SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/16/22)



The Grade 3 Sanford is one of two graded stakes races on the program, and it’s one of my favorite races of the meet for several reasons. There’s plenty of history here. It’s the race where Man o’ War was defeated by the appropriately-named Upset, and a pair of 1970’s winners (Secretariat and Affirmed) went on to win the Triple Crown the following year.

This year’s renewal drew a huge field of 12 and several notable storylines. Todd Pletcher could win the Sanford a ninth time with Forte or Major Dude. Andiamo a Firenze will look to emulate older brother Firenze Fire, who won the Sanford in 2017. Trainers Tom Amoss and Brad Cox, meanwhile, each saddle promising first-out winners shipping in from Churchill Downs.

2-year-old racing is one of the many things that makes Saratoga special. Here’s hoping we see something memorable Saturday afternoon.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: American Pure lost all chance at the start of the seventh race, when he nearly fell on his face out of the gate. Scratches reduced my losses to $24.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: Unfortunately, I think the back half of the card looks extremely chalky. This includes both graded stakes races. However, I do think there’s money to be made on the early Pick Five. I previewed that on PlayFecta (Catena Media’s horse racing site), and my 50-cent ticket reads as follows: 1,2,5 with 6,7 with 4 with 2,8 with 3,4,5,7,9.



Best Bet: Robyn and Eli, Race 3
Longshot: Raining Candy, Race 11


North Pole
Never Change

#5 NORTH POLE: Took a significant step forward last time out in his first start beyond a mile. To say this million-dollar baby hasn’t panned out is an understatement, but early speed going two turns, in a field of horses that don’t like passing others, could prove tough to beat; #1 NEVER CHANGE: Takes a big drop for Todd Pletcher after a pair of clunkers in turf routes. He did run in a pair of pretty classy races as a 2-year-old, and blinkers going in is a notable adjustment; #2 READYSEEKGO: Is another going two turns on dirt for the first time. He should certainly be prominent early beneath aggressive rider Kendrick Carmouche, and perhaps he holds on for a piece of it.


Chloe Rose
Tea Olive
Closing Deals

#7 CHLOE ROSE: Hasn’t won since October but loves Saratoga. She boasts a win and a second in two local starts and has been competitive at this level downstate. Blinkers go back on, and she could sit an ideal stalking trip; #6 TEA OLIVE: Gets protected second off the bench following a runner-up finish against $50,000 claimers at Belmont. She could conceivably move forward here, and this trainer/jockey combination already boasts a win at this stand; #1 CLOSING DEALS: Shortens up a bit after running third at this level last month. The inside draw isn’t ideal, but she’s shown she has some early zip and may be able to mitigate that issue with a sharp break.


Robyn and Eli
Cape Cod Causeway

#4 ROBYN AND ELI: Has run second in all three outings and gets Lasix for the first time here. She had every right to need her last-out effort off a long break, but nearly prevailed over stakes foes. She’ll be a very short price, but looms large; #7 CAPE COD CAUSEWAY: Is one of a few that exits a key race with several next-out winners. Her two-back effort, though, came over a similar two-turn route, and it was arguably her best race to date. She seems live at a big price; #11 JOCOSITY: Draws a terrible post but seems to have plenty of potential in her debut. Her dam was stakes-placed on the lawn, she’s been working well, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride.


Higher Quality
Eagle in Love

#2 HIGHER QUALITY: Takes a big drop for Chad Brown off of an effort that’s too poor to be true. He’s bred up and down for this two-turn route, and anything close to his two-back win would likely get him the money; #8 CRYO: Stretches back out to two turns, and that’s been the configuration for some of his best efforts. He has the speed to sit a great trip just off the pace and could stand to benefit if the heavy favorite misfires; #4 EAGLE IN LOVE: Ran second in his first start at this level, and it wasn’t long ago he was 5-1 in a $100,000 stakes race. He has a history of troubles out of the gate, but a clean start coupled with his early speed could make him a pace presence here.


Rally Squirrel
Front Line Dancer
Mr. Kringle

#9 RALLY SQUIRREL: Has run well in three starts at this level downstate and should relish a return to two-turns. His two wins have come over similar configurations at Aqueduct and Gulfstream, and his flexible running style could be a big, big plus; #2 FRONT LINE DANCER: Didn’t get a great setup last time, when he rallied from 10th into a pretty slow pace and was beaten less than two lengths. Deep closers and the inner turf don’t often mix, but there seems to be some speed signed on, and the rider switch to Irad is a big one; #5 MR. KRINGLE: Hasn’t won since a starter allowance score here last year, but he fires the same shot every time out and can’t be ignored. Flavien Prat has ridden him to two second-place finishes downstate, and he’s done some strong running here.


Flamingo Hawk
Long Term Thinking

#8 ALCOOLS: Has won two in a row over similar company and goes for the hat trick here. For a seven-furlong sprint, there isn’t a ton of apparent early speed signed on. I think he could get comfortable early and prove tough to catch; #1 FLAMINGO HAWK: Hasn’t won in a while and take a big drop in class for a barn that had a long, long meet here a season ago. Anything close to his mid-2021 Gulfstream form gives him a big shot, but those races were a long, long time ago; #5 LONG TERM THINKING: Has hit the board in 19 of 26 career starts and just missed at this level earlier this month at Churchill Downs. He’d definitely benefit from a faster-than-expected early pace, and this barn tends to spot claiming horses very, very well.


Reinvestment Risk
Baby Yoda
Disco Pharoah

#5 REINVESTMENT RISK: Exits back-to-back seconds in Grade 1 races and headlines this loaded optional claiming event. I’m not entirely sure why he’s running here (as opposed to a stakes race), but we’ve seen him run second in four Grade 1 events, and anything close to that bests this group; #9 BABY YODA: Won a pair of starter allowances before finishing a distant fourth behind Jackie’s Warrior in the Grade 2 True North. He didn’t break well that day, so he has an excuse, but if this one’s so well-meant, why does Bill Mott also enter #2 NOVA RAGS?; #1 DISCO PHAROAH: Did not have an easy trip last time when fifth beaten a length in a similar spot at Belmont. The rail draw isn’t ideal for horses that tend to find trouble, but he’s shown plenty of talent for a strong outfit and has every chance to snag a piece of this with clear sailing.


Bleeker Street
Technical Analysis

#3 BLEEKER STREET: Is a perfect 7-for-7 and seems like the best of Chad Brown’s bunch in the Grade 1 Diana. Two of her stablemates have speed, which should set up well for her late kick, and this nine-furlong trip fits her like a glove; #1 TECHNICAL ANALYSIS: Went 2-for-2 here last summer and comes in off a win in the Grade 3 Gallorette at Pimlico. She did have a perfect trip that day on an easy lead, but the rail draw lends itself to her running style and perhaps she’s at her best right now; #4 ROUGIR: Didn’t fire in the Grade 1 New York, when she was fifth behind Bleeker Street as the 3/5 favorite. Perhaps she bounced off of a nice score in the Grade 3 Beaugay, and remember, she won the prestigious Group 1 Prix de l’Opera last fall in France.


Naval Aviator (MTO)
Fort Ticonderoga
Forever Souper

#9 FORT TICONDEROGA: Turned heads with a swift win off the bench last month at Belmont and tries two turns and winners for the first time. Shug McGaughey’s horses tend to improve with experience and foundation, and I’m not sure this is the best race for the level we’ll see this summer; #3 FOREVER SOUPER: Is going the right way for Mark Casse, having won two in a row at Gulfstream. He’s shown an abundance of early speed and sure looks like the one they’ll be chasing early; NBS ENTRY: Both of these runners are intriguing and could offer value. #1 SETNA THE WISE exits a third-place finish against stakes company, and that day’s winner has since won again. #1A DRIPPING GOLD, meanwhile, turned heads (literally) with a debut win here last summer and goes second off the bench.


Mo Strike
Valenzan Day

#4 FORTE: Was bet like he couldn’t lose in his debut and ran to the billing, coasting home clear by nearly eight lengths. Todd Pletcher trainees have won the Grade 3 Sanford eight times, and this one gives the outfit a big chance at number nine; #6 MO STRIKE: Showed some professionalism when stalking the pace and winning in his unveiling at Churchill Downs. There should be plenty of pace for him to chase here, and given his pedigree, he may be one to watch as races get longer; #12 VALENZAN DAY: Had an eventful journey when third in the Tremont Stakes last month. His two starts give him an experience edge over most of this group, and the outside draw should allow Joel Rosario to keep him out of trouble.


Maybe Later (MTO)
Diva Ready
Raining Candy

#4 DIVA READY: Takes a big drop into a non-winners-of-two claiming event after running fourth across the border at Woodbine. This well-traveled filly makes her fourth start at a fourth different track and could capitalize on class relief in the Saturday finale; #8 RAINING CANDY: Almost certainly needed her last-out effort, which doubled as her first run since November. Her lone win came at this route last summer, and I think we’ll see a significant step forward at a pretty big price; #6 BELLA CONCHITA: Runs for a tag for the first time and may very well inherit the lead in a race that seems light on early zip. She’s been running longer for trainer Cherie DeVaux, so we know this distance won’t get her beat.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/17/21)



I co-host “Champagne and J.D.,” a weekly YouTube show with guests from all around the horse racing world. This week, J.D. Fox and I were proud to be joined by handicapper and NYRA morning line man David Aragona. The three of us offered a trio of late Pick Four tickets for the first Saturday program of the meet after discussing some of the Opening Day action and what goes into the multiple positions David has within the sport.

It was a really cool discussion, and I’m grateful to David for taking some time out of his busy schedule to join us. If you’re interested in watching, you can do so here!

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Polished Gem ran fine, but was third behind the two favorites I tried to beat. I dropped $20.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll play a cold daily double in an attempt to extract some value out of two short-priced favorites in the middle of the card. I’ll single both #9 CHATTALOT in the fifth and #4 PORTFOLIO COMPANY in the sixth on a $20 ticket. I’ll also play $5 exactas in those races, using Chattalot on top of #2 SEAL BEACH and #7 MONTAUK POINT and using Portfolio Company on top of #9 ANSEL and #10 GREAT BRITAIN.



Best Bet: Chattalot, Race 5
Longshot: Christopher, Race 2


Sheriff Blanco
Majestic Tiger
War Smoke

#8 SHERIFF BLANCO: Ran second in back-to-back tries against similar foes downstate and once again looms the main win threat. He sure looks like the main speed in here, and while the field’s large, it isn’t the best one we’ll see at this level this summer; #4 MAJESTIC TIGER: Ran well to be beaten just a nose at first asking and may have bounced a bit in his second start. A return to the debut form would give him a shot at a bit of a price; #3 WAR SMOKE: Debuts for Jeremiah Englehart and has been working steadily ahead of his unveiling. Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride, and his connections seem to have found a soft spot for his first afternoon try.


Repo Rocks
Baby Yoda

#6 CHRISTOPHER: Is a reluctant top pick in a race I’m just not crazy about. However, he seems to have found his best form in two recent starts at Monmouth Park, and he’s one of only two horses in here with multiple wins, which is worth something; #5 REPO ROCKS: Broke his maiden last time out and tries winners for the first time. Figures-wise, he’s the horse to beat, but I just don’t think the field he topped last time out was that good, and I can’t endorse him at his likely short price; #3 BABY YODA: Ships up from Pimlico and makes his first start for new trainer Bill Mott. He’s shown some ability, but just one published workout since his June 26th effort is absolutely a red flag, and his new conditioner might need some more time to figure him out.


Trumpet Lilly (MTO)
Miss Delicious

#11 MISS DELICIOUS: Adds Lasix and John Velazquez for this event, and she sure looks like the main speed in here. She wired a field of maidens two back before running a good second in her first start against winners, and I think she may be able to sit a comfortable trip here; #7 MAGISTERIUM: Was claimed by Orlando Noda last time out, when she made a strong move to be beaten just a half-length. Noda’s one of the best on the circuit with new acquisitions, and while she hasn’t won in a while, she’s also run just one poor race in her eight-start career; #3 AMALFI PRINCESS: Is another that hasn’t found the winner’s circle in a while, but she’s placed in three stakes races this season and just missed in a $100,000 event last month. Blinkers going on is a curious move, but she’s got plenty of ability and has shown she can go a mile effectively.


Grape Nuts Warrior

#8 AUSTRIAN: Got pretty sharp this past winter and spring after going to the Danny Gargan barn, and he comes in off a bit of a freshening here. He just missed against similar-level foes at Aqueduct back in April, and he did so despite having to close in a race without much of an early pace; #2 COTTON: Earned the diploma last time out in a race that doubled as his first start with Lasix. He’d run fairly well in all but one of his five prior outings, and two of the runners he topped last time out came back to run third and fourth on Opening Day; #7 GRAPE NUTS WARRIOR: Rallied to win at first asking two back before running third in his first try against winners. Chad Brown puts the blinkers on, and it’s not like he’d be a shocking winner, but I’m demanding more value than I’ll likely get and Brown and Castellano have been shockingly iffy on turf of late (just 2-for-29 since April 24th).


Seal Beach
Montauk Point

#9 CHATTALOT: Showed immense potential in a series of gate drills at Keeneland last month and draws a cushy outside post in his debut. The Asmussen barn unveiled one promising 2-year-old on opening day (Echo Zulu), and this may be another to add to the list; #2 SEAL BEACH: Debuts for the Mike Maker barn, and this is an outfit that can be sneaky with first-out juveniles. He’s shown speed in the mornings and most recently earned a bullet for a five-furlong drill in 1:00 and change on July 6th; #7 MONTAUK POINT: Hammered for $550,000 last year and debuts for Shug McGaughey. This barn, however, has a history of not fully cranking up first-time starters, and I think he may need a race or two to truly get going.


K Club (MTO)
Portfolio Company
Great Britain

#4 PORTFOLIO COMPANY: Is a very logical favorite in his first career start. He’s by Kitten’s Joy, which means he should take to this turf route configuration like a duck to water, and he’s been working steadily at the Spa for more than two months; #10 GREAT BRITAIN: Draws a tricky post but is bred up and down to be a very good turf horse. He’s by English Channel and out of a mare named Rutherienne, who won the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks and is a full sister to Grade 3 turf winner Ruthenia; #9 ANSEL: Is one of two in here trained by Bill Mott, and he sold for $150,000 last year. Sire Blame has thrown several strong grass horses, and it may be telling that this is the Mott trainee Junior Alvarado will ride.


Battle Station
Dubb entry

#2 BATTLE STATION: Gets a tepid nod in a very difficult turf sprint. He’s run some of his best races over this route of ground, including a win in last summer’s Lucky Coin Stakes, and he was fourth in a stakes-caliber optional claimer earlier this month downstate; DUBB ENTRY: Of this trio, I prefer #1A SHEKKY SHEBAZ, who certainly regressed after Jason Servis’s arrest but is still a strong turf sprinter. He returned with a second-place finish behind my top pick in May, and he’s got top-end speed that should put him up front early; #11 GHOUL: May actually benefit from the outside draw given his running style. He’ll want to drop back and make one run, and perhaps a wide trip will allow him to keep his momentum late. If he does, he’s certainly got a shot.


Beau Liam
Crowded Trade

#1 BEAU LIAM: Won like a very good horse in his debut, when he stormed off to win by nearly eight lengths and earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. The inside draw isn’t ideal, but I think it’s a sign of confidence that he’s been entered against older horses in his first start against winners; #12 MAHAAMEL: Chased the promising First Captain in his unveiling two back before cruising home in the mud last month. The Pletcher/Velazquez tandem must be respected, and this $700,000 purchase may very well be putting it all together; #10 CROWDED TRADE: Ran in three straight graded stakes races after his debut victory and most recently finished fifth behind Rombauer in the Grade 1 Preakness. On ability, he certainly fits, but there’s one question worth asking: If Crowded Trade is sitting on a big effort, why is Chad Brown also saddling #7 WITSEL in this event?


Candy Landing
Headline Report

#2 CANDY LANDING: Won his debut at Churchill Downs like a very good horse, and jockey James Graham sees fit to make the trip to upstate New York. He showed a lot of speed that day, and that could be an asset against one of the biggest Sanford fields in recent memory; #9 HEADLINE REPORT: Won his debut at Keeneland in very handy fashion and has trained forwardly since the first-out victory. Few in the game are better with 2-year-olds than Wesley Ward, and this $550,000 purchase may have plenty of potential; #1 WIT: Will almost certainly go favored after an eye-catching win on Belmont Day earlier this year. However, the rail’s a tough place to be for any 2-year-old, let alone one that hasn’t shown early speed yet. Perhaps he’s good enough to win, but at his likely price, I can’t endorse him.


Summer Romance
Harvey’s Lil Goil

#6 SUMMER ROMANCE: Was second to a stablemate (more on her in a moment) in the Grade 1 Just A Game last time out, and Charles Appleby sees fit to run both back in the Grade 1 Diana. This one is 2-for-2 going longer than a mile, and I think her tactical speed makes her a real threat to wire this field; #8 ALTHIQA: Capitalized on a world-class ride from Mike Smith to win that day, and she’s never finished worse than third in 10 career starts. The question is, can she get today’s distance, one she finished third to my top pick at earlier this year?; #5 HARVEY’S LIL GOIL: Won the Grade 3 Beauty in her 2021 debut before being caught wide over yielding going in the Grade 2 New York. That may have been a bounce, and a return to form gives one of the coolest female horses in training a shot at a second Grade 1 win.


Laughing Boy
Southern Flag

#7 DUCALE: Debuted by dead-heating for second in a swiftly-run race at Churchill and has every right to improve in what seems like a wide-open finale. He’s worked very well since that event, and once Brad Cox trainees get on the right track, they tend to stay there; #9 LAUGHING BOY: Showed speed in his first start off the bench going a mile and cuts back to seven furlongs. If nothing else, the distance shouldn’t get him beat, and the presence of Jose Ortiz is a plus; #4 SOUTHERN FLAG: Had an adventurous trip last time out when third going a mile at Belmont. In fact, he’s found trouble in each of his first two starts, yet has still run races that make him a contender here. He’s certainly got the potential to be a factor provided he gets the clean trip that has eluded him to this point.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/13/19)



Breaking news from Northern California: An army of ducks has escaped captivity and has taken over part of the grandstand at Golden Gate Fields. In a Friday press conference, one of the ducks said this was a revolt against a leader who took a trip to Saratoga without planning to bring back souvenirs for his friends.

While denying that the beloved Saratoga Goose provided any inspiration, the ducks have stated that if their leader is not at his post come mid-August, their conquests could extend to the Northern California fair circuit, Grants Pass, and possibly even a casino or two in Reno. If any of you see or hear this leader in your travels, please ensure that this message is received. Additionally, if he has not bought himself or his father a copy of The Pink Sheet, guilt-trip him into doing so.

(Hi, Matt!)

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Our Pick Four play was cancelled due to races coming off the turf. What was left were the doubles to Lotta Ott, who was shuffled back a bit early and checked in fourth. As such, we dropped $12.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the 10th race and attempt to extract some value out of my best bet of the day. That’s #5 PAYNE, who I’ll key in $5 exactas on top of #4 UBER KIRK, #7 RULER OF THE NILE, and #8 HERSH. Additionally, I’ll play $5 doubles that start there and use #7 PROGNOSTICATION and #8 PATRIOT DRIVE in the finale.


– – – – –

BEST BET: Payne, Race 10
LONGSHOT: Kazmania, Race 7


She’s Not Bluffing
Win the Shake

#10 SHE’S NOT BLUFFING: Took a big step forward when she won by daylight last time out at Belmont. She tries winners for the first time, but this doesn’t hit me as a great field for the level; #5 WIN THE SHAKE: Likely needed her most recent start off of a four-month layoff. She showed some potential in two starts earlier this year at Aqueduct and adds blinkers for this event; #9 WARM: Takes a big drop in class after showing enough to try stakes company earlier this year. If she channels her Tampa form, she’ll be tough, but the drop is large enough that it raises eyebrows.


Mike’s Girl
Prisoner’s Dilemma
Mz Seb Pat

#3 MIKE’S GIRL: Did everything but win when second at this level last time out at Belmont. She figures to be the main speed, and the cutback to 5 1/2 furlongs could be what she needs to find the winner’s circle; #2 PRISONER’S DILEMMA: Drops in for a tag for the first time and should relish the class relief. Her race two back at Aqueduct was very good, and a repeat of that effort would make her a major player; #9 MZ SEB PAT: Has run well at this level twice this season and should be moving well late. The post position is a concern, but they should be going pretty quickly early on, which could help.


By Your Side
Tomato Bill

#5 BY YOUR SIDE: Prevailed in a blanket finish at first asking at Churchill, and that race came back fine figures-wise. The outside post should be a big help, and it could ensure a perfect stalking trip; #3 CUCINA: Rallied in the slop to graduate last time out and may very well be favored here. He’s hinted at talent, but the slop may have moved him up, and such conditions may not be present here; #4 TOMATO BILL: Graduated at first asking at Delaware Park and sports a series of recent five-furlong drills here. He seems like the main speed, but this is a much tougher field than what he faced first time out.


High Tide

#6 ZYRAMID: Showed plenty of speed in his debut, when he was third behind a next-out winner. His experience should help him, and it’s tough to imagine him being outsprinted early; #3 IRKED: Has worked well ahead of his debut and merits respect at a bit of a price. He’s by War Front, and his dam and second dam both won stakes races as 2-year-olds, so it wouldn’t be stunning if he was ready to run right away; #1 HIGH TIDE: Debuts for Pletcher and Velazquez and sports several solid local workouts. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s due to the rail draw, which isn’t ideal for a first-time starter.


Sinwaan (MTO)
Turf War
Paper Clip

#7 TURF WAR: Gets a tepid nod in what hit me as a confounding turf sprint. Her form overseas was fine, and Europeans getting Lasix in American debuts are always worth a look, especially when they run for powerhouse connections like these; #2 PAPER CLIP: Was sharp in victory last time out at Churchill and faces winners for the first time here. She’s improved in each of her four career starts, and she’ll likely show speed from her inside post; ENTRY: Of the coupled runners, I prefer #1A NOBLE FREUD, who’s won here before. She’s another with early zip, but the layoff is a significant concern. DIRT SELECTIONS: SINWAAN, NOBLE FREUD, OUR CIRCLE OF LOVE.


Field Pass
Decorated Invader

#4 ENFORCEABLE: Has run reasonably well in two sprints and gets two turns, which he’s bred to love. He’s a full brother to multiple graded stakes-winner Mohaymen, who did his best work going long, and with his 300 turf Tomlinson rating, the surface shouldn’t be a problem; #3 FIELD PASS: Rallied to finish second in his debut at Churchill despite a slow early pace. The pace situation is unclear here as well, but improvement is logical at second asking; #2 DECORATED INVADER: Fetched $200,000 at auction and sports a solid series of local drills ahead of his unveiling. This barn isn’t necessarily known for precocious 2-year-olds, but he’s bred to go long, which should help. DIRT SELECTIONS: ENFORCEABLE, GHOST OF THE MAMBO, PLETCHER ENTRY.


Red Zinger

#8 RED ZINGER: Cuts back in distance after fading to sixth in his first try against winners. He’s been firing bullets over the Oklahoma track, and this six-furlong trip seems like the one he wants; #7 LUTSKY: Makes his first start for new trainer Jorge Navarro and has shown early zip in the past. Navarro can move horses up with the best of them, and the presence of Irad Ortiz, Jr., can’t be ignored; #3 KAZMANIA: Merits a look in the exotics at a big price. He was third at this level downstate in his first start since January and should be running well late.


First Wave
Miss You Blues

#6 PEACEFUL: Missed the break in her debut at Monmouth, but still rallied to finish a good second. She doesn’t seem to catch a strong field for this level, and any step forward under Castellano would make her tough; #7 FIRST WAVE: Is bred up and down for turf and ran OK when second in an off-the-turf event back in May. This is likely what she wants to do, and she may be good enough to overcome the outside post; #5 MISS YOU BLUES: Adds blinkers after checking in third at this level at Belmont. She was wide last time out, and the slight cutback in distance could work to her advantage.


Rushing Fall

#2 RUSHING FALL: Has lost just once in nine career starts, and this trip should hit her right between the eyes. She has plenty of speed, but doesn’t necessarily need the lead, which could come in handy given the speed directly to her outside; #6 HOMERIQUE: Went 2-for-2 at Belmont after shipping in from Europe and certainly merits respect. She overcame slow early paces in both of those events, and if there’s any hesitation here, it’s only because she may want a hair longer than she’ll go here; #4 SISTERCHARLIE: Comes back off a long layoff to get her campaign started in a race she won a season ago. The break is a major concern, as is the likely pace scenario. At her best, she probably wins, but if there’s ever a spot to go against her, it’s now.


Uber Kirk
Ruler of the Nile

#5 PAYNE: Has yet to run a bad race, and was most recently second behind the classy Rowayton in a swiftly-run allowance at Belmont. He’ll be running well late in a race with plenty of speed signed on, which could make him very tough; #4 UBER KIRK: Has run four solid races in a row and seems to be hitting his peak as a 4-year-old. His win two back going a mile was solid, and he’s another that will be making one run as they turn for home; #7 RULER OF THE NILE: May not have lived up to the $1 million price tag he hammered for back in 2017, but he’s won three of his last four starts and has shown plenty of early zip. He won here last summer, and I think he’s one to use in the exotics at a big price.


Shareholder Value (MTO)
Patriot Drive

#7 PROGNOSTICATION: Has not missed the board in four local starts and almost certainly needed his last-out clunker off of a long layoff. He takes a big drop in class and looms large in this spot; #8 PATRIOT DRIVE: Has won two in a row at this level since being moved to the Danny Gargan barn. He’s come to hand over Belmont’s one-turn configuration, but he does have a two-turn turf win to his credit from early-2018 at Fair Grounds; #11 BATTLE OF BLENHEIM: Held on last time out after making a big middle move in a race without much early speed. The post position is unfortunate, but his best could very well be good enough. DIRT SELECTIONS: SHAREHOLDER VALUE, CONQUEROR, GRAY SKY.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 7/21/18



Earlier this week, news broke that owner Ron Paolucci is leaving the game following a series of run-ins with people and organizations he called “the racing elite.” Paolucci (whose horses run under the moniker Loooch Racing Stables) was second among all North American owners with 159 wins in 2017, so this is not a small-time operation that’s being dissolved.

I’m partial to strong personalities and owners who aren’t afraid to run their horses in big spots (it was the shoe of his horse that wound up in Gun Runner’s tail during last year’s Whitney!). That latter point hits home in an age where field sizes at the top end of the sport seem to be getting smaller with every passing year. I’ve never met Mr. Paolucci, but it seems like he’s done a lot of good for the sport of horse racing, and I sincerely hope he reconsiders his decision.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Monteleone could not have broken worse in the third at Saratoga and lost all chance immediately. We dropped $22.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to try to extract some value from my best bet of the day, which is #2 NITROUS in the sixth. I’ll play $10 doubles that start in the fifth (which strikes me as a fun betting race) and use #8 SHAPE SHIFTER and #9 OUR GIRL ABBY.



Best Bet: Nitrous, Race 6
Longshot: Whiskey Echo, Race 9


Dubb entry
Full Salute

DUBB ENTRY: I prefer FORGE, who ran a clunker last time out but reeled off three wins in a row before that. He drops down in class for aggressive connections, and while J S BACH isn’t poorly meant, the former’s the reason the entry will be a short-priced favorite; HELOOKSTHEPART: Makes his 50th career start in this spot, and has proven himself as a hard-trying veteran that can come running late. There’s plenty of pace in this race, and he may be going best of all in the final furlong; FULL SALUTE: Didn’t break well last time out and was out of his element as a result. He was claimed by Rudy Rodriguez that day and figures to be a pace factor with a clean start.


Digital Footprint
One Mission

DIGITAL FOOTPRINT: Is bred up and down for grass and put forth a solid local drill on the training track’s turf course. He’s by Giant’s Causeway, out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare, and trained by Chad Brown, one of the best first-out turf trainers in the country; SEANOW: Didn’t do much running in his debut, but is bred to want every bit of this two-turn route. Improvement is logical at second asking, and one could do worse than trusting the Pletcher/Velazquez tandem; ONE MISSION: Merits a look at a big price. He broke terribly in his debut, but adds blinkers and distance for Bill Mott, whose horses often get better with experience.


Awesome Slew
Wonderful Light
Behavioral Bias

AWESOME SLEW: Has been chasing some of the top one-turn horses in the country and merits respect in this loaded allowance event. The seven-furlong trip should hit him right between the eyes, and there should be plenty of pace for him to rate behind; WONDERFUL LIGHT: Just missed in a similarly strong allowance at Belmont, where he beat graded stakes winner Stallwalkin’ Dude (among others). He’s never missed the board in seven lifetime starts, and Franco’s piloted him to two of his three wins; BEHAVIORAL BIAS: Has finished in the money in 10 of 11 starts and broke his maiden here last summer. He was beaten less than two lengths in the Grade 3 Commonwealth and adds blinkers for a barn hitting at 29% this year.


Gentle Ruler
Plans to Prosper

WINDJAMMER: Is a pace play in a wide-open turf event where I’d suggest hitting the “ALL” button in multi-race exotics wagers. The slight cutback in distance should help her, and I’m hoping she gets brave on the front end; GENTLE RULER: May have bounced a bit last time out off a big effort two back in what was her first start in almost six months. If she repeats the two-back effort (where she was narrowly beaten by two next-out winners), she could provide some value; PLANS TO PROSPER: Was beaten less than a length at this level last time out and gets a positive rider switch to John Velazquez. I’m not sure about the horses she faced that day, but she could improve given the new jockey and a return to a two-turn route of ground.


Shape Shifter
Our Girl Abby
Tee Up

SHAPE SHIFTER: Raced greenly last time out at Laurel Park, but was a runaway winner two and three back in her first two dirt starts. A return to that form would make her tough to beat, especially given the class drop; OUR GIRL ABBY: Responded to the drop in class with a runaway win last time out at Gulfstream Park. She was claimed by Danny Gargan that day, and while she does take a step up, it’s possible she may have finally found the appropriate level; TEE UP: Hasn’t won in a while, but showed improvement in her last two outings, when she was second against similar foes downstate. She should be prominent early, and could hold on for a share at a price.


Fed Fever

NITROUS: Did everything but win first time out at Churchill Downs, when he was beaten a neck and topped the third-place finisher by more than five lengths. A repeat of that race will make him tough, and we may get an acceptable price given the large field; COAST: Merits a look if he draws in off the AE list. He fetched $500,000 at auction earlier this year and has worked well for Todd Pletcher, but needs a scratch to make his debut in this spot; FED FEVER: Has worked well of late for George Weaver, whose barn is quietly one of the best on the circuit with first-time starters.


Call Provision
Hello Don Julio
Patterson Cross

CALL PROVISION: Always seems to fire a big shot and did not disgrace himself when fourth in a pair of graded events earlier this year. He figures to get a pace to run at, and it helps that he’s won twice over this turf course; HELLO DON JULIO: Seems like the main speed in here, and is another that’s been running against some very strong turf horses. A repeat of his win here last August would make him a major player; PATTERSON CROSS: Looks much more formidable if you toss the Mac Diarmida effort, which was his first outing in more than 11 months. Draw a line through that race, and you have a runner that hasn’t run poorly since late-2016, one that could come flying late.


First Appeal
Really Proud
Battle Joined

FIRST APPEAL: Ran well here three times last summer, notching two wins and a third-place finish in 24 days. Horses that are proven to love this route of ground always get extra consideration, and she’ll be tough if she can channel that form in this turf sprint; REALLY PROUD: Ran well two back in a listed stakes race, but may have moved too early last time out at Belmont. The slight cutback should help her, and she could sit a perfect stalking trip; BATTLE JOINED: Put it all together last time out in winning a swiftly-run maiden race. A similar effort would make her competitive here, but she must work out a trip from a far outside post.


Whiskey Echo

SOMBEYAY: Has had gate issues, but is less than a length away from being 2-for-2 heading into this year’s Sanford. The rail draw is less than ideal for a horse that’s found trouble this often, but it sure seems like there’s lots of talent here; WHISKEY ECHO: Won like a 1/2 shot should in his debut and gets Lasix for the first time here. His July 9th workout was sharp, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., staying aboard is a plus; LEXITONIAN: Was professional in his debut, which he won by a length after rating just off the pace. He may be the less-fancied of Todd Pletcher’s runners, but he could still win with a logical step forward.


A Raving Beauty
Proctor’s Ledge

SISTERCHARLIE: Spotted the leader nearly 30 lengths in the Grade 2 New York, but still nearly managed to get home first. Her effort two back in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley was sensational, and she’ll be tough to beat with that kind of performance; A RAVING BEAUTY: Is 2 for 2 since coming to America and won the Grade 1 Just A Game last time out. This is her first try going two turns since coming across the pond, but nothing says she can’t get that trip; PROCTOR’S LEDGE: Loves Saratoga and merits respect based on the races she ran here a season ago. She won the Grade 2 Lake Placid and Grade 3 Lake George, and she was less than a length behind my second selection last time out.


Monster Bea
Team Colors

HIEROGLYPHICS: Won here twice last summer, including when he took a $100,000 stakes race over some very solid runners. He hasn’t won since and takes a big class drop to run for a $50,000 tag, which could wake him up in a big way; MONSTER BEA: Hasn’t won in a long time, but has chased graded stakes-caliber horses for most of that stretch. He’s another for whom this race represents a drop in class; TEAM COLORS: Beat similar competition last time out at Belmont in his first start for Jimmy Jerkens. A repeat of that effort could win, but navigating a trip from the 11-hole on this turf course is no easy task.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 7/22/17



Not many brilliant 2-year-olds win Grade 1 races as 5-year-olds. Lady Eli has done that, all after overcoming laminitis. She headlines a renewal of the Grade 1 Diana that’s short on quantity, but not on quality. It’s also drawn fellow Grade 1 winners Antonoe and Dickinson, among others, and if Lady Eli continues conquering such fields this summer and fall, it may be time to start discussing her Hall of Fame credentials.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Victory to Victory faded and Dream Dancing never fired, so our doubles fizzled out and we dropped $20.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ve got much more confidence in the early part of today’s card than in the later races, so I’ll play a 50-cent early Pick Four (contingent on turf races staying there). I’ll use #1 DADDY’S HOME and #9 MINISTER’S STRIKE in the second, single #5 UNTAMED DOMAIN in the third, press the “ALL” button in the fourth, and finish with #3 TAP DADDY, #4 SPORTING CHANCE, and #8 MACHISMO in the fifth.



Best Bet: Untamed Domain, Race #3
Longshot: End Play, Race #7


Marshall Plan
Mr. Crow

MARSHALL PLAN: Has run two sharp races behind stakes-quality 3-year-olds and may have found a softer spot here. The horse to his inside has potential, but based on his body of work, this one’s the one to beat; MR. CROW: Was a close-up second in his debut, where he outran his 11-1 odds and was credited with a solid 89 Beyer Speed Figure. The July 8th bullet seems to indicate he’s continued to develop since that performance; ADULATION: Has been away since November but ran against several stakes-quality horses as a 2-year-old. He may need a race, but he fits based on last season’s form.


Sheep Pond entry
Minister’s Strike
Prize Fight

DADDY’S HOME: Was an impressive debut winner two back, but misfired against much better last month downstate. A return to two turns should help him, and these waters aren’t nearly as deep; MINISTER’S STRIKE: Has spent his entire season to date in stakes company and takes a much-needed class drop here. Both of his wins have come going two turns on turf; PRIZE FIGHT: Lost all chance last out and was in too deep two back in the Grade 2 Penn Mile. His form from earlier this season in Florida would be good enough for a piece of this. DIRT SELECTIONS: CURTIS, ESCAPE VELOCITY, HONOR THY FATHER.


Untamed Domain
Pete Marwick

UNTAMED DOMAIN: Is bred up and down to go long on turf, and he had plenty of traffic trouble in his debut. He came flying late that day, and the addition of Lasix is a major plus; PETE MARWICK: Has three starts of experience and tries turf for the first time. His pedigree says he could take to it, and he nearly graduated two back downstate; ANOTHER: May need a race, but has the pedigree to be a good one. His dam is a half-sister of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another, and the July 4th work on the Oklahoma track was very sharp. DIRT SELECTIONS: PETE MARWICK, PLETCHER ENTRY, HONORABLE TREASURE.


Shuffle Up
Alex the Terror

VOLUNTARIO: Was outclassed two back in the Grade 3 General George and likely needed his last race, which came off a substantial layoff. He drops in for a tag and seems well-meant in a race that, to this writer, was a mess to handicap; SHUFFLE UP: Won two in a row by daylight at Aqueduct before misfiring last out at Belmont. He’s got plenty of early zip and could be tough to catch if left alone early on; ALEX THE TERROR: Disappointed first off the claim, but ran a strong race at seven furlongs three back against much better. This is another who may be helped by the drop in class he gets in this spot.


Tap Daddy
Sporting Chance

MACHISMO: Fetched $500k at auction last year and has been working like a very good horse ahead of his debut. This isn’t an easy spot, but if this one runs to his potential, he could be a buzz horse moving forward; TAP DADDY: Hails from a barn that doesn’t usually work horses quickly, which makes several of his drills very interesting. He’s bred to go much longer than this, but all indications are that there’s plenty of talent here; SPORTING CHANCE: Did very little wrong when second in his debut last month at Churchill Downs. He was well clear of the third-place finisher, but that field may have been weaker than what he faces here.


Born for a Storm
Gucci Factor
Fleet Irish

BORN FOR A STORM: Comes off a nine-month layoff, but ran two very strong races here last year. He’s been working well here ahead of his 4-year-old debut, and Brown and Castellano have won plenty of races together; GUCCI FACTOR: Ran off the screen in his seasonal debut last month at Belmont, winning by 16 lengths and appearing to have more in reserve. This is a much tougher spot, but he may have figured things out in a big way; FLEET IRISH: Hasn’t won since his debut last November, but this distance hits him between the eyes, and he’d benefit from an early speed duel, which could happen given the huge field signed on.


Still Krz (MTO)
End Play
Partly Mocha

END PLAY: Comes in off a win downstate and is ridden back by Luis Saez, who’s been aboard for all three of his career victories. He ran well here twice a season ago, and 8-1 is a square price for a horse that appears to be in peak form; PARTLY MOCHA: Has been running against some of the top turf sprinters in the country and should certainly appreciate the shallower waters this race provides. The post position isn’t ideal, but he should be running well late; EVACUATION: Was thought of highly enough by his previous connections that they tried Group 1 company down under last year. He makes his North American debut for Wesley Ward and has attracted jockey John Velazquez. DIRT SELECTIONS: STILL KRZ, BOLITA BOYZ, LUNA DE LOCO.


Annie Rocks (MTO)
Gioia Stella

GIOIA STELLA: Assuredly needed her 2017 debut after the layoff and wasn’t helped by that race being moved off the turf. Her two-turn turf efforts are among the best races of her career, and she gets such a route here; PRICEDTOPERFECTION: Makes her first start for a new barn and will be seen in the afternoon for the first time since September. Her back class is considerable, and she’ll be a major player if she’s ready to run; STELLA ROSE: Was third in a high-level allowance in her 2017 bow and won here a season ago. She’s run up against some high-quality horses, and this is a logical spot. DIRT SELECTIONS: ANNIE ROCKS, JOSEPHINE’S MOMENT, BROWSE.


Direct Dial
Admiral Jimmy

DIRECT DIAL: Did the dirty work in the Tremont, setting very fast fractions. He still hung on for second money that day, and he figures to be the main speed in a renewal of the historic Sanford; ADMIRAL JIMMY: Was nosed by my top selection in the Tremont and showed an ability to rate off the pace in that performance. He’d benefit from a fast pace, which could materialize; BAFFIN: Was never threatened in a sharp debut victory at Churchill Downs. It’s curious that Steve Asmussen (Direct Dial’s trainer) also enters this one here when there are ample 2-year-old races around the country.


Lady Eli

LADY ELI: Won a scorching renewal of the Grade 1 Gamely at Santa Anita in May and appears to be as sharp as ever. She’s aided here by what appears to be a lack of early speed, and it wouldn’t be surprising if she led early on; ANTONOE: Flew home to capture the Grade 1 Just A Game and improve to 2-for-2 in North America. This race shape may not set up as well for her, but she’s certainly talented enough to continue her winning ways; DICKINSON: Was herded in the Just A Game, but likely wasn’t beating Antonoe that day. She did, however, top Lady Eli on the square two back, and she’s another who could be forwardly-placed.


Doyouknowsomething (MTO)

SOUPERFAST: Was impressive downstate in his last appearance and was claimed out of that race by David Jacobson. Many in this field may prefer one turns to this two-turn route, but he’s shown to be equally effective at either configuration; BLARP: Had a world of trouble when last seen and returns to a turf course he’s won on in the past. He has ample back class and should improve with a better trip; MILLS: Was third behind my top pick in his last outing and has since joined the Rudy Rodriguez barn. He’s one of the best on the circuit with new acquisitions, so improvement wouldn’t be a surprise. DIRT SELECTIONS: DOYOUKNOWSOMETHING, CARVE, MILLS.