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.
Best Bet: Matareya, Race 9
Longshot: Conquist, Race 12
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.
She Caught My Eye
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
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.
War Like Goddess
#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.
#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.
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.
Life Is Good
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.
#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.
Walk Em Down
#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.