SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/26/19)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $805

Earlier this week, The Daily Racing Form reported that trainer Marcus Vitali was suspended for one year by officials at Delaware Park, and that he allegedly confiscated a package of suspected contraband. Shortly after the initial story broke, The Paulick Report added more details, reporting that Vitali dashed out of the room and somehow evaded security personnel.

I’m all for due process, especially in a sport where percentages of medications are measured in picograms and nanograms. Having said that, if this story is proven true, many racing jurisdictions have a lot of explaining to do regarding Vitali’s ability to have stalls and enter horses. Trainers who cheat give the ones who don’t a bad name, and at a time when racing is constantly under a microscope, shouldn’t we be doing all we can to clean up the sport?

NYRA has already shown an ability to bar trainers from running horses at Saratoga. I sincerely hope those in power do their due diligence and, if these details prove accurate, take appropriate action.

THURSDAY’S RESULTS: Ratajkowski settled for second, which turned doubles and Pick Threes into losing wagers. We dropped $30.

FRIDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to take a stand against #3 COUNTENANCE in the opener. 3/5 just seems way too short. I’ll use #2 HANDLE WITH CARE, #5 G. T. SONIA, and #7 KNOW POINT GIVEN in $3 doubles that end with the #1/1A/1X entry and #8 ASSAULT BREAKER.

TOTAL WAGERED: $18

– – – – –

BEST BET: Queen of Beas, Race 4
LONGSHOT: Know Point Given, Race 1

R1

Handle With Care
G. T. Sonia
Know Point Given

#2 HANDLE WITH CARE: Has run second in consecutive starts since coming back to the dirt. The cutback in distance to seven furlongs should suit her, and if you’re taking a stab against the likely favorite (as I am), she seems like a logical alternative; #5 G. T. SONIA: Returns to dirt and drops down in class for this event. A repeat of her race three back, when she ran second for a $30,000 tag, would put her right there; #7 KNOW POINT GIVEN: Is tough to endorse on top given her 0-for-19 career mark, but her recent form looks slightly sharper if you toss the wet-track races. Her two-back effort, when she was second against similar, was fine.

R2

Assault Breaker
Repole entry
Victory Built

#8 ASSAULT BREAKER: Ran well when second in his debut on dirt and goes to turf, which he’s bred to love. He holds an experience edge over most of these and seems like a formidable favorite; REPOLE ENTRY: I most prefer #1A MO READY, who flopped at 2/5 odds in his debut but is bred to like the lawn. If this race somehow gets rained off the turf, #1 MICROSECOND may be tough; #7 VICTORY BUILT: Is an intriguing price in his debut. He fetched $40,000 at auction earlier this year despite a pretty modest pedigree, and his 290 turf Tomlinson figure is above average.

R3

Missle Bomb (MTO)
I Can Do Anything
Bourbon in May

#6 I CAN DO ANYTHING: Was third in his first start against winners despite a far outside post last time out at Churchill Downs. He draws much better here and looks very tough; #8 BOURBON IN MAY: Makes his first start since January, when he was beaten three lengths in a stakes race at Gulfstream Park. His two-back maiden win was sharp, and he may have matured in his time off; #4 ALL SYSTEMS GO: Showed speed in a swiftly-run event downstate and figures to be prominent early on. The slight cutback in distance could help him here.

R4

Queen of Beas
Held Accountable
Nonsensical

#1 QUEEN OF BEAS: Exits the Grade 1 Acorn, where she chased the likes of Guarana and Serengeti Empress. She tries two turns for the first time, but comes up against what seems like a soft field for the level; #5 HELD ACCOUNTABLE: Has not run since December, but won two in a row late last year and may be capable on her best day. She’s worked well of late and may be a price; #3 NONSENSICAL: Exits a distant third-place finish in a minor stakes race at Delaware Park. She took advantage of a perfect trip two back at Belmont, and she may be on or near a reasonable pace early on.

R5

Tiz R Bella
Elizabeth Nicole
Wildcat Belle

#9 TIZ R BELLA: Has won two in a row coming into this race and may have simply been a dirt horse all along. The outside post should be a big help, and she’ll loom large if her Belmont form travels with her; #2 ELIZABETH NICOLE: Took a step forward for new connections last time out at Belmont and returns to her favorite track here. Carmouche rides back and figures to have her running hard out of the gate; #6 WILDCAT BELLE: Beat a number of these foes last time out at Belmont and seems to be an upward trajectory in form. Her best race is certainly good enough to win.

R6

Balon Rose
Ocean Fire
Monhegan

#9 BALON ROSE: Fetched $1.6 million at auction back in 2017 and was second in her debut earlier this year. She’s bred up and down for this distance and has every right to improve at second asking; #7 OCEAN FIRE: Made a strong middle move in her unveiling last month before flattening out late and fading to third. She’s another that should enjoy the added distance she gets in her second career start; #2 MONHEGAN: Has made a habit out of collecting minor checks in similar turf routes. She seems well-positioned to do that here as well given her stalking style and experience edge on most of her opponents.

R7

Righteous Ruby
It Was Considered
Slimey

#7 RIGHTEOUS RUBY: Has won two in a row and makes her first start for Danny Gargan, one of the best in the game with new acquisitions. This is a bit of a class test, but she’s in form and this barn must be respected; #5 IT WAS CONSIDERED: Was third behind my top pick last time out, but she may have needed that race coming off of a long layoff. She’s run well at this distance before and could be primed for an improved performance; #6 SLIMEY: Pulled off a 15-1 upset earlier in the meet when she rallied from far back in the slop. The faster they go early, the better her chances figure to be.

R8

Show Prince (MTO)
New York’s Finest
Dowse’s Beach

#6 NEW YORK’S FINEST: Has four wins in five local starts and merits respect on the drop in class. We figure to know his chances right out of the gate; if he breaks well, he’ll be tough, and if he doesn’t, well…; #4 DOWSE’S BEACH: Is another that has had a lot of success here, having won four of seven starts in upstate New York. Irad Ortiz, Jr., gets back aboard, and he piloted this gelding to three straight scores late last year; #8 BANANA THIEF: Won at this route a season ago and figures to be doing his best running late. He’s been competitive at this level in the past and would benefit from a speed duel.

R9

Looking At Bikinis
Endorsed
Highest Honors

#3 LOOKING AT BIKINIS: Comes into the Curlin undefeated in two starts, having most recently topped a solid allowance group downstate. The recent work jumps off the page, and two turns should not be an issue; #7 ENDORSED: Came off the bench running last time out, winning a six-furlong allowance at Belmont in his first start since flopping in the Grade 1 Champagne. He’s bred to love this route, and he graduated at first asking here last summer; #8 HIGHEST HONORS: Won a swiftly-run maiden race last time out, and the runner-up has since come back to graduate as well. He completes a powerful 1-2 punch for trainer Chad Brown.

R10

Later Cat (MTO)
Awesome Adversary
Prince Halo

#5 AWESOME ADVERSARY: Was second in a similar spot last time out, and this seems like a “now or never” spot for this 15-start maiden. He’s taken a step forward since being switched to the turf, and gets my nod in a challenging race to handicap; #8 PRINCE HALO: Was fifth in the race my top pick exits and tries two turns on grass for the first time. He’s got the running style to appreciate this route, and Luis Saez signing on is a plus; #9 THE GRAND CANAL: Was beaten just a length at Belmont last time and came running late despite a wide trip. This draw is another one that’s less than ideal, but two turns could be what he’s looking for.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 7/27/18

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $887.50

Last year, I made an appeal to NYRA management to reschedule the Curlin Stakes. The argument I made was that it steals contenders from the Jim Dandy, at a time where that race is already competing with Monmouth Park’s Haskell Invitational. Unfortunately, that scenario has come to pass this year, as Hofburg (who would’ve likely been favored in the Jim Dandy) headlines a field of five in the Curlin before a thoroughly unexciting group of five 3-year-olds goes postward in the traditional Travers prep.

I’ll reiterate my idea, just in case anyone in power is listening: Reschedule the Curlin for the Travers undercard, so that it serves a similar purpose to the Easy Goer on Belmont Stakes Day. I’d rather lose a few 30-1 shots from the Travers than legitimate contenders from the Jim Dandy, which will go with six or fewer starters for the fifth consecutive year.

THURSDAY’S RESULTS: The Thursday finale was rained off the turf, which meant the Pick Four play I posted was washed out. As a reminder, all wagers in this sequence assume that races carded for turf stay there.

FRIDAY’S PLAY: We’ll get involved right away with tickets starting in the opener. #6 BANKIT is my best bet of the day, and in an attempt to extract some value from what appears to be a pretty chalky card, I’ll play $5 Pick Threes that use #1 NIGHT OWL and #6 BEACH WALTZ in the second and #1 ENGINEERS REPORT/#1A WEGOTTOLDYOUGOTSOLD and #6 CHANGE OF VENUE in the third.

TOTAL WAGERED: $20

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Thursday’s Results: 2 for 9
Meet Results (to date): 16 for 59

Best Bet: Bankit, Race 1
Longshot: Freud’s Affair, Race 5

R1

Bankit
Lumberer
Cash entry

#6 BANKIT: May be the shortest price on the card, and for good reason. He chased a solid 2-year-old home in his debut, and this spot seems to have come up uncharacteristically light for a Saratoga 2-year-old race; #8 LUMBERER: Someone has to be second, and while I don’t think this one can win, I think improvement is logical at a big price. He chased the talented La Fuerza early before tiring badly, and the two recent works hint that he’s progressed since then for a sharp trainer; CASH ENTRY: Second-time starters #1 ANALYZETHISANDTHAT and #1A CENTER CITY could both step forward. I prefer the former, who ran an OK third in his debut on turf at Monmouth Park.

R2

Oldfashioned Style (MTO)
Night Owl
Beach Waltz

#1 NIGHT OWL: Has won two in a row and comes back to turf. The drop in for a tag is a bit alarming, but it’s not like this is a cheap claiming event, so it doesn’t strike me like they’re trying to dump the horse; #6 BEACH WALTZ: Has been running against stakes foes in her last three starts and gets much-needed class relief. This barn’s off to a slow start at the meet as of this writing, but there’s plenty of back form here; #7 HERA: Won at this level two back before faltering in an allowance race at Monmouth. She has tactical speed, and Luis Saez (who rode her to that win) comes back aboard. DIRT SELECTIONS: OLDFASHIONED STYLE, NIGHT OWL, BEACH WALTZ.

R3

Change of Venue
Dubb entry
Southeast

#6 CHANGE OF VENUE: Was eased last time out and takes a huge class drop for aggressive connections. A repeat of either race before that effort would make this one tough, and it never hurts to have Castellano aboard; DUBB ENTRY: I prefer #1A WEGOTTOLDYOUGOTSOLD, who comes off a long layoff. He’s been gelded since his last effort, and the recent workouts say he’s ready to run; #8 SOUTHEAST: Was claimed by Bruce Brown last time out and draws a favorable outside post. Joel Rosario has the mount for an outfit that’s quietly had success with new acquisitions.

R4

Belgian
Shangroyal
Canadian Flyer

#6 BELGIAN: Is stepped up in class in this spot after being claimed for $35,000 last time out at Churchill. He hasn’t won a lot, but he always seems to fire and he’s shown some flexibility in his running style; #2 SHANGROYAL: Is absolutely the horse to beat based on his back form. He’s very fast out of the gate, and on form, he’s the horse to beat, but why the class drop, and why is Ward also running #3 THE QUEENS JULES?; #1 CANADIAN FLYER: Was a stakes-level turf sprinter before going on the shelf last summer. At his best, he can fly early, and while he may need a race, chances are he’ll at least be a primary pace factor. DIRT SELECTIONS: SHANGROYAL, MINI MILES, BELGIAN.

R5

Charlie McCoy
Freud’s Affair
Wrong Ben

#1 CHARLIE MCCOY: Ran a colossal race in defeat last time out, losing by just a head at this level and distance. The possibility of a bounce is there, but I love his most recent work, and new rider John Velazquez has had lots of success with Michelle Nevin runners in the past; #10 FREUD’S AFFAIR: Merits a long look if the track dodges rain leading up to this race. He’s hit the board in his last 10 starts, and this barn has quietly posted a high win percentage with a limited amount of starters this year; #9 WRONG BEN: Has won two of his last three and steps back up in class. He’s got plenty of early speed and could be sent early by top rider Jose Ortiz.

R6

Out of Trouble
Vortex Road
Bareeqa

#3 OUT OF TROUBLE: Has improved significantly since going to the Brad Cox barn late last year. She’s finished second or better in five consecutive outings, and her last two wins came going two turns; #7 VORTEX ROAD: Has hit the board in her last eight starts dating back to October of last year and stretches back out to a two-turn route of ground. Like my top pick, she’s done some of her best work going two turns, and Castellano rides back; #4 BAREEQA: Makes her first start for Steve Asmussen over a turf course she absolutely loves. Perhaps she’s tailing off at age five, but if she channels her form from last summer (when she won twice here), she’s got a shot at a square price.

R7

Paula’s Pistol (MTO)
Glory to Kitten
Blasted Boss

#4 GLORY TO KITTEN: Found stakes company a bit too tough in her last two starts and takes a steep drop in class. This owner is an aggressive one, so said drop doesn’t concern me too much; #9 BLASTED BOSS: Got sharp at Fair Grounds over the winter, when she won three races in a row. She drops back down the ladder here and should be running well late; #10 MISS AJA BROWN: Won by more than seven last time out at this level after sitting a dream trip on an uncontested lead. It’s unlikely she’ll get that sort of trip here, but there’s also a chance Rudy Rodriguez has her going in the right direction, so I can’t completely ignore her. DIRT SELECTIONS: PAULA’S PISTOL, SILVER MAGNOLIA, LAKOTA.

R8

Uncle Mojo
Casses Story
Papa Shot

#4 UNCLE MOJO: Drops way down in class after setting the early pace in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster. His win two back in the slop at Pimlico was smashing, and anything close to the morning line seems like an overlay to me; #2 CASSES STORY: Ran second in his first start since January last time out, when he earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure. A bounce is possible, but he’s won here before and could be going the right way; #5 PAPA SHOT: Hasn’t won in a while, but was a close second last time out against similar company. Perhaps his best days are behind him, but he could also be ready to run third off the layoff.

R9

Hofburg
Madison’s Luna
Zing Zang

#1 HOFBURG: May have been favored in Saturday’s Jim Dandy had his connections opted to run him there. Instead, he’s starting in this restricted stakes race, and I think he’ll be a bit closer to the pace than usual in this spot; #2 MADISON’S LUNA: Seems like the lone pace presence in this event and could dictate terms down the backstretch. This seems like further than he wants to go, but if the track’s playing kindly to early speed, he could get brave; #3 ZING ZANG: Came running late to be third last time out against older horses. They likely won’t go nearly as fast in this spot, but there’s a chance he’s getting better with experience.

R10

Lightworker
Third Card Down
Tequila Sunday

#15 LIGHTWORKER: Merits a long look in this wide-open finale if she draws in off the AE list. She was second at this level and route twice downstate, and she beat several of her potential foes here in her most recent outing; #6 THIRD CARD DOWN: Was bet to less than 6-1 in her debut against maiden special weight foes, but ran evenly and finished fifth. She drops in class and adds both blinkers and Lasix for a barn that can win with dropdowns; #4 TEQUILA SUNDAY: Was disqualified from a runaway win two back and then broke slowly last time out. She’s had lots of chances, but if she can channel the two-back form, she’s got a shot to break through.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 7/28/17

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $952

Friday’s feature is the Curlin Stakes for 3-year-olds. In its short history, it’s produced a fair number of fine 3-year-olds, including 2014 Travers winner V.E. Day and 2016 Pennsylvania Derby and Cigar Mile hero Connect. Unfortunately, it falls at a rotten time of the season, and in some instances could wind up taking horses away from races like the Haskell and Jim Dandy (which will both be run this weekend).

My idea: Going forward, move the Curlin to Travers Day, where it would serve a role akin to the Easy Goer on Belmont Day. Doing so may attract up-and-coming 3-year-olds and horses that found the waters of the Haskell or Jim Dandy to be too deep. Furthermore, it would add one more stakes race to Saratoga’s biggest day.

THURSDAY’S RESULTS: We scratched out of the early Pick Four when races were moved off the turf.

FRIDAY’S PLAY: I found Friday’s card to be a real puzzle, and I’ll focus on the fifth. I’ll keep it simple, as I think first-time starters #1 LOOKING READY and #4 BIG GEMMY are the ones to fear. I’ll box them in $10 exactas and hope they run to their worktabs.

TOTAL WAGERED: $20

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Dovecote, Race 3
Longshot: Atwitzend, Race 10

R1

Mary Pray for Us
Big Mara
Madam Aamoura

MARY PRAY FOR US: Was exceptional against weaker company last time out and was claimed by Michelle Nevin. Jose Ortiz has done stellar work for this barn, and a repeat performance would make this one tough; BIG MARA: Takes a huge drop in class and likely didn’t appreciate the wet tracks she encountered in each of her last two. A race similar to what she was running last fall/winter may be enough to win; MADAM AAMOURA: May be the main speed and is favored on the morning line, but hasn’t won in a year and a half. Her best is competitive, but she may be an underlay at her listed price.

R2

Lightning Buzz
Professor Snape
Noneedtoflatterme

LIGHTNING BUZZ: Took a big step forward second off the layoff last time out. He was second in his debut here last summer, and further improvement could be in the cards; PROFESSOR SNAPE: Was a close-up second over a wet track last time out when sprinting for the first time since his unveiling. Trainer Linda Rice is off to a strong start to the meet; NONEEDTOFLATTERME: Comes back to dirt and takes a big drop in class. His lone win came in his solo dirt sprint to date, and that’s the route he gets here.

R3

Presumptuous (MTO)
Dovecote
Red Dane

DOVECOTE: Rated well off a slow pace last time out, but rallied to be beaten less than two lengths. The distance should not be a problem, and any pace she gets is a plus; RED DANE: Gets Lasix for the first time and has a pedigree that indicates she could love this marathon distance. Her recent turf races are encouraging, and we may get a bit of a price; DOUBLE CAST: Just missed in each of her last two starts, but she had perfect trips on both occasions, and those horses aren’t ones I typically bet back at low odds. DIRT SELECTIONS: PRESUMPTUOUS, DOVECOTE, BRILLIANT MISSY.

R4

Gambler’s Ghost
Will Did It
Diodoro entry

GAMBLER’S GHOST: Takes a huge class drop and figures to be the main speed. The rider switch to Jose Ortiz is a positive one, and it helps that he’s had three top-two finishes in as many local starts; WILL DID IT: Hasn’t won in a while, but drops down in class and has back form that indicates he could win on his best day. With his late kick, he’d benefit from someone dueling with my top pick; DIODORO ENTRY: I prefer SET THE TRAPPE, who found starter allowance company too tough last time out but won two and three back. This is the level he likely wants, and he could sit a nice stalking trip.

R5

Looking Ready
Big Gemmy
Five Star Bunt

LOOKING READY: Has worked very well both here and downstate. Castellano is enticed to ride, and if the morning zip arrives in the afternoon, he’ll be tough; BIG GEMMY: Earned a bullet in his most recent work at Churchill Downs, which isn’t easy for a 2-year-old to do. Other drills indicate that wasn’t a fluke, and he could be a good one if he runs to that worktab; FIVE STAR BUNT: Showed a bit of early interest in his debut. The rail isn’t an ideal place to break from, but experience helps at this stage of the game, and not many of these have run before.

R6

Flattermefabulous
Marnesia Big Girl
Cinder

FLATTERMEFABULOUS: Is my top pick in what I consider to be the toughest race of the day to handicap. Ultimately, I opted for this one, who has substantial back class and may be closer to the pace today than she has been in her most recent starts; MARNESIA BIG GIRL: Comes back to the turf in her first start since January. Her starts here last summer against similar company weren’t bad; CINDER: Exits a swiftly-run allowance race at Ellis Park and won two back at Churchill. This is another who may be up fairly close considering the relative lack of early speed signed on alongside her. DIRT SELECTIONS: RIMANISEMPREFORTE, MARNESIA BIG GIRL, ANDESINE.

R7

Economic Model
Threefiveindia
Shaft of Light

ECONOMIC MODEL: Hasn’t won in a while, but can be forgiven for that given the company he’s kept. There’s no shame in running behind the likes of Drefong and Mor Spirit, and he was second in last year’s King’s Bishop at this route; THREEFIVEINDIA: Hasn’t stepped forward from three to four, but could still be part of a 1-2 finish for trainer Chad Brown. He should sit just off the prominent early pace and have first run on the tiring early leaders; SHAFT OF LIGHT: Merits respect, as does any runner from the red-hot Jorge Navarro barn, but needs the lead and runs in a spot where several others do, too. His best could win, but he may need to overcome a lot to do that.

R8

Dogtown (MTO)
Rocketry
Shamsaan

ROCKETRY: Has shown ample talent in turf marathons despite a tendency to encounter trouble. Any early pace his rivals show will be welcome, as he’ll likely come flying late; SHAMSAAN: Rallied for third last out despite an early pace that was far from kind to closers. He’ll likely be a price, but note his connections have tried stakes company with him in the past, and he could be starting to figure things out; MEMORIES OF PETER: Hasn’t won in nearly two years, but is one of only a few in here to have shown any early zip. If he gets left alone on the lead, he could be tough to run down. DIRT SELECTIONS: DOGTOWN, SHAMSAAN, HOLIDAY BONUS.

R9

Outplay
You’re to Blame
Small Bear

OUTPLAY: Was up close to a scorching hot pace in the Easy Goer, which was won by Travers probable West Coast. He shouldn’t have to go nearly as fast in this spot, which is largely devoid of other early speed; YOU’RE TO BLAME: Was second in the Easy Goer and merits a look. He did get a perfect setup in his last outing, but he’s trained well since then and is a contender here; SMALL BEAR: Is 3-for-4 going a mile or longer and 0-for-4 in shorter events. He gets his preferred trip here, and a repeat of his last race likely gets him a piece of it here.

R10

Digitaldestruction
Atwitzend
Colonel Andy

DIGITALDESTRUCTION: Showed speed and faded against better in his debut earlier this month downstate. He needs a scratch to draw in, but logical improvement would make this gelding formidable; ATWITZEND: Showed early interest going longer in his debut for a barn that doesn’t win often with first-time starters. The blinkers come off and speed rider Paco Lopez comes on; COLONEL ANDY: Has collected many minor checks at this level and seems like a candidate for another one. He was second at this level and route last summer. DIRT SELECTIONS: DAB, SICILIA MIKE, MR. CAT.