Pimlico – May 20, 2017

Happy Preakness day! Later this evening Always Dreaming will burst out of the gate trying to become a dual-classic winner. If successful, it will set up an exciting three-week leadup to the Belmont Stakes. With a local ownership group behind a horse going for the Triple Crown, the Belmont would surely be a can’t-miss event. However, nine challengers stand in their way, so it is sure to be a challenging task.

Without further ado, here are my picks and analysis for the full 14-race card at Pimlico, including the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes in race 13. Best of luck!

Best Bet: #5 Pretty Perfection, Race 5

Longshot of the day: #8 Nice Tune, Race 2

Race 1: 1-6-5-2

#1 CONNEMARA COAST came off the pace for the first time in a while to capture a second-place finish last time out at this level. In the money four of five times at Pimlico, and the only horse in the field to own a prior win over the course. #6 KAITAIN may be more involved early with the addition of blinkers. Back to dirt today after a turf trip last time out. #5 SPRING QUALITY has had major gaps in-between races, but will now string together three in a row. #2 GHOST BAY stretches back out after a try sprinting over turf. Should be on the scene late at a solid price.

Race 2: 8-6-4

#8 NICE TUNE owns a number of turf races that fit with this group and has often encountered trouble in those spins. Could improve with a clean trip and should offer a solid price, even after key scratches. #6 GREY FOX has hit the exacta in both tries over the Pimlico course, but may need a race off the layoff. #4 KEEP TALKING faces older horses for the first time. Geroux sticks to end the jockey carousel, and hits at 32% with trainer Proctor.

Race 3: 8-5-1-6

#8 FLIGHT PATTERN has done well at the distance, and should come running late. #5 MORAL HIGH GROUND has done great at Pimlico, owning six exacta finishes from nine career local starts. #1 DESERT PRINESS returns to the turf, where she has been consistent Beyer-wise. #6 SEEING’N’BELIEVING should push the pace and has a chance to get loose on the lead while getting back to the turf for the first time this year.

Race 4: 2-5-3-7

#2 SUPER DUDE battled back in the stretch to score in his debut, which was at a mile. Barn keeps runners in good form, but this guy must tackle winners for the first time today. #5 DHARMASTER has improved along the Beyer scale every start of his career, wasn’t far behind a multiple stakes winner last time out. #3 JAMMINWITHBRANDON raced well vs. winners last time out, but gave up the lead late after tracking a heated pace. #7 CONFEDERATE tired at longer against the Derby winner two back. Now back to a more comfortable distance.

Race 5: 5-6-10-2

#5 PRETTY PERFECTION should come rolling late after sitting behind what projects to be a torrid pace. Caught exceptionally wide last time out, but should rebound today. #6 ANIMAL APPEAL should be the at the top of that early charge. Is used to carrying her speed longer, so should appreciate this 5-furlong trip. Comes off the layoff, but trainer Englehart hits at 30% off the break. #10 ROYAL RENEGE could benefit from the early pace scenario, but has run well at this distance and should be a fair value. #2 EVERYTHING LOVELY was run down by the top choice last time out, and makes her second start of the year today.

Race 6: 1-15-9-10-6

#1 JOSE SEA VIEW’s better races have come over the turf, and he should enjoy today’s inside position. #15 BARNEY REBEL draws in on the far outside, but shouldn’t mind the position with his plodding style. In the money all three times at Pimlico. #9 RACETRACK ROMANCE gets back to the turf, where he has enjoyed some past success. Should track the pace throughout. #10 NORTH OCEAN tries the green for the first time after 42 career starts, but should be able to take to it as a son of Street Cry. #6 HERE’S JOHNNY drops off the claim. Pace factor, but this may be pushing his distance limits.

Race 7: 1-8-7-5

#1 THREE RULES owns a tactical foot, but has speed to flash from this inside post. Five for nine in his career, now returns to a sprint after pushing the pace along the Derby trail. #8 THEORY looked stellar breaking his maiden first time out by 5 1/2 at Saratoga last summer, but has tailed off since. Should appreciate the return to this six-furlong distance. #7 RECRUITING READY paired up 95 Beyers in his last two. Has kept good company in his career, but must repeat those max-efforts today. #5 PROFORMA should get a strong pace to track today, but must come home quicker to grab a piece today.

Race 8: 6-10-4-2

#6 YOSHIDA just broke his maiden off the layoff, but Mott sees fit to try him in this spot. Tactical runner, and don’t doubt the Hall of Fame trainer. #10 ADONIS CREED improved with the addition of blinkers last time out, and now adds the services of Velazquez. Barn keeps runners in good form. #4 DOVER CLIFFS should sit just behind the leaders and pounce at the right time with Ortiz aboard. #2 TOTAL TAP gets back to the turf and should benefit from today’s pace scenario.

Race 9 (The Maryland Sprint – Grade 3): 4-5-6-3

#4 A.P. INDIAN should improve second off the layoff, and when in top form he his one of the best sprinters in the country. Owns five wins from eight starts at this six-furlong distance. #5 WHITMORE should sit just behind the frontrunners early and get first run on the closers. At the top of his game this year. #6 HOLY BOSS was no match for Whitmore in his last two, but if able to regain his top form would be able to factor here. #3 NEVER GONE SOUTH gets back to the dirt after a turf tuneup last time out. Was at the top of his game before that, but needs his very best today.

Race 10 (The Gallorette – Grade 3): 2-7-6-10

#2 ZIPESSA is probably better-suited to this shorter distance. Tired last time out at Belmont, but likely needed that one off the winter break. Should be on the pace early and throughout today. #7 ELYSEA’S WORLD is in her best form for Chad Brown, but must close the gap with 1/16 less ground than normal. #6 ON LEAVE makes her first start off the winter layoff, but should be another on the scene late. #10 CAMBODIA goes second off the layoff and faces a class test here, but will try to get first run on the closers.

Race 11: 9-2-5-1

#9 TIME TO TRAVEL adds lasix for the first time today. Should push the pace after facing the Peter Pan exacta finishers earlier this spring. #2 HEDGE FUND has improved along the Beyer scale each start this year. Just nipped at the wire last time out against one of today’s Preakness runners. #5 NO MO DOUGH has encountered trouble in all three career starts. Should get a solid clip to run at today and could improve with a clean trip. #1 HONOR THE FLEET has won two in a row, but was the odds-on favorite in both. Faces a class test today.

Race 12 (The Dixie – Grade 2): 10-4-7-8

#10 RING WEEKEND nearly won this event off a year-long layoff last year. Sometimes breaks slow, but regains Velazquez today. PROJECTED bested a pair of next-out winners last time out. Owns a strong tactical foot and hopes Rosario times the move right again. BLACKTYPE should come running late with Ortiz aboard. In the money all six times at this distance, with three wins. CATAPULT faces a class test, but has been improved ever since the addition of blinkers. Castellano takes up the mount, and he’s 2-for-3 aboard.

Race 13 (The Preakness – Grade 1): 5-9-1-10

#5 CLASSIC EMPIRE endured a brutal trip in the Derby, slammed at the start and pushed out again in the stretch while covered in mud throughout. With drying conditions in store and a field half the size today, Classic Empire turns the tables and captures the second jewel of the Triple Crown. #9 LOOKIN AT LEE was the only horse to make up ground in the Derby stretch, but did so along a wide open rail. I don’t think that move was all due to the path, as he closed in from the back of the pack. Less ground to cover today, but likely a better position for this determined runner. #1 MULTIPLIER would benefit greatly from an early speed duel between Always Dreaming and Conquest Mo Money. We’ll get a solid idea of how he might run today based on how Illinois Derby runner-up Hedge Fund does in today’s 11th race, so I may adjust his position based on that outcome. Any improvement gets him in the mix at a huge price, and the pilot switch to Rosario doesn’t hurt. #10 CONQUEST MO MONEY should once again flash his speed from the outside. The outcome of the race will hinge on how the horses are placed headed into the first turn, but Conquest Mo Money is the most likely early leader. Whether Always Dreaming pushes the pace alongside is another question, but the Derby winner is likely not to have a clear trip on the lead again today. Distance is the only question for Conquest Mo Money, but this tenacious runner should be in the picture at fair odds.

Race 14: 8-4-9

#8 CLASSIC WILDCAT should get a great pace setup today. Loves the Pimlico track, owning a five-for-eight record over the course. #4 RISKY GUY has often broken slow, but should be a contender here with a clean trip. #9 HUNGER came back to win off the three year layoff. New trainer hits at 20% off the claim.

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Kentucky Derby 143

Derby day is finally here!

After months of waiting, we will finally crown a new Kentucky Derby champion this evening, elevating one of 20 horses to the national spotlight in pursuit of the first Triple Crown since…well…2015. Good thing we don’t have to worry about that drought again for a while. Continue reading

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Churchill Downs – May 6, 2017

Welcome back!

After a long hiatus, I’m back with a full analysis of the 14-race Derby day card at Churchill Downs. As Triple Crown season is finally upon us, I hope to update the site with picks whenever I have the opportunity to handicap, but certainly on major race days throughout the spring and into summer.

For an in-depth horse-by-horse look at the Kentucky Derby, check out my separate post here.

Without further ado, here is a look at the full Churchill card. Best of luck!

Best Bet: #5, Finest City, Race 6

Value Play of the Day: #6 Arklow, Race 9 (12-1 Morning Line)

Race 1: 4-7-3

#4 WHOLEHEARTED will see the dirt for the second time, and should like the mile distance of this event. #7 GULF VIEW should flash speed early and picks up Rosario third time out for McGaughey after having some time off. #3 SEVENTH TEE debuts for Brian Lynch, who hits at 14% with new runners. turned in an upbeat work 4/20 and gets Castellano aboard.

Race 2: 6-7-4-2

#6 UNDERPRESSURE has won thrice and hit the exacta another two from six starts. Qualifies for this event because two wins have come against state-bred company. Should be rolling late. #7 SALUTE WITH HONOR has turned in two upbeat works in preparation for this. Took a step forward first time in Casse barn last time out. #4 AWESOME SATURDAY goes second off the short layoff for Calhoun, a 23% move. Style could benefit from the extra ground he’ll get here, and he’s the hunch bet of the day thanks to the name. #2 DONWELL’s best efforts have come on dirt. Gets Rosario back, but faces winners for the first time today.

Race 3: 6-5-8-7

#6 IDOLO PORTENO returns for his second race after a nearly year-long layoff after being no match for Noble Bird but being well clear for second in that event. Expect improvement. #5 ROCKET TIME faces a tougher crowd today, but turned in a bullet work last week and is 3 for 5 over the Churchill surface. Blinkers on a 36% move for trainer Stall. #8 MO TOM gets some class relief and also adds blinkers, a move with which trainer Amoss scores 32% of the time. Reunites with Castellano, who was aboard for this guy’s last win. #7 DONEGAL MOON returns for his second raid since being laid up last June. Expect a return to form today.

Race 4: 6-5-1-2

#6 PERFECT PARTNER put in a big rally in his debut and should take to the extra ground as a son of Curlin. #5 SOUPER FLY OVER must settle early in his first test going long. Owns the field’s top last-out Beyer figure. #1 CAVIAR CZAR has caught live fields in both career races. Should take to the added ground, #2 ZAEVION has had trouble at the break in both starts thus far. Should improve if those issues are cleared up.

Race 5: 10-1-5-11

#10 WAR ENVOY’s best efforts have come going long over the turf. Owns a tactical foot, sitting behind strong paces in his last two events. #1 FORGE returns second time off the layoff for Mott. Got lasix for the first time in his last event at Keeneland, where he came flying late. Expect the same today. #5 SIR DUDLEY DIGGES turned in his top Beyer figure last time out and will need to repeat that to win here. #11 HOCKEY SCHOOL projects as one of the main pacesetters. Just set a new Beyer top last time out, and retains Castellano aboard.

Race 6 – The Humana Distaff (G1): 5-2-7-6

#5 FINEST CITY reunites with Mike Smith and should be running from the gun. Upbeat workout pattern, and has shown an ability to duel for the lead. #2 PAULASSILVERLINING returns second off the winter layoff after winning the Grade 1 Madison. Should be on the heels of the leaders early. #7 CARINA MIA has been working well for her return from the winter layoff. Owns a perfect 2 for 2 record at Churchill Downs. #6 LIGHTSTREAM gains the services of Castellano. Needs top effort to factor today, but could be the one running them down in the lane if the pace is too quick.

Race 7 – The Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2): 3-1-6-7

#3 HILLHOUSE HIGH brings speed to the equation. Faces the biggest class test of her career, but gets Castellano to guide her. #1 LINDA won her lone try at Churchill late last year. Goes second off the layoff for Wilkes with a bullet work in tow. Never out of the money since being moved to turf. #6 ROCA ROJO has hit the exacta in 6 of 7 career starts, with five wins. Returns from the layoff for top turf barn after being nosed by top choice in December. #7 HARMONIZE is one of a few looking to come off the pace in here. Class-tested and adds Jose Ortiz today.

RACE 8 – The Pat Day Mile (G3): 8-5-9-1

#8 WILD SHOT has faced Kentucky Derby contenders in his last five events. Hit the exacta both times over the Churchill surface, and should enjoy the turnback to a mile. #5 NO DOZING nearly won the Lexington last time out despite trouble on the turn. Graded stakes tested, and should benefit from the pace scenario. #9 EXCITATIONS faces a class test, but jockey Mena comes along for the ride. Favored in all four lifetime races, narrowly lost to Derby contender Girvin in career debut. #1 LOCAL HERO could live up to his name as a Kentucky-bred. Has had some issues at the break, but should enjoy the mile trip.

Race 9 – The American Turf (G2): 6-4-1-10

#6 ARKLOW faces winners for the first time, but was much improved when moved to the turf. Loses Castellano, but gains Mike Smith. Trainer Brad Cox is 31% with horses aiming to repeat, so further improvement from his latest try isn’t out of the question. #4 OSCAR PERFORMANCE carries in a number of positive angles, first time lasix and second off the layoff for trainer Brian Lynch. #1 HOLIDAY STONE also receives lasix for the first time. Starts from the rail for the third time in seven career races, hung on the outside for three others. Reunites with jockey Lezcano. #10 GOOD SAMARITAN should appreciate the added real estate today. Returns off the winter layoff for trainer Bill Mott.

Race 10 – The Churchill Downs (G2): 8-2-12-1

#8 EL KABEIR turned in a career effort when coming off the pace in a 7 furlong event last time out. That was his first in the Mott barn, and he may be headed for a career turnaround. Put in an upbeat work May 1. #2 MASOCHISTIC is speedy, and proven at the distance owning three wins and one place from four career starts at 7 furlongs. #12 DENMAN’S CALL got the better of Masochistic last time out, and would love to track a heated pace again today. #1 AWESOME SLEW runs second time off the layoff for trainer Mark Casse. Should come running late.

Race 11 – The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1): 6-8-4-2

#6 BAL A BALI tracked a heated pace last time out and retains Castellano. May be pushing distance limits today, but has been working long in preparation for this. #8 BEACH PATROL appears to be at the top of his game for top turf trainer Chad Brown. Four of last five starts have come in Grade 1 events. #4 CONQUEST PANTHERA has improved along the Beyer scale every race of his career. Expected to closely track the leaders, must cover the added furlong today. Reunites with jockey Lezcano, who was aboard for his last win. #2 DIVISIDERO won this event last year, but could not get up in time in an allowance prep event last month. A perfect 2 for 2 at Churchill, and remains a threat.

Race 12 – The Kentucky Derby (G1): 1-15-16-14

#1 LOOKIN AT LEE ran through about every lane on the Oaklawn track while finishing third in the Arkansas Derby, but when finally clear picked up steam like a freight train. With the pace scenario murky, his ability to close may be compromised but he should be able to navigate traffic and brush off trouble. The 1 post is an obvious disadvantage, but not a killer with his style. Lookin for him to get clear in the stretch and make an honest run at the wire. #15 MCCRAKEN is a perfect 3 for 3 at Churchill Downs, a figure which can’t be overlooked. I’m willing to be the Blue Grass ends up being an anomaly and fully expect the top two in that event to finish well behind that day’s third, fourth, and fifth finishers on Saturday. This guy was undefeated heading into that event, but never kicked in despite getting clear behind Irap’s slow pace in the stretch. Expecting he’ll work out a better trip and show that extra gear in the Derby. #16 TAPWRIT also exits the disappointing Blue Grass, but broke slow and raced wide throughout that event. Had improved along the Beyer scale every race before that, and a return to that pattern puts him right in the mix. Must avoid getting caught wide again, but he could be the one to benefit most from a wet surface, already having won a minor stakes in the slop as a 2 year old. #14 CLASSIC EMPIRE will likely be one of the top two betting choices and owns a 2 for 2 record at Churchill Downs. Juvenile champion got a clear path on the outside to win the Arkansas Derby and should be able to work out a clean trip with buffers from the speeds to his inside and outside.

Race 13: 1A-8-3-2

#1A HARD SCRAMBLE faces winners for the first time after breaking his maiden in impressive fashion at Oaklawn park. This #320,000 purchase should do well as a sprinter. #8 ROCKIN RUDY was in over his head in the Arkansas Derby, and lands in a more suitable event here. Should gun it from the bell, but has to show there’s enough left in the tank after a taxing try on the Derby trail. #3 STAR EMPIRE is listed a new gelding, and reunites with John Velazquez, who was aboard for the debut win. Should be able to track a sizzling pace. #2 VISIONARY TALE faces winners for the first time, and aims to push the pace from the inside post.

Race 14: 11-9-4-14

#11 WICKED MACHO is the “other” Mark Casse runner in here, debuting with a series of solid workouts in tow. Castellano sticks around for the finale, but this guy must overcome the outside draw. #9 UNK has been away for over a year, but the works show he is ready to get back to the track. Likely could use a race, but he is the lone 4 year old facing 3 year olds in the main body of the field. #4 SOUPER WISH is Casse’s favored runner. Speightstown colt narrowly missed when tracking a hot pace in the debut and should factor again today, albeit at a short price. #14 LIKEITLIKETHAT draws in on the outside, and should be a pace factor with blinkers added. Traffic trouble last time out, must break alertly today.

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Saratoga September 5, 2016

The summer has gone by in the blink of an eye, as we have suddenly come upon the final day in the 2016 Saratoga meet. There will be plenty of time for reflection on all the spectacular moments we have been graced with over past few weeks, but for now let’s enjoy the final slate of races at the Spa this summer.

Today’s card is headlined by two graded stakes: the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch for  older turf runners, and the Grade 1 Hopeful for two year olds. With all the great moments we’ve witnessed, perhaps the emergence of a future Kentucky Derby runner will be the cap to another stellar meet. Best of luck!

 

Best Bet: #4 Vandalize, Race 7

Value Play: #1 Modern Lady, Race 5 (12-1 Morning Line)

 

Race 1 – Claiming, 3 YO & Upward, 6 Furlongs (Dirt)

#5 AMERICAN CREED was caught wide vs. some of these last time out. Can improve second time off the layoff with a clean trip and take advantage of a strong early pace. #1 GAMBLER’S GHOST can leave these in his dust with a top effort, but projects to be one of a few on the early lead while breaking from the inside post.

#5 American Creed 6-1

#1 Gambler’s Ghost 7-5

 

Race 2 – Maiden Special Weight, Fillies 2 YO State-bred, 7 Furlongs (Dirt)

#7 MINI MEGAN debuts for Rudy, who can never be discounted with his first-time starters, particularly with Irad aboard. #8 BREE’S GOT HEART showed a lot of heart with a strong closing move in her debut, just missing by a nose. Can improve with the experience behind her and getting onto a dry track. #5 MOONDANCE is an $800,000 purchase debuting for Kiaran McLaughlin. Malibu Moon has been a strong influence for debut winners, and Velazquez has had success with limited starters for these connections. #2 SWING AND SWAY went for more than 10 times the sire’s stud fee at auction. Dam has produced a number of winners already.

#7 Mini Megan 7-2

#8 Bree’s Got Heart 6-1

#5 Moondance 3-1

#2 Swing and Sway 4-1

 

Race 3 – Maiden Special Weight, 2 YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Mellon Turf)

#3 J.S. CHOICE was troubled in the debut, but has every right to improve with that experience behind him. #8 MAJESTIC TOM started from the far outside post in his debut, and can get in the mix with a better trip on the stretchout. #2 PANAMA PAPERS has two races under his belt, but defeated a runner last time out who returned with an effort that would stand up strongly in this heat. #5 DATA ROOM debuts for the top turf barn of Chad Brown, who has had an historic Saratoga meet.

#3 J.S. Choice 7-2

#8 Majestic Tom 6-1

#2 Panama Papers 3-1

#5 Data Room 9-2

 

Race 4 – Allowance, Fillies and Mares 3 YO & Up State-bred, 6 Furlongs (Dirt)

#5 WOODVILLE wasted no time breaking her maiden, doing so in impressive fashion early in this meet. A return to that effort fits well in this spot, but it is always a challenge facing winners for the first time. #3 SABRINA BALLERINA took a big step back in her first effort against winners, but if she can get back on track, can get in the mix today. #1 SING FOR BEAUTY should show early speed from the inside post. Exits the same heat as Sabrina Ballerina, but didn’t fade as badly.

#5 Woodville 8-5

#3 Sabrina Ballerina 9-2

#1 Sing For Beauty 3-1

 

Race 5 – Claiming, Fillies and Mares 3 YO & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Inner Turf)

#1 MODERN LADY returns to the turf for the first time since June off the claim by Linda Rice. Was troubled at the quarter pole in that effort, and broke her maiden from the rail this spring. #4 DEGREES OF FREEDOM drops to claiming ranks for Chad Brown. Should be tough second off the layoff. #11 CANDIDA is another making her first start off the Rice claim, but this one gets go-to rider Jose Ortiz aboard. #5 SWEET ELLA got a feel for the course last time out, edging one of today’s rivals. Can be competitive in this spot with a repeat effort.

#1 Modern Lady 12-1

#4 Degrees of Freedom 5-2

#11 Candida 8-1

#5 Sweet Ella 7-2

 

Race 6 – Maiden Special Weight, Fillies 2 YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Mellon Turf)

#4 STARR BEAR defeated two next-out winners in her debut. Also makes the switch to turf while stretching out. #9 NEW MONEY HONEY is the second daughter of Medaglia d’Oro in this field. Debuts for the sizzling Chad Brown. #11 MY SWEET STELLA draws in for D. Wayne Lukas. Soundly defeated first time on the turf, but turned out to be a loaded field. Could show speed from the outside. #7 LA CORONEL stretches way out while getting on the turf. Switches to Geroux for this third career start.

#4 Starr Bear 9-2

#9 New Money Honey 7-2

#11 My Sweet Stella 8-1

#7 La Coronel 5-1

 

Race 7 – Claiming, 3 YO & Up, 6 Furlongs (Dirt)

#4 VANDALIZE came off the year-plus layoff to score in a maiden claiming spot for Pletcher downstate this spring. Faces winners for the first time, but in two career starts has posted Beyer figures the rest of the field has been unable to approach. #10 ROMAN REVIVAL should be able to work out a steady stalking trip from this outside post. Irad Ortiz remains aboard. #1 HOUSE OF FRIENDS drops to this bottom level while switching back to the main track for the first time since his debut. #3 TEXT ME drops down the ladder. Speed figures are light, but owns plenty of excuses, and may show a new dimension with a return to a dry track. Trainer Falcone has had success with limited starters this meet.

#4 Vandalize 8-5

#10 Roman Revival 7-2

#1 House of Friends 10-1

#3 Text Me 30-1

 

Race 8 – Allowance Optional Claiming, 3 YO & Up State-bred, 1 1/16 Miles (Inner Turf)

#3 UNCLE SIGH may be saddled with a case of seconditis, but he has run well in four starts on the lawn, and you figure he has to break through at some point. Second off the layoff for Mott, a 21% move. #5 HURRY UP ALAN has had his fair share of trouble, but this hot claim item has run consistent figures that fit well in this field. #8 DREAM DOCTOR projects to sit just off the early pace and make first run on the closers. Could offer some value on the board. #11 MAKE A DECISION enters a state-bred affair for the first time since last fall, a race where he ended up in the winner’s circle. Projects to sit just off the early pace from this outside position.

#3 Uncle Sigh 7-2

#5 Hurry Up Alan 12-1

#8 Dream Doctor 8-1

#11 Make a Decision 3-1

 

Race 9 – Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap, 3 YO & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Mellon Turf)

#8 JAY GATSBY just missed in a restricted spot last time out. In career form and enters this second off the layoff. Reunited with Castellano for this graded stakes try. #1 TAKE THE STAND tries an easier spot after running in the Arlington Million off the layoff. Mott hits at 21% second off the layoff and Prado is in to ride. #2 RING WEEKEND has returned from the long layoff with a pair of strong efforts. Troubled here in the Fourstardave, and must be taken seriously. #5 TAKEOVER TARGET may be at his best with some give in the ground, but is no slouch on a firm turf. Returns to the guidance of Jose Ortiz, who rode him to a win in the Hill Prince downstate last fall.

#8 Jay Gatsby 9-2

#1 Take the Stand (ARG) 5-1

#2 Ring Weekend 5-2

#5 Takeover Target 3-1

 

Race 10 – Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes, 2 YO, 7 Furlongs (Dirt)

#6 CLASSIC EMPIRE was much improved when getting over a dry surface in his second career start, winning the Bashford Manor at Churchill earlier this summer. Started from the rail in both starts, so the move outside could even help him further. #4 BITUMEN impressed in both career starts, taking the Sanford on opening weekend, a local leadup to this event. Has been working forwardly in preparation for this. #5 ROYAL COPY has improved in each start for D. Wayne Lukas, but faces winners for the first time. Must improve along the Beyer scale again to get in the mix for the top spot. #2 PRACTICAL JOKE won his debut by open lengths. Brown is not known for his dirt runners in graded stakes, but this one could change the narrative.

#6 Classic Empire 5-2

#4 Bitumen 2-1

#5 Royal Copy 8-1

#2 Practical Joke 3-1

 

Race 11 – Maiden Special Weight, Fillies and Mares 3 YO & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Inner Turf)

#7 MY KINDA DEVIL was caught behind a sluggish pace last time out. The Clement barn has heated up in the final stages of the meet, and this one handled a next-out winner in her last race. #5 ABOVE THE MARK has improved in every start, and benefitted from the addition of Lasix in latest. Top turf jockey aboard. #2 BLENHEIM PALACE takes to the turf for the first time. This daughter of Medaglia d’Oro should be able to handle the surface switch as she makes her fourth career start for McGaughey. #12 MA CAN DO IT remains a maiden, despite hitting the board in multiple graded stakes. Returns to the turf for the first time since last fall where she wasn’t disgraced. Interesting if the form carries over surfaces.

#7 My Kinda Devil 5-1

#5 Above the Mark 6-1

#2 Blenheim Palace 10-1

#12 Ma Can Do It 15-1

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Saratoga August 27, 2016 – Travers Day

Happy Travers Day! It’s a fabulous day and a fabulous card, complete with six Grade 1 races headlined by the $1.25 million Travers Stakes. The fun isn’t done after the big race either, as the Grade 2 Ballston Spa features the long-awaited return of Lady Eli. It should be a great day of racing, and I hope you enjoy. Best of luck!

 

Best Bet: #6 Flintshire (GB), Race 10

Value Play: #7 Onus, Race 12 (12-1 Morning Line)

 

Race 1: 3-2-4-1

RECKLING was a distant second behind the impressive Theory earlier in the meet. Asmussen is known to improve runners second time out. Projects to be on or near the early lead. MONACO debuts for Pletcher and Velazquez, who have begun to heat up this weekend. This one cost $1.3 million, so you would expect some talent. YOUR SECRET’S SAFE debuts for Chad Brown, who has had the meet of a lifetime. Brings a couple of solid workouts into this. SOUPER CATCH must overcome the rail draw, but this Bernardini colt comes in with a series of strong workouts.

 

Race 2: 1-10-11-8

THREE PERFECTIONS moves to the rail for his second career start. Adds blinkers & lasix looking to turn the tables on a couple from the debut. BALLAGH ROCKS projects for a tracking trip and can take a step forward second off the layoff. TURF COMMANDER has been taking time between starts, but goes for the top Chad Brown barn. SPORT has faltered as the favorite on a couple of occasions, but this consistent performer remains a top threat.

 

Race 3: 3-2-8-7

ANNUAL REPORT has been away a while, but worked well in preparation for the return. Ran against some on the Derby trail as a juvenile, even trying a route, but appears more comfortable going short. JIMBO FALLON shipped east for Baffert last month downstate and passed the test despite trouble at the start. THREEFIVEINDIA makes his first start with the Chad Brown barn. Hopes to track a heated early pace, and any improvement makes him a top contender. STORY TO TELL faltered in the mud last time out, but had been running consistently prior to that. Would be helped by a strong early pace.

 

Race 4: 8-10-3-11

STELLA ROSE tries turf for the second time after running very well behind On Leave last month despite trouble at the start. That one came back to with the Riskaverse in impressive fashion this past Thursday, so expecting a big effort from this one today. MIGHTY SOUPER recovered from a poor start only to run near a heated pace last time out. Had been more of a closer before that, so perhaps she settles a bit with a clean start. Second off the nearly year-long layoff. LAST WALTZ (IRE) has run four races in America, and all against Catch a Glimpse and/or Time and Motion. Should relish getting away from those monsters, and you know Chad has his turf runners ready. WEDDING DRESS had trouble at the start against stakes-quality competition in her two starts this year. Must improve a ways to make noise in here, but should offer value.

 

Race 5: 8-10-7-5

IMPERIA has loved the return to turf in his last two. Rare jockey/trainer pairing, but this one should be primed to come running late. MISSION DRIVEN projects to be on or near the early pace in a race lacking early speed. Top connections have been known to steal races on the front end before. HAVANA MOON goes second off the layoff and adds lasix for the first time while Johnny V takes the call for the first time. REVVED UP faces winners for the first time, but McGaughey is known to keep his runners on the improve.

 

Race 6 (The Personal Ensign – G1): 5-4-2

CAVORTING may be the best older female on the east coast. Has already beaten most of this field and projects for a solid tracking trip yet again. PAID UP SUBSCRIBER was shut off at the start last time out in Delaware against I’m a Chatterbox. Hopes to turn the tables on that one and get the better of others with a clean beginning. CURALINA has proven her affinity for Saratoga. May find herself closer to the lead in this small field.

 

Race 7 (The BALLERINA – G1): 9-4-8-2

CARINA MIA turns back to a sprint after faltering late in her test against Songbird on opening weekend. Back to a more reasonable spot, and it’s not like she hasn’t beaten top runners before, as she handled Off the Tracks in the Acorn. SHEER DRAMA loves the course, taking the Personal Ensign last year. On the steady Grade 1 diet, has certainly passed the class test. WAVELL AVENUE hopes to get a strong early pace to run at. Has won two of three tries at the Spa. BY THE MOON has never been out of the money at Saratoga. Should be able to work out a stalking trip and hopes to get first run on the closers.

 

Race 8 (The King’s Bishop – G1): 2-13-7-8

FISH TRAPPE ROAD has been on or near heated paces in his last two, going against the bias in the Woody Stephens but holding on for the place at a big price. Meets some familiar foes while stepping up to a Grade 1 for the first time. DREFONG ships in for Baffert and appears to be a major pace presence from the outside. STAR HILL has been mired in outside posts his last four. May show improvement with a better starting position and blinkers added. MIND YOUR BISCUITS stepped into open company and into graded stakes company and answered the bell with a win in the G2 Amsterdam earlier this meet. Hopes to come running through the lane late.

 

Race 9 (The Forego – G1): 1-3-11-12

CATALINA RED has been perfect at the distance. In top form since being switched to the Navarro barn. Must learn to turn the tables on A. P. Indian. LIMOUSINE LIBERAL was second in last year’s King’s Bishop behind Runhappy. Gets Castellano aboard, and should be on or near the early pace. A. P INDIAN is perfect at the distance, and just fired a career effort in the Vanderbilt victory. Could bounce off of that, but remains a top contender. MARKING was a distance fourth in the Met Mile. Once again starts from the far outside, and hopes to make a run through the lane.

 

Race 10 (The Sword Dancer – G1): 6-2-1

FLINTSHIRE (GB) remains one of the top horses in the world, and returns to the Spa to defend his title. Just be glad he’s part of the Pick 4, because he’s a solid single against most any competition in this country. Looms a short price. MONEY MULTIPLIER enters this in career form and could prove to be the best of the rest while making his return to graded stakes company. GRAND TITO has run up against Flintshire in his last two, but earned huge Beyer figures for each. Solid contender to pick up the runner-up spot.

 

Race 11 (The Travers – G1): 4-9-8-3

GOVERNOR MALIBU could be the beneficiary of what projects to be a heated early pace. Despite running against this quality of competition recently, he has never tried this classic distance, and it may hit him right between the eyes. The good news is even if the pace is slower than expected, he has the tactical foot to hold good position. GIFT BOX can show off his closing kick with a stronger pace in front of him. Chad Brown hasn’t had much luck in graded stakes on the dirt, but this one has a chance to change that up and continue his trainer’s remarkable meet. DESTIN can run all day, as proven by his near-win in the Belmont. Minus his troubled Derby effort, he has produced a steady line of 99-100 Beyers. Must show he can run behind horses and still get it done late, but the class is there, as well as top connections in Pletcher and Castellano. MY MAN SAM is an option to pick up the pieces late at a big price. Unlike others, he has faced older, just missing against Tale of Verve on opening weekend. Now goes second off the layoff for Chad Brown. Third-place finisher from that latest effort came back to win the other day as well.

 

Race 12 (The Ballston Spa – G2): 7-8-3-6

ONUS is a different animal in dry conditions. Though the Diana effort was listed as a firm course, it was raining pretty well prior to post time. Projects as a pacesetter in a race lacking much defined early pressure. MISS TEMPLE CITY can always be counted on to put in a late rally. Already handled males, and remains a top contender in here. LADY ELI makes her long-awaited return in a tough spot. Been away over a year, and that’s never easy to overcome, no matter how talented a horse is. That said, she obviously has the ability to get the job done in this spot. STRIKE CHARMER was a strong fifth in the Diana over this course. A replication of that event can get her in the mix today.

 

Race 13: 10-6-11-5

ROOFTOP VIEW drops out of the near-miss in the restricted stakes try over this course earlier in the month. Top turf jockey Saez remains aboard. THE J Y put in an improved effort with blinkers added last time, and has been better in general over turf. Ran into trouble last time as well, so he could take another step forward. KERJILLION has been favored in ever start of his career, and returned from the long layoff in fine form this spring. Consistent performer could get the job done, but likely at a short price. SPACE ODDITY goes first time off the trainer switch to Mike Maker. Previous efforts have been solid, and if he takes any bump off the trainer change, it may put him over the top.

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Saratoga Friday, August 26

Happy Travers Eve! There is a packed 11-race card on tap today, though four have been washed off the turf due to overnight rain. Despite that, there remains plenty of opportunity on this stellar NY-bred showcase day. Let’s dig right in, and best of luck!

 

Race 1: 3-5-4

GOLD FOR THE KING survived a speed duel after a bumped break to score in his debut for the red-hot Charlton Baker. SYNDERGAARD dazzled in his debut, going gate to wire from the rail post. Should see more early pressure today. BOBBY ON FLEEK won his debut impressively at Belmont, and a few behind him have come back to run well.

 

Race 2: 15-11-8-4

BETTERTHANADEQUATE is the only MTO entrant. Makes her debut for Tom Morley, and should hold an advantage on the surface. ABOUT THAT BASE ran on dirt in her debut for Pletcher. Should improve off that effort. FILLY MADISON adds lasix after a distant second place finish in an off the turf affair in her debut. SUPER MAMA is a six-figure purchase debuting for Chad Brown. Probably best on turf, but may be talented enough to grab a share today.

 

Race 3: 1-2-4-5

DUECES HIGH was in over his head in the stakes try last time out. Caught wide in both runs so far, but finds an easier spot today. BUSTIN THE BANK gets a nice upgrade to Irad Ortiz, but must prove he can handle the distance. ONECATS CHANCE ships over from Finger Lakes primed with two bullet works. Hopes to sit a stalking trip and beat the closers to the punch. CAUSE I’M ALEX had trouble in the mud last time out. Should fare better in this spot.

 

Race 4: 5-1

MTO entrant CAHIRCIVEEN appears to hold the edge on this gutted field. Beat Time Squared in the debut, and that one already came back to win, albeit on turf. CASHCONSIDERATIONS tried dirt in the debut and could improve off that effort.

 

Race 5: 1-6-3-5

EXTINCT CHARM seeks to turn the tables on Hit It Once More, and if you feel the latter will regress off his stellar effort at Finger Lakes, this one has been consistent and should be in the mix. HIT IT ONCE MORE must prove last time wasn’t a fluke. Has already handled a couple of these and projects as a pace presence today. JET BLACK gets another crack at the distance. Should push the issue early on. CELTIC CHAOS goes second off the layoff for Kiaran McLaughlin and could come running late if they burn up early.

 

Race 6: 2-5-15-7

FOLLOW THE SIGNS adds blinkers and owns experience running on the dirt. TWISTED TOM makes his debut for Weaver, who is known to pop at the Spa. SCATOGA draws in could make noise in this suspect field. THE GREAT SAMURAI returns to the dirt, where he had a troubled debut.

 

Race 7: 3-4-2-6

TIZNOW’S SMILE adds lasix and blinkers while adding another half furlong. Whole family has had success, so looking for a step forward today. CODE RED hopes to replicate her late-running debut effort. Added furlong should only be of benefit today. WILBURNMONEY ran well in the stakes effort despite stumbling at the start. Projects to be on or near the early pace. IRON MIZZ tries the dirt for the first time, which may actually be better for her. Interesting to see how she does on the switch.

 

Race 8: 9-7-10-11

SELENITE was a close third-place finisher in this race last year despite a stumble at the start. Faced the beast Sentiero Italia last time out, and fits better with this competition. THE TEA CUPS took this event last year, and should remain in contention today. Look for her late. NECK OF THE MOON loves the course and should be another seeking to make up ground late. DISTORTED BEAUTY exits the same race as the top choice. Has run well over the local course in the past.

 

Race 9: 3-8-1-4

TAPITATION has burst into this division with success. Won both starts with Rosario aboard and hopes for a comfortable tracking trip. WITH EXULTATION goes second off the layoff for George Weaver while stepping back in with state-bred competition. OFFERING PLAN is another trying state-bred company after having success against open competition. Has run well at the course a few times. KHARAFA hasn’t won in a while, but seems to be in good form. Should appreciate any give in the ground while hoping for a strong early pace.

 

Race 10: 2-5-4-1

HIGHWAY STAR returns to dirt, where she is 2-for-2. Running for low-percentage connections, but should sit a comfortable stalking trip. SUPER SURPRISE has faced off against a few of these in the past, but should be primed second off the long layoff for Pletcher. SUPER ALLISON has had trouble at the start in her last three races. Needs to change that for best result. FROSTY MARGARITA has hit the money 10 of 12 while remaining on a steady stakes diet. Returns to the dirt today.

 

Race 11: 15-14-6-5

GUCCI FACTOR was much improved on the dirt last time out. Should have the advantage in this off the turf affair. INVESTIGATOR is the other MTO entrant. Hopes to track the pace while returning to the Servis barn. Best effort was going long. ARTHUR AVENUE had trouble at the start in both career runs so far. $415,000 purchase has some things to prove. PINNACLE MOUNTAIN owns a placing over the mud last time out.

 

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Saratoga August 25, 2016

Picks for Thursday, August 25, omitting the first race over hurdles

Best Bet: #5 Flash Trading, Race 8

Value Play: #7 Excluded, Race 7 (12-1 ML)

 

Race Two: 2-7-4-3

2 – Trappe

7 – Mr Curiosity

4 – Zababa

3 – Risener

 

Race Three: 6-3-9-8

6 – Unspoken Mission

3 – Jacqueline D

9 – Lem Me Dance

8 – Unbridledadventure

 

Race Four: 4-1-3-7

4 – My Won Love

1 -Champagne Ruby

3 – Tahoe Tigress

7 – Dreamboat Annie

 

Race Five: 1-6-7-2

1 – Dom the Bomb

6 – Sam Sparkle

7 – Narvaez

2 – Rockford

 

Race Six: 1-4-7-10

1 – Crags

4 – Smart Alex

7 – Rain in Spain

10 – Queenofthechannel

 

Race Seven: 7-2-5-11

7 – Excluded

2 – Mav

5 – Knight of Valor

11 – No Texting

 

Race Eight: 5-1-4-3

5 – Flash Trading

1 – Juan and Bina

4 – Cadeyrn

3 – Delta Outlaw

 

Race Nine: 2-3-8-7

2 – She Doesn’t Mind (FR)

3 – Thrilled

8 – Pricedtoperfection

7 – On Leave

 

Race Ten: 4-5-10-8

4 – Ring of Truth (GB)

5 – May Flowers

10 – Battle Tux

8 – Ellenvelyn (GB)

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