It’s Whitney Day at Saratoga, yes, but it’s also an annual day of celebration for one group at the Spa Saturday. I’m referring to the Saratoga Stumble, which is helmed by fellow Pink Sheet handicapper and Saratogian sports staff veteran Sam Hollingsworth. People from the greater Mechanicville area wearing matching t-shirts descend on Saratoga Springs and consume mass quantities of alcohol, and it’s apparently a wonderful time. Be safe, everyone!
In addition, if you’d like to see more of me analyzing today’s racing action, I pinch-hit on “The Magic Mike Show” presented by Racing Dudes, and “Champagne and J.D.” will be live online at 9 a.m. Eastern Saturday morning. We’ll be joined by Laura King from the Dubai Racing Channel, who’s in town for a special on-site broadcast. If you miss the live show, we’ll have it up on our YouTube channel shortly after it ends.
As always, August is a busy month, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Cards like Whitney Day are what make Saratoga special, and they also make doing what I do an incredible experience. I should write a book or something.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Value Engineering ran third, Lazuli was off the board, and I dropped $33.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: The all-stakes Pick Five is a really fun sequence, and that’s where I’ll invest some money. It starts in the sixth (the Lure), ends in the 10th (the Whitney), and my 50-cent ticket looks like this: 2,3,5 with 3,4,5,6 with 1,4,7,8 with 6 with 4. In addition, I’ll also play a $10 cold double starting in the ninth (the Saratoga Derby Invitational) that singles both #6 BOLSHOI BALLET and likely Whitney favorite #4 KNICKS GO.
TOTAL WAGERED: $34.
Best Bet: Bolshoi Ballet, Race 9
Longshot: Chestertown, Race 11
K Club (MTO)
#8 SPEAK UNITY: Stretches out to two turns after a pair of sprint races and is bred to love the extra ground. He’s by Belmont winner Union Rags, out of a Dynaformer mare, and makes his first start as a gelding for top-notch horseman Jonathan Thomas; #5 BOSTON FLAGSHIP: Ran well enough to be third in his debut earlier in the meet despite racing very greenly most of the way. Improvement is logical at second asking, especially for a barn whose horses tend to get better with experience; #2 DRIPPING GOLD: Hammered for $300,000 at auction earlier this year and is a full brother to multiple Grade 3 winner Aurelia’s Belle. He’s been working steadily for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey and may be good enough to factor in this despite his inexperience.
Grumps Little Tots
#8 GRUMPS LITTLE TOTS: Didn’t have much pace to run at last time at Belmont, but still ran on well enough to be fourth that day. It sure seems like there’s more speed in this heat, and the return to a two-turn configuration should hit him right between the eyes; #4 HEIRLOOM KITTEN: Has plenty of early speed and figures to be prominent going into the first turn. He was claimed last time out by an outfit that doesn’t claim many runners, and he ran well at this route twice last summer; #2 AMERICAN TATTOO: Ran well when second in his first dirt route since January last time out at Churchill Downs. He’s got plenty of back class, is another with some early zip, and perhaps he’s found his form again after a few starts for the Norm Casse barn.
#2 TUGGLE: Came back running off a very long layoff when second in a similar spot at Belmont. Unlike several others in this field, he doesn’t need the lead in order to run well, and he could sit a perfect stalking trip just off what figures to be a hot pace; #5 DREAM BIGGER: Is entered to run for the first time in nearly a year, but he’ll have every chance if he’s ready to run. He’s raced almost exclusively in stakes company, is a three-time stakes winner, and has every right to improve from age three to age four; #4 STAGE LEFT: Has won twice in three local starts, and his best race could certainly win this. His last-out misfire at Churchill is concerning, but he’s been working consistently since then and trainer Wesley Ward always merits respect.
Gold Panda (MTO)
#5 RUSE: Ran third at this level earlier in the meet despite a wide trip behind a very slow pace. He gets a far friendlier draw here, and I’m hoping his speed can be better utilized here. If he gets comfortable early, he could prove tough to catch; #9 SHUTTERS: Fetched $115,000 at auction back in 2019 despite a pretty modest pedigree and debuts for Chad Brown. This barn alone will attract money, but extended stays at Monmouth usually hit me as red flags, and that’s where he was from May through most of July; #2 SPORTINI: Has been working well ahead of his debut for Michael Stidham, who’s shown he can win with first-time starters. Two-turn events can be tough on unarmed horses, but he’s bred for this sort of route and attracts Luis Saez, which can’t be ignored.
#2 BRIGADIER GENERAL: Showed talent in his debut, when he was second in a swiftly-run event at Churchill Downs. The added distance shouldn’t be a problem given his pedigree, and I love the two recent five-furlong drills over the training track, which hint he’s only moved forward since that effort; #6 VODKA MARDINI: Has every right to be a very good horse. This Steve Asmussen trainee is by Bernardini, out of multiple stakes-winning sprinter Hot City Girl, and sports several bullet drills from the gate downstate; #5 BIG SKIPPER: Hammered for $590,000 last September and has a pedigree we won’t see often. He’s by the late Arrogate, out of a Speightstown mare, and has worked well here, but he’s another with an extensive Monmouth work tab that provokes at least a bit of hesitation.
#3 VALUE PROPOSITION: Is one of several live horses in here trained by Chad Brown, and he exits a near miss in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple. He was second behind a loose-on-the-lead winner, and a repeat of that effort could get him the lion’s share of the purse in the Lure; #5 FLAVIUS: Always seems to run well and exits a close-up second in the Seek Again at Belmont. He always seems to run well, and his best race could absolutely win this, but he’s also won just once in eight stateside starts, which doesn’t inspire confidence; #2 DELAWARE: Was third in the Forbidden Apple and didn’t get much pace to chase in that event. His best races have come going two turns and he should be going the right way turning for home, but will the early fractions be fast enough to set up for his late kick?
War Like Goddess
My Sister Nat
#3 WAR LIKE GODDESS: Comes in off of back-to-back Grade 3 wins going long, and her runaway score in the Bewitch at Keeneland was particularly impressive. She’s still fairly lightly-raced, so she may have room to improve, which is a scary thought for her rivals in the Grade 2 Glens Falls; #6 DALIKA: Almost certainly has to improve, but should get an ideal setup to run a career-best race. There isn’t much other zip in this race, at least on paper, and she should be able to dictate terms from the jump, which could give her a tactical advantage; #5 MY SISTER NAT: Hasn’t won in a while, but that most recent win came in last summer’s Grade 3 Waya at this route of ground. She exits a third-place finish in the Grade 2 New York behind Mean Mary, who would take plenty of money here, and if another runner goes with Dalika early, she’d be a primary beneficiary.
#4 OBLIGATORY: Cuts back to seven furlongs and could be in prime position to take advantage of a sizzling early pace in the Grade 1 Test. She’ll want to sit far back and make a sweeping move late, and the likely race shape should play right into her hands (hooves?); #7 SEARCH RESULTS: Is 4-for-5 lifetime, with her lone defeat coming when she was beaten a neck by Malathaat in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. She capitalized on a perfect trip to take the Grade 1 Acorn, and if the early pace is softer than expected, she could prove tough to run down; #8 BELLA SOFIA: Won two of three starts downstate and gets a big class test here. However, she draws very favorably here and stacks up pretty favorably from a figures standpoint, and it’s tough to poke holes in what she’s done to date.
#6 BOLSHOI BALLET: Cruised to victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, which came a month after he was the 6/5 favorite in one of England’s greatest races, the Group 1 Epsom Derby. I think he’s an exceptionally talented 3-year-old, and if he’s right, he should prove tough to beat; #4 CADILLAC: Came back running in June, when he took a Group 3 at The Curragh going a mile and a quarter against older foes. His one stateside start came in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, when he was a decent fourth, and he’s probably better now than he was then; #11 KING FURY: Makes his first start on turf here but has every right to love the lawn. His dam, Taris, is a half-sister to a stakes-winning turfer, his third dam was a Grade 3 winner on grass, and if he takes to the new surface, he could crash the exotics at a price.
#4 KNICKS GO: Bounced back from a disappointing run in the Grade 1 Met Mile with an explosive romp in the Grade 3 Cornhusker, where he earned a career-high 113 Beyer Speed Figure. If he’s right, he’ll likely lead the Grade 1 Whitney from gate to wire, and there’s no reason to think he isn’t; #3 SWISS SKYDIVER: Beat the boys last year in the Grade 1 Preakness, and her connections merit tons of respect for trying them again here. She won the Grade 1 Alabama over this track last summer, and a similar effort could earn her a sizable check here; #5 MAXFIELD: Has only been beaten once in eight career starts and would benefit if my top two selections cook each other early. Having said that, questions linger over the quality of rivals he’s beaten in those seven wins. This is a Grade 1 race in every sense of the word, and he may need a career-best race to get the job done.
#8 CHESTERTOWN: Has been gelded since his last start, and that should really help him. The former $2 million baby has shown equal parts talent and stubbornness in the afternoons, and if he moves forward, the winner of last year’s Albany here may have a big chance at a square price; DUBB ENTRY: I prefer #1A MUSICAL HEART, who won the Flat Out two back at Belmont and was fairly well-fancied in the Grade 2 Brooklyn. He ran into Lone Rock that day, and these waters are significantly more shallow; #3 RISK TAKING: Drops back into the allowance/optional claiming ranks after tackling the likes of Rombauer in the Grade 1 Preakness back in May. He gets Lasix for the first time in addition to the class drop, and that potent mixture can’t be ignored in this tricky betting race.
#7 TIME LIMIT: Gets a reluctant nod in a puzzling Saturday finale. She ran very well to top state-bred competition earlier in the meet, the Maker barn is winning everything in sight right now, and Luis Saez should be able to use this filly’s early zip to work out a favorable trip; #6 RISKY MISCHIEF: Found a new home on turf last year, and her first victory on the grass came at this route last August. She’s been away since November, but if she’s ready to run, her flexible running style will make her a contender; #10 BAY STORM: Is another coming in off of a layoff, but she does so for a trainer who does very well with returning horses and exits a stellar work over the training track on July 25th. The addition of Lasix could move her forward provided she’s able to negotiate a trip from a pretty wide post.