Hello, everyone! My name is Ricky Pasternak. I’ve been following the NYRA circuit for over 15 years and thought it was time to put my efforts to better use, so I’m going to give you my handicapping takes on the non-stakes Saratoga races each week.
Being new to the Racing Dudes team, I’ve decided for my first post to write about some newcomers to the track who are entered in Saratoga’s maiden special weight (MSW) races this week. Keep an eye out for them, both here and beyond.
Race 3: $78,000 MSW for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies going 6 furlongs on the dirt
I don’t think that I’ll be the first or the last one to point out that #1 Risky Mischief should be the horse to beat out of this field of 10. She is one of many promising fillies coming out of the Jeremiah Englehart barn this year and her most recent training effort was a bullet work :49.01 in 4 furlongs. Englehart has been firing on all cylinders lately and hit on 23% of first-timers in 2018, and has formed a deadly combo with Jose Ortiz, winning together at 16%.
Todd Pletcher will send out #9 Magnetique from the nine post. She’s coming off of an impressive :49.40 4-furlong work on July 17 at Monmouth Park. A similar effort on that morning would make her very competitive in this field. Usually the Pletcher/John Velazquez combo provides great results, but each is off to a slow start at Saratoga. Velazquez has only won 7% of his races (3/43), and Pletcher just 11%. Those numbers make me a little hesitant about putting this horse on top.
Take a look or two at #8 Playtone. This filly was purchased as a 2-year-old for $150,000 earlier this year at Keeneland. Eddie Kenneally has a lot of success with first-timers in these spots. Sired by Tonalist, she has the pedigree to be a factor, and her most recent works show that she horse should be competitive here.
Look for #5 Smokin Hot Kiss to make some noise as well. She had a bullet 3-furlong work in :35.40 back on July 28, and Ricardo Santana, Jr., will look to continue his hot start.
Ricky’s Picks: 1-9-8; Longshot: 5
Race 5: $75,000 MSW for 2-year-old fillies going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf
This wide-open field has several contenders who figure to have a say in how this race plays out. #4 Girlintheyellowtaxi is one of the first-timers that I’ll give a look. Out of 90 entries, Wesley Ward has hit with first-time starters at a marvelous 34%, and at the MSW class, he’s 32%. Her works don’t jump out, but Ward often puts his 2-year-olds in the right spots at Saratoga.
#9 Morality Clause is one of the few runners with racing experience. She showed promise and progress from start one to two while running against a lot of talented fillies. Manny Franco had her in a stalking trip last time out but never could make up the ground to catch the winner. A similar effort to that race back on June 30 could see her in the winners’ circle here.
Another potential winner is #8 Kit Kat Katie. Like Morality Clause, she also has two lifetime starts. Unfortunately for Kit Kat Katie, that same June 30 race did her no favors. She was sixth the entire way and never looked as if she wanted to run. However, in her debut on May 2, she made up ground the entire race, but Foolish Humor was able to win with sensible fractions. I’m going to throw out the last effort and look for her to finish in the money, if not on top.
#7 Blessingsofliberty can potentially shake up the toteboards. Michael Trombetta has had success here at Saratoga and pairs up with Jose Lezcano, one of the best riders on turf. With the right pace up front, Blessingsofliberty should help bettors cash at a long price.
Ricky’s Picks: 4-9-8; Longshot: 7
Race 6: $90,000 MSW for 2-year-old fillies going 5 1/2 furlongs on the dirt
This race sets up as a potential coming-out party for #6 Figure of Speech. She will most likely be the favorite after getting geared up for this dirt sprint. Chad Brown built up her workouts to 4 and 5 furlongs, but her most recent work earlier this week was at 3 furlongs in :36.00. Usually, that means early speed, so expect her to show pace early here.
Another first-timer in this spot is #2 Tulanian. She will likely be a short price here for Tom Amoss, who has been sending out promising first-time starters recently. Amoss doesn’t bring a lot of horses to Saratoga, but when he does, they often play a major role. Tulanian probably figures to want a little more distance down the road, but this is a perfect spot for her to begin her career. Irad Ortiz, Jr., will be aboard this filly sired by Twirling Candy, whose offspring have produced on the track.
Don’t ignore first-time starter #7 Hallajoori. Steve Asmussen has pressed all of the right buttons so far at Saratoga, so expect nothing less here. With Bayern as part of her pedigree, Hallajoori figures to have a lot of success in her future, and while this spot might be a little difficult for a debut, she has the ability to be a nice price and at least factor into the exotics.
I’m not sold on #1 Mochaccino. Her workouts haven’t been great, she was only purchased for $60,000 back in 2018, and all of the reasons that I stated earlier about the Pletcher/Velazquez combo. In saying all of that, I’ve witnessed them produce many first-time out winners together in the past, and I don’t want to be on the outside looking in here. Mochaccino could shake things up and potentially finish well down the stretch.
Ricky’s Picks: 6-2-7; Longshot: 1
Race 1: $75,000 MSW for 2-year-old maidens going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf (horses must have sold or RNA for $45,000 or less in most recent sale)
The “class” of this group is #10 Dan the Man Can. Manny Franco took this colt to the front right from the beginning in his debut. After going :22.74 after the first 1/4 mile, the fractions caught him. Franco has gotten off to a solid start at the meet and will have more sensible fractions up front. It also helps that Edward Barker is hitting at 25% when he switches his horses from dirt to turf.
#9 Summer Sangria is a Wesley Ward first-timer who had been okay in the mornings on dirt, but she really impressed in a turf work on July 27, going 4 furlongs in :49.46. When John Velazquez teams up with Ward, they are a solid 22%.
Another first-timer is #8 Strong Legacy. Two of her four most recent workouts were bullet works back at Belmont Park, but an alarming number that popped out to me is Luis Reyes’ lack of success. He finished in the money exactly once all meet – though, in his defense, he hasn’t had the proper horses; most of them have been misplaced or outclassed.
A horse to keep my eye on is #3 Frosted Rose. Joel Rosario will be an upgrade from Julien Pimentel, which sets up perfectly. Rosario does his best work with closers, and this horse showed his prowess last time out when getting bumped at the start set him back double-digit lengths, only to be beaten by less than 5. Assuming he gets a better trip, look out for this colt.
Ricky’s Picks: 10-9-8; Longshot: 3
Race 10: $78,000 MSW for New York-bred horses 3 years old and up going 1 mile (8 furlongs) on the turf
This field of 10 will all look to capture their first career win after multiple efforts. The horse that I like the most in this spot is #3 Waynes Footsteps. He has made significant progress in every start and seems to enjoy a two-turn distance. The last time that we saw him he didn’t have enough time to catch Honorable Hero. Coming off of a six-month layoff, Brad Cox does well in these spots, which will certainly help him out.
#4 Wacky Pal should garner support being how spot-on Jeremiah Englehart has had his runners looking lately. This gelding is one of the few speed horses in this spot and may have things his way early on. Assuming Wacky Pal can create sensible fractions, this might be the winner, as the distance doesn’t seem to bother him. Javier Castellano will look to slow it down on the lead and hope to have enough kick at the end to bring this one home.
#2 Daring Disguise has been on every surface and distance possible. This 3-year-old ran his best effort on June 29 at Belmont Park. There wasn’t a ton of speed entered in the race, as he was close to the leaders the whole way. He made a five-wide move but didn’t have enough in the tank to hit the front. With the lack of speed other than Wacky Pal, I expect Irad Ortiz, Jr., to have Daring Disguise again forwardly-placed.
A horse who most likely will have a nice price in this spot is #7 Saltking. In these types of spots, horses are given too many chances to try and prove themselves. This lightly-raced colt is coming off of a long layoff but showed promise when he came from way back in his last effort before being away from the track. I don’t envision a lot of pace for Saltking to run into, but if there is, watch out.
Ricky’s Picks: 3-4-2; Longshot: 7
Race 3: $78,000 MSW for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf
Only one of the runners with prior experience jumps out to me: #2 Light in the Sky. She was squeezed at the break in her prior start and never seemed to find her way in the mud. While she didn’t show much, she figures to be better a second time around and while on the turf. Linda Rice wins 21% of the time when she makes a dirt/turf switch, so look for Light in the Sky to bounce back.
#3 Stuy Town Baby is an interesting first-time starter who ran her most recent morning work here at on July 24, working 3 furlongs in a swift :36.78. Like I said earlier, a short work a few days before a race tends to mean that the horse will be geared up for a quick start, which I fully expect here.
Javier Castellano is aboard another of this field’s first-timers, #7 Cake. Her workouts don’t indicate that she will show much speed, but when Chad Brown has a 2-year-old filly first time out, I’m forced to take a closer look. Chad Brown has been on fire as of late, when combined with Castellano, he wins 26% of these spots.
A likely price that I like to hit the board is #10 My Sassy Sarah. She has turf pedigree written all over; her sire, Summer Front, was a multiple graded stakes winner over the grass, and her damsire is the legendary Street Sense. Michelle Nevin had entered this horse at the beginning of the meet back on July 17, ut the conditions of the track forced that race off of the turf. Her most recent work (two days later) showed that she is ready to go, and Nevin has had success in the past with first-timers at a short distance on the turf (though 2019 hasn’t gone as well as she’d hoped). My Sassy Sarah could be the beginning of Nevin’s turnaround.
Ricky’s Picks: 2-3-7; Longshot: 10
Good luck to everyone playing and be sure to follow me on Twitter @RickyP_15 for more NYRA race previews!