After watching the Travers Stakes (G1) draw Tuesday night, I’m counting down the hours, minutes, even seconds. We are just two days away from the biggest day of the meet, and in my opinion, the biggest of the summer. Before we see the 150th running of the mid-summer classic, we have a great Thursday card featuring three maiden special weight (MSW) races.

Saratoga Meet Statistics (7/31 thru 8/18):

Races Top 4 Wins Top 4 Exactas Top 4 Trifectas Top 4 Supers
34 28 16 10 1
 
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Saratoga 8/22

Race 5: $75,000 MSW for 2-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles (8 1/2 furlongs) on the turf (horses must have sold or RNA for $45,000 or less in most recent sale)

#7 Las Ramblas was entered back on July 31 in a dirt sprint here at Saratoga, but Wesley Ward ultimately chose a better path for her debut here. A turf filly through and through, she didn’t figure to perform well in that spot anyway. I love that she has experience on the turf in her morning workouts, which should give her the foundation that she needs to win.

Rajiv Maragh will be aboard #8 Raggedy Annie, who will attempt to run better than the non-threatening sixth she did in her first career start. On that day, the main track was sloppy and the speed prevailed throughout the day. I haven’t talked about this angle much, but she will get Lasix for the first time. That change. along with the switch in distance and surface, leads me to believe that Raggedy Annie will do much better in her second start.

#2 Blessingsofliberty had absolutely no chance when debuting in an off-turf sprint at a longer price (12/1). Girlintheyellowtaxi won for fun and clearly was much the best that day. Blessingsofliberty ran a morning work going 3 furlongs on the turf at :40.20 right before that race, and I’m not the one to question Michael Trombetta, but after that workout, I figured she would be best suited for this surface. She needs the extra distance, and the experience gained after the first start will most certainly help.

Rudy Rodriguez, like the rest of these trainers, will hope for better as he sends #3 La Negrita back out to the track. She was on the right surface but was way overmatched back on August 9 in a turf sprint against the likes of Voting Agreement and Boston Beauties. Those fillies were quicker and showed their class. In a much softer field here, expect La Negrita to be much more of a factor and to at least hit the board.

Ricky’s Picks: 7-8-2-3

Credit: NYRA

Race 6: $90,000 MSW for 2-year-old maidens going 1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs) on the dirt

Both of the John Oxley-owned entries here are formidable and would most likely be short prices even on their own. In case Mark Casse only sends one of them out, I prefer #1A Enforceable, who adds blinkers after failing to fire over the local turf on July 13. Back on May 31, Shaun Bridgmohan put him into a position where he could grind away at the leaders, but that seemed to take a lot out of him and he flattened out in the stretch. Assuming that he breaks away better than he did on May 31, he should run his race and win pretty easily albeit – at a short price. His siblings include graded stakes winners New Year’s Day, Mohaymen, and Kingly.

Jose Lezcano will be aboard the Albert Stall colt #2 Imperare. By Empire Maker, he should enjoy this distance and surface right away. This colt was purchased for $280,000 as a yearling last year and figures to have the morning workout numbers to back that up. On July 25, he ran 1:01.77 going 5 furlongs in the morning and seemed to handle it with ease. Stall has won at 17% with runners at this condition and should have Imperare ready to go in his debut.

#8 Crossing the Moon has two career starts under his belt. but the most recent one should be thrown out because it was on the turf. When debuting at Churchill Downs on June 28, he broke well but couldn’t hold on after being close on the lead through a :22.29 opening 1/4-mile. His first two races should have given him the experience and confidence to take down these 9 furlongs on the dirt. Additionally, Kenny McPeek is 26% with a very generous ROI when adding blinkers for the first time, which he’s doing here.

Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez will hook up again on first-timer #6 Portos. What stood out to me was his recent string of morning workouts. This colt went 4 furlongs, 5 furlongs, 5 furlongs, and 6 furlongs, all on the Saratoga dirt. Pletcher is giving horseplayers notice that Portos can handle the distance and should be a live runner in his first start.

Ricky’s Picks: 1,1A-2-8-6

Credit: NYRA

Race 7: $78,000 MSW for New York-bred fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and upward, going 1 miles (8 furlongs) on the inner turf

Luis Saez will stay aboard #10 Tatterazzi in her second career start. Of all her companions here, she figures to have the best chance to improve. She was bumped at the start and never got comfortable, but it was pretty evident that she needed a longer distance anyway. She’s not nearly as quick as the winner, Andretta, and John Terranova is superb at bringing runners back between 31-60 days (26%), so she should enjoy this spot.

#7 The Great Johanna is coming out of the same race is Tatterazzi, where she made her turf debut. In her best start to date, she was well back early but closed to finish sixth. Don’t expect Ricardo Santana, Jr., to let her break so slowly this time around. What you should expect is a better start and to play a major factor.

Mark Hennig and Rajiv Maragh will team up to get #5 Freddymo Factor to run a race similar to her previous one. At 35/1, she was close to the lead while never more than a length back of the leaders. She ran a winning race but tired late and was ultimately caught by Star of the East. This field certainly isn’t as tough as the one that she most recently faced, so if she runs similarly to that effort while adding blinkers, then she can take this field gate-to-wire.

I’ve been waiting for Bruce Levine to get #9 Blame It On Mom on the turf. To his defense, she was scratched as an Also Eligible in the same race that a lot of these runners entered on July 19, but after not making the gate, her connections her entered into a dirt sprint. That backfired, as she finished a well-beaten seventh as the favorite. This filly belongs on the turf (her dam broke her maiden over it), so expect her to love the surface switch. It’ll be interesting to see if Joel Rosario keeps her off the pace or tries to position her near/on the lead.

Ricky’s Picks: 10-5-7-9

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Good luck to everyone playing and be sure to follow me on Twitter @RickyP_15 for more NYRA race previews!

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