We're back after a brief freshening, and we're ready to attack the racing at both Saratoga and Del Mar. We know the weather at Del Mar will be perfect, but the forecast in upstate New York is iffy, so we are going to assume, or maybe pray, that there will be fast dirt and firm turf at both tracks. Let's go.
Saratoga Race 2, 1:36 pm ET
$25,000 Claiming, 6 1/2 furlongs, dirt, fillies & mares 3 & up
The hot favorite here is 8-She's Not Bluffing, who's got the best last-race speed figure, gets the coveted outside post, and who makes the first start for trainer Gary Gullo, who claimed her for $16,000 on July 13. She's 7/5, presumably because of the speed figures, and also because Gullo has a high strike rate in this spot, winning at a 20% clip with horses making their first start off a claim.
We think she is vulnerable, however, as she lost that last race despite catching a Saratoga track biased in favor of speed, and therefore biased in her front-running favor. If she couldn't beat a field of $16k claimers -- at 6/5 -- when the track was playing to her advantage, she seems a very poor prospect today, at similarly miserly odds. We will be playing against her, and we will be doing so enthusiastically.
The pick is 1-Zandora. There's a lot going on with this filly: she's switching from routing to sprinting, from grass to dirt, and she will be wearing blinkers for the first time. But trainer Brad Cox has very, very good stats with all of these, and we think that this girl is going to be ready to fire from the rail. She should get a nice stalking trip behind what looks to be a legitimately fast early pace. We will bet her to win at 7/2.
The bet: Saratoga, Race 2, $30 to win on 1-Zandora.
Saratoga Race 4, 2:48 pm ET
$150,00 New York Stallion Series Stakes, 1 mile, turf, 3-year-old New York-bred fillies
A field of seven is entered for the grass here, plus one entrant who will run only if the race is switched to dirt. The 7/5 favorite is Barclay Tagg's 7-Niko's Dream, who finished a game second in the last race in the New York Stallion Series, on July 23 at Belmont Park. She looks to have some ability, but at a short price, she looks like an underlay to us, and we will be looking elsewhere.
We are taking a shot with a price here, 3-Rossellini. This Bill Mott trainee ran fourth in her last race, a starter allowance in June at Belmont Park, but we think that race was deceptively good: she broke slowly, and had to try to rally into a very slow early pace, on a turf course that favored speed. She was running against the grain of the race the whole way, and her jockey dropped the whip in the stretch, but she tried anyway, finishing only 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner. We see a much faster early pace today, and a fairer racing surface, and that will allow her to show her true ability. We see her making a big move late, and at 12-1, we think she's a good bet. We will bet her to win, and, because of the juicy odds, we will bet her to place as well.
The bet: Saratoga, Race 4, $20 to win and $10 to place on 3-Rossellini.
Saratoga Race 9, 5:51 pm ET
$100,000 Shine Again Stakes, 7 furlongs, dirt, fillies & mares 4 & up
There's an unusual condition in this race, which is horses who have won an open stakes race (i.e. a race not restricted to state-breds) are ineligible. This leaves a field with runners who have been hitting the board, but not necessarily winning, and it can make handicapping the race tricky. Is a win in an allowance race better than a 6th in a graded stakes race? Or is it the other way around?
We are going with a filly whose last two races look suspect, but who we think is capable of much better. That is 2-Talk Veuve to Me. Two back, she was trounced in the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs, a race on the Kentucky Derby undercard, but that field was incredible, and finishing up the track there was certainly no embarrassment. Her last start, a third in an allowance at Saratoga, was deceptively good, we think: it was a muddy track that she probably didn't like all that much, and she raced wide all the way around, and still managed to finish less than a length behind the winner. She proved last year that she is capable of much better -- she won a Grade 3, and placed in the Grade 1 Alabama -- and we think that she will get back into form here. She adds blinkers, which we view as another positive sign. We will bet her to win at 2-1.
The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $35 to win on 2-Talk Veuve to Me.
Del Mar Race 6, 7:30 pm ET
$100,000 California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Stakes, 5 1/2 furlongs, dirt, 2-year-old California-bred fillies
Eight speedy juveniles go here, but two stand out: 2-Bulletproof One, who comes off two wins against males in Northern California, and 7-Cholula Lips, whose last race was a very fast runner-up finish in the Debutante at Churchill Downs. We prefer Cholula Lips: she has a bit more early speed, and draws outside, and we think that those two give her a tactical advantage in the race that will be the deciding factor. We will bet Cholula Lips to win, and we will box them in the exacta.
The bets: Del Mar, Race 6, $25 to win on 7-Cholula Lips; $10 exacta box, 2/7.
Del Mar Race 7, 8:00 pm ET
Starter Allowance, 1 mile, turf, 3 & up
We're going with a class play here: 7-Spanish Bay is a Godolphin homebred, and his breeding is as good as you'll see anywhere: he's by Tapit out of an Awesome Again mare. He's run on dirt and on turf, but he looks like a turf horse to us, and after a brief layoff -- his last race was on May 5 -- he looks to us like he's ready to run in this one. His recent morning works have been good, and he's trained by Richard Mandella, who is as skilled as any trainer in the world. And most important, the rest of the field here looks weak. We will bet him to win at 6-1.
The bet: Del Mar, Race 7, $30 to win on 7-Spanish Bay.
That's all for today. Enjoy the racing, and, as always, good luck at the windows.