I’m losing my touch. “‘TGIF’ Saratoga Selections” is about the worst title anyone could have come up with for a handicapping series.
Last year, I ‘capped every Sunday card at Saratoga and kept track of my ROI. It wasn’t very great. This year, on Fridays, I hope to do a bit better with things I’ve learned over the past year.
I love Saratoga. It’s the highlight of the racing year, for me. So many great horses and people in one place – simply amazing!
Without further ado…
Race #1 – $25,000 claimers
We kick off with a claiming race, a division I’m not too shabby with. Upon first glance, it looks like Kowboy Boots (#1) could get away with an easy pace; I see a real lack of wanting to go to the front here. In his lone win, a November 2013 score at Churchill, he got away with an easy pace to score. I’m a little leery putting all my eggs in a “Kodiak Kowboy going nine furlongs” basket, so I took a look at some of the others. The Repole horse looks good, as it should, but I also fancy Succesful Brothers (#3), ridden by globetrotting Frankie Dettori, and King of Broadway (#4), who drops to claiming for Mott. Also intriguing to me, for some odd reason, is Invocation (#7), with Rosario aboard. I think the added distance may suit him.
Ultimately, I went with Repole’s Goodnewsisnonews (#8), who is more than bred to go the distance and has winning connections on his side. Look out for Invocation, who could be a bomb.
Race #2 – maiden special weight
Ah, Saratoga baby races! Full of such promise for the future… The also-eligible here, Overspending (for Repole, Pletcher, et al), would probably be many people’s selections if she was in the field (plenty of time for that yet). Selecting Pletcher in juvenile races last year was a foolproof, if not very lucrative, plan. Anyway, out of the others, I like By the Moon (#8) the best. I like her speedy and precocious Indian Charlie x Malibu Moon pedigree for the short maiden distance. Also worth a look are Know It All Anna, whose dam has produced five winners from six starters so far, and Wall Street Lady on the outside, whose pedigree is also mint for these conditions.
Race #3 – Schuylerville Stakes
We go from babies…to more babies. Can we look past Fashion Alert (#4) here? The filly sizzled last out in the Astoria, winning by daylight in an attractive time. This just seems like the now horse, rather than, say, Take Charge Brandi (#5), whom I think may excel at longer distances later down the road. The favorite carries two more pounds than her competitors, but I think she can handle it. Fashion Alert for me.
Race #4 – maiden special weight
Here’s another maiden special weight, for fillies and mares 3+. There are two first time starters in this field – the #6, M B and Tee, and the #8, Street Blush. Of the two, I like the latter the best going 6 furlongs – Street Boss has turned into quite a young sire. A lot of these are coming off lengthy layoffs – in fact, almost all except Magsamelia (#4). I think this filly will be sharper than her more rested counterparts and could take them gate to wire. It’s all up in the air with those two first-time starters…who knows where they’ll run? Look for Street Blush to put in a good run.
Race #5 – allowance
Turf routes are my favorite races. Everyone who knows me well knows that they are. Here’s a juicy 1 3/8 mile race over the lawn with an interesting cast of characters, including favored Can’thelpbelieving (#3) who looks extremely tough here. Last time out, he was third in the Pennine Ridge Stakes behind Gala Award, finishing ahead of Mr Speaker, who came back to win the Belmont Derby in fine fashion. If I would try to beat him with any horse, it would be with Special Agent (#10), who, as his last two starts have indicated, has found a nice home on the turf. (He’s a half-brother to stakes-placed sire Dunkirk.) If Castellano can wiggle this horse into a good inside spot, they’re golden.
Where’s the speed here? It’s not apparent after a few glances -but anything can happen in a long race such as this. I’m going to take a chance agains the favorite with Special Agent, who hopefully will get a good trip from that outside post.
Race #6 – maiden special weight
Another baby race! These are always fascinating puzzles to crack. Here we have New York-breds lining up, and my choice is In Spite of Mama (#7). Speightstown x Carson City is precocious, and her young, stakes-placed dam has already produced one winner from one starter. Maker and Castellano? I’ll take it. Full Tap (#6), while she’ll be low odds as well, is also worth a look with that pedigree. Saluda (#2) drops in class after a third-place finish in a state-bred stakes. And my “name of the day” goes to Graeme Crackers (#8)…how can you not love that moniker?! The horse doesn’t look too bad, either.
Race #7 – $50,000 claimer
This race is a pretty competitive one, with the likes of old boy Monument Hill (#2), who, at 8 years old, is still in good form. Also looking good is Tiz Sardonic Joe (#3), with Dettori aboard. But I’m sensing a lack of real pace in this event, and so I’ve put Joes Blazing Aaron (#8) on top to wire the field. That means I’ll be looking for Castellano to pull a hat-trick for me – I’m sure our nation’s leading rider is up to the challenge! Joes Blazing Aaron was an impressive winner last time out at Gulfstream and is now moving up in class. I think he has the speed and the class to get it done wire to wire here.
Race #8 – allowance
Remember what I said about the last race having little pace? This one has lots! So many speed horses, so little time! And while there’s a chance that one of them could hold on after a blazing five and a half furlongs on the lawn, I went snooping for a closer to nab this race. I finally settled on Kiss Me Lola (#4), who drops down to a shorter distance after tries at six and seven furlongs. She ran two bang-up races here at this distance last year, and I think she’s readily available to mow them all down late in a thriller. Another horse that could make a splash coming late is Gratitute (#9), but I prefer the inside draw of my top selection. Of the speed horses, I think Zamquick (#1) has the best shot to hold on at the rail.
Race #9 – Sir Cat Stakes
This is a nice edition of a mile turf stakes, complete with some names we’re pretty familiar with, like Ring Weekend (#7) and Storming Inti (#1). Ring Weekend has only raced over the lawn once, but when he did so last year, he finished second to Divine Oath, recent winner of a stakes at Arlington and headed for the G1 Secretariat. Storming Inti has run with – and occasionally beaten – the best in the three year old turf division. Then there’s Tourist (#5), who might well be the best horse in the race, coming off two impressive performances out of two turf starts. But my top selection is Cabo Cat (#2)…I see a quick pace coming to fruition here, and I can also see Cabo Cat mowing them all down late. His race last out at Belmont Park was a great effort.
Race #10 – maiden special weight
Saratoga wouldn’t be complete without a classic Emily longshot. So I’m picking a BOMB to close out the day. Shades of Indygo (#4) has never raced on the turf, despite her sire and his best offspring excelling on it. Last time out, they tried, but the race was moved over to the dirt. With 5 thirds and a second in nine starts, she hasn’t been a poor runner on dirt, but I think the move to the grass could really, really pay off. My second choice is the more orthodox selection Winter Wish (#8), who should do well on the stretch-out for George Weaver, who enjoyed tremendous success at last year’s meet. Also intriguing on the surface switch is Maura’s Pass (#10), whose dam has produced three turf winners from five winners overall.
But you know those horses that just JUMP right out at you? Shades of Indygo is one of those. Win or lose, you gotta follow your gut sometimes.
And that’s all, folks…