s placed in four stakes races, so he’s got plenty of back class, and his very first start was a win by open lengths here last summer.
#9 BABY BLYTHE: Has had some issues the past few years but is a real handful when she’s healthy. Her win here last year was sensational, and she may be ready to fire another big shot third off the bench going a marathon distance she’s bred to love; #6 CAPITAL STRUCTURE: Had an adventurous journey in her return to the races off a long layoff, where she ran into trouble multiple times and was fourth as an even-money favorite. Smooth sailing would make her a major player here, though it’s fair to wonder if this distance is what she wants; #3 ICE PRINCESS: Has been working well ahead of her first start since April, and while she’s 0-for-2 on turf, she did run second in a state-bred stakes race on the lawn last fall. She should love this distance given her pedigree, and the versatility she’s shown throughout her career is a big plus.
Check Engine Light
#5 PRANK: May be the best-bred 2-year-old on the grounds right now. She’s a half-sister to Belmont and Wood Memorial winner Mo Donegal, sold for $500,000 last year at Keeneland, and has been working up a storm for Todd Pletcher ahead of a highly-anticipated debut; #6 HIGH CLASS: Boasts a work pattern I really like coming into her first start. When the second-back work of a Steve Asmussen trainee is fast, and the more recent work is a maintenance drill, it’s often a sign that the horse is well-meant; #2 CHECK ENGINE LIGHT: Comes into this one off of a bullet drill over the Oklahoma track and attracts Flavien Prat. The rail draw isn’t ideal for a first-time starter, but it’s also possible he’s quick enough to negate any possible roadblocks.
Intrepid Heart (MTO)
#10 FLOP SHOT: Finally recorded his first stateside win last time out and has been freshened up ahead of this event. He’s run well fresh in the past, though, and his back class jumps off the page. Anything close to his early-2022 form would make him a formidable foe; #5 SOLDIER RISING: Is a consistent sort that seems to run the same race every time out. A few weeks ago, that was good enough to finish second behind Channel Maker in a listed stakes race. He was second in last year’s Grade 1 Saratoga Derby, and he doesn’t seem as pace-dependent now as he was then; #3 SANCTUARY CITY: Hasn’t won in quite a while but gets significant class relief after three straight stakes tries. He was a good second going a bit longer back in May, which doubled as the last time he was eligible for Lasix. The Lasix comes back here, and he could move forward at a price.
#2 ARKLOW: Runs well fresh and should be well-rested for his first start in almost 10 months in the Grade 2 Bowling Green. This classy 8-year-old has banked nearly $3 million in career earnings, has been training forwardly for Brad Cox, and looks like the one to beat; #3 HIGHLAND CHIEF: Pulled off a 19-1 upset two starts back in the Grade 1 Man o’ War before running fourth in the Grade 1 Manhattan. This barn’s success with turf marathoners is well-known, and when horses like that from this outfit get on the right track, they tend to stay there; #1 L’IMPERATOR: Looks like the possible lone speed in here, and a similar trip got him the money in the Grade 2 Fort Marcy back in May. The inside draw may force Manny Franco’s hand, and if he gets brave, he could lead them a long way.
#7 CORNICHE: Returns off of a long layoff and makes his first start for new trainer Todd Pletcher. Last year’s Champion 2-Year-Old Male has been working steadily leading up to the Grade 2 Amsterdam, and if he’s moved forward off of that campaign where he never trailed at any point of call, look out; #4 PAPPACAP: Has done nothing wrong since cutting back to one turn other than run into two freakish performances from Jack Christopher. He gets another tough opponent here, but he’s found a home going shorter after spending time on the Kentucky Derby trail; #1 PINEHURST: Makes his first start since a two-race expedition to the Middle East. One of those tries was a win in a rich Saudi Arabia event, and his resume also features a win in last year’s Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity. If the recent local work is any indication, he’s ready to run.
#7 SHARP SENSATION: Makes the most sense to me in a wide-open finale. He comes back to the right level after finishing sixth against straight maidens last time out, and he actually crossed the wire first in a similar race at Aqueduct back in April; #6 MAJESTIC JOHNSON: Debuted with an eventful trip a few weeks ago and has every right to improve for a barn whose runners tend to do so with a start or two under their belts. The connections might’ve pulled a fast one getting this name approved, and it’s not inconceivable to think they could be celebrating after the Sunday nightcap; #5 MARTINEZ: Has had a lot of chances and has been a beaten favorite in three of four starts this year. He was second in a race many of these exit, and while he fits on figures, it’s fair to wonder if he’s an owner’s dream (collecting checks) and a bettor’s nightmare (never winning).