Saratoga and Del Mar are back in action today, and we'll take a look at both cards. We'll also pop in for a peek at a state-bred stakes race at Indiana Grand. The weather at Del Mar and in Indiana should be fine, but the forecast at Saratoga is much iffier, as thunderstorms, perhaps heavy, are in the forecast. We've handicapped all races to be fast and firm, but as always, check track conditions before making any play. Let's go.
Saratoga, Race 1, 12:50 pm ET
$75,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes, Hurdles, 2 1/16 miles, turf, fillies & mares 4 & up
We'll start the day by taking a crack at a jump race at the Spa. Seven are entered here, We like 1-Wigwam Baby in this. This 8-year-old mare that won a similar race two back, and tuned up for this one by doing a speed-and-fade in an allowance race on the flat (not over jumps) at a mile and a half at Parx Racing. We like her here because she looks like lone speed, and these races are very frequently won by horses on or near the lead. We see her going right to the front from her rail post, setting a very comfortable pace, and we think it's going to be hard for the others to catch her. We will bet her to win at 2-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 1, $15 to win on 1-Wigwam Baby.
Saratoga, Race 4, 2:26 pm ET
$50,000 Claiming, 1 mile, turf, 3-year-old fillies
A full field of twelve goes in this one, and it has pace meltdown written all over it. There are several speedy fillies here whose presence virtually guarantees a fast pace, so we'll look to for a runner coming from off the pace. This makes 7-Connectivity a strong play here: more was probably expected of this Chad Brown trainee than a $50,000 claimer -- she cost $150,000 as a 2-year-old, and last ran in an overnight stakes at Monmouth Park -- but we think she fits at this level. Moreover, she's got an off-the-pace running style that looks to be a fit here. She foundered against much tougher company, but we think she will find these shallower waters much to her liking. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet; Saratoga, Race 4, $30 to win on 7-Connectivity.
Saratoga, Race 6, 3:30 pm ET
$100,000 Mahony Stakes, 5 1/2 furlongs, turf, 3-year-olds
We like the chalk in here, 7-Archidust. This Jorge Navarro trainee took a huge step forward in his last, winning an overnight turf stakes at Monmouth at this distance. He's got a perfect mid-pack stalking style for these short turf races, Navarro is hot, and he gets the services of top rider Javier Castellano. 1-Uncle Benny, trained by Jason Servis and 5/2 on the morning line, looks good too, but he should be coming from farther back, and we think the fact that Archidust gets first run will be the difference here. We will bet Archidust to win at 2-1, and play a straight exacta, Archidust to Uncle Benny. The bets: Saratoga, Race 6, $25 to win on 7-Archidust, $10 exacta, 7 (Archidust) with 1 (Uncle Benny).
Saratoga, Race 9, 5:06 pm ET
$100,000 Evan Shipman Stakes, 1 1/8 mile, dirt, New York-breds 3 & up
The morning line favorite in the Shipman is 2-Mr. Buff. He is an admirably competitive horse who seems to have found his niche, running long on dirt in state-bred races like this one. A confirmed front-runner, his races fall into two categories: when he gets a comfortable early lead, he wins; when he has to fight for the lead, he loses.
The question today is whether he will get an easy early lead. We think not: there are 7-Gia d'Oro is also used to getting the early lead, and we expect the two of them to fight for the lead, with a group of other speedy horses just behind them. This will produce a pace fast enough to tire out the front-runners, and set the table for horses coming from farther back.
We like 5-Evaluator. This 4-year-old is switching barns and coming off a layoff (his last race was in October), but new trainer Jimmy Bond has excellent stats in both of these categories. He's been working well in the morning, and we expect him to be rolling late. We will bet him to win at 12-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $25 to win on 5-Evaluator.
Indiana Grand, Race 7, 5:03 pm ET
$150,000 First Lady Stakes, 1 mile 70 yards, dirt, Indiana-bred 3-year-old fillies
This is a quickie: 1-Wondrshegothundr is undefeated in two career starts, one on turf, one on dirt, and is trained by the red-hot Brad Cox. She should move forward off her last race, and consequently she is a strong pick here. We will bet her to win at 2-1. The bet: Indiana Grand, Race 7, $40 to win on 1-Wondrshegotthundr.
Del Mar, Race 5, 7:00 pm ET
Allowance, 1 mile, turf, fillies and mares 3 & up
This is a salty third-level allowance on the grass. 6-Toinette, who scratched out of Saturday's Yellow Ribbon Stakes for this softer spot, is a strong play here. We liked her in the Yellow Ribbon, but we like here here even more. She's no bargain at 7/5, but we think that her ability justifies a bet at those miserly odds. We will bet her to win, and we will do so enthusiastically and aggressively. The bet: Del Mar, Race 7, $50 to win on 6-Toinette.
That's all for today. Good luck at the windows.