Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: Travers Day (8/26/17)

BANKROLL: $851.50

Happy Travers Day, everyone! Before we get into the antics and shenanigans, I’d genuinely like to wish all of you luck. This may be the best wagering card we see all year in New York, and there’s no shortage of live longshots on the program.

That said, I have to chuckle at NYRA’s “no running” edict. As I mentioned last year around this time, all it apparently takes to turn some at the track into middle school hall monitors is one big day. No running? What about jogging, speed-walking, power-walking, or cantering? Where, precisely, is the line drawn?

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: We extended our winning streak in this section to three by maximizing value on Sunset Ridge. Our Pick Five connected for $1, our Pick Four hit for 50 cents, and our $40 investment returned $155 and change.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: Remember how I said there’s no shortage of longshots? I’ll play four horses to win and place, and it may only take one winner for it to be a profitable day. The horses I’ll put #5 to win and place on are as follows: KABANG (Race 2), PROFITEER (Race 5), WEST COAST (Race 11), and MOHICAN (Race 13).

TOTAL WAGERED: $40

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Songbird, Race 6
Longshot: Kabang, Race 2

R1

Good Magic
Hazit
High North

GOOD MAGIC: Was a million dollar baby at last year’s Keeneland September sale, and for good reason. He’s by Curlin, and boasts a female family that’s one of the best you’ll ever see. He’s worked to that breeding and should be ready; HAZIT: Is another that’s bred to run and debuts for high-percentage connections. His dam was a graded stakes-winning sprinter, and he’s got every right to be precocious; HIGH NORTH: Is a half to Grade 2 winner Benner Island and has a pair of strong local workouts. Irad Ortiz likely had options, and he lands on this $230k yearling purchase.

R2

Uncle Mojo (MTO)
Kabang
Focus Group

KABANG: Has won three of his last four, with the most recent victory coming earlier this meet in a swiftly-run starter allowance. There’s some pace signed on here, which bodes well for this one’s late kick; FOCUS GROUP: Broke through at third asking last time out, graduation in a much longer race. Irad stays aboard for Chad Brown, and at least you know the distance shouldn’t be a problem; RICHMOND STREET: Ran a clunker last time out, but that was his second race off a long layoff, so it could’ve just been a bounce. His race two back was solid, and he ran well here twice last summer. DIRT SELECTIONS: UNCLE MOJO, HOLIDAY BONUS, SON OF A SAINT.

R3

Neepawa
Strike Me Down
Chirping

NEEPAWA: Was a fast-closing third in his debut, which came at this route. The post position is a problem, but of those that have run before, he boasts the most impressive effort; STRIKE ME DOWN: Is bred up and down to be a strong turf horse. His dam won a Grade 2 on turf and threw Grade 3 winner Golden Sabre, and this gray has turned heads in the mornings; CHIRPING: Ran a sneaky race in his debut, rallying late for fifth and showing he likely wants more ground. He gets that in this spot and can’t be ignored at a price.

R4

Ostrolenka
Sticksstatelydude
Candid Desire

OSTROLENKA: Has run some of his best races since being claimed earlier this year by David Jacobson. He was a close-up second at this route against a solid sprinter, and the likely race shape sets up for a closer like him; STICKSSTATELYDUDE: Returns to the races after a nine-month break and has back class that must be respected. This is certainly shorter than he wants to go, but he did break his maiden going six furlongs here as a 2-year-old; CANDID DESIRE: Is another that merits a look given the likely shape of the race (not to mention his likely odds). He ran fourth to Stallwalkin’ Dude last time out after a brief freshening, and a quick look at the running lines shows he beat THREEFIVEINDIA (who could be the favorite or second choice here) three back.

R5

Cloontia
Profiteer
Ray’s The Bar

CLOONTIA: Showed a new dimension last time out, rating well off the leader and rallying to win a lesser allowance race. He steps up in class, but this is a horse that likes to win, and these connections merit respect; PROFITEER: Hasn’t been seen since April, when he trailed in the Grade 3 Transylvania. It’s possible he just didn’t take to the Keeneland turf course, and he’s a major player if he runs back to his other grass races; RAY’S THE BAR: Almost certainly needed his 2017 debut, so I’m drawing a line through it. He’s been gelded since that effort, and he has significant back class.

R6

Songbird
Forever Unbridled
Going for Broke

SONGBIRD: Is the length of Beholder’s nose away from being undefeated and will go for her 10th Grade 1 victory here. No other rival has the early speed to go with her, and I think she’ll be incredibly tough to run down late; FOREVER UNBRIDLED: Is extremely tough on her best day. Remember, she was beaten less than two lengths by Songbird in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and while the race shape doesn’t figure to help her, she could come running late; GOING FOR BROKE: Made stablemate Carina Mia work last time out in the Shine Again, and that distance was shorter than she’s accustomed to going. She chased Songbird in last year’s Alabama and figures to get a piece of this purse as well.

R7

Paulassilverlining
Carina Mia
Highway Star

PAULASSILVERLINING: Has won four in a row, including the Grade 2 Honorable Miss earlier this meet. There’s a shocking lack of early speed signed on here, and she could sit a dream trip on or near a slow pace; CARINA MIA: Fended off a game stablemate at this route earlier in the month and could improve in her second start for Chad Brown. The issue here is that my top selection has beaten her in both of their prior meetings; HIGHWAY STAR: Is 3-for-3 going seven furlongs and chased Songbird and Paid Up Subscriber home last time out in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps. If you’re looking for a longshot, you could do a lot worse than a horse that’s 7-for-11 lifetime (with one loss coming in a turf race).

R8

American Anthem
Coal Front
Practical Joke

AMERICAN ANTHEM: Returns to New York for his first start since an easy win in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on Belmont Day. He’s 3-for-3 around one turn, and a repeat of the effort we saw in June would make him very tough to beat; COAL FRONT: Is 3-for-3 and most recently took down the Grade 2 Amsterdam. He showed maturity that day, slowing down to take a breath after setting a fast pace and speeding up again to repel a late challenge. These are deep waters, but he’s given me nothing to knock so far; PRACTICAL JOKE: Missed by a half-length in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, finishing behind two horses that will contest the Travers. He won last year’s Grade 1 Hopeful at this route and has improved since then, but the rail draw isn’t ideal.

R9

Mind Your Biscuits
Drefong
Divining Rod

MIND YOUR BISCUITS: Has developed into one of the top dirt sprinters on the planet. His win in Dubai two back was sensational, and this seven-furlong distance suits him perfectly; DREFONG: Won both the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and King’s Bishop last year, but his 2017 season has not gone smoothly. He dumped Mike Smith in the Bing Crosby, and while horse and rider were fine, the workouts since then have been on the slow side. His best race probably wins, but can he channel that form?; DIVINING ROD: Came back running last time out in his 2017 debut, crushing an overmatched field at Laurel Park. He just missed in last year’s Cigar Mile, and he seems best of the rest here.

R10

Idaho
Money Multiplier
Erupt

IDAHO: Was third behind two of Europe’s best horses last time out in a Group 1 at Ascot. Enable may be the best horse in Europe regardless of gender, while Ulysses is eyeing the Breeders’ Cup Turf. By comparison, this is a softer spot, and these connections can ship in and win these races; MONEY MULTIPLIER: Started his 2017 campaign in fine fashion last time out with a Grade 2 win at Monmouth. Improvement is logical second off such a long layoff, and this one was second to Flintshire in last year’s running of this race; ERUPT: Is a cut below Europe’s best, but he won the Grade 1 Canadian International last fall at Woodbine. His effort two back in Group 1 company was solid, and he’s a contender on his best day.

R11

West Coast
Good Samaritan
Tapwrit

WEST COAST: Has developed into Bob Baffert’s top 3-year-old colt after back-to-back stakes wins on opposite coasts. His running style suggests he’ll handle this distance just fine, and he gets my top pick in a very confusing renewal of the Travers; GOOD SAMARITAN: Beat the Derby and Preakness winners with an authoritative performance in the Jim Dandy, which doubled as his dirt debut. Figure-wise, that was a new career-best race by a considerable amount, and he could win with a repeat performance; TAPWRIT: Was last seen winning the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes in June. The layoff is a concern, as is the Haskell performance of Belmont runner-up Irish War Cry, but he’s trained well of late and can’t be ignored.

R12

Lady Eli
Antonoe
Dickinson

LADY ELI: Was a surprise entrant in this race following her victory in the Grade 1 Diana. That win came after she and her stablemate (more on her shortly) broke through the starting gate before the race, and she’s strictly the one to beat; ANTONOE: Did not have a good day when last seen, breaking through the gate and sitting a strange trip. Still, she was only beaten a length by my top pick, and her win two back in the Just A Game was scary good; DICKINSON: May inherit the early lead by default. She misfired in the Diana, but her best race certainly gets her a share.

R13

Mohican
All About Voodoo
Prognostication

MOHICAN: Hasn’t run well in two local starts this summer, but I think you can toss both of those races. The race two back came off a long layoff, and his last-out effort came on dirt. Given the class drop, I think he’s live at a nice price; ALL ABOUT VOODOO: Showed speed earlier in the meet going much longer against a better group. The class drop is sensible, and keep him in mind if Focus Group (that race’s winner) comes back with a good effort in Saturday’s second race; PROGNOSTICATION: Had every chance at this level last time out, but was forced to settle for third in a so-so group. He’ll take money given the connections, and his best race puts him right there, but this may be a spot to shop around for some value.

2017 Belmont Stakes Day Picks, Tickets, and Analysis (6/10/17)

With very little in the way of significant storylines, this year’s Belmont is most appealing not to the casual fan, or to the sports fan tuning in to see a Triple Crown attempt, but to the hardened horseplayer who goes in search of the elusive property known as value. With a field of 12 and no heavy favorite, this is an instance where that can certainly be found.

The question is, how do you find it, and what kind of knocks are you willing to forgive? Morning line favorite Irish War Cry’s best race is probably good enough to win this, but when he’s bad, he’s VERY bad, and he appeared to be going best of all with three furlongs left in the Derby before hitting a wall going into the stretch. Lookin at Lee is an honest, hard-trying horse who will be the only thoroughbred this year to run in all three Triple Crown races, but he hasn’t won in a LONG time, and deep closers seldom win the Belmont. Meanwhile, the saga involving Japanese invader Epicharis took a weird turn earlier this week, when it was revealed he’s battling an ailment in one of his feet, and he was scratched Saturday morning.

My top pick involves some forgiving, but there’s also plenty of nice things to say about him. That’s Tapwrit, who will attempt to give trainer Todd Pletcher his second win in a Triple Crown race this season and third career triumph in the Belmont. He’s by Tapit, who has sired the winner of this race in two of the last three seasons, and he runs like a horse who will appreciate as much distance as possible. When last seen, he was a non-threatening sixth in the Kentucky Derby, but he had plenty of trouble in that race, not unlike his run two back in the Blue Grass.

He’s by no means a top pick I’m in love with, but when Tapwrit’s right, he’s very good. He’s one of four horses I’ll be using in multi-race exotics, as I’ll also be including Gormley, Irish War Cry, and Senior Investment. Gormley has trained like a Belmont horse for months, while Irish War Cry’s prior strong efforts can’t be ignored and Senior Investment seems to be getting better and better with experience and added distance.

The Belmont anchors a phenomenal card in New York, one that features ample wagering opportunities and lots of star power. I’ve got three multi-race tickets below, as well as analysis, and without further ado…

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 6,7
R2: 3,7
R3: 5
R4: 1,3,5,7,8
R5: 5

20 bets, $10

This Pick Five is, essentially, a Pick Four. Songbird makes her 2017 debut in the payoff leg, the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps, and she towers over her competition. If I can get there and potentially turn a $10 investment into, say, a 10-1 price on Songbird (assuming the Pick Five pays $110), I’ll gladly do that.

Thebigfundamental will be a fairly short price in the opener off of two solid outings, but I couldn’t ignore Wild About Deb, who likely needed his last start off a long layoff. His best is quite good, as evidenced by three top-three finishes in graded stakes company (most notably a third-place effort behind Connect in the Pennsylvania Derby), and 12-1 is way too big a price.

I’ll take a similar approach in the second leg, the Easy Goer. West Coast seems like a solid favorite, and it definitely helps that he does not need the lead, as this race seems loaded with early speed. However, second-time starter Wicked Macho intrigues me. He didn’t have it easy in his debut at Churchill Downs, where he prevailed by a head over a next-out winner, and he’s worked lights-out since then for trainer Mark Casse. This is an aggressive spot, but there’s plenty to suggest this horse could be ready for the challenge. A quick look at his female family shows third dam Stick to Beauty, a stakes-winning blue hen whose presence is felt in the female families of Grade 1 winners Dayjur, Maplejinsky, Point of Entry, Violence, Tale of Ekati, and Pine Island.

The Brooklyn struck me as a two-horse race before the scratch of Send It In, which means Tu Brutus will be a very short price. I can’t go against him, despite Gary Contessa’s subpar record in graded stakes races on dirt in the past five years (he’s 0-for-28). Meanwhile, the fourth race of the sequence is the Grade 1 Acorn, and I spread out. Abel Tasman merits respect, for sure, but I can’t help thinking she may want more ground and/or two turns. She got a dream setup in the Kentucky Oaks, and this is a very solid group (even after the scratch of Tequilita).

That leads us to Songbird, whose lone defeat came in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Not only does she tower over this field on talent, but she also figures to benefit from the pace scenario, which is very light on early speed. This doesn’t figure to be a Pick Five payoff that’ll set records, but again, if I can get to Songbird and treat it like a win bet with enhanced odds, I’ll be very happy.

$1 Grand Slam: Race #7

R7: 7,8
R8: 1,5
R9: 5,8
R10: 3,4,7

24 bets, $24

For those not familiar with this wager, the Grand Slam is a bet where at least one of your horses in each of the first three legs must finish third or better. You then get paid if a horse you play in the last leg wins, and you can build up winning combinations along the way. For instance, this ticket I’m playing could potentially be alive for an $8 valuation to three horses in the Manhattan if each of the horses I use finishes in the top three of their respective races.

I don’t play the Grand Slam much, but cards like Saturday’s are good times to do so. Given all of the possible combinations, this will likely pay handsomely, especially if some favorites finish off the board.

American Anthem figures to be favored in the Woody Stephens, and I’m using him, but my top pick is Wild Shot. Wild Shot was on the Kentucky Derby trail for a while, but has shown to be much better in races contested around one turn. This was affirmed on Derby Day, when the son of Trappe Shot rated behind fast fractions and rolled home clear by four lengths in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile. A similar setup could present itself here, as there’s lots of early speed signed on.

I’m going against morning line favorite Roca Rojo in the eighth, the Grade 1 Just a Game. I fail to see why she should be favored over horses like Dickinson (whose recent win streak includes a Grade 1 win over the brilliant Lady Eli) and Celestine (last year’s runaway winner who’s 2-for-2 in 2017). I’ll use Roca Rojo in the Pick Four for security, but here, I’ll stick with the other two I’ve mentioned.

Sharp Azteca is my best bet of the day not named Songbird. There doesn’t seem to be much early speed alongside him in the Met Mile, and I think he could shake loose and roll home. However, a longshot intrigues me underneath, and for that reason, I had to also use Tom’s Ready. His return off a long layoff was quite good, and his one race here at Belmont was a win in last year’s Woody Stephens. If someone goes with Sharp Azteca early and provokes a pace meltdown, or if Tom’s Ready simply improves in his second start of the year, I think this 15-1 shot stands a big chance of hitting the board and upping the potential payout.

Finally, I’ll go three-deep in the Manhattan to close things out. Time Test is 5-1 on the morning line but may be significantly less than that come post time. His European form is extremely sharp, and he likely needed his last race, which came off a 10-month layoff over a very wet turf course he probably didn’t care for. I’ll also use Dixie winner World Approval and Turf Classic winner Divisidero, the latter of whom could benefit if Beach Patrol, World Approval, and a few others set a fast pace.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

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

36 bets, $18

I think you can play a small ticket into a big pool and, potentially, come back with a nice score. I did include Roca Rojo simply because the ticket was pretty skinny elsewhere, and I singled Sharp Azteca. There aren’t any huge prices here, but the field sizes and guaranteed pool are such that, if this gets home, we could see a payout in the $200-$300 range. For an $18 investment, that’s just fine!