SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/24/19, TRAVERS DAY)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $736.10

Happy Travers Day, everyone! We’ve got a 13-race card on tap, complete with six Grade 1 events that have attracted some of the best horses currently in training. The Travers, unfortunately, boasts an underwhelming group that lacks the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont (among other key divisional races), but from top to bottom, this is one of the most exciting cards we’ll see all year long.

There are plenty of opportunities to take stands with juicy prices, and my plays today will reflect that. If you’re diving in, pace yourself. Big fields mean potential for overlays, and a number of these events could be won by a number of contenders. From a bankroll standpoint, it’s an exciting day, as it may only take one winning ticket to ensure a profitable afternoon.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: The good news is that, for the first time in a week, our action wasn’t cancelled due to a surface switch. The bad news is that Bankit needed an extra jump he didn’t get in the Albany. As such, we dropped $30.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll practice what I preach by playing four separate $5 win/place bets throughout the card. I’ll use #7 BALON ROSE (race 3), #7 PAYNE (race 4), #6 YA PRIMO (race 10, the Grade 1 Sword Dancer), and #7 MUCHO GUSTO (race 11, the Travers with an overexposed sponsor I refuse to mention). Additionally, just for fun, I’ll play cold $5 doubles starting in the third and 10th races that use these horses. If morning lines hold up, it won’t take too much for this to be a pretty good day.

TOTAL WAGERED: $50

– – – – –

BEST BET: Brown entry, Race 1
LONGSHOT: Five Alarm Robin, Race 13

R1

Brown entry
Lemonist
Keep Quiet

BROWN ENTRY: It could be a big day for Chad Brown, and he looks loaded here. #1 FRONTIER MARKET hasn’t run a poor race in nearly two years, while #1A UNLEVERAGED gets a class test after two wins in a row downstate; #8 LEMONIST: Is another consistent sort who has hit the board in each of his last nine starts. He cuts back after two solid seconds at marathon distances, and a mile is probably a perfect trip for him; #5 KEEP QUIET: Rallied to be fourth earlier this meet against similar foes and didn’t have much of a pace to rate off of that day. He’d benefit from solid early fractions, and his usual race likely gets him a piece of this.

R2

Atoka
Tap It to Win
Onward

#4 ATOKA: Settled for third in his debut after doing loads of heavy lifting early on. He debuted at a tough distance and adds Lasix here for a barn whose second-time starters are firing on all cylinders of late; #1 TAP IT TO WIN: Debuted with a second-place finish at Woodbine and comes in off of a bullet work over this surface. It’s tough to figure out whether or not Woodbine form will translate to the Spa, but he’s a logical favorite; #7 ONWARD: Hammered for $600,000 last September at Keeneland and has hinted at some precocity in the morning. This barn’s firsters are tough to figure out, but he does boast a fairly recent bullet drill.

R3

Balon Rose
Charreada
Ocean Fire

#7 BALON ROSE: Flopped when favored earlier in the meet, but she may not have liked the yielding surface and that day’s winner has since come back to win again. This seems like a softer group, and firmer going should help her; #2 CHARREADA: Just missed when second beaten a neck downstate and stretches back out to two turns. There’s some early speed signed on here, and she figures to be running well late; #6 OCEAN FIRE: Comes back to turf after a failed dirt try and is another that exits the same July 26 event as my top choice. Her debut over firm turf at Belmont was pretty good, as she was third behind a recent stakes-winner.

R4

Payne
Performer
T Loves a Fight

#7 PAYNE: Didn’t have a great trip (nor, to be blunt, the best ride) when third at 4/5 earlier this meet. Jose Ortiz hops back aboard, and a repeat of either of his races downstate would make him a likely winner; #11 PERFORMER: Graduated off a long layoff last time out and tries winners for the first time. The outside draw should help, but regression potential is there and I’m wondering if he wants longer than this distance; #8 T LOVES A FIGHT: Has gotten quite good lately and was most recently beaten less than two lengths when fourth in a tough state-bred stakes race. He won three in a row before that and, like my top pick, would benefit from a fast pace.

R5

Mitole
Promises Fulfilled
Bon Raison

#3 MITOLE: Had to contend with a rail draw and an in-form Imperial Hint in the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt last month. The draw improves, and his rival is nowhere to be found, which means I’m inclined to give him another shot; #1 PROMISES FULFILLED: Is a logical alternative to the likely favorite. He got back on the beam last time out in the Grade 2 John Nerud, and he figures to be prominent early; #5 BON RAISON: Likes Saratoga and would benefit from a pace meltdown. He made several moves when winning the Tale of the Cat, and he could clunk up for a piece of this at a big price.

R6

Separationofpowers
Mia Mischief
Special Relativity

#4 SEPARATIONOFPOWERS: Won last year’s Grade 1 Test and is proven at this seven-furlong distance. She’s been freshened ahead of this race and could sit a dream trip just off the pace; #5 MIA MISCHIEF: Was shuffled back a bit in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss and never recovered when fourth behind a loose-on-the-lead winner. She’s better than she showed that day, and a return to form would give her a big shot; #1 SPECIAL RELATIVITY: Takes a big jump up in class but certainly deserves the opportunity. She’s undefeated in four local starts and won a minor stakes race at this route a few weeks ago.

R7

Shancelot
Hog Creek Hustle
Borracho

#1 SHANCELOT: Reminded some fans of Groovy with his romp in the Grade 2 Amsterdam, where he earned a 121 Beyer Speed Figure. Anything close to that, and the rest of this field will be fighting for second; #9 HOG CREEK HUSTLE: Was last seen finishing with a flourish to win the Grade 1 Woody Stephens on Belmont Day. If Shancelot bounces, he may be the one they have to hold off in the stretch; #4 BORRACHO: Was impressive when winning an optional claimer at this route earlier in the meet. He loves this distance and is another that will be doing his best running late.

R8

Mascha
Starship Jubilee
Fifty Five

#9 MASCHA: Gets a reluctant nod in a wide-open renewal of the Grade 2 Ballston Spa. Her American debut was a winning one, and she showed plenty of class overseas last year; #8 STARSHIP JUBILEE: Ran second in a pair of Grade 2 events at Woodbine and is very flexible. She can sit close to the pace or rate and make one run, which figures to give Jose Lezcano plenty of options; #2 FIFTY FIVE: Is cross-entered in a state-bred race Friday, but is a contender if she shows up here. She hasn’t finished out of the money in nearly two years and was most recently second in a Grade 3 event at Parx.

R9

Elate
Midnight Bisou
Golden Award

#4 ELATE: Seems to be in peak form ahead of another try at the Grade 1 Personal Ensign. She was second in the controversial 2018 renewal and may be better than she was a season ago; #1 MIDNIGHT BISOU: Has reeled off five wins in a row and certainly merits respect. However, she’s 0-for-4 going longer than a mile and a sixteenth, and the rail draw is less than ideal; #6 GOLDEN AWARD: Sprang a mild upset in the Grade 3 Shuvee earlier in the meet and figures to be one of the pace-setters. If she can clear the field going into the first turn, she could dictate terms and hang on for a share.

R10

Ya Primo
Annals of Time
Channel Maker

#6 YA PRIMO: Ran well when second in the Grade 2 Bowling Green, which doubled as his U.S. debut. He may have needed that race off of a layoff, and improvement is logical second off the bench for a world-class barn; #7 ANNALS OF TIME: Looked good when cruising home against optional claiming foes earlier in the meet. At his best, he’s quite good, and this isn’t the strongest Grade 1 Sword Dancer renewal in recent history; #8 CHANNEL MAKER: Was beaten less than a length in the Bowling Green and was second in this race a season ago. He was a bit wide that day, and a smoother trip could make the difference here.

R11

Mucho Gusto
Tacitus
Looking At Bikinis

#7 MUCHO GUSTO: Ships in for Bob Baffert after giving Maximum Security all he could handle in the Grade 1 Haskell. His recent works are strong, and when in doubt, there are far worse strategies than going with Bob Baffert in a big race; #6 TACITUS: Had an eventful journey when second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. The blinkers come on, and his best is certainly good enough to beat these, but has he gotten to where he actively puts himself in bad spots?; #9 LOOKING AT BIKINIS: Didn’t run well when a distant third in the Curlin, but that was over a sloppy track and he may have bounced to boot. He’s continued to work well, and I think he’s got a shot to hit the board at a nice price.

R12

Fled
Discretionary Marq
Dowse’s Beach

#2 FLED: Has won two in a row since being switched to the turf, and most recently rallied from way back to top state-breds at this route. A repeat effort would put him right there in a wide-open event; #11 DISCRETIONARY MARQ: Drew a terrible post but is absolutely capable of winning with his best effort. He’s finished in the top two in eight of 14 career outings and should be on or near the lead early; #13 DOWSE’S BEACH: May not draw in, and will have to contend with an awful draw if he does, but he’s 5-for-8 at Saratoga and won here earlier in the meet. When Jason Servis gets horses on the right track, they tend to stay there.

R13

Magic Star
Five Alarm Robin
Keepme in Thegame

#5 MAGIC STAR: Seems well-meant in her unveiling and could cap off a big day for her connections. Her dam won a Grade 1 as a 2-year-old and is a half to Grade 1 winner Overanalyze, so she’s got every right to be a runner; #9 FIVE ALARM ROBIN: Has improved in every start and was a close-up third downstate. Luis Saez sees fit to ride back, and she seems like an overlay at her 8-1 morning line price; #10 KEEPME IN THEGAME: Ran well when third in her debut, which came going two turns at Keeneland. She returns to a similar route here, and given her pedigree, she should embrace this journey.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 8/25/18 (Travers Day)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $1,228.45

It’s Travers Day, which usually means some joke about NYRA’s ridiculous (and selectively-enforced) policy against running on the grounds. However, I’m breaking tradition to deal with something much more important, on a day where I hopefully have the audience to do it.

Over the past few weeks, journalism at some colleges and universities has come under attack. One school has merged journalism and public relations into the same major. Another (which I wrote about at length this past week) has gone so far as to restructure its student newspaper to essentially be a parrot for administrators and their missions. I highly doubt these schools are alone in taking these steps, and I want to do something about it.

If you’re an aspiring journalist/writer/reporter, and you’re looking for advice, my Twitter direct message box is open. I specifically opened it up for this purpose, and I’m happy to provide some sort of guidance to anyone who wants it. If you’re out there, and you’re somehow affected by the nonsense some administrators think is standard operating procedure, feel free to reach out (@AndrewChampagne).

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Kharafa winning may have been a feel-good moment given his advanced age, but it knocked us out of the Grand Slam (not like it was going to pay much, though). We dropped $24.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I think the stakes races are a bit chalky today, so I’ll focus on the early part of the program. My plays come in the second race, where I think there’s a way to extract some value out of #4 WAY EARLY. I’ll play $6 exactas using him above #2 NEW JERSEY JOHN, #6 IDES OF ARCH, and #10 APPEALING BRIEFS, as well as $3 exactas with him behind those three. Finally, I’ll single Way Early in $5 doubles that end with #1 TOMMY T and #8 SILVER DUST in the third.

TOTAL WAGERED: $37

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: City of Light, Race 9
Longshot: Bird’s Eye View, Race 5

R1

Puttheglassdown
Greyes Creek
Mischievous Bird

#5 PUTTHEGLASSDOWN: Debuted with a strong second to Nitrous, one of the better 2-year-olds on the grounds. We won’t get the 19-1 odds he was that day, but if he steps forward, he’ll be tough to beat; #1 GREYES CREEK: Fetched $850,000 at auction earlier this year and has worked like a good horse. The rail draw isn’t ideal for a debuting runner, but he may be talented enough to overcome it; #2 MISCHIEVOUS BIRD: Represents local racing institution Marylou Whitney and has been working very well for trainer Norm Casse. Offspring of Into Mischief tend to be precocious, and if you like him, you may get a bit of a price.

R2

Way Early
New Jersey John
Ides of Arch

#4 WAY EARLY: Drops into a first-level allowance after chasing graded stakes foes in each of his last two starts. He was second in the Grade 2 Penn Mile, and his usual race should beat this bunch; #2 NEW JERSEY JOHN: Was second at this level as a 24-1 shot earlier in the meet and won two of his three previous starts since coming off the bench. This barn hasn’t started many runners, but all five starters have hit the board; #6 IDES OF ARCH: Rallied to be third in his first start since November downstate, and his lone win came over this turf course. There’s some pace signed on in this race, and he could come running late for a piece of it.

R3

Tommy T
Silver Dust
Hollywood Star

#1 TOMMY T: Came off the bench running earlier in the meet, when he was second in a swift seven-furlong event. He’ll likely show speed from the rail, and it’s encouraging to see Rosario ride back; #8 SILVER DUST: Was fourth in that race, but likely went too fast early on. He’s worked well since and could be ripe for a bounce-back effort; #6 HOLLYWOOD STAR: Was third when cutting back to a sprint distance off of a freshening. The extra sixteenth could help him, and he may come running late at a price.

R4

Digital Footprint
Noble Nebraskan
Social Paranoia

#3 DIGITAL FOOTPRINT: Was a late-running second in his unveiling, which came at a two-turn distance. It’s tough to debut at such a route, and he wasn’t helped by the slow pace set in front of him; #14 NOBLE NEBRASKAN: May not draw in, but if he does, I need to use him. He’s bred up and down to be a good turf horse, and I’ve picked him three or four times this meet. One of these days, he’s going to run, right?; #7 SOCIAL PARANOIA: Goes to the turf and is bred to like it. He’s by solid turf sire Street Boss, and his 319 turf Tomlinson is one of the top such numbers in the field.

R5

Bird’s Eye View
Red Knight
Classic Covey

#2 BIRD’S EYE VIEW: Seems to have turned a corner from age three to age four. All three of his starts this year have shown significant improvement from his 2017 form, and he was a close second behind stakes-quality runner Patterson Cross last time out at Belmont; #4 RED KNIGHT: Has yet to miss the exacta in six career starts and showed a bit of tactical speed last time out. He’s one-half of a solid one-two punch for trainer Bill Mott, who’s had a good meet; #5 CLASSIC COVEY: Is the other Mott runner, and he’s chased some of the top turf horses on the East Coast in his last three starts. This class drop should help, although it’s a bit concerning that he hasn’t found a way to win since October.

R6

Promises Fulfilled
Still Having Fun
Firenze Fire

#1 PROMISES FULFILLED: May have been a one-turn horse all along. He ran a huge race in the Grade 3 Amsterdam, and while the potential for a bounce does exist, a repeat of that race would make him incredibly tough; #7 STILL HAVING FUN: Came from well back to win the Grade 2 Woody Stephens over several horses that also show up here (including my top pick). I doubt he’ll get that kind of setup again here, but he’s worked well, Rosario rides back, and he’d certainly benefit if my top pick isn’t gifted an easy lead; #8 FIRENZE FIRE: Ran a colossal race in the Grade 3 Dwyer, but I’m a bit skeptical he can repeat it. His best races have come at Belmont, where he also won last year’s Grade 1 Champagne, and that was such a huge improvement over his previous 2018 form that I’m skeptical he can reproduce that form (though he’ll be formidable if he does).

R7

Abel Tasman
Elate
Farrell

#1 ABEL TASMAN: Got back in the winner’s circle in emphatic fashion when romping in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on Belmont Stakes Day. She won the Coaching Club American Oaks here last year, and while the rail draw isn’t ideal, she’s definitely the one to beat; #6 ELATE: Came back running in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap, where she overpowered a questionable field going a 10-furlong distance she’s shown she loves. She won last year’s Grade 1 Alabama here and will get plenty of pace to rate behind; #5 FARRELL: Led all the way in the Grade 3 Shuvee and generally runs the same race every time out. She likely won’t be alone on the front end, but when this barn gets a horse on the right track, they tend to stay there.

R8

Finley’sluckycharm
Marley’s Freedom
Lewis Bay

#5 FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM: Won the Grade 2 Honorable Miss off a bit of a freshening and looms large here. For a top-level sprint, there’s not a ton of early speed signed on, so she could sit a picture-perfect trip; #7 MARLEY’S FREEDOM: Ships east for the Bob Baffert barn and merits respect solely off of that fact. She’s won three in a row, including two graded stakes races, but her starts at seven furlongs haven’t been quite as impressive as her efforts going shorter; #6 LEWIS BAY: Took advantage in the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses when main foe American Gal did not fire. She won by 5 1/2 lengths that day, and a repeat performance would almost certainly get her a piece of it here.

R9

City of Light
C Z Rocket
Limousine Liberal

#8 CITY OF LIGHT: Ships east for this event after a strong campaign to date. This seven-furlong trip hits him right between the eyes, and he’s already won a pair of Grade 1 events at this trip; #6 C Z ROCKET: Seems to have gotten stronger from age three to age four, and won a minor stakes last time out in impressive fashion. Toss the Grade 1 Malibu, and you’re left with a horse that’s won four of five starts for a high-percentage outfit; #1 LIMOUSINE LIBERAL: Has repeatedly shown that this is his best distance. He prevailed in the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship last time out, but must once again work out a trip from a tricky inside post.

R10

Sadler’s Joy
Spring Quality
Funtastic

#10 SADLER’S JOY: Likely wasn’t helped by the soft going in the Grade 2 Bowling Green, but he was still beaten just a half-length in a race that did not set up for his running style. He won this event last year, and a repeat seems within his grasp; #2 SPRING QUALITY: Won the Grade 1 Manhattan, which has proven to be a very strong race. He won’t be 18-1 today, unfortunately, and the distance is a bit of an unknown, but the versatility he’s shown is a big plus; #3 FUNTASTIC: Has shown significant talent since being stretched out to extended turf routes. He wired the field in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth, and while there were some circumstances in that race that didn’t help other runners (namely oppressive heat), there’s also a chance this one’s developed into a top-notch marathoner.

R11

Good Magic
Gronkowski
Mendelssohn

#9 GOOD MAGIC: Was an impressive winner of the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth and has trained well since shipping to upstate New York. There’s a chance this distance is a bit far for him, but if he repeats his last-out effort, I think he’s the most likely winner; #3 GRONKOWSKI: Rallied to be second behind Justify in the Belmont Stakes, a race that doubled as his American debut. He was sidelined with a minor injury earlier in the summer, but he’s working well and would benefit from a speed duel; #8 MENDELSSOHN: Almost certainly went too fast early on in the Grade 3 Dwyer, where horse-for-course Firenze Fire romped. His Kentucky Derby effort is a throw-out, and I think it’s encouraging that he’s been shipped back across the Atlantic for another shot at this level.

R12

A Raving Beauty
Proctor’s Ledge
Quidura

#1 A RAVING BEAUTY: Won two in a row before being beaten less than a length by next-out Grade 1 Beverly D. winner Sistercharlie in the Grade 1 Diana. She’s not an easy horse to ride, and I’m not crazy about the post, but her best race beats these; #3 PROCTOR’S LEDGE: Had a troubled trip in the Diana, but has shown an affinity for this turf course and is reunited with John Velazquez, who piloted her to her two top efforts of the season. It does help that there’s some speed signed on; #5 QUIDURA: May have needed the race last time out, one that doubled as her first start in nine months. She’s won a pair of graded stakes races and was beaten a head by Lady Eli in last year’s Diana on this turf course.

R13

American Rule (MTO)
Azzedine
Victor Lounge

#5 AZZEDINE: Drops further down the class ladder after misfiring at 7/5 against $75,000 maiden claimers earlier in the meet. He didn’t have the best of trips that day, and this seems like a “now or never” spot; #9 VICTOR LOUNGE: Has shown ample early speed in several starts at this level and returns to a two-turn route of ground. He’s run several of his better races at such a configuration, and he could get brave if given an easy lead; #11 SPRING ON CURLIN: Has certainly had plenty of chances, but was a fast-closing fourth when dropped to this level last time out. That was over a yielding surface that may have dulled his late kick a bit, and he could improve at a price over firm going. DIRT SELECTIONS: AMERICAN RULE, UNCLE LARRY, WISELY.

THE DARK DAY FILES: Trying to Make Sense of the 3-Year-Old Male Division

I was really, REALLY hoping I didn’t have to write this column.

You see, like pretty much everyone else, I’ve been hoping for months that a 3-year-old would separate himself from the rest of the division. Briefly, Always Dreaming did that, but he was knocked off the mountaintop just as quickly as he ascended it. Ever since the Preakness, the division has been shrouded in confusion, with big efforts often followed by duds that only serve to make things more difficult to decipher.

In what doubled as a dream come true for the NYRA marketing department, the three winners of the three Triple Crown races lined up in last Saturday’s Travers. Much like the last time this happened (1982), though, the race wasn’t won by one of those horses. West Coast, whose lone graded stakes win before the Midsummer Derby came at Los Alamitos against what would charitably be called a mediocre bunch, went wire-to-wire under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and earned the top Beyer Speed Figure of any 3-year-old router to this point in the season.

I’ll attempt to decipher the division here. Essentially, this acts as a quick and dirty summary of the main players, as well as what they likely need to do to emerge as a contender for the division’s Eclipse Award. I only considered horses that had won at least one Grade 1 race in 2017, which means horses like 2-3 Travers finishers Gunnevera and Irap, as well as Jim Dandy winner Good Samaritan, are out.

Disagree? Think I missed something? Shoot me a message, and I’ll be happy to discuss what I think.

West Coast

Claim to Fame: Beat the winners of all three Triple Crown races in the Travers.

Drawbacks: Hasn’t done much else to this point. He was visually impressive in both stakes wins earlier in the year, but he didn’t beat many quality foes in either spot.

Eclipse Chances: High. A win in either the Pennsylvania Derby (against 3-year-olds) or the Jockey Club Gold Cup (against older horses) would give him a resume very few in the division could match. Fun fact: If West Coast wins the award, this will mark the third time in the last five years that it has gone to a horse that did not win a Triple Crown race. Before Will Take Charge won in 2013 despite lacking such a win, the last thoroughbred to pull it off was Tiznow, who did so in 2000.

Always Dreaming

Claim to Fame: Won the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby back-to-back, both by daylight.

Drawbacks: Has failed to win any of his three subsequent starts. I’m a bit higher on his Jim Dandy than most (he did salvage third over a very tiring track), but his Preakness and Travers efforts were lousy.

Eclipse Chances: Higher than you may think. As of this writing, no active 3-year-old can match his top-end wins, and even if he never runs again (which is possible, maybe even likely), there’s a chance he’ll end the year as this season’s only 3-year-old male with multiple Grade 1 wins on dirt. That would make him a popular “hold your nose” vote.

Tapwrit

Claim to Fame: Won the Belmont, and did so in impressive fashion. He and runner-up Irish War Cry were well clear of the rest of the field.

Drawbacks: He’s only won twice, and while he didn’t run terribly in the Travers, he was fourth behind three horses that had previously combined for zero Grade 1 victories to this point in the season.

Eclipse Chances: Medium. There’s a chance he needed the Travers off a 12-week layoff, and a run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup would mean a chance at another Grade 1 victory at the scene of his greatest triumph to date. Such a win would give him two signature victories and would put him squarely in the middle of the conversation ahead of the Breeders’ Cup.

Oscar Performance

Claim to Fame: Has won back-to-back Grade 1 races, and is the only 3-year-old male in the country besides Always Dreaming with two such wins on his resume this year.

Drawbacks: He’s a turf horse.

Eclipse Chances: None most years, but this year, he’s got a shot. If ever there was a year for an unconventional winner of this award, it’s 2017, and a win over older horses would do wonders for his candidacy. He could get such a victory in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch, provided his connections opt to bypass the Grade 3 Hill Prince, which boasts a similar purse and (likely) much less in the way of opposition. If he wins the Hirsch and runs well in the Breeders’ Cup (no easy task, since the Turf’s distance would be uncharted territory for him and the Mile is never an easy race to win), it would be impossible to keep him out of this discussion.

Classic Empire

Claim to Fame: When he’s right, he’s probably the best horse in this division in terms of pure talent. He won the Arkansas Derby, was the victim of a lousy trip when fourth in the Kentucky Derby, and just missed in the Preakness…

Drawbacks: …but he hasn’t been seen since. His connections had eyed the Pennsylvania Derby, but those plans fell through.

Eclipse Chances: Low. On one hand, if this horse hangs on in the Preakness, we’re probably not having this conversation (it’s at least much more concentrated in nature). On the other hand, how can one consider this horse a contender when he hasn’t raced since mid-May? Maybe he runs again in either the Breeders’ Cup or the Cigar Mile. Maybe he doesn’t and we’ve seen the last of him. If the latter is the case, it’s a real shame.

Practical Joke

Claim to Fame: Won the Allen Jerkens on Travers Day, and an argument can be made that he’s the best 3-year-old in the country at what he does.

Drawbacks: What he does is run one turn. He’s not the same horse going a conventional, two-turn route of ground.

Eclipse Chances: Low, and it’s no fault of the horse or his connections. If the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile was contested around one turn (like it will be next year at Churchill Downs), or if the Sprint was seven furlongs and not six, he would be in a great spot. However, he’s between distances and will need to overcome the lack of an ideal race on racing’s biggest weekend. A Sprint win would almost certainly vault him to the head of the class, and a Dirt Mile win would also be helpful, but if he loses either race and salvages the Cigar Mile or Malibu, would that be enough of a resume? I don’t think so.

Girvin

Claim to Fame: Won the Grade 1 Haskell over a solid group, which included next-out Jerkens winner Practical Joke and next-out Shared Belief winner Battle of Midway. Earlier this season, he also captured the Louisiana Derby and Risen Star Stakes.

Drawbacks: Misfired in both the Travers and the Kentucky Derby, which were prime opportunities for him to show he belongs at the top of this division.

Eclipse Chances: Slim. Most years, he’d already be eliminated, counted out as a nice horse, but not one of the best. However, if he wins the Pennsylvania Derby, all of a sudden, we’ve got a horse that’s won two Grade 1’s, two Grade 2’s, and a lot of money. Is it unlikely? Yes, but then again, so was his Haskell win.

Cloud Computing

Claim to Fame: Reeled in Classic Empire in the Preakness, giving Chad Brown his first win in a Triple Crown race.

Drawbacks: He’s done nothing since then, throwing in two clunkers at Saratoga.

Eclipse Chances: Slim to none. If he comes back with a winning effort in a Breeders’ Cup prep race, we can more easily throw out the Saratoga races. However, those races were dreadful, and it’s tough to swallow something like that in this sort of a discussion.

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.