We are going all over the place today, starting with the G1 Haskell Invitational, and, then, the full card analysis at Saratoga. We will be adding Ellis Park’s full card handicapping and select races from Del Mar, as well.
So button up and button down…Get ready for another fine ride…
Grade 1 Haskell Invitational: This one has drawn a field of 7, and it may be the deepest race for the 3YO colts this year, outside of the Kentucky Derby. Certainly, it has some of the most talented runners we have seen all year in the division. I start with my pick, and my Bet of the Day: McCraken. If you have followed us all spring, you know that this son of Ghostzapper has been my top selection since he stepped foot on the track in the Sam Davis at Tampa to begin the year. He was very impressive that day, easily whipping a field that included eventual Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit. After that race, he wrenched an ankle in morning practices, and trainer Ian Wilkes was playing catch up the rest of the Spring. He was short when finishing a game third in the Blue Grass Stakes, which has turned out to be one heck of a race for talented runners. (Irap, after running poorly in the Kentucky Derby, has won the Ohio Derby and the Indiana Derby back to back; Practical Joke was 5th in the Derby and won the Dwyer; McCraken won the Matt Winn.) Then, he suffered an injury right out of the gate in the Derby. Despite what you read in the DRF, it was a serious injury that could have been much worse. The colt sustained a punter would on his left hind, that cut deep and dangerously close to several key soft tissue areas. The possibility of infection was severe in that area. Despite that, Wilkes got the colt back in good shape and he swept to an impressive victory in the Matt Winn Stakes (the same race that Gun Runner won a year ago after the Derby experience). The two horses that finished behind McCraken that night have come back to run impressive races. And, McCraken has trained superbly for an outstanding conditioner. He should get a perfect stalking position behind speedsters, and, with any luck at all, be in a prime position at the 1/8th pole to make that run again. Practical Joke and Timeline both go for the barn of trainer Chad Brown and I think both could be right there at the wire, by different means. Practical Joke is a patient sort, who will stalk the lead pretty much the entire trip. He has one run, but he does NOT like two turns. That compromises his win chances, but he is game enough to catch the board nearly every time out. Timeline, on the other hand, is a master of speed control. He can go; or he can go right behind and wait his turn. He is an undefeated 4-for-4 and has won over this track. HOF jock JJ Castellano is heating back up after a slump, of sorts. And, this horse has some serious gas when he wants to use it. Problem is that Irish War Cry may play “cat and mouse” with him in this one. And, if they hook up too early, it could compromise Timeline’s chances at the end. Hence, who came from far back to nip McCormick (another Wilkes horse; who was McCraken’s training mate earlier this year) in the Iowa Derby, figures to be the true closer in this one and may make an interesting run late in it. And, we haven’t even mentioned Battle of Midway, who was third in the Kentucky Derby, and Girvin, who won the Louisiana Derby. Still, here is how I figure it: McCraken — Timeline — Practical Joke — Hence — Battle of Midway/Irish War Cry.
Now, on to Saratoga:
1st: 3-1-2…G3 Shuvee Stakes: Only three entries for a G3 Event? Is this California? I can’t believe someone didn’t take a crack at this to try and get some Black type for the pedigree. But, any way, it is a talented group. I go with Terra Promessa (3), who ran a really good one against the talented mare Stellar Wind two back and then crushed a field of 7 in the G3 DuPont Distaff at Pimlico at this same distance. Has the speed to set her own race pro forma and should be ready to roll. Apologynotaccepted (1) is all speed and will gun for the lead early. Has one second at this distance in one try and may get out good enough to hold. Paid Up Subscriber gave the world champ Songbird a run for her money in the last and only got beat a length. My question is this: does she really want to go this far? I don’t think so. I bet the 3 to win (solidly), and then key over the 1/2.
2nd: 4-3-6-7…Bargaining Table (4) is a 7YO mare (don’t see many of them still at the races) that takes a bump up in class after two wins in a row. She could make it three today, with a clean run from the back. Industrial Policy (3) drops in class for Mark Casse, but hasn’t been close in her last two. Before that, she hit the board in four of six — but not close to a win. I think good enough to run close today, but, perhaps, not good enough. Frozen Hannah (6) goes for a barn operation that gets way more credit than true results. Did win her last at Ellis Park, but will face much tougher today. I bet the 4 to win/place and then key over/under the rest of the numbers listed.
3rd: 6-3-4-2-7…Augie’s Coming (6) has been ITM in 6 of 8 lifetime races and has the numbers to come right back to win at this level again. Aired last time out by 4 lengths and will show enough speed early on to get good position with a clean break. Enduring Honor (3) takes a huge class drop even though he nearly won in his last start at Indiana. Faces tougher here, obviously, but should close with a rush, if clear. Dunk a Din (4) is a horse I have watched very carefully and awaited his return since his run on June 11 at Churchill Downs. Was caught wide in that disappointing effort, but gets a huge rider switch today and a plummet to a career low level. Watch out. My longshot play is Linkappleyard (7), who raced one time last year and has only 5 career starts. Training well for a return and this NY-bred may shock. I bet the 6 to win/place and then box the 6-3-4 in one exacta. I then play the 6-4 over/under all the other numbers listed, as well.
4th: 7-6-3-4-8-9…Six Schillings (7) is a first time gelding and that should help this one, who has had some focus issues in the past. Trainer tried blinkers and that seemed to help and this equipment change may provide more assistance in that area. Won sprinting on the grass at Arlington in his last. Now tries the big time. Axtell (6) gets a class drop despite hitting the board in his last six with 2 wins, 2 seconds and 2 thirds. I can’t dismiss. Rate for Me (3) just won his maiden for George Weaver, who is a sneaky good trainer. This one won despite being steading at the 1/8th pole. Takes a pretty good effort to do that. May be on the improve. I bet the 7 to win/place and then box the 7-6-3 in the exacta.
5th: 7-4-1-6-8…A dynamite MSW event for 2YO fillies. All 8 of these are contenders. I go with the first time starter memorial Drive (7), who is owned by WS Farish and trained by Steve Asmussen. This one is by Smart Strike and has shown some lick in the a.m. Rider is ice cold at the Spa, but did cash a win on Saturday. Radiant Beauty (4) gets blinkers after flattening out in her first try A little improvement though could give this daughter of Orb a big shot today. Separationofpowers (1) is a first time starter for Chad Brown. Everything from his barn is cranking these days. I bet the 7 to win/place and then box the 7-4-1 in one exacta and then key the 7-4-1 over/under the 6-8.
6th: 1-5-6-3-7-8…All About Voodoo (1) gets the strong nod in this spot. Had a big chance in his career debut, but had to hit the breaks hards at the 1/8th pole. Still, only got beat a length in that one and gets a huge, huge rider change. That was at Gulfstream in June (when the competition is not that deep and wide), and will face tougher today. But I still like his chances. Run Time (5) ran a big one against Hiroglyphics (who was impressive in a win here on Saturday) two back. A similar effort today and he will be tough. Im the Captain Now (5) had a similar experience three back when he caught the super impressive Yoshida at Keeneland. Will be closing ground again today and a clean trip makes this one dangerous, too. My “sleeper” in this one is Bushmill’s Legend (3) for Weaver. He ran closer to Hiroglyphics that did Run Time (look at three back here), but this one is 12-1 ML. I have to use. I bet the 1 to win/place and I bet the 3 across the board. In the exactas I key the 1-3 over/under all the other numbers listed. And, I box the 1-5-6 in another.
7th: 8-1-2-9-6-7…I may have finally found a “dot” horse (must use). Generous Kitten (8) takes the plunge today, having run in 7 stakes races in a row (5 of which were Graded) to the Claiming-$32K ranks today. Fire sale here by Ken & Sarah Ramsey, who love to get their picture taken at Saratoga. I jump in with both feet on this one and bet to win/place and key over/under all the other numbers listed.
8th: 7-3-5-2-8…Best Bet of the Day comes here, at very low odds (8-5 ML). Syndergaard (7), who seemed to wake up a bit in his last effort, goes against state breds again today, and should benefit from his steady string of conditioning works by Pletcher. If he is right today, I don’t think any of these can touch him. I bet to win only and then wheel over/under the numbers listed.
9th: 10-4-2-9-8…Wide open affair here, but I go with J.S. Choice (10), who is 6-1 ML. Nice price play and another one returning for the Pletcher barn. Raced only once this year and tired in that one against two horses that have already come back to win again. Could be ready today. Kantune (4) won his last and has hit the board at this distance all three times he has tried it (no wins). Rider switch on this one could help. I normally hate betting horses moving up out of maiden races to face winners for the first time, but I really like Lucullan (2) in here today. Draws the rail for the second straight time (and that’s no bargain on this course; at this distance), but could carve out a nice stalking move from there. If he can get clear when the running gets serious, this one has turf talent. I bet the 10 & 2 to win/place/show and then key the two of them over/under the others numbers listed.
10th: 3-9-1-6-2…The nod in today’s finale goes to Pioneer Spirit (3) for the barn of Jason Servis. This guy can flat out train and positions his horses in races to WIN. No different in this spot. Drops into the claiming ranks for the first time off four good efforts. I can’t dismiss Tu Exageres, though. I’ve been watching for this one to return to the races ever since he was nearly murdered in a straight MSW event at Gulfstream on March 25. Shows up today for a top notch operation that can get them ready at this distance and off a layoff. I bet the 3 & 9 to win/place and then key the duo over/under all the other numbers. I hit the 3-9 exacta box one time, too.
Now, on to Ellis Park, which has a tough & good card today…
1st: 10-3-7-8-5-6…Top Tiara (10) gets top rider Corey Lanerie in the saddle today and a class drop. Could trigger a first trip to the circle for this stalker who shortens up and gets back on the lawn. Will try to go and drop over. Numbers Game (3) gets a huge drop for hot trainer Buff Bradley and has been training well. Needs something to wake her up. Glistening Star (7) was a beaten favorite here last out, but ran well. I bet the 10 to win/place and then box the 10-3-7 in one exacta and then key the 10-3 over/under the rest.
2nd: 4-8-3-1-6-5…Another wide open affair, but I go back to the old war horse Ice Cream Truck (4). Lanerie gets off today after two poor performances, but the class drop may wake this one back up and the 7YO has hit the board 32 times in his career. So, he knows how to finish. True Ten (8) gets Lanerie services today and a class drop, as well. That combo could be the trick, again. Harlan’s Howling (3) has not run well since Turfway Park, but has back class. I go with the 4-8 to win/place; box them in one exacta and then key them over/under the rest.
3rd: 2-9-3-1-5-4…Shezaprado (2) is a dead closer who is plummeting out of the top ranks all the way to C16K today. This one tried Salty in the Gulfstream Park Oaks two back. If this move doesn’t open her eyes and the door to the circle, I don’t know what could. Open Invitation (9) goes for a hot barn here and ran a solid race for these connections in her first try after a claim two back. Could contend today. North of Eden (3) is the horse that I think could move up today, for a little known operation. Has 6 ITM finishes in 9 starts on grass. I bet the 2 to win/place and then key over/under all the rest.
4th: 5-3-1-6-9…Doctor C. picks up Lanerie and Lasix for the first time and has worked well since her debacle in her career debut here on July 2. Should run better today. Trainer Steve Asmussen has another one in here, too, and she should have a chance, as well. Whew (3) has been training like a good one at Keeneland and gets the saddle for the first time in the afternoon today. No Partners (1) faced tough ones in her first two and gets a lot of relief in class today. I bet the 5-3 to win/place and then key them over/under all the other numbers. I box the Asmussen’s to run first and second, as well.
5th: 6-3-5-9-10…Avail Ekati (6) gets a class drop for a top barn and should fit right there with these today. Walker’s Way (3) picks up Lanerie for the first time and this closer should perform well off the drop, too. Malibu West (5) comes out of a slick MC win here on July 22. Eight days later, trainer Mike Maker is wheeling right back. That is normally a good sign. Take heed. I bet the 6 to win/place and then box the 6-3-5.
6th: 3-10-8-4-5-2…What a nice race here and keys a 4 race string of good ones to finish the weekend at the Ole’ Pea Patch. Tough to separate all of these, but I go with Private Vigilante (3), who cost a handy $180,000 as a yearling and has been working well here. Gets a top rider, too. Ian Wilkes will be more focused on getting McCraken to the winner’s circle in the G1 Haskell, but his first timer Gotta Go (10) is by Shanghai Bobby, cost $250,000 and has been training well at Churchill. He normally doesn’t have them totally cranked for a debut, but has done well with 2YOs this year. Shakedown (8) was a huge favorite in his first out, but got hung 6-wide in that one and faltered at the end. Lanerie is back and they will be tough. Note Here / Warning Sign: Best of Greeley is making his 2YO debut for the same connections that won the 8th race at Ellis on Saturday as our Best Bet of the Day. This is another son of Greeley’s Conquest and crossed the exact same way — out of a Langfuhr mare. This one is making his first start, but has shown signs of life in the a.m. Trainer Gary Thomas picked up his first win of the year on Saturday with Greeley and Ben (at 12-1 odds). He may go for win #2 today. I bet the 3 to win/place and then box the 3-10-8. But I have to use the 2, as well. A small bet across the board and key 2 over/under the “all button.”
7th: 3-6-9-5-8-1-4…Wow. Another tough one here. I go with Flying Tipat — a 5YO Tapit mare trained by Dale Romans. She has run some good ones against tougher, but this is no easy walk today. Gets a rider that I have never heard of before, so it will be interesting to watch how that plan works out. Conquest Bandido (6) ran third in a stakes race at Prairie Meadows in her last and is by the super hot sire Into Mischief. Solid chance here. Walking the Kitten (9) moves up off the claim in her last, when she was wide throughout. I have to use the 12-1 longshot Pour Girl, as well. She won a tough allowance at Keeneland this spring and has talent. I bet the 3 to win/place and then key over/under all the rest. I take a small win/place/show wager on the 5, as well.
8th: 5-3-1-2-9-6…Champagne Problems (5) has been knocking heads and on the door. She may get through today with a little racing luck, which she will need with rider Calvin Borel. They will be coming late, and probably up the rail. Dreamcall (3) is an Asmussen-Lanerie special, who lost to the top choice in her career debut. She is another deep closer who will be looking for racing room late. Soft Cheeze and Wholehearted (1 & 1A) go for the barn of Ken McPeek and both have a shot. I have tracked the latter all year and she got the win in her last. Moves up to face winners today, but she has a ton of talent. I bet the 5 to win/place and then key over/under all the rest in this spot.
9th: 7-5-1-9-6-10-11…A MSW event on the turf ends the weekend with a wide open, classy field. I go with Sakonnet, who has hit the board in 4 of his 5 lifetime starts. He gave Cowboy Culture — a real good one — a run for his money in the G3 Arlington Classic two races back. Anything close to that effort and he will be tough to handle here. Flash Harry (5) goes for the classy barn of Wilkes and Company. This homebred colt by Arch has run two huge efforts in a row on the grass and will be coming off a stalking position for Calvin Borel in this one. Probably on the rail. Again. Iconic (1) is a real talent from the barn of Dale Romans. I was touted on this one before his last, and he got caught 7 wide in that one. Gets this new rider today and he if finds a softer trip, then he could light it up. Don’t dismiss. I bet the 7-1 to win/place/show and then key the two of them over/under all the rest.
Good Luck &
All the Best/Gene