SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/27/19)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $805

Over the past few years, I’ve wondered aloud why the Curlin Stakes is carded for the same week as the Jim Dandy. Every year, without fail, an ungraded, $100,000 race takes one or two horses that may have been contenders in Saratoga’s main prep for the Travers. Simply put, it doesn’t make any sense to me.

Here’s the idea I seem to pitch annually: Move the Curlin to Travers Day. I’d rather lose a few 30-1 shots from that race than lose 8-1 shots from the Jim Dandy. This would give the Curlin a similar purpose to that of the Easy Goer, which is run on the Belmont Stakes undercard. It would be a far better fit on the calendar in that spot, and I sincerely hope rational logic prevails sooner rather than later.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Doubles were rendered null and void when the second race was moved from turf to dirt.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ve never been a real believer in this year’s bunch of American turf horses (aside from Bricks and Mortar). With that in mind, I’ll put some money behind Chilean invader #3 YA PRIMO in race 10, the Grade 2 Bowling Green. I’ll put $10 on him to win and place, and I’ll also play $5 doubles singling him that start in the ninth (the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt) with #1 MITOLE and #4 FIRENZE FIRE.

TOTAL WAGERED: $30

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BEST BET: Grandview entry, Race 4
LONGSHOT: Ya Primo, Race 10

R1

Teachable Moment
Wild Weekend
Blacktop Legend

#3 TEACHABLE MOMENT: Takes a big drop for formidable connections in just his second start of the season. A return to his 2018 form would almost certainly be good enough to beat these; #8 WILD WEEKEND: Debuts for Joe Sharp and sports several solid works ahead of his unveiling. This barn has had success with firsters in maiden claimers, and he may be a square price; #6 BLACKTOP LEGEND: Cuts back in distance after tiring a bit going a mile downstate. His lone turf sprint to date was OK, and Rosario riding back is a plus.

R2

Rapido Gatta
Doll Collection
Quasar

#1 RAPIDO GATTA: Raced very wide when third last time out at Belmont. The rail draw, while not ideal, should ensure she covers less ground, and she seems to have enough early zip to establish position; #3 DOLL COLLECTION: Regally-bred daughter of Tapit and star sprinter Groupie Doll cuts back in distance after finishing second going a mile at Churchill. The blinkers seem to have helped, and she may be on the improve; #7 QUASAR: Comes back to dirt after a failed experiment on turf last time out and also adds blinkers. Her races two and three back were fine, and the recent clunker could mean a solid price.

R3

Flying P entry (MTO)
Mission Command
Spectrolite

#5 MISSION COMMAND: Clearly prefers the grass and relished a return to the lawn last month at Belmont. That race came at this level, and while this came up as a pretty salty race for the level, his best would make him a contender at a price; #8 SPECTROLITE: Drops in class for this event and certainly seems like the main speed in here. His lone start at this route was a win in a 2017 starter allowance, and he’s hit the board in 11 of 13 career outings; #6 SCOUT’S HONOR: Found himself on the lead last time out, and that’s not his game. The 10-year-old veteran is best when stalking the pace, and he may get that trip here.

R4

Grandview entry
Kowalski
Complexifier

GRANDVIEW ENTRY: Both #1 SHOPLIFTED and #1A SOVIET can win this, and it wouldn’t be a shock if the two colts ran 1-2. I prefer the former, who fetched $800,000 earlier this year at auction and boasts a very strong gate drill on July 14th; #5 KOWALSKI: Ran pretty well when third in his debut, and this barn doesn’t usually have firsters ready to roll. His pedigree says he’ll get better with more experience; #7 COMPLEXIFIER: Will likely be a big price, as this barn’s horses usually need a race or two to get going. However, his workouts are sharp, and I think he has a big shot to outrun his odds.

R5

Control Group (MTO)
Emaraaty
Keep Quiet

#7 EMARAATY: Makes his first start in more than a year after coming over from Europe, where he ran against some of the best horses on the continent. His running lines are dotted with names like Expert Eye, U S Navy Flag, and Mendelssohn, and if he’s ready, he likely wins; #9 KEEP QUIET: Loves Saratoga and has run well in all four of his starts this season. This will be his first start for the Steve Asmussen barn, and he should be running well late; #2 FRONTIER MARKET: Won two in a row late last year before heading to the sidelines and merits respect for the Brown barn. If his stablemate isn’t 100%, he has a big shot.

R6

More Mischief
Makin’ Out
Flashpackinbarbie

#9 MORE MISCHIEF: Was second in her return to the races back in May and flashed talent as a 2-year-old. Her recent local drills look strong, and she may be able to rate off of what figures to be a fast early pace; #1 MAKIN’ OUT: Romped here last year, but hasn’t been seen in the afternoon since September. She’s worked well of late and may be ready to run; #5 FLASHPACKINBARBIE: Waltzed home by more than eight lengths in her debut at Aqueduct and earned a strong 77 Beyer Speed Figure. She’s been freshened up since then and may be ready to take a step forward at second asking.

R7

Economic Policy
Blanket of Roses
Are You Kitten Me

#5 ECONOMIC POLICY: Fetched $210,000 at auction in 2017 and is a half-brother to two winners. He’s bred to love two turns on turf and gets my nod in a tricky 2-year-old race; #2 BLANKET OF ROSES: Completes a strong 1-2 punch for Chad Brown and is another that should like this journey. His dam is a full sister to Grade 3 winner Derby Kitten, and the presence of Javier Castellano doesn’t hurt; #6 ARE YOU KITTEN ME: Isn’t necessarily bred to be precocious, but he’s been working well for a very capable outfit and attracts Jose Ortiz. He’s cross-entered in a race at Ellis Park, but if he runs here, I think he’s a contender.

R8

Fortune’s Fool
Chateau
Overdeliver

#5 FORTUNE’S FOOL: Dueled through fast fractions last time out before being reeled in by a talented 3-year-old, and this seems like a weaker spot. Castellano rides back, and a repeat effort should be enough to get the job done; #4 CHATEAU: Reeled off three wins in a row not long ago and figures to be on or near the lead early on. He’d likely prefer a wet track, but his fast-track form is still fine; #9 OVERDELIVER: Has a record that looks far better if you toss the Grade 2 Wood Memorial. He cuts back in distance and draws favorably here, but this seems a hair shorter than he wants to go.

R9

Mitole
Firenze Fire
Imperial Hint

#1 MITOLE: May be the best older male in training right now and looms large in the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt. The rail draw isn’t ideal, and there’s other early speed signed on, but anything close to his best would make him a formidable foe; #4 FIRENZE FIRE: Was fifth behind Mitole in the Grade 1 Met Mile, but shortens up and may get plenty of pace to run at. That convergence of factors may make him a contender at a square price; #3 IMPERIAL HINT: Looks to defend his title in this race, but may have lost a step from his 2018 form. He makes his first start since a third-place finish in Dubai here, and he’ll need to have his running shoes on.

R10

Ya Primo
Channel Maker
Arklow

#3 YA PRIMO: Makes his American debut for Chad Brown after establishing himself as one of the top horses in his native Chile. This doesn’t seem like a strong race for the level, and foreign invaders getting Lasix for the first time often take big steps forward; #5 CHANNEL MAKER: Ran fourth behind Bricks and Mortar, America’s top older male on turf, in the Grade 1 Manhattan and returns to defend his title in the Bowling Green. He likes this turf course, and there may be enough pace signed on to set up for him; #1 ARKLOW: Is a consistent sort that generally runs the same race every time out. He was a neck behind Channel Maker in the Man o’ War and is another that would benefit from a fast pace.

R11

War of Will
Tacitus
Global Campaign

#6 WAR OF WILL: Ran like a tired horse in the Belmont, which was his sixth race in less than five months. He’s been freshened up for this event and could sit an ideal stalking trip, which would allow him to channel the form he showed winning the Preakness; #5 TACITUS: Was a good second in the Belmont and has won at this distance and two-turn route configuration before. He may want more early speed, and this isn’t the goal, but if he’s ready to run, he’ll be tough; #4 GLOBAL CAMPAIGN: Wired the field in the Grade 2 Peter Pan, which included eventual Belmont winner Sir Winston. He’s certainly got talent; the question is, does he want two turns?

R12

Surge Pricing
My Macho
Letterman

#5 SURGE PRICING: Won his debut and was fourth against winners last time out at Belmont. He adds blinkers and takes a big drop in class back to the claiming ranks, and he looms large in the Saturday finale; #4 MY MACHO: Raced wide last time out at Laurel and is another dropping in for a tag. This is his second start off the bench, and he’s won going two turns on turf before; #12 LETTERMAN: Faded to eighth in his first start against winners last time out, but won impressively two back at Aqueduct. That was a two-turn race, and he returns to that configuration here.

2019 Belmont Stakes: Full-Card Analysis, Selections, and Tickets

Saturday is Belmont Stakes Day, and the folks at NYRA have come up with one of the best days of racing on the planet. The eight Grade 1 races boast a bunch of strong wagering opportunities (especially later in the card), and the day is headlined by the third jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown.

I’ll get to that first, because I know that’s what a lot of people want to read about. #9 WAR OF WILL and #10 TACITUS will almost certainly be the two favorites in some order, and for good reason. War of Will’s lone losses on dirt have come because of troubled trips, while Tacitus didn’t disgrace himself when third in the Kentucky Derby and is bred to handle this 12-furlong distance.

A lot of people are picking chalky exactas, and I see why. With that in mind, though, there are two bigger prices I need to have on my tickets. #4 TAX was an also-ran in the Derby, but I’m throwing that race out completely. He drew a terrible post and didn’t get his preferred stalking trip over a wet track (which he’d never run on before). There’s much less early speed signed on here, and he could sit an ideal trip just off the pace. He’s bred to like this trip, being by Arch and out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, and I think he could bounce back in a big way.

I’ll also need to use #8 INTREPID HEART, and similar to Tax, I think you can draw a line through the last-out effort. Intrepid Heart didn’t break well in the Grade 2 Peter Pan and was never really in the race as a result. The blinkers go on, and I think he could be the one they’re chasing early. 12-furlong races like this are often won on the front end, and it wouldn’t surprise me if John Velazquez was able to dictate friendly terms going down the backstretch.

I’ll be using all four of those horses in some form or fashion, but what about the rest of the card? Well, I’ll be breaking down each race below, as well as offering several Pick Four tickets (there are three sequences, which start in the second, eighth, and 10th races) and a Grand Slam wager near the end.

Enough talk; let’s get on with the show!

RACE #1: We start off with a puzzling race, and given the six-horse field and how chalky the rest of the early Pick Five appears, many players will likely punch the “ALL” button. #5 PRINCIPLED and #6 POTOMAC strike me as the horses to beat, and I’ll be watching the board carefully. Potomac has run two big races in a row, but was claimed last time out by Carlos Martin. Martin may not be a household name, and he may only be hitting at about 10% on the meet, but he’s a capable horseman, and anything close to the last two efforts would make this one tough to beat.

RACE #2: It’s tough to trust many of the runners with lots of experience in this turf route, as they’ve had plenty of chances to graduate. Based on Beyer Speed Figures, #4 NO MANS LAND is the horse to beat, but his history of coming close and not getting the job done doesn’t inspire confidence.

I’m using him, but my top pick is actually #9 UNCLE ARTIE, who stretches out in distance and ran a decent race two back at Keeneland beneath Joel Rosario, who rides him again here. I’m also going to throw in 12-1 shot #8 THE MORMON MAULER, who likely needed his debut and could benefit from a big jockey switch to Luis Saez.

RACE #3: This is the Easy Goer, and the morning line man thinks this is a two-horse race between #4 OUTSHINE and #6 ALWAYSMINING. I prefer the former, who ran a very good second to the possible Belmont favorite two back and lost all chance at the start of the Wood Memorial. In addition to those two, I’m also throwing in #5 MAJID, who has won three in a row since going to the Rudy Rodriguez barn and seems like the main speed.

RACE #4: This is the Grade 1 Just A Game, and it’s the first of back-to-back races with short fields and a heavy favorite I just cannot get past. In this case, it’s #4 RUSHING FALL, a three-time Grade 1 winner and the likely lone speed in this race. I don’t see any other runner in here going with her to set up for the closers, and because of that, I think she wires the field for her eighth win in nine career starts.

RACE #5: It’s disappointing to see the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps only draw a field of five, especially given that the older mare division is quite strong. However, my best bet of the day is here, and it’s a horse that, as good as she is around two turns, has always hit me as even better around one.

#2 MIDNIGHT BISOU is even-money on the morning line, and anything above that would hit me as an overlay. She won the Mother Goose for fun here last year, and all indications are that she’s even better now. I think she’ll sit a perfect stalking trip in this short field, and such a journey would likely result in a fourth consecutive victory.

RACE #6: Now a Grade 1, the Jaipur has drawn some of the top turf sprinters in the country. This includes morning line favorite #8 WORLD OF TROUBLE, but while he merits lots of respect, he’s not my top pick. I don’t think he’ll be alone on the front end here, and that could set things up for likely second choice #6 DISCO PARTNER. He loves Belmont and likely needed his 2019 debut in the Shakertown, which could slightly inflate the price we get Saturday afternoon.

RACE #7: From a betting perspective, out of all the undercard races, I’m most excited about this one. This is the Grade 1 Acorn, and it features Kentucky Oaks winner #1 SERENGETI EMPRESS. I’m against her here, as I think it’s highly unlikely she gets gifted another perfect trip (as she did last time out).

#7 GUARANA is actually the morning line favorite, and while there’s a chance she’s good enough, this is only her second career start, and her lone race came over a sloppy, sealed Keeneland track. I want the second and third-place finishers from the Grade 2 Eight Belles, #4 BELL’S THE ONE and #8 QUEEN OF BEAS. Both are closers, and in a race full of speed, a pace meltdown seems likely. They’ll both be prices, and they’ll both be featured prominently on any multi-race exotics ticket I play.

RACE #8: Like the Jaipur, the Woody Stephens is now also a Grade 1, and I think Chad Brown holds a very powerful hand. #4 COMPLEXITY makes his 2019 debut after a long layoff, but he’s been working very well, and this seven-furlong distance should hit him right between the eyes. Meanwhile, stablemate #1 HONEST MISCHIEF would benefit from a fast pace, which seems very likely. The rail draw isn’t ideal, but he’s bred to be very good, and the last-out Beyer of 97 ties for the highest in this field.

RACE #9: Many would argue that the Grade 1 Met Mile is actually the best race on the Belmont Stakes Day program, and I can’t disagree. It features several of the top older horses in training, and I believe that, if one of the logical horses wins, that horse is in the driver’s seat for Horse of the Year honors at this point in the season.

#2 MCKINZIE has been pointed to this race for months. Bob Baffert could’ve shipped him to Dubai, but he kept him stateside, and when Baffert works backwards, he doesn’t lose often. This route should be perfect for him, and I think he’s definitely the horse to beat.

In multi-race exotics, I’ll also use #3 MITOLE and #7 FIRENZE FIRE. Mitole stretches out to a mile after successfully handling seven furlongs last month, while Firenze Fire looks like a world-beater at Belmont and certainly has home-course advantage. At any rate, this is a fascinating race, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

RACE #10: The Grade 1 Manhattan is the traditional lead-up for the Belmont, and this year’s renewal features #8 BRICKS AND MORTAR, likely the best turf horse in the country. He’s won four in a row, including two Grade 1 races, and if you want to single him, it’s understandable.

I loved #9 EPICAL before he was announced as a scratch, and I’m more than a bit bitter about not getting the chance to throw him in in hopes of him getting loose on the lead. If you’re looking for an alternative to Bricks and Mortar, I’d use #3 ROBERT BRUCE, who was beaten just a length in this race last year despite a strange trip. When he’s right, he’s very good, and he may not have cared for the wet turf course he got last time out.

RACE #12: They carded two races after the Belmont, and the first of those is a tricky optional claimer going long on the grass. I’m using the two bookends, and I think the most likely winner may be a square price.

That’s #10 BIRD’S EYE VIEW, who likes this turf course and has a substantial amount of back class. He’s run up against plenty of stakes-quality opposition, and I think his tactical speed will allow him to sit a perfect trip. I’m also going to use #1 PRIORITIZE, who almost certainly needed his last start and ran third in last year’s Grade 2 Hill Prince at this route.

RACE #13: We finish with the Grade 2 Brooklyn at the marathon 12-furlong distance. Unlike the Belmont, I think there may be a bit of speed signed on here, so my top pick is #6 ROCKETRY, who has shown a rare ability to make up ground going this long. He got very good near the end of last year, and if he channels that form, I think he’ll be the one they have to hold off late.

I’ll also use several of the other logicals, as #1 MARCONI, #2 CAMPAIGN, and #7 YOU’RE TO BLAME are all contenders in good form. This wound up a very intriguing betting race, and your guess is as good as mine with regard to which horse winds up favored.

MULTI-RACE EXOTIC TICKETS

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #2

R2: 4,8,9
R3: 4,5,6
R4: 4
R5: 2

9 Bets, $4.50

Either play it for cheap action early in the card, or punch it a few times to increase the potential payoff. I’m not sure how much this’ll pay, but I’ve at least left some room to beat a favorite or two early to squeeze whatever value I can out of the sequence.

$1 Grand Slam: Race #7

R7: 2,4,7,8
R8: 1,4,9
R9: 2
R10: 8

12 Bets, $12

I enjoy playing the Grand Slam at NYRA tracks when the payoff leg features a very heavy favorite. If you keep a chalk or two out of the money along the way, it’s essentially an enhanced-odds win bet (provided you get multiple tickets going, which is essential). That’s what I’m going for here, and hopefully I can get some value out of Bricks and Mortar in the Manhattan.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R8: 1,4
R9: 2,3,7
R10: 3,8
R11: 4,8,9,10

48 Bets, $24

I like this sequence a lot. There are no singles in some big fields, and there’s room for some prices to shake things up. With how big the pool’s going to be, I had to take a swing here, and I’m happy with this $24 ticket that could pay stacks if Tax gets home.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #10

R10: 3,8
R11: 4,8,9,10
R12: 1,10
R13: 1,2,6,7

64 Bets, $32

The last two races of the card may get lost in the shuffle, but they’re good betting races that don’t have clearly-defined favorites. This makes the final Pick Four of the day a very attractive sequence, one where I’ve got plenty of coverage for a reasonable amount of money.