By Ryan Dickey

It’s that time of year again. In fact, it’s a little earlier than that time of year again, because Saratoga is opening earlier this year to accommodate a five-day racing week. There will still be 40 racing dates, but it will be spread out over eight weeks, dark on Mondays and Tuesdays with the exception of closing day being on Labor Day, as usual.

Throughout the meet, I will be showcasing a few “spot plays”– a small, handful of possible bets without focusing on every single race of the card.

Without further ado (or any ado at all), let’s take a look at the opening day Saratoga card for Thursday, July 11, 2019:

I’ll start the 2019 Saratoga meet by passing on the first race, meaning no early pick-5 play, which, in years past may have been sacrilegious. But the opener is pretty tough, and I have no real lean.

RACE 2– The second race on the card is a maiden special weight, 5½ furlong, turf sprint affair with nine horses entered in the main body and three “main track only” runners. There IS a chance of precipitation in Saratoga Springs throughout the day, but odds are there won’t be enough rain by post time to wash this race off the grass.

The only horse of note in this race is the morning line (and presumptive post time) favorite #2 SAYYAAF who I am tabbing as a SINGLE in the early pick-4. For those brave enough to go six deep in the early pick-5, take some relief by singling the #2 here, as he looks much the best on paper, as well as being very superior on Thoro-Graph.

He won’t bring much return in terms of straight bets, but Sayyaaf looks to be the winner in race 2.

RACE 3– Where there is but one standout in race 2, race 3–a nine furlong allowance race on the dirt–has two. #4 POTOMAC is my top choice in this race, but #6 GROWTH ENGINE should not be far behind. In the early pick-4, I’m going two deep here.

Potomac failed to win last time out, but was wheeled back six days after being claimed after winning his two prior races. He should be forwardly-placed here, and should see eye-to-eye with the #7 THE ROCK SAYS for most of the race.

Growth Engine should be sitting off the early pace and will be gunning for Potomac and The Rock Says late. It’s my contention that Potomac wins and Growth Engine runs down The Rock Says late.

An exacta box of 4,6 for as much as you consider a BIG exacta bet is warranted, as these two should easily finish 1-2. Again, the payout won’t be astronomical, but these are the two most-likely winners.

A straight 4-6-7 Trifecta wouldn’t hurt, either.

RACE 4– My first decent win bet of the meet will be on #5 GOSILENTLY in the one mile $35,000 claiming race on the turf. At 9/2 on the morning line, this six year old Silent Name (JPN) gelding is coming off a 223 day layoff, but should shake off the rust early enough to be the pacesetter.

He has his best chance by winning in wire-to-wire fashion, and as long as the layoff doesn’t terribly affect him, jockey Kendrick Carmouche shouldn’t be passed by any other horse in this race. I’m hoping that the layoff scares other bettors off and keeps his odds near 9/2, but I’d take as low as 3-1 on him to win.

RACE 8– The first graded stakes race of the Saratoga meet is traditionally the Schuylerville and this year is no different. For 2YO fillies going six furlongs on the dirt, this edition of the Grade 3 Schuylerville looks to have a very quick early pace. In fact, most of the entries in this race prefer to be on or near the lead–so we’ll have contentious early quarter mile to be sure.

This race features two horses currently trained by Doug O’Neill that had stellar debuts. The filly that drew the rail, #1 SHIPPY is the one to beat. Her speed figures and ThoroGraph number are the best of the field.

Should she run anywhere near as well as her debut, she wins easily. The question here, of course, is “will the brisk, crowded early pace melt down late causing a deep closer to emerge as the winner?”

My answer to that is, “no.”

I think Shippy (who was sold after breaking her maiden and shipped to the O’Neill barn) has what it takes to be a “special” filly. I think she bests all contenders here–including stablemate #5 COMICAL, who looked good in her own right in her career nod.

My hope here is that Jose Ortiz allows Shippy to utilize her early speed, but is smart enough to ration her energy enough to outlast the others gunning for the front. I expect Shippy to be no more than a length and a half from the early lead, pass those tiring in front of her around the turn for home, and not only stay up, but draw away late–repelling late chargers who sat well off the pace.

I think Shippy will make a splash in the juvenile filly division, and this is her coming out party.

RACE 9– So far, my spot plays haven’t been very bold, but I’m saving the best for last. Race 9 is the Grade 3 Quick Call, a 5-½ furlong turf sprint for three year olds. I’m tabbing a horse that is 10-1 on the morning line. I hope to get more than 8-1 on #2 ELEKTRONIC.

The Linda Rice trained City Zip colt is out of the stakes-winning mare Karakorum Elektra, who won twice at Saratoga at 5-½ furlongs on the turf. Elektronic finished fifth, beaten by 3-¾ lengths last time out, but found himself three wide early and four wide late. So Rice is adding blinkers.

Linda Rice adding blinkers is a positive ROI move, and if ever there’s been a colt that could use them, it’s Elektronic. I think that equipment change will make all the difference, and expect him to be more involved early. The inside post doesn’t hurt, either. Expect a big change in this colt.

#6 CALL PAUL will be heavily bet in this race, as will #4 LISTING and #10 SOMBEYAY. I like the chances of #3 GLADIATOR KING, who should strike to the front early.

I’m going to play a sizeable win bet on #2 ELEKTRONIC and play an exacta key box 2 over 3,4,6,10. 

Best of luck to all playing opening day at the SPAAAAAAAAAAA……….