This Thursday, the headliners are Saratoga and Del Mar. We'll play both, but we're also going to throw in a couple of plays at Colonial Downs in Virginia. We expect fast dirt and firm turf everywhere; let's go.
Saratoga, Race 2, 1.34 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 6 furlongs, dirt, 2-year-old fillies
Bettors like big fields, and this juvenile maiden race has one: 10 are entered, plus four also-eligibles. We're looking for speed here, as none of the horses with established form have much early zip. We like 4-Tetrahydro, a first-time starter out of the Dale Romans barn. She's been working like she can run, including a very fast 4-furlong bullet work at Saratoga on August 2 (47 2/5). We think she will be forwardly placed in the early running, and she is our pick. We will bet her to win at 5-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 2, $20 to win on 4-Tetrahydro.
Saratoga, Race 5, 3.10 pm ET
$50,000 Maiden Claiming, 7 furlongs, dirt, 3 & up
This is another race with a big field; 11 are entered here. The key to the race, at least for us, is 4-Majestic West. This 3-year-old first-time starter, trained by Joe Sharp, looks impressive: he's out of top sire Quality Road, by a Storm Cat mar, and he has a steady tab of morning works, some fast and a few very fast. The question, though, is what is he doing in a $50k maiden claimer, when he has yet to make a start, and was purchased less than two years ago for $200,000? The logical conclusion is that there might be something wrong with him, and Sharp and owners Gary and Mary West are looking to unload him before his issues become common knowledge.
We are going to hope, or maybe pray, that the horse is sound, and that Joe Sharp is being realistic here, and putting the horse in a race Sharp thinks he can win. Maiden Specials at Saratoga are notoriously tough to win, and this may well be a case of a shrewd trainer placing a horse in the right spot. We certainly hope so, as we are going to bet Majestic West to win. This is a horse that bears watching on the tote board: he's 8-1 on the morning line, and if his odds drop, it's a good sign; if he's a dead fish on the board, and he goes off at 10-1 or better, pass. Not having the luxury of watching the odds change, we will say here that we'll bet him at his 8-1 morning line price. The bet: Saratoga, Race 5, $20 to win on 4-Majestic West.
Saratoga, Race 8, 4.46 pm ET
The $100,000 Union Avenue Stakes, 6 1/2 furlongs, dirt, New York-bred fillies & mares 3 & up
Eight drew into the Union Avenue, and in the field is a lot of speed, so much, in fact, that we expect a pace meltdown. There are too many frontrunners, and they are too evenly matched, which means that none of them will get a clear early advantage, and consequently they will all go too fast early, and wear each other out. We're looking for a runner from off the pace.
That runner is 2-Bonita Bianco. This 4-year-old filly starts for trainer Jason Servis, and she has been running admirably consistently in state-bred stakes races like this one. She has done better when she has a pace to run at; we think the shape of this one suits her to a tee, as does this 7 furlong distance. We will bet her to win at 9/2. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $40 to win on 2-Bonita Bianco.
Colonial Downs, Race 6, 7.20 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 6 furlongs, dirt, fillies & mares 3 & up
With so many racetracks closing in the past few years, Suffolk Downs being the last major one to turn off the lights, it's good to see Colonial Downs return after a five-year hiatus. This race is a good one, and we like the runner on the rail, 1-Neva's Gal. She was claimed by Jamie Ness two back out of a race at Parx, and improved dramatically in her last start, the first for her new connections. A repeat of her last effort should take this one easily. Another plus is the fact that she will be ridden by jockey Trevor McCarthy, who is winning at a 38% clip in the first few days of the Colonial Meet. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Colonial Downs, Race 7, $25 to win on 1-Neva's Gal. Because of a coupled entry, we also get 1A Barley Jack included in this bet.
Colonial Downs, Race 8, 8.16 pm ET
Starter Optional Claiming, 1 mile, turf, fillies & mares 3 & up
This is another good one at Colonial, a competitive heat for female horses who have started for a claiming price of $8,000 or less since 2018. We like the rail horse here: there's equally matched speed here, and that will, we think, set the table for the late run of 2-Indian Paint. She should get a ground-saving trip from the rail, which will help; we will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Colonial Downs, Race 8, $20 to win on 2-Indian Paint.
Del Mar, Race 6, 7.30 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, turf, California-bred fillies & mares 3 & up
Trainer Doug O'Neill is having a good Del Mar meet, winning at a 23% clip, and here he sends out 3-Shehastheritestuff, who is our pick. She has the right running style -- a closer in a race loaded with speed -- and she also gets the services of top jockey Rafael Bejarano. She will be coming from the back, but we think the race will favor that style, and we think she will get there in time. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Del Mar, Race 6, $30 to win on 3-Shehastheritestuff.
That's all for today. Good luck at the windows.