SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/18/19)



There are times where I don’t get Twitter. Tuesday night, I tweeted a link to my picks and analysis (as a reminder, those are available at every racing day, as are my bankroll plays/blurbs). It was responded to by another user, who said, and I quote, “no one gives a **** what you think.” I went to see who it was…and it turns out he followed me (prior to me hitting the always-handy “block” button, of course).

To review: Someone who followed me saw my tweet, read it, likely clicked on my analysis, and then took the time to tell me that nobody cares what I think. Something sure seems backwards here, doesn’t it?

WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: This section didn’t make it into print due to a printing error (though it was online Monday night, much to the delight of my intern at the chiropractic college where I work!). We had $10 to win and place on Project Whiskey in the fifth, and while she ran OK at a price, she could only manage a third-place finish. We dropped $20.

THURSDAY’S PLAY: This is tough, because we don’t know if they’ll be on the turf. Assuming they are (and with the usual caveat that all bets in this section assume turf races stay there), I’ll play the early Pick Four, which starts in the second race. I’ll play it for a dollar (as opposed to the 50-cent minimum), and my ticket looks like this: 2,4,6,7 with 3 with 2,7,9 with 4,8.


– – – – –

BEST BET: Fierce Lady, Race 3
LONGSHOT: Roaming Union, Race 9


Senor Jobim
Golden Tiger
Smile Bryan

#2 SENOR JOBIM: May have just hated Belmont Park, where he didn’t sit his preferred trip. A wet track is likely, and he’s run well over such surfaces in the past; #4 GOLDEN TIGER: Has run well twice at Churchill Downs and has a win over this tricky seven-furlong distance. When Al Stall comes in, he usually means business, and Rosario signing on is a plus; #5 SMILE BRYAN: May need to take a step forward to win, but has the right running style for a race full of early speed. The faster they go early, the more this one figures to like it.


Beyond Gone

#6 JUSTINTIMEFORWINE: Is the only one in here with any experience and comes in off of a bullet drill here a few days ago. This barn’s horses often need a race to get going, and he may be a bit of a price; #2 BEYOND GONE: Has a series of solid works out of town and sold for a solid $40,000 despite a modest pedigree. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because this barn’s numbers with debuting runners aren’t great; #7 JAMFLOWMAN: Debuts for a conditioner who has quietly had a very strong year to this point. He draws well, and both of his dam’s other offspring are winners.


Fierce Lady
Time Limit
Jewel of Arabia

#3 FIERCE LADY: Debuted with a very strong performance downstate where she stopped the timer in :56 and change for five furlongs. Simply put, if she repeats that performance, the race is for second; #6 TIME LIMIT: Was also impressive in victory in her unveiling, though that race didn’t come back as highly-rated as my top pick’s debut. She’s certainly eligible to improve at second asking; #2 JEWEL OF ARABIA: Is ambitiously spotted in her debut, but she fetched $140,000 at auction and debuts for a hot barn. She could be ready enough to hit the board at a square price.


Chief Know It All (MTO)
He’s No Lemon

#7 EVERYONELOVESJAMES: Has come to hand for Jonathan Sheppard, winning two in a row downstate against state-breds. This is certainly a class test, but he seems like the lone speed, which is always dangerous in turf marathons; #2 HE’S NO LEMON: Hasn’t run a bad race this year and comes in off of a race where he earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. He’s got experience at the distance and should be running well late; #9 EXTRAORDINARY JERRY: Handled additional distance pretty well when third at this level last time out. He hasn’t won on turf in a while, but the possibility of a perfect stalking trip is enticing. DIRT SELECTIONS: CHIEF KNOW IT ALL, EXTRAORDINARY JERRY, MILLS.


City Man (MTO)
More Like It

#4 BARLEEWON: Is bred up and down for turf and has worked well ahead of his debut. This doesn’t seem like the strongest field for the level, so he may not have to be much to win right away; #8 MORE LIKE IT: Is worth a look based on his strong turf pedigree. He has a few strong works downstate and is a candidate to run well at a price; #10 FLY FLY AWAY: Is a half-brother to world-class turf sprinter Disco Partner and debuts here for the Clement barn. He merits respect based on his pedigree, but the post position is a big concern. DIRT SELECTIONS: CITY MAN, TURBO DRIVE, SHANDIAN.


Smooth With a Kick

#4 SMOOTH WITH A KICK: Was up close to a face pace last time out, and she should get a much easier trip here. She’s taken steps forward in each of her starts, and a front-running trip going two turns should suit her; #3 HIGHTAILING: Ran well twice earlier this year before throwing in a clunker at Belmont. She’s bred to like two turns, so a return to form is certainly possible; #2 KELLEYCANRUN: Made a bit of a move last time out going shorter for a trainer whose firsters often need a race to get going. She certainly seems like a candidate to improve.


Seven Is Heaven
Wicked Grin

#10 ALPHASTEST: Got caught going seven furlongs last time out, but this shorter trip should be more to his liking. The outside post isn’t ideal, but he could make an easy lead and clear most (or all) of the field pretty quickly; #12 WICKED GRIN: Is another that got burned by the draw, but he drops way down in class for this maiden claiming event. He’s got enough past form to suggest he could overcome the tough post; #4 BETSY’S BEAU: Merits inclusion at a big price. He goes to turf, which he’s bred to handle, and he drops in class for a trainer whose horses often improve with experience.


Brown entry
Phoenix entry

BROWN ENTRY: I prefer #2B VALUE PROPOSITION, who tired in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge after smashing maiden foes at first asking. #2 SPIRIT ANIMAL also seems well-meant off the bench, and he graduated here last summer; #7 OPRY: Won the Grade 3 With Anticipation here in 2018 and recently returned from a long layoff. His race off the break was very good, and a step forward would make him formidable; PHOENIX ENTRY: #1 KADAR makes his American debut and gets Lasix, while #1A MAGNIFICENT MCCOOL has back class and may be tough if this gets rained off the turf. DIRT SELECTIONS: MAGNIFICENT MCCOOL, OPRY, TAPIT WISE.


Roaming Union

#2 HOFBURG: Makes his 2019 debut after a star-crossed 3-year-old campaign where he placed in a pair of Grade 1 races. He’s been training well, should get a setup for his late-running style, and would be tough if he’s fully-cranked; #6 ROAMING UNION: Stretches back out to a two-turn route of ground, and his best races have come at such configurations. This barn is sending out live horses, and while Hofburg would be formidable if he’s ready, maybe he needs a race; #5 VINCENTO: Gets wheeled back quickly by Linda Rice after a win on opening day. He got a perfect setup that day, but he should be on or near the lead early at a price.


Drawing Away entry (MTO)
Sadie Lady
Merlins Muse

#11 SADIE LADY: Has shown plenty of early zip in three turf starts, and that would come in handy here given the outside post and likely race shape. Joel Rosario rides back, and I think she could wire this group; #8 MERLINS MUSE: Has a win at this route and comes in off another victory downstate. John Velazquez doesn’t ride a ton for this barn, but when he does, his mounts are usually live; #7 MAMA MARY: Has won two of her last three starts, including a turf sprint at Belmont last month. Her two turf efforts have both been solid, and she could sit a nice stalking trip just off the speed. DIRT SELECTIONS: DRAWING AWAY ENTRY, CAMORRA, MAMA MARY.

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


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.



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

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


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.


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.


Change of Venue
Dubb entry

#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.


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.


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.


Out of Trouble
Vortex Road

#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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

2018 Belmont Stakes: Analysis, Selections, Tickets, and Unpopular Opinions

Let’s get one crucifixion-inducing opinion out of the way right now: If Justify loses the Belmont Stakes, thus failing to win horse racing’s Triple Crown, there’s a chance I make a LOT of money.

In my heart, I want Justify to channel Secretariat and guzzle the field with the type of performance where he could stop at King Umberto’s for a slice and a Jay Privman handshake going around the first turn, chow down on the backstretch, burp a few times around the far turn, and win by 20. If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Horse racing needs stars, and if Justify can go from an unraced maiden to a Triple Crown winner in less than four months, he’ll ascend to a level few equines of the past century have reached.

From a gambling standpoint, though, I think it’s worth trying to beat him (as I also explained following the Preakness). The old gambling adage says to never bet a horse, as the favorite, to do something it’s never done before. The Belmont will be Justify’s sixth start in less than four months, and it will be contested at the grueling distance of a mile and a half against a sizable field, some of whom are bred up and down for this trip (more on two of them later). His Preakness wasn’t atrocious, but it was certainly a step back from his prior efforts. If he brings his Kentucky Derby form with him Saturday, maybe the race is for second. If he brings his Preakness form, where he edged two longshots by less than a length (one of which he dusted two weeks prior), then the race is much more wide-open than the odds board will say it is.

For those reasons, I think it’s prudent to take a swing against Justify in the Belmont. If Justify wins, I’ll consider my $40 money well-spent to ensure racing’s pantheon of greats opens its doors to another one, and I’ll cheer right along with the racing public. However, if one of the two horses I’m using in the all-stakes Pick Four wins, I stand to make, to quote former TVG colleague Todd Schrupp, racks on racks on racks (hi, Todd!).

We’ll dive into that Pick Four later, but first, we’ll talk about the races that comprise the early Pick Five. I like that sequence, and it’s one where you may be rewarded handsomely even without the presence of big prices. Let’s take a look!

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 1,6
R2: 2,3,6,7
R3: 4,6
R4: 3,7
R5: 3,9

64 Bets, $32

I don’t have singles on my ticket, and that’s by design. I think many of these races can be whittled down to just two horses, with the second being the most wide-open of the bunch.

I couldn’t get past the two likely favorites in the opener, as #1 LA MONEDA and #6 WAR CANOE look like the ones to beat. The former comes back to turf after a race she probably needed off the long layoff, while the latter outran her 38-1 odds when third in a state-bred stakes race last month and gets class relief here.

The second race is the Easy Goer, which last year was won by eventual champion West Coast. I can’t see a horse in here getting that good by year’s end, but it’s a solid group. #2 MASK looks imposing if you can forgive his clunker in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile, which was in a bog off of a four-month break. I’m using him, but I don’t think he’s any sort of a cinch. #3 RUGBYMAN graduated by a city block last time out, #6 BREAKING THE RULES is 2 for 2 and bred up and down for distance, and #7 DARK VADER comes in off a lifetime-best effort in a classy optional claimer (the third-place finisher came back to win a Cal-bred stakes race).

Race #3 is the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps for older fillies and mares. #6 ABEL TASMAN is a must-use. She’ll be favored and appears to be working with a purpose since her seasonal debut, where she ran fourth in the Grade 1 La Troienne. We know she can handle Belmont, and Bob Baffert may have her fully cranked. However, I also need to use #4 PACIFIC WIND. She’s 2 for 2 since coming to the Chad Brown barn, and one of those wins came in the Grade 2 Ruffian. If you toss out last year’s Grade 2 Bayakoa over a quirky Los Alamitos surface, she’s undefeated on dirt, and I think she could give last year’s Champion 3-Year-Old Filly all she can handle.

The fourth is the Grade 1 Acorn. #3 MONOMOY GIRL may be the shortest-priced favorite on the card, and that includes Justify in the Belmont. She’s emerged as the top 3-year-old filly in the country, but I have enough reservations here to where I cannot single her and move on. I think she’s a two-turn horse, and her lone one-turn race on dirt, while a win, came over a soft field. The other one I need to have on my ticket is #7 TALK VEUVE TO ME, who ran really well when second in the Grade 2 Eight Belles. She was nearly five lengths clear of the third-place finisher that day, and I don’t think this distance will be a problem. The outside post helps her, and she’ll certainly be a playable price.

The payoff leg is the Grade 2 Brooklyn for older horses going a mile and a half. #9 WAR STORY won this race last year and has done tremendous work when placed in the right spots (also known as steering clear of Gun Runner). He was very impressive in this race a season ago, and a repeat effort would make him tough. The only horse I could see beating him is #3 HARD STUDY, who is a perfect 6 for 6 over fast dirt tracks and exits a runaway win in the Flat Out, which serves as Belmont’s local prep for this event.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R8: 1,3,4,5,7
R9: 2,4,10,11
R10: 1,10
R11: 4,8

80 Bets, $40

Yep, not only am I tossing Justify, but I’m also trying to beat Mind Your Biscuits in the Grade 1 Met Mile. I’ll talk a bit more about that when we get to that race.

The eighth is the Grade 1 Just a Game, and I don’t have a clue. I spread pretty deep in here, and if I could’ve afforded to buy the race, I would have done so. Chad Brown’s got a few strong runners in here, as both #3 OFF LIMITS and #7 A RAVING BEAUTY could win. Depending on how the turf course is playing, though, #4 LULL could be dangerous. She’s the main early speed in this race, and Belmont’s turf course tends to be very kind to horses that are forwardly-positioned. If she’s allowed to dictate terms, she could forget to stop, and if that happens, we’ll start this wager off with a mild upset.

The ninth is the Grade 1 Met Mile, and as mentioned, I’m against #1 MIND YOUR BISCUITS. Yes, he ran a colossal race in Dubai, when he rallied from well back on a track that had been favoring speed for weeks. Having said that, his record at this distance isn’t great. He was second in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last year, and he ran OK that day, but he actually lost ground to Sharp Azteca late, which isn’t what you want to see from a closer. The rail draw also presents a problem, and it’s not like there’s much early speed signed on.

I’m going four-deep without using that one, and my top pick is a big price on the morning line. That’s #4 MCCRAKEN, who’s perfect at this distance, has been pointed to this race for months by his connections, and could be sitting on a big performance second off of the long layoff. #10 BEE JERSEY seems like the main speed, and #11 AWESOME SLEW never seems to run a bad race, so I had to use them both. Finally, I threw #2 BOLT D’ORO on my ticket as well. If you toss out the Kentucky Derby, where he was not persevered with late, he fits with this group, and he’s been working lights-out at Keeneland since that effort.

I couldn’t get past the two Chad Brown trainees in the 10th, the Grade 1 Manhattan. #1 ROBERT BRUCE and #10 BEACH PATROL look like the best horses in here, and while the former can certainly win, I prefer the latter. The Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs was contested over one of the wettest turf courses we’ve seen over the past several years, and Beach Patrol ran a game second in a race that doubled as his first start in six months while going shorter than he probably wants to go. This trip should be more to his liking, and if he’s fully-cranked, I think he’ll be tough to beat.

This brings us to the Belmont Stakes. You already know that I’m taking a stand against Justify. Instead, I’ll rely on top pick #4 HOFBURG, who’s bred up and down for this trip and had a ton of trouble in the Kentucky Derby, and #8 VINO ROSSO, whose one-paced style and distance-oriented pedigree make him a natural fit for this race. Perhaps they need Justify to regress, but if that happens and this ticket hits, it’s entirely possible we’re looking at a massive score by my modest standards.