We're back for a Thursday, and once again, the headliners are Saratoga and Del Mar. But we're also going to start paying attention to Arlington Park, to get a feel for how the races there are playing leading up to Arlington Million day on Saturday, which is a biggie, and has long been one of our favorite days of the entire summer.
Del Mar and Arlington will be fast and firm, and while Saratoga dodged a weather bullet yesterday -- the storms held off until after the last race -- they did get robust thunderstorms yesterday evening, and track conditions were unavailable as of press time. The dirt should dry out by first post, and be fast, but we are expecting the turf to be something less than firm. With that out of the way, let's go.
Saratoga Race 4, 2:38 pm ET
$40,000 Claiming, 7 furlongs, dirt, 3 & up
A field of seven goes here, with two of them coupled because of common ownership. We like a speed horse in here, 4-California Night. This Mike Maker trainee has a big edge in early speed on the rest of the field; we think he clears early and wires the field. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Saratoga, Race 4, $25 to win on 4-California Night.
Saratoga Race 6, 3:42 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 5 1/2 furlongs, turf, fillies & mares 3 & up
There's a tough field in this one, with some young horses who look like runners. There's a lot of speed, and because it appears to be evenly matched -- the speed horses all appear to be similarly fast -- we think it's going to be tough for any of them to win on the front end. The soft turf should reinforce this: it's harder to sustain speed on a soft course than on a firm course. So we'll look for a runner coming out of midpack.
The pick is 2-Prosperity. This 3-year-old filly out of superstar Tapit is making her second start, and her first was good: she didn't win, but she did show the ability both to stay close to the leaders early and to finish strongly. That appears to be the perfect style in this race; coupled with the fact that she should improve second time out, and that Motion is good with horses making their second career starts (19% win rate), that makes her look like a winner to us. We will bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 6, $25 to win on 2-Prosperity.
Saratoga Race 7, 4:14 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, dirt, New York-breds 3 & up
6-H Man checks all the boxes here: superior speed figures, perfect speed-oriented running style, and handled by super-trainer Jason Servis. The rest of the field looks weak; we expect him to win big. We don't think we will get his 2-1 morning-line odds, but we will bet him to win anyway. The bet: Saratoga, Race 7, $40 to win on 6-H Man.
Saratoga Race 8, 4:46 pm ET
$100,000 Saratoga Dew Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, dirt, New York-bred fillies 3 & up
A field of six goes in the Saratoga Dew. It's an interesting race, because there are fillies with some ability, but they all have the same slow early/fast late running style. There's only one confirmed front-runner, 1-Out of Orbit, and that makes her the pick. She's never run this far before, but she should get the early lead, and it may be a walking lead: she may be able to set the pace with dawdling early fractions. That will make her very, very difficult to catch, even at the nine furlong distance. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $25 to win on 1-Out of Orbit.
Arlington Park Race 6, 5:09 pm ET
Allowance, 5 1/2 furlongs, turf, 3 & up
A good field of seven goes in this second-level allowance turf sprint. 7-Savage Battle is the pick here, and he's one we feel pretty good about: he's been running longer distances, and against much, much tougher company, up at Woodbine in suburban Toronto, and he appears to outclass this field. Even better, he cuts back to a distance at which he appears to be best, and he should get the firm turf that he appears to prefer. And best of all: he's an absolutely juicy 6-1 on the morning line. We will bet him to win, and we will do so enthusiastically. The bet: Arlington Park, Race 6, $40 to win on 7-Savage Battle.
Del Mar Race 6, 7:30 ET
Starter Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, turf, 3 & up
The feature at Del Mar today is this starter allowance, for horses who have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less since last September. It's a weak race to be the feature, and that is probably a symptom of the current state of racing in California.... but we do handicapping here, not politics, so we'll stick to an analysis of the race. 7-Builder is a strong play here. This 4-year-old gray gelding has been a different animal since being claimed by trainer Isidro Tamayo in February; he's been good enough to finish second in a Grade 3 stakes, the All American at Golden Gate, two starts back. He's been running in Northern California, where the level of competition is much, much stiff than in So. Cal, but his recent form is superior enough that we think that he will take this one. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Del Mar, Race 6, $35 to win on 7-Builder.
That's all for today. We'll be back on Saturday for an enormous day: it's Arlington Million day in suburban Chicago, and there are other good stakes races all over the place. We're looking forward to it. Until then, good luck at the windows.