What a race day, right? Seven Graded Stakes races, six of which are Grade 1s. Purses for the 7 Graded Stakes races total nearly $5 Million. And, the caliber of the races are fantastic. Here is a closer look at the entire race card, which begins at 11:35 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26.
1st: 8-2-5-6-1-4…Good Magic (8) is a first timer from the barn of Chad Brown, who has hit the board with 60 of 96 starters. Amazing stats. This one has been training great for his career debut, including a work on Aug. 20 when he zipped 4Fs in :47 4/5. That was the third best time out of 55 to go that distance. Sitting on go. Hazit (2) is a first timer for Todd Pletcher, Brown’s arch nemeses as the duel for the trainer’s title here. This son of War Front cost $430,000 this spring at OBS. Working well for this one, but may prefer the grass. Road to Meath (5) is another pupil of Browns, and he has been working well, too, and gets the hottest rider for the stable and the meet’s leading rider in Jose Ortiz. I bet the 8 to win/place and then box the 8-2-5 in one exacta.
2nd: 9-8-7-3-5-2-1…Focus Group (9) is another from the barn of Chad Brown. Broke his maiden in his last out, and I rarely bet horses moving up out of that condition. But these are unusual circumstances. This one rallied from well back off the pace to zip right on to an impressive victory, and the ran a credible third in his career debut last fall against Oscar Performance — a G1 winner now. I wheel right back on this one. Holiday Bonus (8) ran lights out in a Stakes race at Monmouth Park in his last one, and, normally, this would be my top pick. Richmond Street (7) went 6 wide at the upper stretch in the last and now gets a new rider. Wonder why? I bet the 9 to win/place and then box the 9-8-7 in one exacta, and then wheel the top three choices over the rest of the numbers in another.
3rd: 2-6-4-8-10-9-1-(12)…Chirping (2) is 12-1 ML, but I think will figure well on the stretch out in this spot. Hit the gate at the start of his career debut and still made up ground on a good winner. Has come back to work at Fair Hill for top trainer Tom Proctor. Concern is the rider, who is having a super cold meet and off year, to hard boot. Fortune Cookie (6) should stretch out nicely, too, and lost his career debut to a colt who came right back to win. Should benefit from the last one. Magnanimus Man (4) comes from the barn of Wesley Ward, who does well with 2YOs on the turf. Can’t leave out the ML fav in Neepawa, who did close to just get nipped in his first start here on Aug. 5. Did route in that one and should be fit enough today. I bet the 2 to win/place/show and then box the 2-6-4 in one exacta box and then key the 2-6-4 over/under the rest of the numbers listed.
4th: 9-6-4-3-1…Sticksstatelydude (9) has hit the board in 6 of last 8 starts and comes off an impressive win in the G3 Discovery — but that was last November. This one could pop right off the bench, though, and has been working fantastic for a top trainer. Shaft of Light (6) did not like the polytrack two back, but had two wins before that debacle. A return to that form makes this one tough for a trainer have a great year. Threefiveindia (4) is another Brown horse, and has hit the board in 6 of the last 8 starts and 7 of the last 10 (3 wins). Can’t dismiss. I bet the 9 to win/place and then box the 9-6-4 in one exacta, and then play those three numbers over the 3-1 in another exacta.
5th: 10-1-4-8-7…Cerise’s Prince (10) drops back to the allowance ranks after trying Stakes company in the last. Burned out in that affair, but had won the two races before, with another second after donning the blinkers. Should rebound against these, with a return to Irad Ortiz in the saddle. Profiteer (1) has been on my HTW list since his run at Keeneland in the Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland. Had a rough go in that one, and went to the sidelines immediately thereafter. Should be fit for this return today. Cloontia (4) goes for a top barn operation and comes in off two nice runs in a row and a win in his last. Watch out. I bet the 10 to win/place and then box the 10-1-4 in one exacta and then key those three over the 8-7 in another.
6th: 2-4-5-3…The G1 Personal Ensign…It is highly appropriate that the great Songbird will return for this Stakes, named after the undefeated champion who retired with 13 consecutive victories — after a glorious run in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff to nip Derby winner Winning Colors. To makes things even better is that Songbird comes into this one with 13 victories out of 14 starts — with the only blemish being a nose hair loss to the great Beholder in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The champ rules here. Forever Unbridled (4) made a huge run in the BC Distaff to close in on Beholder and Songbird last November, and came right back with a huge effort in the Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 17. I bet the 2 and box the 2-4 in the only exacta.
7th: 3-4-7-5…The G1 Ballerina Stakes…Paulassilverlining (2) has three straight victories by a neck and has won four Stakes in a row (three of them Graded). She is game as the day is long and will be a great mare to meet the great Arrogate when the two are retired to the breeding shed this coming winter. By The Moon (4) has never been off the board in 5 starts at Saratoga, but, at the same time, only has one win here. Hmm. Highway Star (7) could upset the apple cart a bit with another solid, closing run. I bet the 3 to win/place and then box the 3-4-7 in one exacta and key the 3 over/under the other numbers in another.
8th: 9-1-7-5-3-8…The G1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (formerly known as the Kings Bishop)…My top choice here is American Anthem (9), who is shipping in from the West Coast for trainer Bob Baffert, who could have a really nice vacation day at The Spa. This one has been superb at the sprinting distances, and should love this 7F Stakes today. Tough field, for sure. Tougher horse, for sure. Practical Joke (1) returns to a one-turn distance in this one, and he is tough, too. Has been facing the best all spring and summer, but gets back to a distance he should prefer. But he may find winning, again, a bit tough in this spot. Coal Front (7) is undefeated and has done nothing wrong to date. His wins have come impressively and relatively easy. Will face the big boys today, though. Ann Arbor Eddie (5) is my surprise horse in this one. Doug O’Neill knows how to win big races and he didn’t ship this one across the country for the view. I bet the 9 to win/place and key in the Doubles, Pick 3s, Pick 4s. I key him over/under all the numbers listed in the exactas, too, and key him over in the trifecta. Love the 9 in this spot.
9th: 10-6-5-1-8-7-4-2…The G1 Forego Stakes…Drefong (10) is another Baffert colt that will be sprinting today. This one gets the older horses, and, like his stablemate in the race before, I think he will like the outside post. He dumped Mike Smith at the start of his last race, but figures to make a stalking run in this one. He will have to fend out the fast-closing likes of Mind Your Biscuits (6), Awesome Slew (5), Stalllwalkin’ Dude (1) and Tale of S’avall (8), but he is good enough to do just that. I bet the 10 to win/place, and key him, as well, in all the horizontal bets (Doubles, Pick 3s, etc). I also key him over/under the numbers in the exactas.
10th: 7-5-2-6-3…The G1 Sword Dancer Stakes…Idaho (7) is an Irish-bred son of the great Galileo, and he is having a superb year. Comes into this one off a hard-fought 3rd in the Group 1 King George at Royal Ascot. Will make his NA debut, and looks to be the one to beat. Money Multiplier (5) figures to be our best chance at an upset, coming off an impressive victory in the G2 Monmouth Handicap. Sadler’s joy (2) and Erupt (6) could figure in the exotics, as well. I bet the 7 to win/place and then key him over/under all the numbers listed.
11th: 9-3-4-5-6-7-10-8-2…The G1 Travers Stakes…My Best Bet of the Day comes here with the talented 3YO McCraken, who should have won the G1 Haskell Stakes in his last out. Expertly trained by Ian Wilkes, this one has the talent, grit, grind and go-go to get the job done today. He beat Tapwrit in the Sam Davis and the Blue Grass, and he battled injuries both before and during the Derby. He is fit, ready and healthy now. And, at 12-1 ML? I’m blasting. West Coast (3) is another shipper for Baffert, and he is peaking at just the right time of year for a serious run at a championship — which is there for the taking. He will be tough. Tapwrit (4) is gutty and strong and will make his run, too. Good Samaritan (5) had a nice debut on the dirt in the Jim Dandy, but that race pales in comparison to the Haskell. I bet the 9 to win/place/show. I key over/under all the numbers listed in the exactas. And, I key the 9 in all the horizontals, too. I even single the 9 in the Pick 6. This son of Ghostzapper is ready to break into the big time with a power performance here.
12th: 1-2-6-5-4-3…The G2 Ballston Spa Stakes…Lady Eli (1) was not expected to be entered for this one, but she was — because the trainer thought she was doing so well that he could not turn it down. This is one of the most courageous and gutty mares of our time, and she will run her heart out again today. If that is good enough, she will win. And, I think it will be good enough. Roca Rojo had a horrible trip last time out, going 6 wide into the stretch. Gets a new rider today, and that should help. Dickinson (6) is the only mare in this race to have beaten the top choice. She’s capable at this distance and on her best day. It will take her best day. I bet the 1 to win/place and then box the 1-2-6 in one exacta and then key the 1-2-6 over the 5-4-3 in another.
13th: 11-12-4-6-8-9-10-5…Herecomesyourman (11) was restrained throughout his last race going a mile on the turf here on Aug. 2. If the rider lets this one run on his own, he will be tough to beat in this spot. Look at the race two back. That effort wins this race, IMO. Wingman (12) is another one parked on the outside but he has the ability to stalk the lead and figure out a good trekking position. Prognostication (4) comes from the Brown barn (not the color of the paint!), and that’s enough to make you use him. I bet the 11 to win/place and then box the 11-12-4 in one exacta and then key those three over the rest in another.
Have Fun Today…
And, All the Best/Gene