Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: Travers Day (8/26/17)

BANKROLL: $851.50

Happy Travers Day, everyone! Before we get into the antics and shenanigans, I’d genuinely like to wish all of you luck. This may be the best wagering card we see all year in New York, and there’s no shortage of live longshots on the program.

That said, I have to chuckle at NYRA’s “no running” edict. As I mentioned last year around this time, all it apparently takes to turn some at the track into middle school hall monitors is one big day. No running? What about jogging, speed-walking, power-walking, or cantering? Where, precisely, is the line drawn?

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: We extended our winning streak in this section to three by maximizing value on Sunset Ridge. Our Pick Five connected for $1, our Pick Four hit for 50 cents, and our $40 investment returned $155 and change.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: Remember how I said there’s no shortage of longshots? I’ll play four horses to win and place, and it may only take one winner for it to be a profitable day. The horses I’ll put #5 to win and place on are as follows: KABANG (Race 2), PROFITEER (Race 5), WEST COAST (Race 11), and MOHICAN (Race 13).

TOTAL WAGERED: $40

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Songbird, Race 6
Longshot: Kabang, Race 2

R1

Good Magic
Hazit
High North

GOOD MAGIC: Was a million dollar baby at last year’s Keeneland September sale, and for good reason. He’s by Curlin, and boasts a female family that’s one of the best you’ll ever see. He’s worked to that breeding and should be ready; HAZIT: Is another that’s bred to run and debuts for high-percentage connections. His dam was a graded stakes-winning sprinter, and he’s got every right to be precocious; HIGH NORTH: Is a half to Grade 2 winner Benner Island and has a pair of strong local workouts. Irad Ortiz likely had options, and he lands on this $230k yearling purchase.

R2

Uncle Mojo (MTO)
Kabang
Focus Group

KABANG: Has won three of his last four, with the most recent victory coming earlier this meet in a swiftly-run starter allowance. There’s some pace signed on here, which bodes well for this one’s late kick; FOCUS GROUP: Broke through at third asking last time out, graduation in a much longer race. Irad stays aboard for Chad Brown, and at least you know the distance shouldn’t be a problem; RICHMOND STREET: Ran a clunker last time out, but that was his second race off a long layoff, so it could’ve just been a bounce. His race two back was solid, and he ran well here twice last summer. DIRT SELECTIONS: UNCLE MOJO, HOLIDAY BONUS, SON OF A SAINT.

R3

Neepawa
Strike Me Down
Chirping

NEEPAWA: Was a fast-closing third in his debut, which came at this route. The post position is a problem, but of those that have run before, he boasts the most impressive effort; STRIKE ME DOWN: Is bred up and down to be a strong turf horse. His dam won a Grade 2 on turf and threw Grade 3 winner Golden Sabre, and this gray has turned heads in the mornings; CHIRPING: Ran a sneaky race in his debut, rallying late for fifth and showing he likely wants more ground. He gets that in this spot and can’t be ignored at a price.

R4

Ostrolenka
Sticksstatelydude
Candid Desire

OSTROLENKA: Has run some of his best races since being claimed earlier this year by David Jacobson. He was a close-up second at this route against a solid sprinter, and the likely race shape sets up for a closer like him; STICKSSTATELYDUDE: Returns to the races after a nine-month break and has back class that must be respected. This is certainly shorter than he wants to go, but he did break his maiden going six furlongs here as a 2-year-old; CANDID DESIRE: Is another that merits a look given the likely shape of the race (not to mention his likely odds). He ran fourth to Stallwalkin’ Dude last time out after a brief freshening, and a quick look at the running lines shows he beat THREEFIVEINDIA (who could be the favorite or second choice here) three back.

R5

Cloontia
Profiteer
Ray’s The Bar

CLOONTIA: Showed a new dimension last time out, rating well off the leader and rallying to win a lesser allowance race. He steps up in class, but this is a horse that likes to win, and these connections merit respect; PROFITEER: Hasn’t been seen since April, when he trailed in the Grade 3 Transylvania. It’s possible he just didn’t take to the Keeneland turf course, and he’s a major player if he runs back to his other grass races; RAY’S THE BAR: Almost certainly needed his 2017 debut, so I’m drawing a line through it. He’s been gelded since that effort, and he has significant back class.

R6

Songbird
Forever Unbridled
Going for Broke

SONGBIRD: Is the length of Beholder’s nose away from being undefeated and will go for her 10th Grade 1 victory here. No other rival has the early speed to go with her, and I think she’ll be incredibly tough to run down late; FOREVER UNBRIDLED: Is extremely tough on her best day. Remember, she was beaten less than two lengths by Songbird in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and while the race shape doesn’t figure to help her, she could come running late; GOING FOR BROKE: Made stablemate Carina Mia work last time out in the Shine Again, and that distance was shorter than she’s accustomed to going. She chased Songbird in last year’s Alabama and figures to get a piece of this purse as well.

R7

Paulassilverlining
Carina Mia
Highway Star

PAULASSILVERLINING: Has won four in a row, including the Grade 2 Honorable Miss earlier this meet. There’s a shocking lack of early speed signed on here, and she could sit a dream trip on or near a slow pace; CARINA MIA: Fended off a game stablemate at this route earlier in the month and could improve in her second start for Chad Brown. The issue here is that my top selection has beaten her in both of their prior meetings; HIGHWAY STAR: Is 3-for-3 going seven furlongs and chased Songbird and Paid Up Subscriber home last time out in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps. If you’re looking for a longshot, you could do a lot worse than a horse that’s 7-for-11 lifetime (with one loss coming in a turf race).

R8

American Anthem
Coal Front
Practical Joke

AMERICAN ANTHEM: Returns to New York for his first start since an easy win in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on Belmont Day. He’s 3-for-3 around one turn, and a repeat of the effort we saw in June would make him very tough to beat; COAL FRONT: Is 3-for-3 and most recently took down the Grade 2 Amsterdam. He showed maturity that day, slowing down to take a breath after setting a fast pace and speeding up again to repel a late challenge. These are deep waters, but he’s given me nothing to knock so far; PRACTICAL JOKE: Missed by a half-length in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, finishing behind two horses that will contest the Travers. He won last year’s Grade 1 Hopeful at this route and has improved since then, but the rail draw isn’t ideal.

R9

Mind Your Biscuits
Drefong
Divining Rod

MIND YOUR BISCUITS: Has developed into one of the top dirt sprinters on the planet. His win in Dubai two back was sensational, and this seven-furlong distance suits him perfectly; DREFONG: Won both the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and King’s Bishop last year, but his 2017 season has not gone smoothly. He dumped Mike Smith in the Bing Crosby, and while horse and rider were fine, the workouts since then have been on the slow side. His best race probably wins, but can he channel that form?; DIVINING ROD: Came back running last time out in his 2017 debut, crushing an overmatched field at Laurel Park. He just missed in last year’s Cigar Mile, and he seems best of the rest here.

R10

Idaho
Money Multiplier
Erupt

IDAHO: Was third behind two of Europe’s best horses last time out in a Group 1 at Ascot. Enable may be the best horse in Europe regardless of gender, while Ulysses is eyeing the Breeders’ Cup Turf. By comparison, this is a softer spot, and these connections can ship in and win these races; MONEY MULTIPLIER: Started his 2017 campaign in fine fashion last time out with a Grade 2 win at Monmouth. Improvement is logical second off such a long layoff, and this one was second to Flintshire in last year’s running of this race; ERUPT: Is a cut below Europe’s best, but he won the Grade 1 Canadian International last fall at Woodbine. His effort two back in Group 1 company was solid, and he’s a contender on his best day.

R11

West Coast
Good Samaritan
Tapwrit

WEST COAST: Has developed into Bob Baffert’s top 3-year-old colt after back-to-back stakes wins on opposite coasts. His running style suggests he’ll handle this distance just fine, and he gets my top pick in a very confusing renewal of the Travers; GOOD SAMARITAN: Beat the Derby and Preakness winners with an authoritative performance in the Jim Dandy, which doubled as his dirt debut. Figure-wise, that was a new career-best race by a considerable amount, and he could win with a repeat performance; TAPWRIT: Was last seen winning the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes in June. The layoff is a concern, as is the Haskell performance of Belmont runner-up Irish War Cry, but he’s trained well of late and can’t be ignored.

R12

Lady Eli
Antonoe
Dickinson

LADY ELI: Was a surprise entrant in this race following her victory in the Grade 1 Diana. That win came after she and her stablemate (more on her shortly) broke through the starting gate before the race, and she’s strictly the one to beat; ANTONOE: Did not have a good day when last seen, breaking through the gate and sitting a strange trip. Still, she was only beaten a length by my top pick, and her win two back in the Just A Game was scary good; DICKINSON: May inherit the early lead by default. She misfired in the Diana, but her best race certainly gets her a share.

R13

Mohican
All About Voodoo
Prognostication

MOHICAN: Hasn’t run well in two local starts this summer, but I think you can toss both of those races. The race two back came off a long layoff, and his last-out effort came on dirt. Given the class drop, I think he’s live at a nice price; ALL ABOUT VOODOO: Showed speed earlier in the meet going much longer against a better group. The class drop is sensible, and keep him in mind if Focus Group (that race’s winner) comes back with a good effort in Saturday’s second race; PROGNOSTICATION: Had every chance at this level last time out, but was forced to settle for third in a so-so group. He’ll take money given the connections, and his best race puts him right there, but this may be a spot to shop around for some value.

Belmont Park Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Stars and Stripes Day (7/8/17)

Saturday is Stars and Stripes Day at Belmont Park, and it’s produced a stellar card with top-quality racing and ample wagering opportunities. I’ll profile the Pick Five and late Pick Four, and hopefully we can build on Tuesday’s success, which included a Pick Five score at Santa Anita. One note: This analysis assumes races scheduled for the turf stay there.

Here’s how I’ll play the card!

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 4
R2: 1,7
R3: 2,8
R4: 1,8,9,10
R5: 1,5,7,11

64 Bets, $32

Don’t get too excited thinking we’ll get a price on my single, because I have a VERY difficult time believing we’ll get 6-1 on Le Pin. This colt hasn’t been seen since a solid December debut, where he faded to third in a race won by eventual stakes winner Classic Rock. He’s bred up and down for the turf and should improve in his second start for trainer Todd Pletcher; if we get the listed odds, I’ll be very happy to bet him.

I think the second and third races each come down to two betting interests. I actually preferred 3-1 second choice Bareeqa to 2-1 favorite Selenite before the latter scratched. I’ll substitute a two-horse entry that could be well-meant. Moving to the middle leg, Base Command and National Flag are entered in the third and look like promising 2-year-olds.

I’ll spread in the last two legs, and in doing so, I’ll be alive to a few big prices. 20-1 bomb Kitty Maddnes steps up in class in the fourth, but does so off of an impressive win in her second start of the year. Another step forward would make her a contender at a big price. Additionally, Arghad has never run a truly bad race in six career starts. The cutback he’ll get in Saturday’s fifth should help this 15-1 shot, and I think he’ll be live at a nice number.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7

R7: 2
R8: 7,8,12
R9: 2,6
R10: ALL

66 Bets, $33

This is an all-stakes Pick Four that includes both Grade 1 races on the Saturday program, as well as a pair of Grade 2 affairs that feature some of the best older horses in the country. I’ll start off with a single, as Mind Your Biscuits seems to have a picture-perfect setup in the Belmont Sprint Championship. Green Gratto and Unified will both be gunning for the lead, which should play into the hands of the returning Dubai Golden Shaheen winner. He loves this seven-furlong distance, and I think he’ll be extremely tough to beat.

The eighth is the Belmont Oaks, and I’m using all three of Chad Brown’s entrants (he had four, but Fifty Five scratched). Sistercharlie ran a tremendous race against much better horses overseas last out, while New Money Honey showed a new dimension when racing on the lead in her Wonder Again win and Uni has been training very well. Meanwhile, I was tempted to single Shaman Ghost in the Suburban, as he does figure to be the best horse in the race. However, I can’t shake the possibility of Matt King Coal getting loose on the front end and wiring the field. As such, I had to use him (thankfully, the ticket isn’t too expensive!).

This leads us to the Belmont Derby. It’s the main event of Stars and Stripes Day, $1.2 million is on the line…and I’m waving the white flag. For my money, this is the most wide-open race on the card. I can make a valid case for as many as seven or eight of these runners, and given that I have plenty of room in my budget, I’m going to hit the “ALL” button to buy myself some security. Even if the first few legs are chalky, this Pick Four has solid potential, as the Belmont Derby favorite may not go off much higher than 3-1 or 7/2.

Belmont Park Analysis, Selections, and Tickets (6/24/17), PLUS: Betting the Ohio Derby on a Budget

After responses to an impromptu Twitter poll, I’ve taken a look at Saturday’s card at Belmont Park, as well as the $500,000 Ohio Derby. Unfortunately, the vote was conducted before strong overnight rain swept through Long Island, and as such, the Belmont card has been ravaged by scratches and races taken off the turf. If you came Friday or early Saturday morning, you saw Pick Five and Pick Four tickets that no longer apply. Below are my updated efforts, as well as an attempt to play the Ohio Derby on a $20 budget.

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1, Belmont Park

R1: 1,4
R2: 6,7,8
R3: 1,3
R4: 2,3,5
R5: 10,12

72 Bets, $36

My opening leg single scratched due to the mud, and two races within the sequence (the third and the fifth) came off the turf. I’m going two-deep to start, using Kissin Cassie and Bellelarama (the latter of whom moves up significantly on a wet track). My original ticket had Giant Ending in the second leg, but I threw her out due to her recent poor race in the slop. I’m still three-deep there, and I likely have the three betting favorites.

We’re down to a field of four in the third race, and I think it’s a match race between Puca and Jewels N Rome. I added Shoot the Gap into the fourth leg (to go along with likely betting favorites Basic Hero and Won’t Burn), and I’m two-deep in the payoff leg. Frostie Anne has strong dirt form (especially if you toss her clunkers over the inner track at Aqueduct, which she clearly does not like), and Treatherlikestar won at first asking on dirt before trying races that were simply too tough.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7, Belmont Park

R7: 3
R8: 6
R9: 3,5,7,8,9
R10: ALL

40 Bets, $20

I thought this was a great sequence when all races were projected to stay on the turf. However, the last two races (one of which is still on turf) are still extremely wide-open. If we can get a price home in one or both of those races, this could pay more than you think.

I was really looking forward to the seventh when it was on turf, as I didn’t like probable favorite Elenzee. We’re down to a field of four, and main-track-only entrant Broken Engagement looks very tough. There’s no other early speed left in the race, and I think he’ll have things all his own way on the front end at a short price.

The second of two back-to-back singles comes in the Saturday feature. The eighth race is the Wild Applause, and while some quality fillies have signed on, I think Rubilinda could be a different kind of animal. It’s not easy to rate at first asking, but this regally-bred daughter of Frankel did just that and won going away. Improvement is logical at second asking, and I think she could be a very nice turf filly for Chad Brown, who seems to have a barn full of them.

This structure allows us to spread in the last two legs, which is good because, as mentioned, they’re not easy. The two Chad Brown trainees (Call Provision and Converge) may be best in the ninth, but the former comes off a layoff and the latter is untested at this distance, so I opted for a bit more coverage. Meanwhile, the last race is complete and total chaos given the move to dirt. None of these horses have much in the way of proven form, so I’ve bought the race and will hope for a price if we can get to that point.

BETTING THE OHIO DERBY ON A $20 BUDGET

In handicapping the Ohio Derby, I took the approach that the Kentucky Derby is a complete throw-out for all horses who ran there. None of them ran well that day, for various reasons, and the wet track certainly didn’t make things any easier.

Girvin is certainly a logical favorite, and he’s my top pick and exacta key. His races prior to the Derby were pretty sharp, and much was made about foot issues he had leading up to that race. He’s worked well since the Derby, and most recently fired a five-furlong bullet drill on June 17th.

The other horse I’ll use in my bigger exacta play is Untrapped. He hasn’t won in a while, but I firmly believe he could sit a dream trip in this race. There isn’t much early speed, and he’s shown an ability to be forwardly placed. He’s a decent price (9/2) on the morning line, and he could produce some value in the exotics.

I’ll also throw in the three-horse entry of Talk Less, Vibe, and Game Over, as well as Blue Grass winner Irap. Of the entry, I most prefer Vibe, who has yet to run a bad race in four starts this season and whose speed figures are on an upward trend. I actually took a flyer on him two back at Charles Town, and he ran a sneaky-good race that day at 28-1 considering how much he struggled going into the first turn.

Meanwhile, I’m not crazy about Irap, who may be overbet given his perfect-trip win in the Blue Grass two back. However, with the relative lack of early zip signed on, there’s a chance he gets that trip again. As such, I need to at least throw him into my smaller exacta play.

THE BETS

$4 exacta box: 3,5 ($8)
$2 exacta key box: 5 w/1,2,3 ($12, $20)