If you followed me this spring, you saw I did some writing work for The Paulick Report. I’m fortunate to count several members of their staff as friends. One of them, Eclipse Award winner Joe Nevills, invited me onto this week’s episode of The Friday Show.
We discussed what goes into my work at Saratoga, as well as some key positive and negative angles that I look for in my handicapping. We fit a lot into about 15 minutes and would have gone a lot longer if not for a producer being a stickler about a strict time limit (it’s a good thing I like HIM, too).
THURSDAY’S RESULTS: Fast Corey was outsprinted early in the finale and never had a shot. I dropped $30.
FRIDAY’S PLAY: I’ll look to extract some value out of my strongest opinion. I think #4 AMERICAN PURE is the most likely winner on the program. I’ll have a $15 win ticket on him, and I’ll also single him in a $5 cold double that ends with #7 STATIC FIRE in the eighth (the Coronation Cup). Finally, I’ll start a $1 Pick Three in the sixth with #4 DANZIGWITHTHESTARS and #7 RUSE, single American Pure in the seventh, and finish with #3 TWILIGHT GLEAMING, #6 DERRYNANE, and Static Fire.
TOTAL WAGERED: $26.
Best Bet: American Pure, Race 7
Longshot: Static Fire, Race 8
Im Just Kiddin
#3 MADDIE’S GRACE: Has been working slowly ahead of her debut, but this barn is sneaky with firsters and there’s reason to believe she can run. Her two half-siblings to race are both winners, her dam is kin to 2-year-old stakes winner Tip Tap Tapizar, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride; #6 CAMP AKEELA: Comes in off a pretty big gate work at Churchill Downs for a trainer that can win with first-time starters. Offspring of the late Laoban tend to be precocious. If there’s hesitation here, it’s because the dam-side pedigree is mostly turf; #5 IM JUST KIDDIN: Is bred in the purple, being by Triple Crown winner Justify and out of the dam of Grade 1 winner Bar of Gold. She’s worked consistently ahead of her unveiling, but this barn’s runners tend to need a race or two to get going.
#1 REMAIN ANONYMOUS: Hasn’t won in a while, but goes first off the claim for Brad Cox and has shown an affinity for this surface. Her lone local start was a win, and it helps that she doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well; #6 MELTING SNOW: Was claimed by Tom Amoss last month at Churchill and makes her local debut. Her late-2021 and early-2022 form would make her a major player here, and it wouldn’t be a shock if she found it in her first start for this outfit; #2 CUSTOMEREXPERIENCE: Drops down in class after spending much of 2022 knocking heads with tougher competition downstate. She’s hit the board three times in as many local starts and won impressively at this level back in January at Aqueduct.
Curlin’s Wisdom (MTO)
#4 BIONDI: May be in a “now or never” spot as what seems like the main speed in a turf route otherwise devoid of early zip. The inner turf course is kind to such situations, and Luis Saez has won lots of money putting speed horses on the lead; #3 WHISTLER’S HONOR: Was one-paced in his return off a long layoff and has every right to improve second off the bench. This is his first start around two turns, and his pedigree says such a journey should be right up his street; #5 MR. CONNECTICUT: Flopped when the blinkers were put on last time, and they promptly come off here. Joel Rosario, however, comes on, and this one would stand to benefit if my top pick is challenged early.
Just Like This
#1 ACTUALIZE: Is one of many taking a significant class drop in this maiden claiming event. He’s repeatedly shown early speed over some boggy surfaces and has the zip to make the rail draw an asset. If he gets comfortable, he could prove tough to catch; #6 JUST LIKE THIS: Hammered for $250,000 in 2020 and is in for less than 10% of that in this spot. He debuted going a mile on turf, adds both Lasix and blinkers for Cox, and could step forward; #7 SUPPRESSOR: Is 0-for-12 but has been competitive against better groups with regularity. He was most recently third downstate for a $40,000 tag, and he should be forwardly placed early on.
Gooch Go Bragh
Lord of War
#2 GOOCH GO BRAGH: Was 4-1 in a $100,000 stakes race two starts back and now runs for a $35,000 claiming tag. Perhaps he’s not the horse he was in early-2022, but anything close gives him a big shot, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., rides when he likely had a few options; #10 AL’S PRINCE: Found starter allowance foes a bit too tough last time after breaking his maiden two back. That win came in his lone two-turn turf start to date, and while the post position is an obstacle, he may be talented enough to overcome it; #9 LORD OF WAR: Has shown some early speed against tougher groups, which could give him a favorable trip in his first start this year against claiming company. Dylan Davis enjoyed a stellar spring downstate and can be aggressive, so don’t be surprised if this one is on the pace at a bit of a price.
#7 RUSE: Played a key part in my best day ever when he won here at 9-1 last September. He hasn’t run a bad race since that performance, and his proven upstate New York form is enough to earn my nod in a tough optional claimer; #4 DANZIGWITHTHESTARS: Won here twice last summer and was also a credible fourth in a minor stakes race. He hasn’t won since his second local score, but his last-out third hints he could be rounding back into form, and Luis Saez riding back is a positive; #2 BAR FOURTEEN: Has woken up since going back to the turf this past May and might be the main early speed. Jose Lezcano is one of the top turf riders on the circuit, and at a minimum he should be a primary pace factor at a considerable price.
I Am the Cash Man
Will E Sutton
#4 AMERICAN PURE: Threw in a clunker in a stakes-quality optional claimer last time out and drops way down the ladder. His wins two and three back were sharp, he’s been working well, and anything close to the 7/2 morning line hits me as a major overlay; #6 I AM THE CASH MAN: Provides the first “beware of Finger Lakes shippers” warning of the meet. Figures-wise, he stacks up reasonably well with this bunch, and it’s telling that Worrie takes a ride in for just one mount; #5 WILL E SUTTON: Drops down in class and should relish the shallower waters. He was less than 10-1 in a stakes race downstate two starts ago, and both of his wins have come at distances similar to this nine-furlong route.
#7 STATIC FIRE: Has done absolutely nothing wrong in two starts and has never trailed at any point of call. The last-out runner-up came right back to win, we know she likes this route, and I think she’s a very promising prospect; #3 TWILIGHT GLEAMING: Has never finished worse than second in seven lifetime starts and won last year’s Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint. She merits respect, but on Beyer Speed Figures, she hasn’t moved forward the way I thought she might. Against this field, she may have to fire a career-best shot; #6 DERRYNANE: Is a closer who sometimes finds trouble but is a handful when she gets clear sailing. There’s certainly plenty of speed for her to chase in the Coronation Cup, and a pace meltdown isn’t out of the question.
Art Collector (MTO)
#1 SET PIECE: Is the likely favorite in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple, and for good reason. Last year’s runner-up in the Grade 1 Fourstardave seems to run the same race every time out. In a race with plenty of speed on paper, that sort of effort makes him a formidable chalk; #7 PUBLIC SECTOR: Stepped forward in the Grade 3 Poker, when he rated off of a very slow early pace and still made up some ground late. He’s a perfect 3-for-3 at Saratoga and has every right to run a big one in his third start off a long layoff; #3 MIRA MISSION: Was a hard-luck second in the Grade 1 Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard. He’s certainly come to hand for trainer Ian Wilkes, and he’s got enough early speed to lay just off of what figures to be a solid pace.
#2 ROSSA VELOCE: Misfired first off the claim last time out, but she’s shown she’s not overly fond of Belmont Park. By contrast, she’s won at Saratoga, and she faces state-bred foes for the first time since a score at this level back in February; #3 KHALI MAGIC: Hasn’t won in a while but has been very competitive at this level all season long. She was a good second at this distance at Belmont two starts ago, and a similar effort in this spot gives her a big chance; #9 SHESAWILDJOKER: Won a stakes race last year and placed in two others, but went to the sidelines after a January clunker. She adds Lasix and has been working well for David Donk ahead of her return to the races.