Wednesday means the start of a new week at Saratoga and Del Mar. We find this hard to believe, but both meets are already starting to wind down: both close on September 2, which – gasp! – is less than three weeks away. So we will savor each card for the special event that it is. We're expecting fast and firm in both places today; let's go.
Saratoga, Race 1, 12:50 pm ET
Allowance, Hurdles, 2 1/16 miles, turf, 4 & up
Starting the week with a jump race is a Saratoga tradition that we like, and one that we enjoy betting.
Eight go in this one, a first-level allowance race for the jumpers. We like 1-Zanzi Win. This French-bred is just 4 years old, a baby by steeplechasing standards, but he's shown some ability since being moved from the flat to the jumps: he has finished first or second in 4 of his 6 career starts over fences, all of them in Europe. Here he gets a group that looks pretty soft, gets Lasix for the first time, and gets the services of the marvelously-named steeplechase jockey Ross Geraghty. The 2 1/16 miles is farther than he's ever run before, but we don't think the added distance will be an issue. We will bet him to win, and because the outside horse, 8-Whitman's Poetry, always seems to finish second, we'll bet them in a straight exacta. The bets: Saratoga, Race 1, $5 to win on 1-Zanzi Win; $5 exacta, 1 (Zanzi Win) with 8-Whitman's Poetry.
Saratoga, Race 4, 2:26 pm ET
Allowance, 1 1/18 miles, turf, New York-breds 3 & up
This first-level state-bred allowance drew a field of nine, plus three main-track-only entrants. We're going to assume the race stays on the grass.
We like 11-Bad Guy here. He's got a stretch-running style that is a fit for turf, and he is moving from open company (starter allowance and claiming) to a race restricted to state-breds, and the competition in this race will probably be slightly less than he's been facing. The outside post is not the best, but we think he can get over to the rail before the clubhouse turn, save ground while sitting behind the pacesetters, and make a move at the top of the stretch. We will resist the urge to say that we've always had a thing for bad guys, but we will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 4, $20 to win on 11-Bad Guy.
Saratoga, Race 5, 2:58 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 6 furlongs, dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & up
This drew a field of seven, and the rundown of the trainers here is like a visit to the National Racing Museum Hall of Fame: Shug McCaughey, Chad Brown, Bill Mott, Christophe Clement, and Jason Servis all have horses entered... so we naturally like a horse from the Michelle Nevin barn.
And we like Nevin's horse, 4-My Bronx Tail, a lot: this 4-year-old daughter of champion sprinter Speightstown possesses a huge edge in early speed over the rest of the field, and her last race, a runner-up finish in a 6 1/2 furlong maiden race at Belmont Park, was better than it looks, as she was running on a dirt racing surface that was biased against speed. On Saratoga's dirt surface, which in general is more speed-friendly than the dirt at Belmont, we see her breaking out to a big early lead, and staying in front all the way. We also think the very slight cutback in distance for her, from 6 1/2 furlongs to 6, is going to help her.
All signs add up to go with this filly, and the presence of the big-name trainers is going to help us here, as it will inflate her price. She's 5/2 on the morning line, and we think she'll probably stay there. Since she should be even money, we'll use the price an excuse to remove the rubber band from the bankroll, and we will bet My Bronx Tail to win enthusiastically. The bet: Saratoga, Race 5, $100 to win on 4-My Bronx Tail.
Saratoga, Race 7, 4:02 pm ET
The $100,000 Bolton Landing Stakes, 5 1/2 furlongs, turf, 2-year-old fillies
The heavy favorite in here is 5-Kimari, a Wesley Ward trainee who broke her maiden at Keeneland in April, and then shipped to Ascot last month, where she finished a strong second in the Grade 2 Queen Mary Stakes. She's going to be very, very tough in this one, but at a short price – she's 3/5 on the morning line, and will probably go off shorter – we are going to take a shot against her, on the chance that her effort in the Ascot race, and the ship back and forth to the Continent, may have taken some steam out of her.
The pick is 6-Champagne Humor. This Antonio Sano trainee won her debut smartly in April, in a 5 furlong turf spring at Gulfstream Park, and while she will have to improve significantly to have a shot at beating Kimari, her recent morning workouts are very, very strong, suggesting that she has matured physically, and might be capable of a big step forward. She is no cinch, but at a generous 8-1 price, we think she is a good bet to take the prize here. We will bet her to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 7, $15 to win on 6-Champagne Humor.
Del Mar, Race 4, 6:30 pm ET
Starter Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & up
The card at Del Mar today is weak, but we'll take a shot at the 4th, a starter allowance on the grass for females who have never won two races and who have started for a claiming price of $50,000 or less. A field of nine drew into the race.
The Del Mar turf has been kind to come-from-behinders lately, and we mention that because this race has "pace collapse" written all over it: there are some seriously speedy horses who only know one way to run, by going to the front and running as fast as they can for as long as they can, and that is going to set this one up for a closer.
We like 7-Breezy Bee. This 4-year-old filly just missed in a similar spot at Santa Anita in May, finishing second by less than a length, before foundering going long against open allowance company at Del Mar last month. We think this race is right her wheelhouse, in terms of both her ability and her running style. We also like the fact that trainer Keith Desormeaux was able to get top jockey Rafael Bejarano to ride. We think she's a winner, and we will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 4, $25 to win on 4-Breezy Bee.
That's all for today. Good luck at the windows.