The loaded Saratoga weekend cards feature the Fourstardave Handicap (G1) and the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2). They also include several MSWs, with four on Saturday and three on Sunday. Let’s preview the fabulous undercards before we hit the main events.
Saratoga Meet Statistics (7/31 thru 8/8):
Race 2: $78,000 MSW for New York-bred 3-year-olds and upward going 6 furlongs on the dirt
Charlie Baker sends out #7 The Joke’s On You for career start number two. Back on July 7, he had a stalking trip but never could catch the better-positioned True Gold. I think that with a start under his belt, Baker put him in a great spot to capture his first victory. Assuming he runs a similar race to his first one, he should be the class of this field.
Another horse entering this field out of that race is #9 Quiet Out East. Unlike his prior starts, Manny Franco had him closer to the lead in that one, and it seemed to work wonders. He was much more engaged and seemed to like that running style. He’s finished in the money in five of his seven lifetime starts, and Christophe Clement is keeping him at the 6-furlong distance, rather than trying longer routes.
#6 Bassman Dave is an intriguing horse with plenty of experience that hasn’t been seen since June 22 at Belmont Park. He’s consistently run at this $60,000-plus purse level on the NYRA circuit. Gary Sciacca might have figured something out with him because he’s been posting stellar numbers in the mornings, going :36.15 and :36.70 over 3 furlongs.
#5 Seven is Heaven is finally back on the track after being scratched twice as an MTO and a vet’s decision. He has been away for almost two months, this shorter distance suits him. Linda Rice is 12-for-51 (24%) in 2019 when her horses cut back in distance. He is a deep closer who would certainly enjoy quick to set up his running style and should be on all exotic and multi-race tickets at a nice price.
Ricky’s Picks: 7-9-6-5
Race 3: $90,000 MSW for 2-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles (8 1/2 furlongs) on the turf
Expect #7 Decorated Invader to be a well-warranted short price in this field. He closed into a very slow opening 1/4-mile (:24.80) back on July 13 after running eighth in the stretch and was able to pass a multitude of horses before finishing second. Christophe Clement is one of the best turf trainers on the NYRA circuit and will look to hit another winner with this Declaration of War son.
Another colt with experience is #8 Fame to Famous. With a similar running style to Decorated Invader, he too will look to close and steal this race at the wire. At 51/1 last time out, he was able to finish just outside of the money by only 1 ¾ lengths. Edmund Davis’ numbers at the meet aren’t impressive, but I love what Luis Saez has done. He is 12-for-50 (24%) on the turf through 8/7, leading all jockeys.
I will also look to the inside with #1 Summer to Remember. As I have talked about in previous previews, it was only a matter of time until Todd Pletcher got it going at Saratoga. For as poor as we think he’s been, he is still winning at 15%. This colt’s last morning work went 1:03:06 for 5 furlongs on the turf. That number isn’t all that impressive on its own, but a workout like this often means good things when a first-timer routes on the turf.
#5 Yukon Eric, another first-timer, was purchased for $280,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale back in 2018 and carries sky-high expectations. Linda Rice usually has her horses hit the track more for experience rather than an easy win, as she’s only won at 8% with first-timers, but that rockets to 23% with 2-year-olds.
Ricky’s Picks: 7-8-1-5
Race 5: $90,000 MSW for 2-year-olds going 6 furlongs on the dirt
This is the type of field that we might look back at and see that multiple graded stakes winners were entered, starting with #2 Kittansett. This colt has everything that you want to see. Purchased for $1.4 million back in 2018 at the Keeneland September Sale, he ran an impressive morning work over 4 furlongs in :48.03 on August 3. He also gets some of the best connections possible with Chad Brown and Jose Ortiz. We might be talking about this one come for many years to come.
Todd Pletcher shows up with first-timer #1 Irish Front. This horse wasn’t purchased for a crazy price tag, but he is intriguing. Waterford Stable has used Manny Franco quite consistently (see #1 Summer to Remember in race 3) and he has everything going for him after posting a 4-furlong workout on a fast track in :47:65.
#3 Ajaaweed almost broke the stopwatch by going :47.03 at 4 furlongs on July 28. Kiaran McLaughlin is winning at 19%, and when he links up with Luis Saez, they are a combined 24%. His dam Asiya won her only start at The Spa, a 6 1/2-furlong dirt allowance, by over 8 lengths.
Steve Asmussen has another promising young colt in #7 Tumbling Sky. Sired by Competitive Edge, winner of the 2014 Hopeful Stakes (G1), he has strong dirt pedigree. Competitive Edge also broke out of the maiden ranks impressively, winning by over 10 lengths. Tumbling Sky has all the makings of a colt who can live up to that potential and more.
Ricky’s Picks: 2-1-3-7
Race 7: $90,000 MSW for 2-year-olds going 6 furlongs on the dirt
Chad Brown will look to stamp his mark on this 2-year-old class with first-timer #2 Option Value. I’ve talked about Into Mischief on a couple of occasions, such as Risky Mischief, who has perhaps been the most impressive Saratoga juvenile so far this meet. Option Value has just as much hype, and with a win here, he could be looking at a Hopeful entry in early September to round out the meet.
#3 Sprawl was entered back on August 3 at this same condition, but he was scratched as an Also Eligible. Bill Mott has seen this horse run magnificently in the mornings and placed him in an optimal spot here. Sired by City Zip, he has dirt sprinter written all over him. City Zip won the 2000 Hopeful, and Sprawl will look to carve out a similar path in what has the outlook of a promising career.
The combination of Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana, Jr., team up with #7 Gozilla. He didn’t come with a cheap price tag ($395,000), but Zayat Stables tends to not send a 2-year-old out at Saratoga unless he’s special. One of the most recent 2-year-old MSWs sent out wearing the Zayat silks was Atoka, who almost shattered the tote board at 26/1 before getting caught late and finishing third.
Once again, I will take a Todd Pletcher firster in #1A Ox Bridge. Manny Franco picks up another Pletcher mount with John Velazquez at Arlington Park for the Arlington Million (G1) and the Beverly D. Stakes (G1). Franco and Pletcher have combined to win at 23% in 2019. Here’s something to recognize: this horse was entered as an MTO (Main Track Only) twice, on July 13 and on August 4. By my estimation, Pletcher has a horse who’s dying to get onto the track and make his debut.
Ricky’s Picks: 2-3-7-1
Race 1: $90,000 MSW for 3-year-olds and upward going 1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs) on the dirt
In what should be a very competitive field, #4 Majority Rules figures to be the deserving favorite. He ran a very competitive second to Scars Are Cool back on July 21 while three-wide into the first turn, which took a lot out of him. This should be an easier field for Javier Castellano to better control the early part of his colt’s trip.
#2 One Eyed Jack will make his second career start after going 6 furlongs back at Belmont Park on June 29. He seemed a little hesitant to want to create room for himself and just went along with the pack. Purchased for $675,000 in 2017, this horse has a lot of expectations and hype to meet. Perhaps that June 29 race did wonders for him, as he’s looked better than ever in the mornings. Chad Brown has won at 36% when he stretches his horses out, which should help One Eyed Jack here.
Jimmy Jerkins sends out a promising Curlin son in #3 Four Ten. Each of his last two starts have valid excuses. First, he chased a field much better than him and he looked like he needed the start. Then, despite his next-out turf entry being rained off and run at a mile in the slop, he managed to run a good stalking trip for third. Junior Alvarado will get his second chance on a colt who clearly needs more distance. His last work in the morning, 6 furlongs in 1:14.55, indicates that the stretch-out here will help him.
I’m not sure how #6 Fireball Shot is still in the MSW ranks. In 18 lifetime starts, he has finished second eight times! He is a must-use on all tickets for the mere fact that he hasn’t finished worse than fourth since July 23, 2017. I’m not sure what to make of him as a 5-year-old who is winless in five starts at Saratoga, and I don’t love his chances to win, but he is a must-use in all exotic wagers.
Ricky’s Picks: 4-2-3-7
Race 3: $90,000 MSW for 2-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles (8 1/2 furlongs) on the turf
#7 Morning Gold is one of a few experienced fillies in this field. She will run at the same distance and in the same conditions as last time, where the race’s first 1/4 mile of :25.61 didn’t help her cause at all. Sweet Melania had better positioning at the beginning and was able to hold on to win. That Morning Gold was able to make up any ground on the winner makes her the class of this field and the horse to beat.
Michael Stidham will send out firster #2 Micheline. Though her sire Bernardini often blesses his offspring with dirt pedigree, her dam (Panty Raid) enjoyed equal success on both dirt and grass. Stidham and Jose Lezcano have’t had many entries together, but each has had plenty of success on the turf. Her last workout covered 6 furlongs in 1:14.60, so she should enjoy the distance.
Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez reunite on #8 Apurate. She was a bit slow out of the gate in her debut and Velazquez tried to position her well, but that seemed to take a lot out of her and she never recovered. She goes from a dirt-sprint to a turf-route here. Her sire, Summer Front, had success over the Saratoga turf in his career, and Pletcher is good at this surface switch. Everything makes sense for her here in this spot.
#5 Grand Chemin has absolutely zero turf pedigree, but Constitution has produced several first-time winners on the dirt. Jeremiah Englehart will pair with Irad Ortiz, Jr., who has been fabulous this meet. Englehart has been hitting at 27% on first-timers with a $2.16 ROI. His pedigree might not say turf, but it sure does say distance, so I think a little bit of everything makes this filly a contender.
Also Eligible: If #11 Sharing makes this group due to one of the other four scratching, then she will be a must-use. With a fantastic turf debut already under her belt, she will be prepared to pass horses down the stretch. Manny Franco closed with her in relatively quick fractions at 10/1 odds on debut. It helps that Graham Motion is one of the best turf trainers on the NYRA circuit.
Ricky’s Picks: 7-2-8-5; Also Eligible #11
Race 6: $90,000 MSW for 2-year-old fillies going 6 furlongs on the dirt
Don Chatlos sends out perhaps the most talented filly in #10 Mundaye Call. If you’ve been reading my previews, then you know what I think of 2-year-olds by Into Mischief. Purchased for $950,000 last year, this filly seems to have everything that you’d want on paper. Her most recent morning work was phenomenal as she finished 5 furlongs in 1:00.72. This could be the first of many times that we see Mundaye Call in the winners’ circle.
#7 Velvet Crush might be the most intriguing filly in here by far. If you look on the dam’s side, White Clover by Exchange Rate indicates dirt pedigree. Exchange Rate ran in the Louisiana Derby, the Wood Memorial, and the Kentucky Derby. After going :47.66 over 4 furlongs on August 5, she seems ready to go for Rodolphe Brisset.
I am all aboard the Junior Alvarado train as he climbs aboard #6 Plea. After he burned me twice on Wednesday, I refuse to sit on the sidelines. It helps that Bill Mott youngsters are looking better than ever. Unlike the rest of this field, she doesn’t come with a sky-high price tag, but that’s likely because Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider tend to keep their best foals. Her pedigree has dirt written all over it, and she should enjoy this distance and surface first time out.
#8 Palace Avenger is one of a few fillies here with prior experience. On July 3, she was caught by Miss Peppina, who was ridden beautifully by Joel Rosario. I almost never criticize John Velazquez, but this wasn’t his best ride. He hustled her up to try and prevent the front-runners from getting away, but she looked spent down the stretch. I think that another 1/2-furlong and a jockey switch to Irad Ortiz, Jr., will make her a definite threat in this spot. She was entered into a turf sprint on Friday, but she scratched and re-entered here.
Also Eligible: #1A Wedontbelieveher ran a marvelous debut and certainly would be one of the horses to beat if she draws in. She was in for a $50,000 tag in her debut but quickly steps up against this tougher class. It’ll be interesting to see what her connections do in terms of choosing to let her stablemate #1 Nikki My Angel remain in this field or not.
Ricky’s Picks: 10-7-6-8; Also Eligible 1A
Good luck to everyone playing and be sure to follow me on Twitter @RickyP_15 for more NYRA race previews!
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