What an amazing weekend we just had with the Longines Test, the Whitney, and the inaugural running of the Saratoga Derby. This Saturday’s action includes the Fourstardave and the Saratoga Special. Before we get there, let’s preview the maiden special weight (MSW) races carded for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
Saratoga Meet Statistics:
Race 3: $78,000 MSW for New York-bred 3-year-olds and upward going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf
A very even field drew into this turf sprint. I’ll start with #7 Crack Shot, a lightly-raced 3-year-old out of the Double O Racing Stable. He has shown early speed in 2019 and Jose Ortiz will look use it here. On July 14, he was a little slow out of the gate and hustled to the front. After a quick 1/4-mile in :21.59, this colt was spent. Look for him to break more cleanly out of the gate and allow Ortiz to better utilize his speed.
Another lightly-raced horse is #3 Lead Guitar. George Weaver sends this filly out against the boys after a two-month layoff from her debut. She did well to close into moderate fractions that day, finishing third less than 2 lengths behind the winner. A deep closer, she will hope that Crack Shot is put to an early test with quick fractions so that she has plenty of pace into which to close.
#4 Wild William is a 4-year-old colt with eight lifetime starts. I usually don’t like horses that have had a multitude of chances, but this situation is a little different. After changing trainers from Jorge Abreu to James Bond, he has improved dramatically. His last race was his best by far when he sat a stalking trip behind Crack Shot. Wild William was able to hold on for second after Crack Shot posted that extremely quick first 1/4-mile and faded to third. I don’t know if his best will win here, but he has finished on the board four times, so he must be used on all tickets.
#6 Qian B C has finished third in four of his last five starts, and while some of those weren’t the most impressive fields running for cheaper purses, he did close willingly into moderate paces. Owner/trainer Charlton Baker enters him into a tougher spot here, but Saratoga doesn’t run at the MSW level for less than $73,000. I like his chances of making the exotics, but this horse might need more real estate than what this turf sprint offers.
Ricky’s Picks: 7-3-4-6
Race 5: $78,000 MSW for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies going 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt
One of the first-timers in this field, #2 Thea’s Theme, was sired by the multiple Grade 1 winner Bayern, who has had a good start with his first crop. Her workouts have been mightily impressive, particularly her last one on July 31 over a wet fast surface. Jeremiah Englehart and Jose Ortiz have been a deadly combo this year, connecting at 17%. This might be Thea’s Theme’s coming-out party.
Another first-timer who will likely vie for favoritism with Thea’s Theme is #7 Lady Kaza. Chad Brown is two-for-six with 2-year-olds through this point in the meet. Lady Kaza’s best work was back on July 21, going 4 furlongs in :48.05. Brown and owner Team Hanley have been raving about this filly, and why not? Like Thea’s Theme, this could be the beginning of a very successful career.
#8 A d’Oro is a first-time filly sired by Alpha, who showed his Saratoga prowess by claiming victory in the Woodward, the Travers, and the Jim Dandy. Brad Cox likes what she’s been doing in the mornings, but this horse might want more distance. Her pedigree speaks to this notion, and her morning workouts haven’t been all that quick. She might blow this field away, but even if she doesn’t, keep an eye on her moving forward.
The filly with prior experience that I like the most is #1 Funnypointofview. Debuting on June 23, she was a distant second to Time Limit, who then competed in the Stillwater Stakes at the beginning of this meet. I don’t think that anyone in this field will be able to replicate what Time Limit did in that MSW. Even if she does’t win here, Funnypointofview should be able to hit the board and is a must-use in all exotics.
Ricky’s Picks: 2-7-8-1
Race 5: $78,000 MSW for New York-bred 2-year-olds going 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt
An inexperienced field in a dirt sprint leads me to the outside horse #6 Brilliant Brooks. I like his sire, Candy Ride, who came from Argentina in 2003 and won all three starts, including the Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar. This colt was purchased at last year’s Saratoga Yearling Sale for $250,000 and has hit the ground running since returning to The Spa, posting several consistent workouts over the local surface. Trainer Jeremiah Englehart has won five of his 12 starts (42%) with 2-year-olds so far this meet.
I would be lying if I said that #8 Dangerous Edge shouldn’t be the favorite in this spot. His last workout, going 5 furlongs in 1:00.56 from the gate, looked amazing. He looks ready to go; it’s his connections that keep me from putting this uber-talented horse on top. George Weaver has one victory against 14 entries this meet and so far hasn’t had great results, and Eric Cancel has won once in 26 mounts. This colt might be better than the rest, the numbers stopped me from putting him on top.
#7 Dream Bigger had a 4-furlong workout in: 48:09 on the dirt this past Saturday. When a horse posts a crazy-quick time only five days before he runs, it makes me wonder: did the work take too much out of him, or will be he raring to go? I’m going to side with the latter. Plus, when John Velazquez rides for Repole Stable, it usually produces results.
Michael Stidham will send #4 Perpetrate to the track as another first-timer in this field. He has been training very well down at Monmouth Park but doesn’t have an official workout here at The Spa. Out of Distorted Humor, Perpetrate has all the dirt pedigree in the world and should like this surface. The ultimate question is, will not having an official work over the local track hurt him or not affect him at all?
Ricky’s Picks: 6-8-7-4
Race 6: $90,000 MSW for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and upward going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf
This fantastic field of slightly more experienced horses will look to capture their first wins on the turf. #6 Tan and Tight showed a lot of promise in her turf debut earlier in the meet. She took the lead in sensible fractions but couldn’t hold on late. In my estimation, Tan and Tight will use that experience and do a better job up top. There is a lot of early speed in here, and it’s up to Irad Ortiz, Jr., to lay off a quick pace if it materializes. Tan and TIght was urchased for $250,00 twice at auction, and her younger full sister Mo Clare’s sold for $350,000 earlier this year, so there’s talent in her veins.
#7 Brittas Bay shortens up here as she tries to claim her first victory after failing to do so in her first six starts. A filly that needs the lead, she will most certainly be hustled out. She is a logical horse to use, but I’m not sure how many chances she deserves after failing to hold onto the lead multiple times. I’ll give her a shot here, but if she can’t hold on here, then it might be my last.
Dermot Magner sends #3 Bye Bye Nicky out after three disappointing finishes. She had the lead against lesser competition back at Monmouth Park on June 16, where as the 1/2 favorite, she failed to hold onto the lead and faded to third. Peaceful, who finished second, returned on July 13 to beat Tan and Tight, my top pick. Magner doesn’t have great overall numbers in 2019, but he does excel in the MSW condition, firing at 24%.
#8 Erin More looks like a talented filly and posted a 4-furlong work over the turf in :48.85, but some questions do arise with her. Why hasn’t she debuted before now? Does she need a couple of races’ worth of experience before she claims victory? Jose Ortiz certainly will keep her near the front, but I expect more of a stalking trip with so much early speed entered. In her first career start, I’m not sure what she’ll do, but she’s very intriguing, nonetheless.
Ricky’s Picks: 6-7-3-8
Race 4: $78,000 MSW for New York-bred 2-year-olds going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf
#6 Shandian is one of a few entered here who have prior experience over the track. His pedigree and morning works speak to the speed of which he will impose on this field. Sired by Emcee, he possesses an early turn of foot that I think can put this field away. In his last race, earlier in the meet, he got to the lead with ease but didn’t have enough to hold off City Man. Switching from dirt to turf hasn’t been great for Gary Contessa, but that race was originally scheduled for turf, so don’t put much stock into it. This horse should have enough talent to go gate-to-wire.
There has been a lot of buzz here at Saratoga surrounding #10 Lord Camden. He was bred to run on the grass. His sire Freud won multiple races across the pond and only ran on turf. Lord Camden’s last morning workout (albeit on the dirt) is competitive with anyone here at Saratoga, going 4 furlongs in :47.69. Mark Casse seems to have this one keyed up for a strong showing here.
#5 Love Me Tomorrow comes into this race with two prior starts (both on dirt) to her name, where she showed early speed. Wesley Ward will have her try the turf, and based on his numbers, this should work out well. In 2019, Wesley Ward is winning at 32% from the dirt/turf switch, and when Dylan Davis rides for him, they have won four of 12 mounts.
Finally, I will look all the way to the rail with #1 Go Rudy Go. I usually stay away from horses on the rail in turf sprints due to the distance and the inability to create position. In this particular situation, though, Rudy Rodriguez sends out this entry who more than likely was named after his trainer/co-owner. Go Rudy Go has turf pedigree on the dam’s side, and though Rodriguez has been struggled so far at Saratoga, he attracted Jose Lezcano, who is a fantastic turf rider.
Ricky’s Picks: 6-10-5-1
Race 6: $90,000 MSW for 2-year-old fillies going 5 1/2 Furlongs on the turf
Let’s look at some of the outside horses, starting with #7 Indochine. Purchased in the September 2018 Keeneland Yearling Sale for $470,000, she has been running amazingly in the mornings and certainly looks the part. Chad Brown has been spectacular in every which way, and having aboard Irad Ortiz, Jr., doesn’t hurt. Look for this filly to make a big impact in her very first start.
To argue that #8 Divided Sky isn’t 110% bred for the turf would be a waste of time. Bred in Ireland, this is the only surface that she knows. This filly has been scratched twice when trying to debut: once because a race was rained off of the turf and once because she was on the Also Eligible list. She should be very competitive in this field, between her pedigree and the Jockey/Trainer combination of Wesley Ward and John Velazquez.
#2 She’s Into Me was sired by Into Mischief, who just so happens to be the father of Risky Mischief, a 7 1/2-length winner that I picked on top last week. I’m not saying She’s Into Me will be able to replicate that performance, but I do like that Into Mischief produced a first-time winner just last week. Jose Ortiz will be aboard this filly, and every horse that he gets aboard seems to be a contender. Her morning works have been at 4 and 5 furlongs recently, which usually means that she will want longer distances down the road.
Another intriguing Chad Brown entry in here is #4 Voting Agreement. Like Divided Sky, Voting Agreement was an Also Eligible scratch in a previous attempt at debuting. Her most recent work of :48.43 for 4 furlongs was slightly quicker than Indochine, who ran it in :48.58 that same morning. More Than Ready, a million-dollar earner in his own right, also produced Rushing Fall and Catholic Boy, who have both won major turf stakes.
Ricky’s Picks: 7-8-2-4
Good luck to everyone playing and be sure to follow me on Twitter @RickyP_15 for more NYRA race previews!
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