SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/31/21)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $983.60

These are the cards that make Saratoga special. We’ll see a trio of graded stakes races with some of the most well-known horses in the sport. Belmont Stakes hero Essential Quality headlines the Jim Dandy, Whitmore runs up against a strong field in the A.G. Vanderbilt, and multiple Grade 1 winner Channel Maker makes his first start after a trip abroad in the Bowling Green.

Combine that slate with a bunch of big fields in undercard races, and you have a card that should give even the most jaded handicapper a jolt of excitement. On a day like this, you only need to be right once or twice to have a profitable afternoon, and that’s all I can possibly ask for.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Collaborate loomed boldly in the Curlin, but seemingly forgot how to turn left with about a quarter-mile to go. I got a bit of a thrill at odds of 8-1, but ultimately dropped $20.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’m focusing on the Vanderbilt, because I don’t like #2 MISCHEVIOUS ALEX at all. It goes as the eighth race on the program, and I’ll box #1 LEXITONIAN, #6 WHITMORE, and #9 SPECIAL RESERVE in $2 exactas. I’ll also use those three horses in the middle of a $2 Pick Three starting in the seventh. I’ll use #2 INVINCIBLE GAL and #8 LOVE AND THUNDER there and single #5 ESSENTIAL QUALITY in the ninth, the Jim Dandy.

TOTAL WAGERED: $24.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Essential Quality, Race 9
Longshot: Lexitonian, Race 8

R1

Master Game
Kevin’s Folly
Woodline

#2 MASTER GAME: Hammered for $300,000 last year and has several flashy gate drills for soon-to-be Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher. Expectations are high for offspring of young sire Mastery, and this one looks pretty precocious; #3 KEVIN’S FOLLY: Also shows a solid work pattern coming into his unveiling. He’s bred to want far more distance than this 5 1/2-furlong event, but Tom Amoss has already unveiled one flashy 2-year-old this meet and may have more bullets in the chamber; #6 WOODLINE: Has a major experience edge on the field and was second behind a runaway winner that ran in the Grade 3 Sanford earlier in the meet. He does have some early speed, but he appears to have hooked some promising first-time starters and may need to improve further to win.

R2

Majestic Sky
Eight Weeks Long
Gateway Guardian

#12 MAJESTIC SKY: Is a tepid top selection in the first of several very befuddling turf races on the Saturday program. He was inexplicably rated behind a very slow pace last time out at Belmont, and in this event, he sure looks like not just the main speed, but like a horse whose hand is forced by the far outside draw; #3 EIGHT WEEKS LONG: Exits the same race as my top pick and ran third that day while sitting a bit closer to the pace than usual. That may have been an aberration given the slow pace, but his usual effort would give him a shot; #4 GATEWAY GUARDIAN: Didn’t do much running first time out, but debuting in a one-mile race is no easy task and David Donk’s horses usually need a race or two to get going. I think he could improve at a price, and it wouldn’t take a huge step forward to get a piece of this.

R3

Zilla entry
Cathy Naz
Saratoga Beauty

ZILLA ENTRY: Both #1 MISS LIANA and #1A FLAT AWESOME JENNY could win this, and they certainly look like the class of the field. The former has a bit more tactical speed and returns to the right level, so I’d give her the slight edge if I had to choose one; #3 CATHY NAZ: Has run a few solid races over this track and seems to be working well ahead of her first start since January. Saez sees fit to ride for Bond, and he was aboard for her one recent win; #4 SARATOGA BEAUTY: Makes her first start off the claim for Ray Handal, whose barn may be starting to heat up. Her form this past winter and spring was solid, and she’s got more tactical speed than she showed last time out downstate.

R4

High Tone
Pivotal Run
Brennan’s War

#7 HIGH TONE: Ran very well in his first start since last July when second in a two-turn turf route at Churchill. That was against open company, and he’s back against New York-breds in his first start for new trainer Ron Moquett; #3 PIVOTAL RUN: Had every right to need his last-out effort off of such a long layoff, and he was claimed out of that race by George Weaver, who excels with new acquisitions. He was a good second at this route in his debut last summer, and a return to two turns could help him find his form; #8 BRENNAN’S WAR: Made a bit of a move when third in his debut last month, and that effort came from a barn whose first-time starters don’t often win. I’m not sure what he ran against that day, but figures-wise, it was a solid effort that gives him a chance here.

R5

Honey Money
Behind the Couch
Out First

#5 HONEY MONEY: Is far better than she showed last time out, when she faded to sixth in the mud earlier in the meet. She’s no fan of wet racetracks, and she reeled off three wins in a row over fast surfaces prior to that misfire; #4 BEHIND THE COUCH: Earned her first win in quite a while last time out after several close calls following a claim by John Salzman. This is her first start against New York-bred competition since last June, and perhaps the lightbulb has gone off; #8 OUT FIRST: Just never seemed like she was interested last time out, and I have no problem drawing a line through that clunker. She’s been competitive at this level many times, and she’d benefit from a pace meltdown.

R6

Causin’ Mayhem (MTO)
Ohtwoohthreefive
Doctor Davis

#7 OHTWOOHTHREEFIVE: Was very impressive when second in his debut downstate. He rated well off of a slow pace but made up enough ground to finish second, beaten just two lengths. He’s bred to love two turns and will be formidable if he holds his form; #10 DOCTOR DAVIS: Has been working very fast for a Bill Mott trainee ahead of his debut. Mott’s first-time starters don’t usually turn in bullet drills, as he did on July 2nd, and he may be talented enough to have a say in this one at a bit of a price; #1 SWEEPING GIANT: Is one of two Todd Pletcher runners that will debut here. I prefer this one over #4 ROYAL SPIRIT. His dam was ultra-classy turf runner Isabella Sings, who did her best work going long.

R7

Trumpet Lilly (MTO)
Invincible Gal
Love And Thunder

#2 INVINCIBLE GAL: Was favored in the Tepin Stakes but went up against a very unfavorable race shape, as the wire-to-wire winner coasted on an easy pace. Blinkers go on, she gets Lasix for the first time, and these waters certainly seem shallower; #8 LOVE AND THUNDER: Is a logical favorite after a tough beat last time out. She nearly overcame a pretty slow pace that day, and the third-place finisher from that event came back to win at next asking; #7 HIGH OPINION: Cuts back in distance after finishing second going a mile and a quarter at Belmont. She’s been second three times in four tries against winners, and while her figures give her a chance, sometimes horses turn into pack animals that have a tough time passing others late.

R8

Special Reserve
Whitmore
Lexitonian

#9 SPECIAL RESERVE: Has really turned a corner since being claimed by Mike Maker in February. He’s won four of his last five starts, including two stakes races, and between his tactical speed and the cushy outside draw, I think he’s the one to beat in the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt; #6 WHITMORE: Is one of the coolest horses in training and returns to Saratoga for another race or two at the summer place to be. He’s still competitive at the highest level as an 8-year-old, and any hesitation here is because it’s his first start off a layoff and he may need a race to get going; #1 LEXITONIAN: Is a nose and a head away from being a two-time Grade 1 winner. His Met Mile was too terrible to be true, but his two-back effort in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs was excellent, as was a recent local workout. If he’s right, he’s got a shot to take this at a big price.

R9

Essential Quality
Masqueparade
Weyburn

#5 ESSENTIAL QUALITY: Is probably the top 3-year-old in training and looms large in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. The three-time Grade 1 winner earned a 109 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Belmont Stakes, and anything remotely close to that would easily dispatch this bunch; #2 MASQUEPARADE: Has moved forward significantly in his last several starts, one of which was a win in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby. He beat a decent field that day and has every right to be getting better midway through his 3-year-old season; #3 WEYBURN: Gave eventual Haskell winner Mandaloun all he could handle in the Pegasus at Monmouth last time out and has shown two turns is not a problem. The recent string of bullet drills can’t be ignored, and neither can the presence of Irad Ortiz, Jr.

R10

Channel Maker
Cross Border
Moon Over Miami

#5 CHANNEL MAKER: Emerged as the East Coast’s top turf horse a season ago and makes his first start following an expedition to the Arabian Peninsula. Between his back class and the fact that he looks like the lone speed, I think he’ll sit an ideal trip and be very tough to run down in the Grade 2 Bowling Green; #2 CROSS BORDER: Won this race a season ago by DQ and does his best running over this turf course. He hasn’t won in a while, but it isn’t like he hasn’t been competitive and perhaps he’ll relish a return to upstate New York; #7 MOON OVER MIAMI: Wants to sit back and make one run, and has done so to fair success this season with three in-the-money finishes in graded stakes races. That includes a close-up third last time out downstate, and he’s shown enough class to be respected here.

R11

Villainous (MTO)
Morocco
Hieroglyphics

#3 MOROCCO: Takes a gigantic drop second off the claim, which can be seen as a good or bad thing. In this case, I think he’s coming back to the right level, and if he channels his form from this past winter, he could be more than good enough to beat this bunch; #8 HIEROGLYPHICS: Has won three of six at Saratoga, and the most recent score here last summer kick-started a run of four wins in six starts. One of them was a win at this level downstate, and if he brought his form to the barn of new trainer Dominick Schettino, he’ll have a big shot; #7 TIZZARUNNER: Was second last time out at this level at Churchill, and he put forth that effort despite having to close into a slow pace. He’s a major player here, but this isn’t an easy spot for the level and he may want more pace than he’s likely to get in the Saturday finale.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/25/20)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $875

If you’ve been following New York racing for any length of time, you know Gary Contessa. He’s won thousands of races from the Grade 1 level down to claimers, and he’s emerged as a true ambassador for the sport.

I got the chance to sit down with him on this week’s episode of “Champagne and J.D.” We spoke for 45 minutes and hit a lot of topics, including why he stepped away from training and his thoughts on the current state of the game.

It was a blast to sit down with Gary, and I really hope you all enjoy it.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Right idea, lousy execution. I didn’t like the favorites in the sixth, but I landed on the wrong longshot and dropped $20.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to play doubles and Pick Threes keying one of my best bets of the day. #10 STANDUP is a single for me in the fifth. I’ll single him in $5 doubles starting in the fourth with #3 LADY C, #4 GONE GLIMMERING, and #5 WEDONTBELIEVEHER, and in $5 doubles using #3 PREAMBLE and #6 COLTANDMISSISSIPPI in the sixth. I’ll also play a $1 Pick Three starting in the fourth that uses all of these runners.

TOTAL WAGERED: $31.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Sistercharlie, Race 3
Longshot: Preamble, Race 6

R1

Speightstown Gal
The Important One
Jc’s Shooting Star

#1 SPEIGHTSTOWN GAL: Held on to win a strong race for the level last time out in her first start since November. That day’s third-place finisher and runner-up came back to run 1-2 earlier in the meet, and this one should be running late; #5 THE IMPORTANT ONE: Came from out of the clouds to take her turf debut downstate, and that running style could help her here. Rosario rides back for Asmussen, and the recent turf bullet is intriguing; #4 JC’S SHOOTING STAR: Drops way down in class after chasing Intercontinental champion Newspaperofrecord, Come Dancing, and others during the past year. It wouldn’t be a shock if the shallower waters are what this mare needs to turn things around.

R2

Midnight Surprise
Munnings Muse
Vivazano

#7 MIDNIGHT SURPRISE: Has been working well of late for Todd Pletcher and doesn’t seem to have caught the toughest field in her debut. If she runs to her drills, I think she’ll be a handful; #5 MUNNINGS MUSE: Finished second in her career debut in June of last year before going to the sidelines for 13 months. She’s been working consistently ahead of her return, but this barn’s runners sometimes need their first races back; #2 VIVAZANO: Was a solid third in her unveiling and will look to rebound after misfiring in the slop two weeks ago. A return to the first-out form would make her a factor for part-owner and legendary turf writer Steven Crist.

R3

Sistercharlie
Starship Jubilee
Call Me Love

#5 SISTERCHARLIE: Makes her long-awaited return to the races and looms large in this spot. Even if she’s not fully-cranked, it will take significant improvement from one of her opponents to keep her out of the winner’s circle; #6 STARSHIP JUBILEE: Has won five of her last six starts, and several of those wins came in runaway fashion. She’s been working well at Woodbine and certainly deserves the shot at my top pick; #1 CALL ME LOVE: Seems best of the rest for red-hot connections. Her second behind Rushing Fall in the Grade 3 Beaugay two back was fine, and a cutback to this distance could help her.

R4

Gone Glimmering
Wedontbelieveher
Lady C

#4 GONE GLIMMERING: Was ambitiously spotted by Tom Amoss last season and has dropped down to the claiming ranks. She stepped forward with a good second against similar last time out at Churchill, and Jose Ortiz sees fit to ride; #5 WEDONTBELIEVEHER: Showed versatility last month when rallying from well back against slightly lesser company. She was claimed by Linda Rice that day, and she’s got a strong record with new acquisitions; #3 LADY C: Has racked up the frequent flyer miles this season with races at Delta, Oaklawn, and Thistledown. She’s shown an ability to rate off the pace and rally, and this seems like the trip she’ll get here.

R5

Standup
Unprecedented
Our Troubadour

#10 STANDUP: Rallied for third while widest of all downstate against similar and should get a great setup here. There’s tons of speed signed on, and Joel Rosario should be able to take him back before making one big run; #6 UNPRECEDENTED: Had an eventful trip when second in his first turf sprint, and they may have found what this one wants to do. These are deeper waters, but this is another closer that could benefit from a meltdown; #1 OUR TROUBADOUR: Put it all together when graduating in a maiden claimer for state-breds earlier this month. This is his first try against winners, but he could stalk the pace from the rail and have first run turning for home.

R6

Coltandmississippi
Preamble
Skyler’s Scramjet

#6 COLTANDMISSISSIPPI: Has changed hands a lot over the past year and goes first off the claim for Dominick Schettino. He has tactical speed, but will likely stalk a hot pace, and that could put him in a prime position when the real running starts; #3 PREAMBLE: Looked like a legit prospect when he reeled off three straight wins to start his career. He hasn’t won since, but the last-out third against slightly better is encouraging and he’ll certainly have pace to run at; #4 SKYLER’S SCRAMJET: Was second in the Grade 1 Carter last season but has seen his form go south over the past four starts. This is a concerning drop, but of the speed horses, I think he’s the most likely to emerge from an early duel with the lead.

R7

Lonesome Fugitive
Proven Strategies
Perjury Trap

#8 LONESOME FUGITIVE: Rallied to graduate over yielding going last time out and takes on winners for the first time. That race came back very fast on figures, and with closers doing well on turf this meet, he looks imposing; #7 PROVEN STRATEGIES: Chased Decorated Invader in the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge last out, and that one came back to win another Grade 2 last week. He certainly looks like the main speed, and if he gets left alone early, look out; #6 PERJURY TRAP: Hasn’t been seen since breaking his maiden in his turf debut last November at Aqueduct. He may need to take a step forward to contend first off the bench, but he’s in the right barn to do that.

R8

Pletcher entry
Parsimony
Leitone

PLETCHER ENTRY: Both halves can win, but I lean to #1A MONEY MOVES, who is 2-for-2 and tries two turns for the first time. He’s got the pedigree to love this trip, and the steady diet of five-furlong works likely put some stamina into him; #3 PARSIMONY: Has criss-crossed the globe this year and run up against some tough horses. He was most recently third in the Grade 2 Suburban behind Tacitus, and he may emerge as the main speed here; #7 LEITONE: Has plenty of back form and goes first off the claim for a barn that can pop at a price with new acquisitions. He has speed, but doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well.

R9

Blackjack Davey (MTO)
Barleewon
Mo Ready

#4 BARLEEWON: Has taken a step forward since coming back to New York and cruised to an easy score last month against maidens. He faced winners for the first time, but further improvement could make him tough; #7 MO READY: Hasn’t run since December but has worked steadily for Todd Pletcher and graduated here last summer. This isn’t the toughest return race in the condition book, and he’ll be a major player if he’s ready; #3 SIMPLY: Won going long at first asking and was a fast-closing third in his New York debut. He may need more pace to be at his best, but at least you know the two-turn route of ground won’t be a major issue.

R10

Volatile
Whitmore
Mind Control

#4 VOLATILE: Has emerged as one of the fastest horses in the country this season. His 112 Beyer Speed Figure from the Aristides is justified, and a repeat effort could mean a freaky performance; #2 WHITMORE: Is one of the most fun horses in training to root for. The 7-year-old has raced at a high level for his entire career, and among his wins was a score in the Grade 1 Forego here two summers ago; #5 MIND CONTROL: May have hated the slop in the Grade 1 Carter, which was won by next-out Met Mile winner Vekoma. He’s won two Grade 1 races in as many local starts, and while he may be at his best going an extra furlong, his usual form could absolutely get him a piece of this.

R11

Timeless Journey
Brovia
Eighty Seven North

#5 TIMELESS JOURNEY: Was one-paced in her debut, but that proved to be a live race. The third-place finisher came flying to graduate earlier this week, and Rosario climbs aboard for Christophe Clement; #7 BROVIA: May have needed her return race off a long break, but she didn’t run badly when beaten three lengths at this level. She gets a big rider switch to Irad Ortiz, Jr., and improvement is logical second off the bench; #2 EIGHTY SEVEN NORTH: Won’t be involved in win wagers of mine given her 0-for-14 lifetime mark, but she’s a closer that has hit the board many times at this level. She goes second off the bench here and could come rolling for a piece of it to spice up the exotics.

GUEST COLUMN: Andrew’s Dad Comes West (Plus Andrew’s Plays of the Day: 1/22/20)

RECORD: 13-7

Editor’s note: The reason I haven’t been posting daily blogs here is because my father’s been in town and we’ve been busy. I’d been posting on Twitter up until Tuesday, when I neglected to put forth a play. As a result, I’ll have two down below…but first, allow me to show you what turned me into the writer I became.

My dad flew west Friday, and the convergence of several horrible circumstances and lots of rotten luck hit him hard. Like a Champagne does, he wrote about it on Sunday, and I’m putting his chronicle here as a guest column. If you say he’s a better writer than I am, I won’t be offended!

“In late December I found some GREAT fares on Southwest to the west coast, so I scheduled an impromptu visit to my son for the long MLK Day weekend. I paid for the outgoing leg with points and thought that was great. Little did I know…

Departure on Friday was delayed. As the Southwest rep announced it, “We are waiting for one last passenger to exit the aircraft.” She neglected to mention that the guy was exiting on a stretcher after an apparent heart attack. Then we began to board – briefly. We were once again delayed with an announcement that they could not depart until the canister of oxygen the heart attack victim used up was replaced, and they had to wait for another aircraft to arrive to grab one. God forbid the maintenance people should have spares. So then we boarded and sat on the tarmac for another half hour (paperwork… BS, I was taking it personally by this point), blowing through the departure time for my initial connecting flight in Baltimore.

Now the fun starts. I got a text from Southwest telling me they’d re-booked me on a flight through Austin which would get me to the west coast about 5 hours later than my initial itinerary laid out. When we arrived in Baltimore they coasted us into the gate right next to the gate the Austin flight was leaving from – so we had a great view of MY flight pushing back.

Another text arrived immediately, informing me I had again been re-booked on a flight through Denver. The texts were coming fast and furious now, as I was told soon after that this flight had been delayed 3 hours.

And then it was cancelled.

There were no options to get out of Baltimore Friday on Southwest at this point since most of the Midwest connect points were socked in with the storm and all existing flights were sold out to people who’d been screwed before they got to me. The last text I got said they were re-booking me through Salt Lake City: 48 hours later. I don’t think so.

Enter my son, who found me a nonstop redeye on United Airlines that left late Friday evening (from Washington) and would get me to San Francisco an hour after midnight, so off I went to Southwest baggage claim to get my suitcase (such as it was, as I was to find out 2 days later). After an hour and a half, they told me they’d given up trying to find it, and off I went on a 60 mile Lyft ride to Dulles Airport. For those keeping score at home, the Lyft (with tip) cost $94. The flight (with $39 extra for a couple more inches of leg room) was $563. So off I went on a six hour nonstop flight headed west in the middle seat surrounded by screaming children – and at this point I was about ready to join them.

While I was flying, my son was shopping. A pair of dress pants, a polo shirt, and some toiletries later, we can add another $75 or so to the extra costs of this mess. But I DID get to where I was going.

So Saturday, off we went to the FABULOUS Golden Gate Fields with an eye toward recouping some of this money – broken up by several unfruitful calls to Southwest’s Oakland Airport baggage claim. They kept telling me that the last time my bag was scanned was in Baltimore and that it would eventually catch up with me – then, my last call produced a new tidbit, that the bag was now in Salt Lake City. This meant it got there more than 24 hours before I would have, had I kept the last re-book they set up for me.

After dinner the call from Southwest came. My bag was now in Oakland. Per the poor guy who had to call me, “It has some damage.” So Sunday morning brought another airport excursion. I dealt with a very nice lady who brought my bag out of their storage room IN A TRASH BAG – and told me the damage happened in freaking BALTIMORE. This meant I was intentionally not given what was left of my bag there.

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I ended up having to go through everything that was in the suitcase to identify specific damage. They gave me sort of a zip bag to move stuff into after telling me they usually replace suitcases but they didn’t have any of those (of course). Casualties were a pair of shoes, a pair of jeans, some socks, and a couple of golf shirts. Surprisingly, much of my stuff survived the trip – especially since the bag looked like it had been attacked by the tiger who says “Hello, Lunch!!” in the Dr. Doolittle ad.

So… a $175 travel voucher, refund of the points I paid for the trip with, refunded Early Bird boarding charges, and a check for $200 (they originally didn’t have any of those, either) later, I’m back in Concord…for now… the baggage lady at Oakland encouraged me keep bothering them… and after receiving ANOTHER text TODAY re-booking me for January 29, I am NOT in a forgiving mood.

The saga continues.”

– – – – –

WEDNESDAY’S PLAYS: Because I didn’t have anything Tuesday, I’m putting forth two plays for Wednesday. In SEC action, Alabama, a team that’s won three of its last four (including a victory over Auburn), goes to Vanderbilt, a squad that’s winless in conference play. The nine-point spread hits me as too small, and I think the Crimson Tide covers it with ease. Additionally, in small-college hoops, Navy travels to Boston University, and both teams can score. Because of that, I’m taking the over on the total, which is at 127.5 as of this writing.

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

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $805

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

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

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

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

TOTAL WAGERED: $30

– – – – –

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

R1

Teachable Moment
Wild Weekend
Blacktop Legend

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

R2

Rapido Gatta
Doll Collection
Quasar

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

R3

Flying P entry (MTO)
Mission Command
Spectrolite

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

R4

Grandview entry
Kowalski
Complexifier

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

R5

Control Group (MTO)
Emaraaty
Keep Quiet

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

R6

More Mischief
Makin’ Out
Flashpackinbarbie

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

R7

Economic Policy
Blanket of Roses
Are You Kitten Me

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

R8

Fortune’s Fool
Chateau
Overdeliver

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

R9

Mitole
Firenze Fire
Imperial Hint

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

R10

Ya Primo
Channel Maker
Arklow

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

R11

War of Will
Tacitus
Global Campaign

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

R12

Surge Pricing
My Macho
Letterman

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

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 7/28/18

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $887.50

The monsoon that hit Saratoga Friday afternoon came at a much-needed time for yours truly. The track had turned into one that was heavily tilted to horses with early speed, and given that I submit picks about 36 hours before each day’s first post, chances are any bias that pops up will work against me. Heavy rain like that, though, tends to reset the track, and a fair track definitely benefits me given the way I handicap and submit my content.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: I got washed out for the second straight day, as both of the horses I used in the second race scratched.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll have two main plays on the card. Assuming the second race stays on turf (no cinch given Friday’s weather and the overnight forecast), I’ll put $5 to win and place on #2 CALIFORNIA SWING, my top longshot of the day. Additionally, I’ll play a cold $20 double beginning in the seventh race that singles both #3 ENGAGE and #4 IMPERIAL HINT.

TOTAL WAGERED: $30

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Friday’s Results: 3 for 9
Meet Results (to date): 19 for 68

Best Bet: Engage, Race 7
Longshot: California Swing, Race 2

R1

Carter Cat
Party With Friends
Halladay

#11 CARTER CAT: Improved at second asking and was beaten just a half-length in an off-the-turf event at Churchill Downs. He’s bred up and down for turf, and merits a long look if he draws in off the AE list; #6 PARTY WITH FRIENDS: Has several flashy works on the tab, as well as a high turf Tomlinson rating (314). He’s a full to a four-time winner, and the bottom side of his pedigree is incredibly strong; #5 HALLADAY: Is bred in the purple and goes out for Todd Pletcher, whose debut runners must always be respected. If there’s a concern here, it’s that he’s bred to go much further than 5 1/2 furlongs.

R2

St. Louie Guy (MTO)
California Swing
Nileator

#2 CALIFORNIA SWING: Could benefit from the likely race shape, one that should set things up for a closer. He was a good second at this level downstate, and he won over this turf course last season; #11 NILEATOR: Was claimed out of his last race by Eddie Kenneally, whose numbers with new acquisitions are very strong. He’ll need to work out a trip from the far outside, but his tactical speed should help; #3 WESTERN RESERVE: May be bet pretty heavily on the drop in class, but he hasn’t won in more than a year and there’s plenty of other speed signed on. On most of my tickets, I’ll try to beat him. DIRT SELECTIONS: ST. LOUIE GUY, DRIVEN BY THUNDER, NILEATOR.

R3

Consensus Thinking
Gray Nile
Air On Fire

#5 CONSENSUS THINKING: Drops in for a tag after two solid efforts downstate. He’s been working well up here, and he looms large on the drop in class for powerhouse connections; #3 GRAY NILE: Went way too far last time out, so it’s easy to toss that race. His efforts two and three back against similar-level foes at Churchill were fine, and it helps that the two-back winner repeated at next asking; #7 AIR ON FIRE: Has been gelded since his last start, which came at Prairie Meadows against straight maidens. His best race gives him a shot, but he’s had lots of chances, and it’s tough to trust him at a fairly short price.

R4

Fair Regis
Bowl of Kisses
Trouble for Skylar

#4 FAIR REGIS: Has run seven strong races in a row and comes in off a sharp win at Belmont at this level. Falcone has enjoyed great success with a smaller barn, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., chooses to ride this filly when he almost certainly had other options; #6 BOWL OF KISSES: Has won two in a row, including prevailing in a head-bob over my top pick last time out. There’s other early speed in here, though, so she may have to work a bit harder early on than she’s accustomed to; #2 TROUBLE FOR SKYLAR: Wants no part of turf and comes back to her preferred surface. She romped in her debut here last July, and I think she has a big shot to outrun her odds.

R5

Aurelius Maximus
Coast
Mucho

#3 AURELIUS MAXIMUS: Is one of the best-bred 2-year-olds on the grounds. He’s by Pioneerof the Nile, and his dam, second dam, and third dam were all graded stakes winners. He’s a half to Grade 2 winner Chief Havoc and has been working lights-out ahead of his debut; #10 COAST: Is a well-bred first-time starter from the Todd Pletcher barn that cost $500,000 at auction earlier this year. His dam was a Grade 2 winner, and he’s a half to multiple stakes-winning sprinter Balandeen; #11 MUCHO: Was second to Whiskey Echo last month, and that one came back to run third in the Grade 3 Sanford. Bill Mott trainees sometimes need a race to get going, and he could show improvement if he draws in off the AE list.

R6

Honorable Treasure (MTO)
Lunaire
Uncle Gio

#11 LUNAIRE: Gets my top pick in a race where half the field could conceivably win. This one hasn’t won in a while, but exits some pretty tough races and could get some speed to rate behind beneath Javier Castellano; #4 UNCLE GIO: Has run six solid races in a row, and has only finished worse than third once in that stretch. He cuts back to a friendlier distance, and John Velazquez keeps the mount; #9 PENALTY: Has run two solid turf races in a row and has a pedigree that suggests he wants this two-turn route. He’s a bit one-paced, but that could work to his advantage here given the added distance. DIRT SELECTIONS: HONORABLE TREASURE, CHRIS AND DAVE, DR. SHANE.

R7

Engage
Promises Fulfilled
World of Trouble

#3 ENGAGE: Beat a number of these rivals when second in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens, and he should once again be able to watch as a sizzling pace is set in front of him. He’s this race’s lone true closer, and he could come flying late; #2 PROMISES FULFILLED: Led into the stretch of the Woody Stephens before yielding and finishing third behind two closers. His one-turn races are strong, and he’s certainly got plenty of early zip; #6 WORLD OF TROUBLE: Looked like a future star when he smashed stakes foes at Tampa three back, but his last two races have been a bit of a disappointment. However, the Servis barn has been going great, so he can’t be completely dismissed.

R8

Imperial Hint
Switzerland
Warrior’s Club

#4 IMPERIAL HINT: Has seven wins in his last eight starts if you toss the Grade 2 Churchill Downs (which was contested in an absolute quagmire). He’s one of the best sprinters in the country, and he’s been working very well at Parx leading up to this event; #1 SWITZERLAND: Has come to hand for Steve Asmussen, having won four in a row. His win in Maryland was sharp, but he wasn’t exactly flattered when runner-up Long Haul Bay didn’t fire earlier this week; #3 WARRIOR’S CLUB: Looks much better if you toss his races at longer than seven furlongs. He may not be as talented as the top two, but this is his preferred trip, and he’s run well at Saratoga in the past.

R9

Hi Happy
Sadler’s Joy
Money Multiplier

#7 HI HAPPY: Seems like one of the few potential speed horses in a wide-open renewal of the Grade 2 Bowling Green. He’s one of many exiting the Grade 1 Manhattan, but unlike a few of them, he’s proven at this level given the wins two and three back; #6 SADLER’S JOY: Won last year’s Grade 1 Sword Dancer here and nearly added another such score in the Manhattan, when he was second beaten just a neck. He’s a consistent sort, but the question is, will he get enough of a pace to rate behind?; #8 MONEY MULTIPLIER: Was second behind stablemate Funtastic in the Grade 1 United Nations after winning the Grade 2 Monmouth two back. His best effort would give him a big shot, but one has to wonder if his favorite track is at the shore, not the Spa.

R10

Flameaway
Vino Rosso
Tenfold

#1 FLAMEAWAY: Has danced a lot of dances this year and run well against high-level competition. He’s got plenty of speed, his recent workouts have been sensational, and Jose Ortiz signing on can’t be ignored; #5 VINO ROSSO: Took a brave run at Justify in the Belmont before running out of gas and settling for fourth. His Wood Memorial win three back was good, but it’s worth noting he lost to Flameaway twice at Tampa earlier this year; #2 TENFOLD: May be favored given his third-place finish in the Preakness two back. Having said that, he’s still eligible for allowance conditions, and the Preakness being contested amidst a storm of epic proportions doesn’t give me confidence that the effort in question can be repeated.

R11

Reversethedecision
Frippery
Cash Out

#6 REVERSETHEDECISION: Was a fast-closing second in a stakes race at Monmouth last time out, and that day’s winner has since come back to win again. There’s speed signed on here, and this filly could finish off a big day for trainer Chad Brown; #4 FRIPPERY: Made a big middle move last time out at Delaware Park and couldn’t sustain it, settling for second in a minor stakes race. Arnaud Delacour means business when he ships here, and Joel Rosario’s presence can’t be ignored; #11 CASH OUT: Gets necessary class relief after spending much of her career in graded stakes races. She’s hit the board in two of them, and she’s another that could be moving well late in a wide-open finale.