SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/6/22)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $982.95

Two things: First, I had a blast doing a guest appearance Thursday night on the HHH Racing Podcast. We went through the Saturday late Pick Five, and all three of us took some pretty strong stances along the way. It’s always fun talking horses with passionate people!

Also, Saturday’s a special day at the track for reasons other than the Whitney. The 10th annual Saratoga Stumble, helmed by our very own Sam Hollingsworth, descends upon the Spa for mayhem, debauchery, hijinks, and shenanigans. One of these years, my annual trip east will align with it. If you’re partaking in the festivities, have fun and be safe!

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Lil Commissioner scratching unfortunately cancelled my Grand Slam play.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the late Pick Four and try to extract some value out of #1 MATAREYA in the Grade 1 Test. My primary, 50-cent ticket starts in the ninth and goes as follows: 1 with 4,6 with 2,4,5,6,10 with 1,4,5,7,10. Additionally, I’ll play a skinnier, $1 ticket that goes like this: 1 with 6 with 4,10 with 1,4,5,7,10.

TOTAL WAGERED: $35.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Matareya, Race 9
Longshot: Conquist, Race 12

R1

Mullinger
Alexis Zorba
Battle of Normandy

#4 MULLINGER: Almost certainly needed his debut, and this two-turn turf route should be right up his street. His pedigree screams turf, and Bill Mott trainees tend to move forward considerably at second asking; #2 ALEXIS ZORBA: Was one-paced in his U.S. debut and ran like a horse that wants more ground. He gets it here, John Velazquez sees fit to ride back, and blinkers going on is noteworthy; #7 BATTLE OF NORMANDY: Hammered for $500,000 last summer and is bred to be any kind. His dam was a multiple stakes winner on turf, so this could be right up his street, but it’s not easy to go long at first asking and this rider doesn’t team up with this barn much, which is curious.

R2

She Caught My Eye
Toosweettobesour
Tekila

#4 SHE CAUGHT MY EYE: Didn’t do much running in her debut going two turns over Turfway Park’s synthetic surface. She comes back for Bill Mott, adds Lasix, and sports a recent half-mile drill at Belmont that indicates there may be some talent here; #7 TOOSWEETTOBESOUR: Was second for a slightly lower tag downstate and may be figuring things out midway through her 3-year-old season. I’m not sure we’ll get the 12-1 morning line price, and a repeat of the last-out effort gives her a chance to spring a mild upset; #8 TEKILA: Goes out for a barn on an epic cold streak, but sure seems like the controlling speed and could lead them a long way. That could make him comfortable in a race with several horses that don’t seem interested in passing others.

R3

Khali Magic
Pretty Clever
Mosienko

#2 KHALI MAGIC: Rallied from off the pace to win going away earlier this season and could get the exact same closer-friendly setup here. He hasn’t run a poor race on dirt in more than a year, and her usual effort would make her tough to beat; #5 PRETTY CLEVER: Misfired in the same race my top pick exits, but she has enough back form for me to give her a shot. The faster they go early, the better her chances figure to be, and I think she could absolutely clunk up for a piece of it; #7 MOSIENKO: Was second behind my top pick last time out and worked hard to make the early lead. She’s not one-dimensional, though, and the favorable draw should give returning rider Luis Saez plenty of options out of the gate.

R4

Swiftsure (MTO)
Good Governance
Dubb entry

#2 GOOD GOVERNANCE: Looms large in his first start since February for powerhouse connections. He sports a pair of graded stakes placings over this turf course and is a real handful when he’s right; DUBB ENTRY: Both #1 EYES ON TARGET and #1A DREAM WORKS are live here. The former hasn’t run a bad race since being claimed by Mike Maker in December, and the latter kept strong company overseas and has a right to be a good one for a barn that’s as good as any with European invaders; #8 TURN OF EVENTS: Hasn’t run a bad one in a very long time and comes in off of a nice win going two turns at Monmouth Park in her 2022 debut. Jose Ortiz knows this one well, and she’s got a win and a second in two local outings.

R5

Somelikeithotbrown
Public Sector
Sifting Sands

#8 SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN: Has loved Saratoga for a very long time, ever since he won the infamous maiden race run at the long distance several years ago (never forget!). His tactical speed is a gigantic plus, and he shouldn’t have to go nearly as fast as he ran last time out at Horseshoe Indiana, when he was run down by the talented Ivar; #1 PUBLIC SECTOR: Has won three of four local starts and checked in third in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple earlier this summer. It’s fair to wonder, however, if he’s moved forward off of a strong 3-year-old campaign, and he may need to in order to win this tough edition of the Lure; #7 SIFTING SANDS: Represents the second half of a strong 1-2 punch for Chad Brown and exits an optional claiming score downstate. That day’s runner-up came back to win on Thursday, and this one won here twice last season at overlaid prices.

R6

Repole entry
Disarm
Perform

REPOLE ENTRY: Both of these runners can win, but I probably prefer #1A POINT PROVEN, who’s been training lights-out ahead of his debut. This son of Gun Runner is a half-brother to a Grade 3 winner, so there’s class on both sides of the pedigree, and the presence of Irad Ortiz, Jr., cannot be ignored; #2 DISARM: Draws a tricky inside post but ran into eventual Sanford winner Mo Strike in his debut and should welcome the added distance he gets here. This barn’s runners tend to improve with experience, and he showed professionalism rallying past horses in that unveiling; #3 PERFORM: Held second behind a much-the-best winner in his debut for a barn that doesn’t prioritize first-out success. The recent four-furlong drill over the Oklahoma track jumps off the page, and he’s another that could improve with more distance at second asking.

R7

War Like Goddess
Virginia Joy
Flanigan’s Cove

#6 WAR LIKE GODDESS: Is a special turf marathoner that looms very large in her attempt at a repeat in the Grade 2 Glens Falls. Her lone start this season was a win in the Bewitch where she could’ve been clear by much, much more, and her best race crushes these; #2 VIRGINIA JOY: Was a close-up fourth in the Grade 1 New York behind Bleecker Street and represents the biggest threat to the overwhelming favorite. She won a Grade 2 by 14 lengths two starts ago and gets a massive jockey switch to Irad Ortiz, Jr., who piloted her to a Grade 3 score back in March; #4 FLANIGAN’S COVE: Merits a long look in the vertical exotics at a big price. She has not run a poor race since being stretched out to marathon distances last summer, Luis Saez rides back, and she’d benefit from a lively pace scenario.

R8

Saint Tapit
Perfect Munnings
Osbourne

#8 SAINT TAPIT: Ran to his lofty pedigree with an impressive debut score at Belmont in late-June. He tries winners for the first time in a tough spot, but that first-out 93 Beyer Speed Figure is a big one, and any forward movement would make him a formidable favorite; #1 PERFECT MUNNINGS: Goes second off the bench for Todd Pletcher and ran a big race at this route last summer, when he romped by nearly six lengths and earned a 92 Beyer. He had every right to need his 2022 debut, and I’m expecting a move forward at a bit of a price; #9 OSBOURNE: Hasn’t won in a while but has been competitive against good groups and was second in a similar seven-furlong race at Churchill Downs. Irad Ortiz, Jr., lands here when he almost certainly had multiple options, and that’s encouraging.

R9

Matareya
Chi Town Lady
Wish You Well

#1 MATAREYA: Looks like the class of the field in the Grade 1 Test, where she’ll look for her fifth straight victory. That stretch includes three consecutive graded stakes wins, one of which was the Grade 1 Acorn, and I think she’ll get out early and prove very tough to catch; #7 CHI TOWN LADY: Seems a bit slow on figures, but also hits me as one of this race’s few closers in a race full of horses that want to go early. Joel Rosario should be able to take her back and make one run, and that could allow her to clunk up for a piece of it; #4 WISH YOU WELL: Looked like a future star when winning her debut and ran too poorly to be true last time out. She’s been working very well here for a barn that’s starting to get going, and it wouldn’t be a shock if she was well-meant here.

R10

Life Is Good
Olympiad
Hot Rod Charlie

#6 LIFE IS GOOD: Simply looks much faster than the rest of the field set to go postward in an outstanding renewal of the Grade 1 Whitney. If he’s able to clear the field early from his outside post, I think he gets very comfortable and proves very, very difficult to reel in; #4 OLYMPIAD: Has won five straight, including an impressive score in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster last time out. If another runner goes with Life Is Good and he sits his preferred stalking trip, he may benefit and prove tough to fend off; #2 HOT ROD CHARLIE: Adds blinkers after coming up maddeningly short in his comeback race at Monmouth Park. He’s got some “hang” to him, and he has issues passing others late, but he’s also shown an abundance of talent when he puts it all together.

R11

Stone Age
Nations Pride
Annapolis

#10 STONE AGE: Was rated very far behind a slow pace in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby and should sit a far better trip in the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby. This horse was 7/2 in the Epsom Derby, one of Europe’s classic races, and I’m expecting a step forward given what should be a far friendlier race shape; #4 NATIONS PRIDE: Was second in the Belmont Derby, beaten less than a length by a loose-on-the-lead horse that stole the race. Like my top pick, he should benefit from a faster pace, one he can sit off of beneath regular pilot William Buick; #6 ANNAPOLIS: Stretches out for this event after cruising home in the one-mile Manila at Belmont. This distance is a genuine question mark, but he’s moving forward at the right time for Todd Pletcher, and if he wants this trip, he’ll have every shot to rally for the money.

R12

Walk Em Down
Action Jackson
Conquist

#7 WALK EM DOWN: Debuts in a spot that seems to lack teeth and is bred to be a runner. His dam won a stakes race on the lawn, offspring of Nyquist seem to like the turf, and he’s been working steadily for Chad Brown ahead of his unveiling; #4 ACTION JACKSON: Has been off since November but sports several strong drills in the morning and has attracted Flavien Prat. Jorge Abreu’s horses have been firing lately, and this one seems ready to go ahead of his 2022 debut; #10 CONQUIST: Ran reasonably well in his turf debut, when he was fourth behind a much-the-best winner. He’s very lightly-raced, with just three prior starts under his belt, and I think there’s more room for him to grow. A step forward could get him a big piece of this at a nice price.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/7/21; WHITNEY DAY)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $1,212.90

It’s Whitney Day at Saratoga, yes, but it’s also an annual day of celebration for one group at the Spa Saturday. I’m referring to the Saratoga Stumble, which is helmed by fellow Pink Sheet handicapper and Saratogian sports staff veteran Sam Hollingsworth. People from the greater Mechanicville area wearing matching t-shirts descend on Saratoga Springs and consume mass quantities of alcohol, and it’s apparently a wonderful time. Be safe, everyone!

In addition, if you’d like to see more of me analyzing today’s racing action, I pinch-hit on “The Magic Mike Show” presented by Racing Dudes, and “Champagne and J.D.” will be live online at 9 a.m. Eastern Saturday morning. We’ll be joined by Laura King from the Dubai Racing Channel, who’s in town for a special on-site broadcast. If you miss the live show, we’ll have it up on our YouTube channel shortly after it ends.

As always, August is a busy month, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Cards like Whitney Day are what make Saratoga special, and they also make doing what I do an incredible experience. I should write a book or something.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Value Engineering ran third, Lazuli was off the board, and I dropped $33.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: The all-stakes Pick Five is a really fun sequence, and that’s where I’ll invest some money. It starts in the sixth (the Lure), ends in the 10th (the Whitney), and my 50-cent ticket looks like this: 2,3,5 with 3,4,5,6 with 1,4,7,8 with 6 with 4. In addition, I’ll also play a $10 cold double starting in the ninth (the Saratoga Derby Invitational) that singles both #6 BOLSHOI BALLET and likely Whitney favorite #4 KNICKS GO.

TOTAL WAGERED: $34.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Bolshoi Ballet, Race 9
Longshot: Chestertown, Race 11

R1

K Club (MTO)
Speak Unity
Boston Flagship

#8 SPEAK UNITY: Stretches out to two turns after a pair of sprint races and is bred to love the extra ground. He’s by Belmont winner Union Rags, out of a Dynaformer mare, and makes his first start as a gelding for top-notch horseman Jonathan Thomas; #5 BOSTON FLAGSHIP: Ran well enough to be third in his debut earlier in the meet despite racing very greenly most of the way. Improvement is logical at second asking, especially for a barn whose horses tend to get better with experience; #2 DRIPPING GOLD: Hammered for $300,000 at auction earlier this year and is a full brother to multiple Grade 3 winner Aurelia’s Belle. He’s been working steadily for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey and may be good enough to factor in this despite his inexperience.

R2

Grumps Little Tots
Heirloom Kitten
American Tattoo

#8 GRUMPS LITTLE TOTS: Didn’t have much pace to run at last time at Belmont, but still ran on well enough to be fourth that day. It sure seems like there’s more speed in this heat, and the return to a two-turn configuration should hit him right between the eyes; #4 HEIRLOOM KITTEN: Has plenty of early speed and figures to be prominent going into the first turn. He was claimed last time out by an outfit that doesn’t claim many runners, and he ran well at this route twice last summer; #2 AMERICAN TATTOO: Ran well when second in his first dirt route since January last time out at Churchill Downs. He’s got plenty of back class, is another with some early zip, and perhaps he’s found his form again after a few starts for the Norm Casse barn.

R3

Tuggle
Dream Bigger
Stage Left

#2 TUGGLE: Came back running off a very long layoff when second in a similar spot at Belmont. Unlike several others in this field, he doesn’t need the lead in order to run well, and he could sit a perfect stalking trip just off what figures to be a hot pace; #5 DREAM BIGGER: Is entered to run for the first time in nearly a year, but he’ll have every chance if he’s ready to run. He’s raced almost exclusively in stakes company, is a three-time stakes winner, and has every right to improve from age three to age four; #4 STAGE LEFT: Has won twice in three local starts, and his best race could certainly win this. His last-out misfire at Churchill is concerning, but he’s been working consistently since then and trainer Wesley Ward always merits respect.

R4

Gold Panda (MTO)
Ruse
Shutters

#5 RUSE: Ran third at this level earlier in the meet despite a wide trip behind a very slow pace. He gets a far friendlier draw here, and I’m hoping his speed can be better utilized here. If he gets comfortable early, he could prove tough to catch; #9 SHUTTERS: Fetched $115,000 at auction back in 2019 despite a pretty modest pedigree and debuts for Chad Brown. This barn alone will attract money, but extended stays at Monmouth usually hit me as red flags, and that’s where he was from May through most of July; #2 SPORTINI: Has been working well ahead of his debut for Michael Stidham, who’s shown he can win with first-time starters. Two-turn events can be tough on unarmed horses, but he’s bred for this sort of route and attracts Luis Saez, which can’t be ignored.

R5

Brigadier General
Vodka Mardini
Big Skipper

#2 BRIGADIER GENERAL: Showed talent in his debut, when he was second in a swiftly-run event at Churchill Downs. The added distance shouldn’t be a problem given his pedigree, and I love the two recent five-furlong drills over the training track, which hint he’s only moved forward since that effort; #6 VODKA MARDINI: Has every right to be a very good horse. This Steve Asmussen trainee is by Bernardini, out of multiple stakes-winning sprinter Hot City Girl, and sports several bullet drills from the gate downstate; #5 BIG SKIPPER: Hammered for $590,000 last September and has a pedigree we won’t see often. He’s by the late Arrogate, out of a Speightstown mare, and has worked well here, but he’s another with an extensive Monmouth work tab that provokes at least a bit of hesitation.

R6

Tacitus (MTO)
Value Proposition
Flavius

#3 VALUE PROPOSITION: Is one of several live horses in here trained by Chad Brown, and he exits a near miss in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple. He was second behind a loose-on-the-lead winner, and a repeat of that effort could get him the lion’s share of the purse in the Lure; #5 FLAVIUS: Always seems to run well and exits a close-up second in the Seek Again at Belmont. He always seems to run well, and his best race could absolutely win this, but he’s also won just once in eight stateside starts, which doesn’t inspire confidence; #2 DELAWARE: Was third in the Forbidden Apple and didn’t get much pace to chase in that event. His best races have come going two turns and he should be going the right way turning for home, but will the early fractions be fast enough to set up for his late kick?

R7

War Like Goddess
Dalika
My Sister Nat

#3 WAR LIKE GODDESS: Comes in off of back-to-back Grade 3 wins going long, and her runaway score in the Bewitch at Keeneland was particularly impressive. She’s still fairly lightly-raced, so she may have room to improve, which is a scary thought for her rivals in the Grade 2 Glens Falls; #6 DALIKA: Almost certainly has to improve, but should get an ideal setup to run a career-best race. There isn’t much other zip in this race, at least on paper, and she should be able to dictate terms from the jump, which could give her a tactical advantage; #5 MY SISTER NAT: Hasn’t won in a while, but that most recent win came in last summer’s Grade 3 Waya at this route of ground. She exits a third-place finish in the Grade 2 New York behind Mean Mary, who would take plenty of money here, and if another runner goes with Dalika early, she’d be a primary beneficiary.

R8

Obligatory
Search Results
Bella Sofia

#4 OBLIGATORY: Cuts back to seven furlongs and could be in prime position to take advantage of a sizzling early pace in the Grade 1 Test. She’ll want to sit far back and make a sweeping move late, and the likely race shape should play right into her hands (hooves?); #7 SEARCH RESULTS: Is 4-for-5 lifetime, with her lone defeat coming when she was beaten a neck by Malathaat in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. She capitalized on a perfect trip to take the Grade 1 Acorn, and if the early pace is softer than expected, she could prove tough to run down; #8 BELLA SOFIA: Won two of three starts downstate and gets a big class test here. However, she draws very favorably here and stacks up pretty favorably from a figures standpoint, and it’s tough to poke holes in what she’s done to date.

R9

Bolshoi Ballet
Cadillac
King Fury

#6 BOLSHOI BALLET: Cruised to victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, which came a month after he was the 6/5 favorite in one of England’s greatest races, the Group 1 Epsom Derby. I think he’s an exceptionally talented 3-year-old, and if he’s right, he should prove tough to beat; #4 CADILLAC: Came back running in June, when he took a Group 3 at The Curragh going a mile and a quarter against older foes. His one stateside start came in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, when he was a decent fourth, and he’s probably better now than he was then; #11 KING FURY: Makes his first start on turf here but has every right to love the lawn. His dam, Taris, is a half-sister to a stakes-winning turfer, his third dam was a Grade 3 winner on grass, and if he takes to the new surface, he could crash the exotics at a price.

R10

Knicks Go
Swiss Skydiver
Mayfield

#4 KNICKS GO: Bounced back from a disappointing run in the Grade 1 Met Mile with an explosive romp in the Grade 3 Cornhusker, where he earned a career-high 113 Beyer Speed Figure. If he’s right, he’ll likely lead the Grade 1 Whitney from gate to wire, and there’s no reason to think he isn’t; #3 SWISS SKYDIVER: Beat the boys last year in the Grade 1 Preakness, and her connections merit tons of respect for trying them again here. She won the Grade 1 Alabama over this track last summer, and a similar effort could earn her a sizable check here; #5 MAXFIELD: Has only been beaten once in eight career starts and would benefit if my top two selections cook each other early. Having said that, questions linger over the quality of rivals he’s beaten in those seven wins. This is a Grade 1 race in every sense of the word, and he may need a career-best race to get the job done.

R11

Chestertown
Dubb entry
Risk Taking

#8 CHESTERTOWN: Has been gelded since his last start, and that should really help him. The former $2 million baby has shown equal parts talent and stubbornness in the afternoons, and if he moves forward, the winner of last year’s Albany here may have a big chance at a square price; DUBB ENTRY: I prefer #1A MUSICAL HEART, who won the Flat Out two back at Belmont and was fairly well-fancied in the Grade 2 Brooklyn. He ran into Lone Rock that day, and these waters are significantly more shallow; #3 RISK TAKING: Drops back into the allowance/optional claiming ranks after tackling the likes of Rombauer in the Grade 1 Preakness back in May. He gets Lasix for the first time in addition to the class drop, and that potent mixture can’t be ignored in this tricky betting race.

R12

Time Limit
Risky Mischief
Bay Storm

#7 TIME LIMIT: Gets a reluctant nod in a puzzling Saturday finale. She ran very well to top state-bred competition earlier in the meet, the Maker barn is winning everything in sight right now, and Luis Saez should be able to use this filly’s early zip to work out a favorable trip; #6 RISKY MISCHIEF: Found a new home on turf last year, and her first victory on the grass came at this route last August. She’s been away since November, but if she’s ready to run, her flexible running style will make her a contender; #10 BAY STORM: Is another coming in off of a layoff, but she does so for a trainer who does very well with returning horses and exits a stellar work over the training track on July 25th. The addition of Lasix could move her forward provided she’s able to negotiate a trip from a pretty wide post.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/1/20; WHITNEY DAY)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $795

On this week’s edition of “Champagne and J.D.,” we sat down with one of my favorite people in the sport. Alicia Wincze Hughes works for the NTRA, and before that, she was one of the top turf writers in the country for the Lexington Herald Leader. We chatted about last weekend’s results of note and previewed several races coming up on the Whitney Day program, and it was great getting a chance to sit down and talk shop with her.

J.D. Fox and I are proud of what we’re building with this show, and we’ve got a number of really good guests coming up this summer. Search for “Champagne and J.D.” on YouTube, and if you like what you see, hit the “subscribe” button so you don’t miss any of our weekly updates!

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: My Pick Four ventures were both blown up in the first legs of their respective sequences. After scratches, I dropped $45.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: For the first time this meet, we’ve got a deadline conflict. I’d love to play #9 CARIBA in the 12th here, but that could go off as the sun is setting. I’m never going to be the guy to hold up print production, so I’ll focus my attention on races earlier in the program. I’ll play $4 doubles starting in the opener using #1 OLYMPIAD/#1A OUTLIER, #4 WINDCRACKER, and #8 TEAM MERCHANTS, and finishing in the second with #1 FOG OF WAR and #4 EN WYE CEE.

TOTAL WAGERED: $24.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Cariba, Race 12
Longshot: Mystery Bank, Race 8

R1

Grandview entry
Windcracker
Team Merchants

GRANDVIEW ENTRY: Either part of the entry could win this wide-open lid-lifter. #1 OLYMPIAD hammered for $700,000 and sports back-to-back bullets for Bill Mott, while #1A OUTLIER also sold for a considerable sum despite a modest pedigree and boasts a strong five-furlong gate work; #4 WINDCRACKER: Ran a good third in his debut at Churchill and could kick off a big day for trainer Tom Amoss, who saddles Allen Jerkens favorite No Parole. He showed some late interest that day, and it helps that the runner-up came right back to win; #8 TEAM MERCHANTS: Debuts for Doug O’Neill, who developed a fine first-out reputation in California. The son of Derby winner Nyquist has several big works on his tab, including a half-mile bullet from the gate over this surface last week.

R2

Fog of War
En Wye Cee
Dream Friend

#1 FOG OF WAR: Returns off the bench for Chad Brown and will be tough to beat if he’s right. He won a Grade 1 as a 2-year-old back in 2018, and the recent bullet work indicates he may be back to his old self; #4 EN WYE CEE: Hasn’t been seen since finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Discovery in November, but boasts a top-notch turf pedigree and could love the lawn. He’ll likely get plenty of pace to rate off of, and we may get some value here, which isn’t always the case with Todd Pletcher trainees; #3 DREAM FRIEND: Set the pace before tiring in the Grade 3 Poker and is being dropped back down in class. He hasn’t won in a while, but of the two likely pace-setters, I prefer him to the enigmatic #5 HIDDEN SCROLL.

R3

K. K. Ichikawa
Allied Invasion
Regal Speaker

#5 K. K. ICHIKAWA: Ran well when third against similar-level foes in his debut. Going long at first asking isn’t an easy thing to do, but this gelding handled it well and could step forward with some experience under his belt; #1 ALLIED INVASION: Debuts for Christophe Clement and has been working steadily ahead of his unveiling. Joel Rosario sees fit to ride, and few trainer/jockey combinations have been better at this meet; #9 REGAL SPEAKER: Showed some late interest when fourth in his debut at Delaware Park. Javier Castellano getting on for a high-percentage barn is a plus, but I’m skeptical about the field he ran against in his debut, and I can’t endorse him at his likely short price.

R4

Ima Pharoah
Dreams of Tomorrow
Futuro

#5 IMA PHAROAH: Has run second in all four outings to date, and this represents a “now or never” spot for him. It certainly seems like he’ll be on or near the lead here, and Saratoga’s main track has played very kindly to horses with that running style; #3 DREAMS OF TOMORROW: Came up a neck short last time out downstate and has a significant chance to graduate at third asking. He beat the third-place finisher by seven lengths that day, and that runner has since come back to win; #4 FUTURO: Debuts for Bill Mott after a series of strong drills at Belmont. Seven furlongs isn’t the easiest route for a first-time starter, but if the workouts are any indication, there’s some talent here.

R5

Midnight Bisou
Vexatious
Point of Honor

#3 MIDNIGHT BISOU: Looms large in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign as one of the best older horses in training regardless of gender. Her comeback race at Churchill was exceptional, and if she’s anywhere close to her usual self, she should blast this group; #4 VEXATIOUS: Made Monomoy Girl work a bit in the Grade 2 Ruffian, and that’s not an easy task. She was nearly nine lengths clear of her closest pursuer, and while she hasn’t won in a while, I think she’s a must-use in vertical exotics; #6 POINT OF HONOR: Has run well in many big spots, including when she finished second in last year’s Grade 1 Alabama over this track. The problem is, she hasn’t won since May of last year, and she may be left with a lot to do late.

R6

Stage Left
Foolish Ghost
Mister Winston

#6 STAGE LEFT: Gets a reluctant top pick in a race where I wish I didn’t have to give one. He steps back up in class after a nice win downstate, could improve second off of a long layoff, and won at this route last summer; #5 FOOLISH GHOST: Looks like the controlling speed in this race and keeps Irad Ortiz, Jr., despite the trainer switch. He looks like the controlling speed, and if the main track keeps penalizing closers, he could have a say at a price; #2 MISTER WINSTON: Gave Creed a fight last time out at Belmont when second beaten just over a length by that classy rival. This distance might suit him, but I think he’ll be left with a lot to do, and at his likely price in a wide-open event, that doesn’t make him feel like a smart play.

R7

Modern Science
King of Miami
Sol Del Sur

#8 MODERN SCIENCE: Got stuck rating well behind a slow early pace in his debut, but he showed plenty of potential rallying for third. That barn’s first-time starters don’t often win, and the presence of Joel Rosario may mean this son of all-world sire Galileo has more in the tank; #7 KING OF MIAMI: Ran pretty well when second in his off-the-turf debut and gets the surface he likely wants here. American Pharoah’s offspring seem to love the lawn, and this one’s 351 turf Tomlinson rating is tied for the highest such number in the field; #5 SOL DEL SUR: Is by Medaglia d’Oro and out of a War Front mare, which gives him turf pedigree on both sides. The recent slow works hint that he wants to go as long as possible, and he intrigues me at a price for Bill Mott.

R8

Mystery Bank
Amano
Holy Emperor

#5 MYSTERY BANK: Sure seems like the lone speed in this turf marathon, which could help considerably given the maiden condition. Orlando Noda has hit pay dirt several times at the meet already, and if this one gets left alone up front early, look out; #7 AMANO: Closed to be third last time out at Belmont and will likely be favored here for Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz. It wouldn’t shock me if he won, but I can’t shake the feeling he may need more pace than he’ll get; #1 HOLY EMPEROR: Was a good second against slightly weaker going a mile at Belmont. He’s bred to want to go long on the grass, and while he doesn’t strike me as a front-runner, he could sit close beneath aggressive gate rider Luis Saez.

R9

Tom’s d’Etat
Code of Honor
By My Standards

#5 TOM’S D’ETAT: Comes in after winning four races in a row, including the Grade 2 Stephen Foster at Churchill. He’s emerged as a force as a 7-year-old, and his combination of talent and versatility make him a deserving favorite in the Grade 1 Whitney; #3 CODE OF HONOR: Ran better than it may look on paper when third in the Grade 1 Met Mile downstate. He was wide that day and had to chase Vekoma, which isn’t easy to do. This two-turn trip should be right up his alley, and he gets it returning to the scene of his score in the Grade 1 Travers last year; #1 BY MY STANDARDS: Was a distant second behind Tom’s d’Etat in the Foster but won a pair of Grade 2 events before that. Jose Ortiz gets the mount here, and his usual race gives him a shot against a field light on numbers but heavy on talent.

R10

No Parole
Eight Rings
Three Technique

#6 NO PAROLE: Simply put, this Louisiana-bred looks like a freak. He’s 4-for-4 in races around one turn, and over a track that’s played very kindly to speed, I think he’ll be a handful. The recent bullet drill over this surface helps, too; #2 EIGHT RINGS: Has been training well for Bob Baffert in California, and he’s not a trainer who ships for the frequent-flyer miles. His effort in Arkansas last time out was a dud, but he showed enough promise as a 2-year-old to make me think he’s sitting on a big effort; #8 THREE TECHNIQUE: Seems like the best-meant closer in the bunch and one that may benefit if the speedballs burn out turning for home. He simply went too long in the Grade 2 Rebel last time out, and he’s 2-for-2 at today’s seven-furlong distance.

R11

Cross Border
Dot Matrix
Pillar Mountain

#2 CROSS BORDER: Jogged against overmatched state-breds here last week and should have plenty in reserve for the Grade 2 Bowling Green. He’s gotten this distance before and should have a favorable trip on or near a pretty slow early pace; #4 DOT MATRIX: Is at his best on or near the front going a long distance, and he should get that sort of trip here. He just missed two back at this distance at Belmont, but Joel Rosario climbs back aboard and should have him in a good spot; #7 PILLAR MOUNTAIN: Merits a look underneath at a big price. He likes this turf course and almost certainly needed the race last time out, which doubled as his first effort since October. Pletcher and Velazquez don’t often provide this kind of value.

R12

Cariba
I’llhandalthecash
Dalika

#9 CARIBA: Responded to the cutback in distance with a nice win downstate. Runner-up Peaceful won here impressively earlier in the meet, and the Clement barn has continued to send out well-meant horses after a scorching start; #2 I’LLHANDALTHECASH: Won here last summer and exits a win in a listed stakes race at Belmont. She was up close to a pretty moderate pace that day, but she’s also shown an ability to sit back and rally, which could prove helpful; #7 DALIKA: Was second behind my runner-up last time out and looms the danger if the race falls apart late. She won at this distance two back at Churchill, and the recent bullet hints she could be well-meant once again.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/3/19)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $977.10

It’s Whitney Day at Saratoga, and it’s tough to argue with the quality of the program despite the highlighted divisions both experiencing “down” years. The Whitney attracted McKinzie, Thunder Snow, and Preservationist, while the Test drew Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress and the fleet Bellafina, who may be running at her ideal distance.

It’s a great card, the type that horseplayers and casual fans alike can get excited about. We can go on and on about how the older horses and 3-year-old fillies are likely not great groups. In fact, I’d largely agree with that assessment. However, the horses that could’ve shown up for Saturday’s marquee races did, and sometimes, that’s all we can ask for. Enjoy the day, everyone!

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Our key horse in exactas failed to fire in the seventh, but we almost broke even thanks to hitting a $4 seventh-eighth race double. In total, we dropped just 40 cents.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: My action comes early in the card, and I’ll attempt to extract value out of #1 WORLD OF TROUBLE in the fifth (the Grade 3 Troy). I’ll play $5 doubles starting in the fourth that use #2 BATTLE OF BLENHEIM, #3 PATRIOT DRIVE, and #7 HAY DAKOTA and single World of Trouble. I’ll also single World of Trouble in $5 doubles starting in the fifth that end with #6 PICASSO and #8 FREE ENTERPRISE in the sixth. Finally, I’ll play a $1 Pick Three starting in the fourth that uses all of these horses.

TOTAL WAGERED: $31.

– – – – –

BEST BET: World of Trouble, Race 5
LONGSHOT: Battle of Blenheim, Race 4

R1

Our Country
Brewmeister
Shamrocket

#8 OUR COUNTRY: Had a troubled trip in his debut earlier this meet and has every right to move forward off of that performance. He gets Lasix for the first time, and experience can be very helpful for 2-year-olds in route races; #6 BREWMEISTER: Debuts for Chad Brown and has the pedigree to be a good one. He’s by Point of Entry, and his dam is a daughter of Giant’s Causeway and Canadian champion Ginger Brew; #10 SHAMROCKET: Doesn’t draw a great post, but merits a look at a price. He’s a half to four winners, his second dam is Grade 1 winner Nany’s Sweep, and Flavien Prat has the mount.

R2

Grumps Little Tots
The Rock Says
Felix in Fabula

#3 GRUMPS LITTLE TOTS: Was last seen running second in the Easy Goer Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Toss the Wood Memorial, and his record looks considerably better; #8 THE ROCK SAYS: Hung a bit when third at this route on opening day. He’ll add blinkers for this event, though that may make it tough to see if he’s giving the field the people’s eyebrow; #6 FELIX IN FABULA: Prevailed earlier this meet at this route against weaker competition. He was claimed by an astute barn that day and may be ready for the jump in class.

R3

Extreme Force
Wayne O
Glory Road

#3 EXTREME FORCE: Was third in his debut, and that day’s runner-up came back to win earlier in the meet. This barn isn’t known for success with first-time starters, so it’s conceivable that he may have needed the initial outing; #5 WAYNE O: Has trained like a very good horse leading up to his debut for Steve Asmussen. He hammered for $750,000 at auction last summer and may be ready to run right away; #9 GLORY ROAD: Fetched $220,000 at auction last September despite a modest pedigree and has worked well for Todd Pletcher. If there’s any hesitation here (or with my runner-up), it’s because it’s tough for a horse to debut at this tricky distance.

R4

Take Your Place (MTO)
Battle of Blenheim
Hay Dakota

#2 BATTLE OF BLENHEIM: Ran fifth against a few of these rivals earlier this meet, but may not have liked the wet turf course. He does his best running over firm going, and this barn has had plenty of success with new acquisitions on turf in the past; #7 HAY DAKOTA: Responded to the claim last time out with a strong win at Churchill Downs. The faster they go early, the better this one’s chances figure to be; #3 PATRIOT DRIVE: Has won three in a row and jumps up in class for this event. He’s never finished out of the money in three local starts and seems to be in career-best form.

R5

World of Trouble
Wet Your Whistle
Disco Partner

#1 WORLD OF TROUBLE: Is one of the top sprinters in the country and looms large in this spot. He rolled home in the Grade 1 Jaipur back in June, and his best race would thump these; #5 WET YOUR WHISTLE: Has won four in a row, including the Grade 1 Highlander at Woodbine. My top pick represents a different kind of animal than the ones he’s been facing, but a speed duel would certainly work in this one’s favor; #2 DISCO PARTNER: Has been a mainstay on the New York circuit, but it’s fair to wonder if the 7-year-old’s best days are behind him. He’s won just once in his last seven starts and has lost to World of Trouble twice during that stretch.

R6

Free Enterprise
Picasso
Muchacho

#8 FREE ENTERPRISE: Was beaten less than a length in his debut at Belmont and seems like the one to beat here. He’s worked well since that performance and should be prominent early; #6 PICASSO: Rallied to be third in his unveiling back in May, and that day’s runner-up has since come back to win. His pedigree (by Tapit, out of an Unbridled’s Song mare) suggests he’ll improve with experience; #1 MUCHACHO: Has run fairly well in two starts to date and has turned in two strong local drills ahead of this event. He adds Lasix here, and forward progression would give him a shot to hit the board at a price.

R7

Ticonderoga
Voodoo Song
Lucullan

#8 TICONDEROGA: Drops down in class and goes back to a two-turn route of ground, one that he’s shown he appreciates. There’s a lot of speed signed on, and he should come rolling late; #7 VOODOO SONG: Almost certainly needed the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple, which was his first start since October. His most recent work was sparkling, and a return to top form would make him a major player; #2 LUCULLAN: Came back running off of a long layoff and steps back into stakes company here. He’s hit the board in eight of his 10 lifetime starts, and some of those have come against top-class turf horses.

R8

Bellafina
Serengeti Empress
Royal Charlotte

#2 BELLAFINA: Makes her first start since May, and does so at what may be her favorite distance. She doesn’t necessarily need the lead, and that could be huge in a race with so much early speed signed on; #1 SERENGETI EMPRESS: Stole the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on the lead and followed it up with a good second in the Grade 1 Acorn behind Guarana. She’s got enough speed to not be hindered by the rail, which could be key; #5 ROYAL CHARLOTTE: Has won all four of her starts to date and tries Grade 1 company for the first time. These are pretty deep waters, but she’s got the right running style to make an impact in the Grade 1 Test.

R9

McKinzie
Thunder Snow
Preservationist

#6 MCKINZIE: Nearly overcame an eventful trip in the Grade 1 Met Mile, where he steadied several times and was even hit by a bird. He’s shown some flexibility with regard to his running style, and his best race would make him tough; #4 THUNDER SNOW: Was third in the Met Mile, but may want more distance than he got that day. An extra furlong could help the globe-trotter, and he may sit a comfortable trip on or near the lead; #8 PRESERVATIONIST: Overpowered Catholic Boy in the Grade 2 Suburban and may be improving. However, this seems like a much tougher group on the whole, and he might need to take that step forward in order to contend.

R10

Capla Temptress
Got Stormy
Stella di Camelot

#7 CAPLA TEMPTRESS: Broke through with a win last month at Delaware Park and gets another try going two turns here. She was second in the Grade 2 Lake Placid last summer, and also won a Grade 3 at a similar two-turn configuration late last year; #8 GOT STORMY: Has chased some of the top horses in the division and gets a bit of class relief here. Most recently, she was second in a Grade 2 at Churchill Downs, and she earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure in that race; #9 STELLA DI CAMELOT: Made up a lot of ground late when third in the Grade 3 Intercontinental at Belmont. She won at this distance last fall at Belmont, and it’s tough to poke holes in the connections.

R11

Three Outlaws
Veterans Beach
Brockmoninoff

#11 THREE OUTLAWS: Makes his second start off of a long layoff and gets Lasix for the first time. His comeback race was fine, and Luis Saez chooses to ride him back for Brian Lynch; #12 VETERANS BEACH: Was second in the race my top pick exits, but must overcome a very tough post. He may need to use some of his speed to clear this field going into the field; #6 BROCKMONINOFF: Hasn’t run since October, but he likes this route and will be dangerous if he’s ready to run. This barn is due to get going and knows how to win with horses coming off of long layoffs.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 8/4/18

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $754.50

When I was a kid, there was one summer where former New York Daily News racing writer/handicapper Bill Finley ran so terribly in the “Battle of Saratoga” that he ran out of money before the meet was over. As a kid, I laughed pretty hard at that and wondered how it could happen.

Well, given the slump I’ve been in in this section since the meet started, I get it now. I don’t think we’ll get to the point where we run out of funds, but some cold streaks do make it easy to see how that may happen. If there’s consolation, it’s that I heated up as last year’s meet rolled along, so hopefully things will begin to pick up sooner rather than later.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: An attempt to get some value out of Sudden Surprise fizzled early, when multi-race exotics horses were nowhere in the second race. We dropped $27.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll take a stand against likely third-race favorite #6 CUARENTA, who debuts for a tag that’s 25% of his 2017 purchase price. That hits me as a big red flag. I’ll box #5 ROGUE NATION, #7 ONE MORE TOM, and #9 PRETERNATURAL in $5 exactas.

TOTAL WAGERED: $30

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Friday’s Results: 2 for 10
Meet Results (to date): 35 for 128

Best Bet: Business Cycle, Race 6
Longshot: Mr. Cub, Race 11

R1

Moss entry (MTO)
Souper Tapit
Hembree

#2 SOUPER TAPIT: Ran well in his return to the races last month at Churchill. When he’s right, he’s a stakes-caliber runner on any surface, and his pedigree hints that he may be getting even better; #4 HEMBREE: Hasn’t run a bad race in a more than a year and exits a win in a swiftly-run allowance downstate. He figures to be prominent early, and he hasn’t finished out of the top two in three local starts; #3 BIRD’S EYE VIEW: Was beaten a half-length by a strong runner last time out and has kept strong company in the past. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because he may want even more ground than he gets in this race. DIRT SELECTIONS: MOSS ENTRY, SOUPER TAPIT, FUNDY’S TIDE.

R2

Noble Nebraskan
Brown entry
Medina Ridge

#4 NOBLE NEBRASKAN: Is bred to be a top-class runner. He’s by promising young sire Noble Mission, his second dam is G1 winner Honest Lady, and his third dam is Toussaud, the dam of Belmont winner/top sire Empire Maker; BROWN ENTRY: #1 SPIRIT ANIMAL is bred to like turf and is a threat if he draws in, while #1A STANDARD DEVIATION fetched $450,000 at auction, has trained like he could be a runner, and may be favored if the race is switched to the main track; #6 MEDINA RIDGE: Is out of a dam who won multiple graded stakes races going long on the grass. This barn isn’t necessarily known for having horses ready right away, but has had success with firsters on turf. DIRT SELECTIONS: STANDARD DEVIATION, SOCIAL PARANOIA, BRONXVILLE.

R3

Preternatural
Rogue Nation
One More Tom

#9 PRETERNATURAL: Drops in for a tag and cuts back to a sprint, which seems like the trip he wants. His debut effort going short wasn’t bad, and that race’s winner has since run well twice against allowance foes; #5 ROGUE NATION: Debuts in this spot for a trainer that can win with first-time starters at this level. His workouts appear solid, and running to those drills may be enough to beat what seems like an underwhelming group; #7 ONE MORE TOM: Has plenty of seasoning and runs for a tag for the first time. His lack of early speed is a concern, but Javier Castellano signing on can’t be ignored.

R4

Broman entry
Vitsal
Not So Quiet Man

BROMAN ENTRY: #1 FAST GETAWAY took to the turf last time out, when he closed to break his maiden at Belmont Park. He merits respect on the lawn, while #1A THE CARETAKER seems like the most logical selection if the race is taken off the turf; #2 VITSAL: Is certainly fast enough to win this race, but I’ll take a shot against him. He’s found trouble in each of his last three starts, and that trend is worrisome for a horse that’s drawn the rail; #10 NOT SO QUIET MAN: Has run well twice at Saratoga and comes in off a win at Monmouth Park. This is a class hike for him, but this barn doesn’t ship to NYRA tracks to sight-see. DIRT SELECTIONS: THE CARETAKER, CALL ME A STAR, BELLEVILLE SPRING.

R5

Precieuse
Uni
On Leave

#5 PRECIEUSE: Won a Group 1 in France two back and gets Lasix for her American debut. This isn’t a bad group, but it’s far from what she’s been running against overseas, and it seems like she’s been working well; #1 UNI: Has been working her way back since coming up sick prior to the Grade 1 Gamely, which she had to scratch out of. On her best day, she can certainly win this, but there’s a chance she needs the race; #7 ON LEAVE: Has been running against some of the best female turf horses in the country and was most recently seen running fifth in the Grade 1 Just A Game. Her best race would make her competitive, but she may be a hair past her peak.

R6

Business Cycle
Hersh
Alkhaatam

#5 BUSINESS CYCLE: Was second in his debut late last year and hasn’t run since, but he’s been working incredibly well for Chad Brown. A repeat of that debut effort would make him very tough to beat; #4 HERSH: Rallied to finish second in his debut last month. He had some trouble that day and could step forward at second asking; #1 ALKHAATAM: Was bet to 2-1 odds in the Grade 2 Remsen, but ran fourth behind Catholic Boy and hasn’t been seen since. He’s got some solid works to his credit, but he’s bred to go much further, so this seems like a prep.

R7

Justice of War
Brown entry
Mucho

#2 JUSTICE OF WAR: Fetched $550,000 at auction and goes out for one of the top trainer/jockey combinations to this point in the meet. He’s got a few very strong gate works that hint he has serious talent; BROWN ENTRY: While #1 FULLNESS OF TIME has some things to recommend, I actually prefer #1A AHEAD OF PLAN, who needs some luck to draw in off the AE list. The latter hammered for $475,000 despite a modest pedigree and has a number of eye-catching workouts; #6 MUCHO: Ran well to be second behind Whiskey Echo in his debut, and that rival went on to run an OK third in the Grade 3 Sanford. Bill Mott’s horses tend to get better with experience, and that experience could help him given the abundance of debuting runners here.

R8

Separationofpowers
Classy Act
Mia Mischief

#6 SEPARATIONOFPOWERS: Gets a tepid top pick in a puzzling renewal of the Grade 1 Test. She missed the break in the Grade 3 Victory Ride, yet rallied to be beaten less than two lengths. She should take a big step forward here with a cleaner trip; #4 CLASSY ACT: Ran a colossal race in defeat in the Victory Ride, when she helped set a very fast early pace, turned back her early rivals, and was nipped by a huge longshot. She’ll likely be prominent again in this race; #7 MIA MISCHIEF: Faded to finish fifth as the favorite in the Victory Ride, but her lesser races have come off of layoffs. She could be more fit here, and if she is, she’s absolutely good enough to win.

R9

Backyard Heaven
Mind Your Biscuits
Diversify

#2 BACKYARD HEAVEN: Bounced badly when sixth in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, and I’m choosing to draw a line through that race. If he runs back to the Grade 2 Alysheba, he may be the horse to beat, and we could get a bit of a price based on the last-out clunker; #4 MIND YOUR BISCUITS: Tries nine furlongs for the first time after just missing in the Grade 1 Met Mile. His pedigree says he doesn’t want to go this far, but you can’t blame the connections for trying given the purse and the likely race shape that could favor his closing kick; #6 DIVERSIFY: Turned in a huge performance in the Grade 2 Suburban, where he smashed several of today’s foes and earned a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. That was easily his best performance to date, though, and given the other speed in the field and lack of any value here, I’ll try to beat him.

R10

Santa Monica
Mom’s On Strike
Lottie

#5 SANTA MONICA: Has won two of three starts since coming to America and most recently took the Grade 2 Dance Smartly at Woodbine. She beat a pretty good group that day, and a similar performance here would likely make her a formidable foe; #2 MOM’S ON STRIKE: Has won five of her last seven starts and was beaten just two lengths in the Grade 2 New York, a race whose second and third-place finishers have already come back to win. Joe Sharp has gotten off to a great start at the meet, and she’s shown she can get this distance; #8 LOTTIE: May be a cut below these, but is one of only a few that’s ever shown early speed. She was up close throughout last time out, and a similar trip here seems likely.

R11

Ticonderoga
Mr. Cub
Zennor

#2 TICONDEROGA: Gets my top selection in a very deep renewal of the Lure Stakes. He’s kept tremendous company throughout his career, and I think he’s significantly better around two turns; #3 MR. CUB: Was beaten just a half-length in the Grade 2 Wise Dan, and with #8 VOODOO SONG likely scratching in favor of next weekend’s Grade 1 Fourstardave, this one figures to be the main early speed. He could get an easy trip, and such a journey would make him an overlay at his morning line price; #7 ZENNOR: Won three in a row, including this race last year, before being sidelined. If he’s back to that form, he’s a contender, but between the long layoff and the jockey switch, I’m treading fairly lightly.