By Ryan Dickey
Things are heating up at Saratoga. Too much, in fact, as the Saturday race card has already been cancelled due to expected extreme heat. It’s the right thing to do, and for a track that takes in such a large handle, shutting down on a Saturday is a big deal but common sense prevails.
Yesterday I passed on the entire card, and although there were some decent prices early, the rest of the card “chalked out” as I expected it would. But forget about yesterday and tomorrow, let’s talk about today! I have two “spot plays” at Saratoga on this Friday afternoon.
RACE 2 — I fully expect #6 CARRIZO to be the post-time favorite of this race, and am fairly confident #3 FIRST FOREVER will be the second choice on the tote board when the gates open for the second race of the day, a seven furlong $25k claiming race for three year old fillies.
But the one I’m interested in here is #5 QUEEN KAHEN, for trainer Linda Rice, piloted by Irad Ortiz Jr. While I don’t expect to get the 6-1 odds as reflected in the morning line, this one will be a real value at 4-1. She returns to the dirt after a “not great but not terrible” turf sprint first off the claim for owners Drawing Away Stable.
While both my top choice and the presumptive-favorite Carrizo had fourth place finishes last out, Queen Kahen’s last effort looks much better than that of the #6 here, as Carrizo flattened out late in her first try at seven panels. Both fillies are by the stallion Paynter, but Queen Kahen’s female side of the pedigree suggests she may like the extra furlong more than Carrizo.
There is not a ton of speed looking at the early pace scenario, so our Queen is going to have to do something she did not do well at all last race, and that is rate just behind the pacesetter. But I expect her to have enough late kick to make it interesting in the deep stretch, as I’ll have my money on her.
I’ll be betting Carrizo to finish off the board, so this would be a good time to play a trifecta key, with the 5 on top of the 2,3,4 in both the second and third spots. If #2 MOVIE SCORE appreciates the move back to the dirt she may be the “price” exotics bettors love. She has a chance as a double digit longshot.
RACE 6 — The sixth race of the day (and start of the late pick-5) looks on paper to be a wide-open affair. With the exception of the rail horse, #1 TACTICAL PURSUIT, most of the speed in this 1-1/16 mile turf route will come from the outside. While there is plenty of racing room before the first turn on the Mellon turf course, the projected pace of this race may create a very interesting first turn.
#12 HE IZ GONE is a speedster trying the grass for the first time, and jockey Joel Rosario will most likely try to get him to the lead early. To his immediate left is #11 CROSS BORDER, ridden by Luis Saez who could also have designs on getting out early.
#7 CLEAR FOR ACTION and #8 LABEQ have also shown early speed, so they too may add to an early contested pace. With the 1,7,8,11, and 12 all trying to get out early, some of the horses are going to have to try to rate either right behind the leaders or much further back, hoping for a late pace meltdown. Of that group, the one I like the most is #10 WHISKEY IS MY WINE (10-1 morning line) for trainer Jorge Abreu and jockey Jose Ortiz.
Whiskey Is My Wine has two career races under his belt. In his debut, he got out to the early lead, and faltered late, finishing fourth. Last time out, he rated well off the pace, and finished with tremendous closing speed to win by 2-½ lengths. At second call in that race on June 26 at Belmont he was sixth, ten lengths from the leader. At the top of the stretch, he narrowed that margin to 3-½ lengths before taking the lead in deep stretch.
While that’s pretty impressive, he was listed as six wide in the first turn. And here’s where things get interesting. If Jose Ortiz can be patient early in this race today, he can have an opportunity to let the horses to his left and right get out early, and can duck towards the rail, saving ground.
If the pace meltdown comes because of the contentious early pace, Ortiz and Whiskey Is My Wine can be in a great spot to repeat the result from that last race, by passing tiring horses in the second turn and exploding down the lane to the wire.
While I don’t expect to get 10-1 because it’s an Ortiz jockey in New York, I’d be THRILLED with 8-1.
I like the #10 here so much that I’ll use him as a bold single in the late pick-5.
For those playing a trifecta and don’t wish to key a 10-1 morning line shot, box the 2,7,9 and 10.
Best of luck!