This is not a normal Friday in July for racing fans. This is the first Friday of Del Mar’s Summer Meet and it is Opening Day for Saratoga. And, it is Game On Time.
Today, Saratoga — the Great Spa of the North — opens its 149th historic race meeting with a typical, expected, and still glamorous racing card.
Today, Del Mar will play host to the 62nd Running of the Osunitas Stakes at the place Bing Crosby loved to sing about and visit in and around.
So, let the Summer begin. Here is a closer look at the Stakes Races at each today.
First, let’s go to Saratoga. In the 8th, Saratoga will be hosting the G3, $150,000 Schuylerville Stakes for 2YO fillies. And, as usual and as expected, it has attracted a stellar field on wannabes and “will-bes.”
The post-time favorite is likely to be Todd Pletcher’s Stainless, a daughter of Stainless, who won her only start way back earlier this spring (May 29) at Gulfstream Park. She ran down and then by a filly by the name of Gone Astray that day, who spurt off to a quick and early lead. Gone Astray has come back and won, but the real question is who did Stainless beat that day. By that time of year, most of the top trainers — and by virtue of their move, the horses, too — have departed for the warming temps of Kentucky and the better purses of New York. And, as a result, Stainless, who has come along to work well at Saratoga, should be a considered a vulnerable favorite. I, too, think she is suspect — despite the stellar connections.
So, I land on these: 3-7-8-9-2…Best Performance (3), who looks to be the quality closer — and/or stalker — in the field. After breaking her maiden in style, rallying from off the pace, she had a difficult trip in the Astoria Stakes at Belmont on June 8, going 4 wide on the turn for home and never getting headed up the track until too late. She should relish the 6F distance here and this daughter of Broken Vow cost a whopping $300,000 at the Fasig-Tipton 2YO Sale this March. Laudation (7) is one of two that go for Steve Asmussen, but figures to be the one that will like the added distance today. She stalked the pace in her last and then burst passed the entire field of 8 others to win easily on June 24 at Churchill Downs in a MSW. She picks up Javier Castellano today and should be consider a true threat. Snowfire (8) comes off a maiden victory at Churchill Downs, too, but she covered 6Fs in that one in blistering style, winning by an easy 4 lengths. This one will be the Pedigree of the Day in the future, as she is a daughter of Tapit and ran up the scoreboard for a total of $500,000 for John Oxley to buy. Mark Casse always has them fit enough to win.
I bet the 3 to win place and then box the 3-7-8 in one exacta and then bet the 3-7 over/under all the numbers.
The other Stakes race today at Saratoga is the G3 Lake George Stakes, going 11/16-miles on the grass course. My good friend has written about this race and his story still sits atop of The Pressbox leaderboard (www.thepressboxlts.com).
This one is chalk full of contenders, but I have it this way: 7-1-3-11. Party Boat (7) appears to be the accomplished of the group, and, being so, should be bet down from the 6-1 ML. He had a load of trouble in the Penn Oaks on June 3 and with any luck at all would have won that Stakes easily. Has never, truly, run a bad race and figures to rally from just off a stalking position at a distance she really likes (2 wins in 3 starts). Fifty Five (1) comes from the barn of Chad Brown. That may be enough written. But she is a good one, who ran a game second to stablemate New Money Honey in her last. New Money Honey — last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Champ — came right back to win the Belmont Oaks. Off that alone, she has to be considered at odds of 7-2. And, I really like my man’s pick, too — Defiant Honor. She is the class speed of this one, and she can stalk off of Mark Casse’s speed bunny Victory to Victory, if need be. She appeared a winner in the Jimmy Durante at Del Mar last November before having to be steadied to avoid debris on the track. And, trainer Jim Toner tightened her up with a very nice allowance win at Belmont on June 21. I have to use. I bet the 7-3 to win/place/show and then box the 7-1-3 in the exactas. I then key the 3 (at 10-1 ML) over/under the “all button.”
If that action is not enough, just stay awake until 10 p.m. ET for the nightcap — the Osunitas at Del Mar. It will be worth it. It doesn’t take much deliberation to settle on the favorite here. It should be and will be Mrs. McDougal (4), who will be making her 2017 debut for new trainer Richard Mandella. She was shipped to the West Coast and Mandella by her owners after spending all of 2016 in New York with Chad Brown. She won twice out of four starts there, including the G3 Noble Damsel Stakes at Belmont in September. But now she tries it out West (she did run in the American Oaks at Santa Anita in 2015). She has been working very well for a trainer that can win off a layoff (.27%) and this one has the most versatile style of any in the race. She has won twice out of three starts at this distance and looks to be headed toward a fantastic 5YO season. So, who do I go with the 4? I will play her over/under Madame Stripes (7), Lady Valeur (8), Belvoir Bay (11), and, maybe even Dressed to a T (12), who likes the Del Mar lawn. If either or both Laseen and Bellamentary drawn into the Stake from the AE, take a look. I will use them, too.
Have a great day and night. It is summer time. And, it is fun time.