SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/31/21)


BANKROLL: $983.60

These are the cards that make Saratoga special. We’ll see a trio of graded stakes races with some of the most well-known horses in the sport. Belmont Stakes hero Essential Quality headlines the Jim Dandy, Whitmore runs up against a strong field in the A.G. Vanderbilt, and multiple Grade 1 winner Channel Maker makes his first start after a trip abroad in the Bowling Green.

Combine that slate with a bunch of big fields in undercard races, and you have a card that should give even the most jaded handicapper a jolt of excitement. On a day like this, you only need to be right once or twice to have a profitable afternoon, and that’s all I can possibly ask for.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Collaborate loomed boldly in the Curlin, but seemingly forgot how to turn left with about a quarter-mile to go. I got a bit of a thrill at odds of 8-1, but ultimately dropped $20.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’m focusing on the Vanderbilt, because I don’t like #2 MISCHEVIOUS ALEX at all. It goes as the eighth race on the program, and I’ll box #1 LEXITONIAN, #6 WHITMORE, and #9 SPECIAL RESERVE in $2 exactas. I’ll also use those three horses in the middle of a $2 Pick Three starting in the seventh. I’ll use #2 INVINCIBLE GAL and #8 LOVE AND THUNDER there and single #5 ESSENTIAL QUALITY in the ninth, the Jim Dandy.



Best Bet: Essential Quality, Race 9
Longshot: Lexitonian, Race 8


Master Game
Kevin’s Folly

#2 MASTER GAME: Hammered for $300,000 last year and has several flashy gate drills for soon-to-be Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher. Expectations are high for offspring of young sire Mastery, and this one looks pretty precocious; #3 KEVIN’S FOLLY: Also shows a solid work pattern coming into his unveiling. He’s bred to want far more distance than this 5 1/2-furlong event, but Tom Amoss has already unveiled one flashy 2-year-old this meet and may have more bullets in the chamber; #6 WOODLINE: Has a major experience edge on the field and was second behind a runaway winner that ran in the Grade 3 Sanford earlier in the meet. He does have some early speed, but he appears to have hooked some promising first-time starters and may need to improve further to win.


Majestic Sky
Eight Weeks Long
Gateway Guardian

#12 MAJESTIC SKY: Is a tepid top selection in the first of several very befuddling turf races on the Saturday program. He was inexplicably rated behind a very slow pace last time out at Belmont, and in this event, he sure looks like not just the main speed, but like a horse whose hand is forced by the far outside draw; #3 EIGHT WEEKS LONG: Exits the same race as my top pick and ran third that day while sitting a bit closer to the pace than usual. That may have been an aberration given the slow pace, but his usual effort would give him a shot; #4 GATEWAY GUARDIAN: Didn’t do much running first time out, but debuting in a one-mile race is no easy task and David Donk’s horses usually need a race or two to get going. I think he could improve at a price, and it wouldn’t take a huge step forward to get a piece of this.


Zilla entry
Cathy Naz
Saratoga Beauty

ZILLA ENTRY: Both #1 MISS LIANA and #1A FLAT AWESOME JENNY could win this, and they certainly look like the class of the field. The former has a bit more tactical speed and returns to the right level, so I’d give her the slight edge if I had to choose one; #3 CATHY NAZ: Has run a few solid races over this track and seems to be working well ahead of her first start since January. Saez sees fit to ride for Bond, and he was aboard for her one recent win; #4 SARATOGA BEAUTY: Makes her first start off the claim for Ray Handal, whose barn may be starting to heat up. Her form this past winter and spring was solid, and she’s got more tactical speed than she showed last time out downstate.


High Tone
Pivotal Run
Brennan’s War

#7 HIGH TONE: Ran very well in his first start since last July when second in a two-turn turf route at Churchill. That was against open company, and he’s back against New York-breds in his first start for new trainer Ron Moquett; #3 PIVOTAL RUN: Had every right to need his last-out effort off of such a long layoff, and he was claimed out of that race by George Weaver, who excels with new acquisitions. He was a good second at this route in his debut last summer, and a return to two turns could help him find his form; #8 BRENNAN’S WAR: Made a bit of a move when third in his debut last month, and that effort came from a barn whose first-time starters don’t often win. I’m not sure what he ran against that day, but figures-wise, it was a solid effort that gives him a chance here.


Honey Money
Behind the Couch
Out First

#5 HONEY MONEY: Is far better than she showed last time out, when she faded to sixth in the mud earlier in the meet. She’s no fan of wet racetracks, and she reeled off three wins in a row over fast surfaces prior to that misfire; #4 BEHIND THE COUCH: Earned her first win in quite a while last time out after several close calls following a claim by John Salzman. This is her first start against New York-bred competition since last June, and perhaps the lightbulb has gone off; #8 OUT FIRST: Just never seemed like she was interested last time out, and I have no problem drawing a line through that clunker. She’s been competitive at this level many times, and she’d benefit from a pace meltdown.


Causin’ Mayhem (MTO)
Doctor Davis

#7 OHTWOOHTHREEFIVE: Was very impressive when second in his debut downstate. He rated well off of a slow pace but made up enough ground to finish second, beaten just two lengths. He’s bred to love two turns and will be formidable if he holds his form; #10 DOCTOR DAVIS: Has been working very fast for a Bill Mott trainee ahead of his debut. Mott’s first-time starters don’t usually turn in bullet drills, as he did on July 2nd, and he may be talented enough to have a say in this one at a bit of a price; #1 SWEEPING GIANT: Is one of two Todd Pletcher runners that will debut here. I prefer this one over #4 ROYAL SPIRIT. His dam was ultra-classy turf runner Isabella Sings, who did her best work going long.


Trumpet Lilly (MTO)
Invincible Gal
Love And Thunder

#2 INVINCIBLE GAL: Was favored in the Tepin Stakes but went up against a very unfavorable race shape, as the wire-to-wire winner coasted on an easy pace. Blinkers go on, she gets Lasix for the first time, and these waters certainly seem shallower; #8 LOVE AND THUNDER: Is a logical favorite after a tough beat last time out. She nearly overcame a pretty slow pace that day, and the third-place finisher from that event came back to win at next asking; #7 HIGH OPINION: Cuts back in distance after finishing second going a mile and a quarter at Belmont. She’s been second three times in four tries against winners, and while her figures give her a chance, sometimes horses turn into pack animals that have a tough time passing others late.


Special Reserve

#9 SPECIAL RESERVE: Has really turned a corner since being claimed by Mike Maker in February. He’s won four of his last five starts, including two stakes races, and between his tactical speed and the cushy outside draw, I think he’s the one to beat in the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt; #6 WHITMORE: Is one of the coolest horses in training and returns to Saratoga for another race or two at the summer place to be. He’s still competitive at the highest level as an 8-year-old, and any hesitation here is because it’s his first start off a layoff and he may need a race to get going; #1 LEXITONIAN: Is a nose and a head away from being a two-time Grade 1 winner. His Met Mile was too terrible to be true, but his two-back effort in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs was excellent, as was a recent local workout. If he’s right, he’s got a shot to take this at a big price.


Essential Quality

#5 ESSENTIAL QUALITY: Is probably the top 3-year-old in training and looms large in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. The three-time Grade 1 winner earned a 109 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Belmont Stakes, and anything remotely close to that would easily dispatch this bunch; #2 MASQUEPARADE: Has moved forward significantly in his last several starts, one of which was a win in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby. He beat a decent field that day and has every right to be getting better midway through his 3-year-old season; #3 WEYBURN: Gave eventual Haskell winner Mandaloun all he could handle in the Pegasus at Monmouth last time out and has shown two turns is not a problem. The recent string of bullet drills can’t be ignored, and neither can the presence of Irad Ortiz, Jr.


Channel Maker
Cross Border
Moon Over Miami

#5 CHANNEL MAKER: Emerged as the East Coast’s top turf horse a season ago and makes his first start following an expedition to the Arabian Peninsula. Between his back class and the fact that he looks like the lone speed, I think he’ll sit an ideal trip and be very tough to run down in the Grade 2 Bowling Green; #2 CROSS BORDER: Won this race a season ago by DQ and does his best running over this turf course. He hasn’t won in a while, but it isn’t like he hasn’t been competitive and perhaps he’ll relish a return to upstate New York; #7 MOON OVER MIAMI: Wants to sit back and make one run, and has done so to fair success this season with three in-the-money finishes in graded stakes races. That includes a close-up third last time out downstate, and he’s shown enough class to be respected here.


Villainous (MTO)

#3 MOROCCO: Takes a gigantic drop second off the claim, which can be seen as a good or bad thing. In this case, I think he’s coming back to the right level, and if he channels his form from this past winter, he could be more than good enough to beat this bunch; #8 HIEROGLYPHICS: Has won three of six at Saratoga, and the most recent score here last summer kick-started a run of four wins in six starts. One of them was a win at this level downstate, and if he brought his form to the barn of new trainer Dominick Schettino, he’ll have a big shot; #7 TIZZARUNNER: Was second last time out at this level at Churchill, and he put forth that effort despite having to close into a slow pace. He’s a major player here, but this isn’t an easy spot for the level and he may want more pace than he’s likely to get in the Saturday finale.

2017 Queen’s Plate Day Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: 7/2/17

Woodbine’s annual racing extravaganza is coming up Sunday. The power-packed card is headlined by the $1 million Queen’s Plate for 3-year-olds bred in Canada, and the card also features many other races with large, wide-open fields.

Making the card even more appealing to the average horseplayer are lower minimum bets for multi-race exotic wagers. Unlike in the U.S., where these wagers are in 50-cent increments, Woodbine’s minimums are 20 cents, and since a large majority of players are playing at that level, the payoff disparity is nowhere close to what one may expect. I’ve got two Pick Fives and two Pick Fours throughout the card, and the lower minimums allow me to spread very deep in certain spots. Let’s get to it!

$0.20 Pick Five: Race #2

R2: 2,8
R3: 1,2,3,9
R4: 1,2,4,6
R5: 10
R6: 3,5

64 Bets, $12.80

This is the home of our first guaranteed pool of the day, as this sequence boasts a minimum pool of $50,000. I thought it was a tricky wager to navigate, and again, this is where the lower minimum really helps.

Majestic Slew will likely be a pretty heavy favorite in the second. He’s won three races in a row and showed some flexibility last time out, rating from further back than usual and still getting up to win. If you want to single him, I get it, but Something Awesome is appealing cutting back to his preferred distance, and that one should be rolling late.

Races three and four are very difficult, and I’m hoping going four-deep in each leg is enough. If you saw this page Saturday night, you saw that I liked Biloxi Bay in the fifth. Unfortunately, the 12-1 shot, one I thought was quite live, scratched, so I’m singling Carlos Sixes, who was second behind Queen’s Plate contender Aurora Bay last out and will likely be a pretty heavy favorite.

The sixth is the King Edward, and Tower of Texas is the one to beat off a strong performance at this level last time out. I’ll also use Monster Bea, who had the deck stacked against him last time out. The early pace was not fast that day, but he still rallied to finish a strong second. He’s run competitive races at this level before, and he should be tuned up in his third start of the year.

$0.20 Pick Four: Race #4

R4: 1,2,4,6
R5: 10
R6: 3,5,6
R7: 4,6

24 Bets, $4.80

This sequence seems a bit chalky, but I did throw a few prices in there. In a departure from my Pick Five ticket, I added Shakhimat in the King Edward. There doesn’t seem to be much early speed signed on, and the presence of Javier Castellano is a plus. He certainly needs to improve to win this, but the setup is there, and I wanted a piece of him in some fashion in case that happens.

The seventh is an allowance race with an 8/5 favorite. That’s Synthesize, but I don’t think he’s a cinch. He’s lost his last six races, all at this level and never at higher odds than 4-1. My top pick is actually Lions Bay, who sits at a juicy 6-1 on the morning line. If you toss out his turf races (0-for-6) and only consider his synthetic form (5-for-19, six minor awards), he fits.

$0.20 Pick Five: Race #6

R6: 3,5
R7: 4,6,7
R8: 3,4
R9: 4,5
R10: 1,3,11,13

96 Bets, $19.20

I’m going fairly narrow to start and then opening things up in the Queen’s Plate, which doubles as the payoff leg of this sequence.

I’ve dissected the first two legs already. In a deviation from the Pick Four, I’m adding Bourbon First in the seventh. I don’t love the horse, especially at 2-1, but the low-budget approach I’m taking allows me to throw him in at not much extra cost.

The eighth is the Singspiel, and I view this as a two-horse race between morning line favorite Reporting Star and third choice Bangkok, both of whom want every bit of this 12-furlong route. I’m taking a stand against Bullards Alley, who has not won in more than a year and will be a pretty short price. I’m also going two-deep in the Dance Smartly, using 8/5 favorite Suffused and 2-1 second choice Rainha Da Bateria.

This brings us to the Queen’s Plate, and I’ve got a few thoughts. I want no part of any of the runners coming out of the Plate Trial, which was far from an impressive race. My ticket includes three logical horses. Probable favorite Holy Helena was sharp in winning the Woodbine Oaks, Channel Maker was a good second in the Grade 3 Marine against open competition, and Aurora Way showed plenty of promise winning on debut.

My big price breaks on the outside of this 13-horse field. Watch Me Strut has one bad race on his record, which came two back after a layoff of nearly six months. He rallied from well back in a paceless race last time out, and I think this race has some speed signed on. State of Honor will certainly go early, and I have a tough time believing the other riders will give him an easy lead. The faster they go early, the better this one will like it, and at 30-1, I have to throw him in.

$0.20 Pick Four: Race #10

R10: 1,3,11,13
R11: 5,7,8,11
R12: 2
R13: 3,6,7,9,10,13

96 Bets, $19.20

We come to the sequence that includes my lone single on the entire card. It’s Made You Look, who gets his preferred trip and some class relief in the Charlie Barley. I’ve spread around him, and hopefully we can get a price or two home to make this pay.

I’ve used some of the logical horses in the 11th, as well as first-time starter Heads ‘n Tails, who’s been working well ahead of her debut and may not need to be much to win. The 13th is a total mess, and if you want to hit the “ALL” button, I can’t say I blame you. I narrowed my ticket down to six horses, and hopefully, I’ve got the winner. Of the prices I used, Jail Time intrigues me the most. He’s 10-1 and took a big step forward last time out. More progression from start two to start three would make him a major player.