SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/4/22)
Out of respect for my editor, I’ll focus earlier on in the card than what will likely be my biggest real-life play of the day. Since I can’t, in good conscience, push up against a deadline the day before a holiday, my play cannot be in the Sunday finale, which is set to go off just before 7 pm Eastern time.
Having said that, know that I prefer Mouly to the heavily-favored entry that’s even-money on the morning line. If deadlines were not an object, I’d key Mouly on top of exactas with that entry and Roz, and punch a win bet on my top selection as well.
As an aside, 12 races is just too many. I know NYRA is trying to jam in as many races as they can, for obvious reasons, but I can’t help but recall the 2013 meet, where they did the same thing and burned everyone out very, very early.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: It was a very good day in this section. General Jim kicked off the card with a win at odds of 7/2, and a Pick Five ticket built around getting that one home and beating Up to the Mark achieved both objectives en route to cashing (though not for quite as much as I thought it might rooting it home). In total, the $68 investment returned $272.25.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: Instead of a play in the 12th and final, I’ll focus on the sixth, a fascinating maiden race for 2-year-old fillies. I’ll key #3 ST. BENEDICTS PREP and #4 PURE PAULINE on top of $5 exactas that use those two, #5 STUNNINGLY, and #8 MY BETSY underneath. I’ll also play an additional $3 exacta box using my top two horses.
TOTAL WAGERED: $36.
Best Bet: Wonder Wheel, Race 9
Longshot: Prouver, Race 7
Bobby the Tank
#11 DISARMED: Had horrible racing luck in his debut, when he lost all chance after checking behind a rival. He needs a scratch to draw in off of the AE list, but if he winds up running in the Sunday opener, I think he’ll be very tough to beat; #3 NOBILIS: Has been working very well for trainer George Weaver and looks sharp coming into his unveiling. He sold for just $17,000 at auction last fall, but the drills indicate he may have plenty of potential; #2 BOBBY THE TANK: Showed brief speed on dirt before fading to finish fourth behind a runaway winner. It wouldn’t surprise me if he goes favored here, but this barn doesn’t go dirt-to-turf with 2-year-olds often, so this is a curious move for one that figures to be a short price.
Greeley and Ben
#3 HAPPY FARM: Has won two in a row, including a race at this level and route early in the met. He went from one good barn to another that day, but Flavien Prat sees fit to ride back and could guide him to yet another ideal stalking trip just behind a pretty fast pace; #2 GREELEY AND BEN: Has shown up in the entries several times this summer, and perhaps this is the time we get to see this hard-knocker run. He’s won 20 of 34 career starts, including several stakes races, and anything close to his best would give him a shot; #4 HERO TIGER: Ships in from Monmouth Park, where he most recently ran third in a swiftly-run five-furlong sprint. He has tactical speed, but doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well, which could give Javier Castellano a few options out of the gate.
Vegas Weekend (MTO)
#7 CHARGE ACCOUNT: Exits a win in a similar race last month and goes first off the claim for Mike Maker. The new trainer has enlisted leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., to take the mount, and her tactical speed certainly looks like a plus in this event; #4 FOREVER DREAMING: Almost certainly needed her return race off a three-month break, and that race wasn’t on her preferred surface. She gets back to the lawn here, and she flashed enough talent against better horses earlier this year to make me think she’s got a shot here; #2 STATE CROWN: Has won two of her last three and ships in after winning an optional claiming event at Presque Isle. Her two-back clunker is forgivable given the marathon distance, and I think she may come rolling late for a piece of this one.
#5 COUSTEAU: Takes a huge drop to this restricted, bottom-level claiming event just two starts after winning a starter allowance race at Belmont. He earned a career-high 83 Beyer Speed Figure last time out when second for more than double this tag, and his normal race crushes these; #2 CRITICAL THREAT: Is another dropping in class, and he does so after running third for a $25,000 tag last month. He hasn’t won since January, but Luis Saez sees fit to ride and perhaps he can channel his late-2021 form, which was quite good; #10 AMPERSAND: Romped over non-winners of two last time out and was claimed by Peter Walder. This is a step up in class, but both of his wins have come over this surface and Walder does well with new acquisitions.
Me ’n Sap
#8 ATHENRY: Was a close-up fourth at this route last time out and looks like one of only a few types that can pass others late in this turf sprint. I think he’ll get a pace to rate behind and be able to rally late beneath Manny Franco; #6 SHERIFF BIANCO: Hit the front in the stretch last time before settling for third, a neck behind that day’s winner. The runner-up came back to win at next asking, and of the likely front-runners, the likely favorite hits me as the most likely winner; #4 ME ’N SAP: Was beaten a nose at this route two starts ago, albeit against weaker competition. She likely needs to step up in order to be a win threat, but she’s a type that can close in a race full of speed, which means she can’t be ignored underneath.
St. Benedicts Prep
#4 PURE PAULINE: Has been training forwardly ahead of her debut for Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher and is bred to be any kind. This daughter of Curlin is out of a Grade 2 winner, and as stupid as it sounds, when Stonestreet names a runner Pauline (after Stonestreet head Barbara Banke’s mother), the horse in question can usually run; #3 ST. BENEDICTS PREP: Chased freakish debutante Prank last time out and has every right to improve now that that buzzsaw has graduated out of the maiden ranks. A recent five-furlong drill indicates a step forward could be in the offing; #5 STUNNINGLY: Exits a key race at Churchill on the Fourth of July. Winner Naughty Gal won the Grade 2 Adirondack, and that day’s runner-up came back to win at next asking, too. She’s got some speed and is another with potential to build off of her debut.
#4 FREE LOOK: Was third behind next-out stakes winner Be Your Best in her debut, where she was taken back to last of 10 before coming with a rally. Flavien Prat sees fit to ride back, and I’m expecting a move forward in her second career start; #9 AVANT: Hammered for $360,000 at auction last summer, and this daughter of Uncle Mo has a world-class bottom-side pedigree. She’s kin to two stakes winners, and her third dam, Bound, is the second dam of champion and stalwart sire Blame; #7 PROUVER: Is by first-crop sire Justify, whose offspring have hit the ground running to this point in the season. Dam Ready to Act won stakes races on turf and dirt, and when Luis Saez rides for this barn, it usually means the horse he’s on is live.
Boston Post Road
Piece of My Heart
#6 PALM COTTAGE: Posted a 92 Beyer Speed Figure when romping at Ellis Park in her 2022 debut. Whether or not she runs back to that effort is anyone’s guess, but I don’t necessarily think she’ll have to. This spot doesn’t seem to have come up particularly strong for the level; #4 BOSTON POST ROAD: Just missed in a race out of the Wilson chute last month, and her record looks far better if you ignore the race that came right before a very long layoff. The question is, is this six-furlong distance a bit shorter than she wants to go?; #1 PIECE OF MY HEART: Hasn’t won in a long, long time, but has shown an affinity for clunking up for minor awards. She may very well get the setup to do just that in this spot, which seems to boast plenty of early speed.
Great Workout (MTO)
DUBB ENTRY: I prefer #1A CATCH THAT PARTY, who rallied from 10th to win last time out despite not having much pace to run at. He’s won two of his last three outings, and the loss came in a race where two of the three runners that beat him came back to win at next asking; #5 FRANK’S ART: Showed his debut wasn’t a fluke when he finished a close-up third in his first try against winners. Joel Rosario gets off, but Flavien Prat’s far from a slouch, and he’d benefit from a faster-than-expected early pace; #4 TIMBUKTU: Was marooned on the far outside last time out and surrendered plenty of ground. He gets a better draw here, and a repeat of his two-back effort would give this Brad Cox trainee a chance at a bit of a price.
Cape Cod Causeway
#3 LA VICTORIA: Has taken a bunch of money in her career to date (largely because of the connections and dam La Verdad), but she’s found a home going long and nearly broke her maiden off of an 11-month break last time out. She seems like the main speed in this two-turn, inner-turf affair, and if she gets comfortable second off the bench, she could get brave; #2 SUCCULENT: Rallied from last of 12 to be second beaten just a half-length earlier this summer. That was easily a career-best race for her, and whether or not she can replicate that is a valid question, but David Donk has enjoyed a very good meet and could have this one primed; #4 CAPE COD CAUSEWAY: Was second in his local debut earlier this summer at a big price. It’s been a long meet for this barn, but it’s possible this filly’s getting better in the back half of her 3-year-old season, and a repeat of the last-out effort could get her a piece of this easily enough.
#9 WONDER WHEEL: Is a perfect 2-for-2 and hasn’t really been tested yet. Her win in the Debutante at Churchill Downs was exceptional, and she’s put forth several head-turning drills in the mornings ahead of her New York debut in the Grade 1 Spinaway; #5 JUST CINDY: Is also 2-for-2 with a last-out stakes score, as she cruised home in the Grade 3 Schuylerville on Opening Day. The stretch-out to seven furlongs shouldn’t be a problem, and she’s shown she can stalk and pounce, which could be a valuable asset here; #4 NAUGHTY GAL: Won the Grade 3 Adirondack despite lugging out badly turning for home. The field she beat that day was a weaker group, but if Jose Ortiz can keep her on a steadier path, she’ll have a chance to contend at a square price.
#3 MOULY: Ships up from Gulfstream Park to face New York-breds for the first time. This barn has been firing at this stand, and while the fields she’s run against in Florida haven’t been any great shakes, she may benefit from running against state-bred competition in the Sunday finale; DUBB ENTRY: #1 TOUGH STREET is probably the one the public will bet dropping down in class for the meet’s leading trainer. She’s got plenty of early speed, but it’s also not like she’ll be alone on the front end, and there are legitimate stamina questions. She’s not illogical, but in the words of the late, great Russ Harris, demand value; #10 ROZ: Has a sheet that looks far better if you solely focus on her sprint races. She’s never missed the board in three starts at seven furlongs or shorter, and she’s shown an ability to stalk the pace, which could give her first run turning for home.