Update: Copper Bullet — who was our bet of the day at Saratoga — did exactly what we predicted today.  He dominated the field in the Saratoga Special to once again stamp himself as one of the top 2YOs in the country.

After a horrific ride in the Bashford Manor all but cost the colt any chance of winning that night, trainer Steve Asmussen switched to one of New York’s best today — Irad Ortiz.

We predicted that if Oritz could simply guide this talented colt out of the gate and get him a clean run, that Copper Bullet was fully capable of doing all the rest of the work.

That proved true, as Copper Bullet — feeling very spunky in the paddock before the race and on his toes throughout the post parade — easily dispatched his competition in the Saratoga Special and ran off to an impressive display of power, quickness and durability.  

The colt proved his worth, and we hope you took our advice and jumped on board of this very handsome payoff.

Today, we return our attention and focus to the card at Ellis Park — which will feature the only Graded Stakes of the track’s 2017 meet — the G3 Groupie Doll.  And, it is a wonderful race, full of potential winners and possible upset contenders.

In addition, we take a look at the G2 Saratoga Special for 2YOs up at “The Spa.”

Have fun.  It is a beautiful day. I’m headed to “The Spa of the South” — Ellis Park.  Looking forward to seeing a lot of good friends and great races.

Ellis Park Picks:

1st: 8-9-1-2…This MC5 for Fillies & Mares 3YO & Up is a tough one, for sure. And, a hard one for me to decipher with any true conviction. But I finally go with Whiskey Chick (8), more because of the trainer than the filly. She is dropping in class and has a good work at Churchill to support her case. Golden Fire Fly (9) worked a bullet over this track surface on July 25 — before her last race on July 30.  She showed a little, contending speed in that one on the turf, and now returns to the dirt. Gets a small bump down the claiming ranks, as well. Saturday Allstar (1) is part of an entry for Carol Cobb.  Both have the same rider named, so one is likely to scratch.  If it is this one, then I go on down to the 2.  I bet the 8 to win/place and then box the 8-9-1 or the 8-9-2 if the 1 is scratched.

2nd: 3-9-1-6…Colonel Swinson (3) gets his first afternoon test since February and drops all the way from C16K to C5K.  That, alone, should make me a contender.  This deep closer loses the meet’s top rider, in Corey Lanerie, but picks up a top jock in BJ Hernandez. Has trained well at Churchill for this return and trainer Scooter Dickey has saddled two winners out of four starters this meet. Empire Taker (9) is a true closer who had a good third on the turf here July 16.  Returns to the dirt today and has hit the board in 10 of 25 career starts.  May not win, but likes to shake up the tote board. Beachtown Benny (1) ran in the same race as Empire Taker, and faded fast after making the lead for the first half that 11/16-mile event. He has his only win at this distance on dirt and gets another drop down the ladder. If he can return to the form he showed at Oaklawn Park in April, he will gas and air this field. I bet the 3-1 across the board and then wheel those two over/under the other numbers listed.

3rd: 2-6-5-3-10-9-1…This is a really nice 2YO MSW event on the grass going 1 Mile.  I go with Ship Stalker (2), a first timer who is trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Lanerie.  This combo have teamed up to win half of their 10 starts here this meet and have a .35 win percentage over the past two years. This one fired a serious bullet work here n Aug. 6 and looks primed. Bantu (6) has the advantage of making a start. And, it was a good one.  He ran a solid second as the favorite, but was fanned 6 wide in that one.  Trainer Brendan Walsh switches to Joe Rocco today, with hopes that he can find a more direct route.  Watch out for this one. Bryzzo (5) is a Medaglia d’Oro colt that cost $500,000 as a yearling and comes from the barn of Dale Romans. Training schedule amped up to a 5F move on Aug. 7.  May need a race, but I can’t skip this pedigree. Valdashian (3) is a homebred colt trained by Steve Asmussen. This one had a nice work over this track on Aug. 6. I can’t leave out, either.  I bet the 2-6 to win/place and then wheel those two over/under the rest of the numbers listed.

4th: 5-8-1-4-2-10-7…Another nice MSW event, this one for the 3YOs going a mile. I land on Tapsolute (5), who is a Tapit colt that I have backed, supported, bet and rooted for in the past.  I will do so again today, with hopes that he can break the code with race 8 in his career.  Gets Lanerie back in the saddle, and that should help this one — who has faced the likes of Meantime, Hollywood Handsome, Multiplier and Arklow already in his career. Don’t see any of those in here today. Leading Cause (8) is another one who has been knocking on the door, with 4 ITM finishes in 5 starts. Ran a good second here on July 22 and a repeat of that performance will be tough to beat. Yondering (1) will be making his third career start and third in this cycle for trainer Ian Wilkes.  Do not dismiss this one. I bet the 5 to win/place/show and then box the 5-8-1 in one exacta and then key the 58-1 over/under the other numbers.

5th: 2-9-1-7-8-3-4…Rise Up (2), who has earned nearly $1.2 million in his career, has lodged three seconds in four starts this year.  He has the speed to go all the way in this one and has been ITM in 8 of 11 starts at this mile distance.  But…There is a ton of speed in this race.  May set up better for Wabel (9) a solid closer who will race for the first time as a gelding.  Sharp Art (1) is another true closer, who could benefit from a pace war. I bet the 2-9 to win/place and then key the 2-9 over/under all the others listed.

6th: 7-10-3-2-1-5…Another good MSW event, this one for 2YOs going a mile on the turf.  I go with Strategic Ekati, from the Asmussen barn.  Gets Lanerie for his first out and has been training well — the last few locally.  Grandpa Frank (10) is another from the barn of Brad Cox.  Cox and Asmussen are fighting it out for the trainer’s title here, which does mean something to these guys. This one has the benefit of a race and worked well before that start on July 22 and afterwards. Look out. Nickie’s Papa (3) is a first time gelding and gets his first start here after two up North.  I bet the 7-10 to win/place and then key the duo over/under the rest of the numbers listed.

7th: 11-2-9-12-3-1-8…The 10th running of the Cliff Guilliams Stakes, named after a former writer and chart caller for the DRF and truly one of the best guys to ever step foot in a press box. Cliff and I shared a many afternoon at Keeneland, and always laughed and joked about how serious some people (including one turf writer) took life and themselves. We all miss the Cliff Guilliams of the world; better for people like him having walked and talked. I go with Pleuven (11), the French-bred gelding. He won this race a year ago, and has five ITM finishes in seven tries at this 11/16-mile distance on the turf.  Ran a poor one at Churchill in June, but had no racing room down on the inside that day. Lanerie gets back up and a clean trip will make this one very tough to beat. Chocolate Ride (2) is a very consistent type and has 7 ITM finishes in 9 tries at the distance. Ran a huge one two back in the G2 Wise Dan at Churchill and a duplicate of that effort will be tough to beat here. Flatlined (9) has not been close in his last four outs, but two of those were in G1 events. If he can find the run that he showed at Gulfstream Park this past winter, he will be difficult to beat.  I bet the 11 win/place/show and then key the 11 over/under all the rest.

8th: 9-8-1-7-11-10…The 36th running of the G3 Groupie Doll Stakes, named after the beautiful filly owned by former Kentucky State Senator Fred Bradley and trained by his son, Buff Bradley.  Ellis Park will dedicate much of this day to honor the late Senator, who was a dear friend and mine who taught me so much about politics, lobbying, and life when I first went to Frankfort on behalf of the KTA-KTOB.  A true character, who lived life with enthusiasm and zest.  We all could use a few more Fred Bradleys in the world. This is my Best Bet of the Day: Walkabout (9). This filly had four straight impressive races — including a win in a tough allowance race at Keeneland this spring and a victory in the G3 Matron Stakes at Churchill — before hitting a wall in her last two.  That is a wall both literally and figuratively.  She ran up against Forever Unbridled in the G2 Fleur de Lis Stakes at Churchill and there was no beating her that day, and then she went out to Prairie Meadows for a try in the Iowa Distaff, where she could have easily won — but she ran up inside behind a wall of horses and was absolutely blocked.  Today, she gets BJ Heranndez back in the saddle and that is a HUGE rider improve for this one. With a clean trip, I think she returns to the winner’s circle for trainer Ian Wilkes. Tiger Moth (8) is another true closer who needs a clean trip, and she gets a huge rider improvement today, too, with the switch to Lanerie.  The top two should be hooked up late. My Longshot Special of the Day also comes in this one, with Put Da Blame On Me (1), who has two impressive victories and a second since she was equipped with blinkers three races back.  She is 8-1 ML and may go up in the odds game. There’s a ton of speed in here, and she is likely to go early from the rail.  But if she can somehow conserve enough for the stretch, she may be tough to pass. I bet the 9 to win/place and then box the 9-8-1 in one exacta, and then key the 9-8-1 over/under the others listed in another.  I try a small WPS bet on the 1, too.

9th: 8-4-7-2…Kielbasa (8) goes for trainer Lon Wiggins and has run two nice ones in a row since been eased out of a race at Churchill Downs in May.  At this level, could be good again. Afleet Jay (4) gets a nice drop in class for JR Caldwell and that should give this one a better chance of making the circle. Elwood’s Advice (7) ran a good one in his last before faltering at the end. I bet the 8 to win/place and then box the top three picks in the exacta.

The Saratoga Special:

8th: 9-2-3-4-8-1…Copper Bullet (9) was compromised greatly in the G3 Bashford Manor on June 30 at Churchill Downs.  The ride made absolutely no sense whatsoever.  He gunned up to take the lead and what looked to be command of the race, before he was suddenly throttled back and towards the rail behind horses. Then he was steered out, and had to steady sharply.  Horrific ride. Today, gets a change to Irad Ortiz, and if he can give him a clean run, then this one should prove to be tough as nails. Another Best Bet of the Day. Mo Diddley (2) has talent, too, and could be in a stood stalking position, but I think is second best, at best, to the preferred choice.  I bet the 9 to win/place and then key, solidly, over/under the 2 in one exacta; and then all the numbers, again, in another.

Good Luck &

All the Best/Gene