The Monmouth race goes off at 2:40 pm EDT, the others are all late afternoon and evening.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record: it’s a Saturday in August, and it’s a big day in the racing world. It’s the biggest day of the meeting down at old Del Mar, with the Pacific Classic the headliner, and four other stakes on the undercard. Saratoga has a trio of stakes, two of them graded, and Monmouth puts on an interesting renewal of the Grade 3 Monmouth Park Oaks. It’s a great day to be alive, or at least a great day to have a copy of the Daily Racing Form and a well-funded NYRA Bets account (signup here, promo code: INSIDER).
We expect firm dirt and fast turf everywhere; let’s go.
Saratoga Race 9, 5:26 pm ET
The Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, turf, 3-year-old fillies
The Lake Placid drew a field of seven, plus one main-track-only runner. There's a notable lack of early speed in the field, so we think that the pace of this race will be slow, and that will compromise the chances of the fillies who like to come from far back. This late-running style usually works on turf, but only if there's pace to run at, and we don't see that happening here.
We like 5-Regal Glory. This daughter of Animal Kingdom is one of Chad Brown's two entrants, and though she can close strongly, she usually does it from closer to the pace, and being closer to the front-runners is, we think, going to be the deciding factor here. We think Regal Glory will get first jump on the closers, and though they will try, we think that the other late runners will be unable to catch her down the stretch. We will bet her to win at 2-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $25 to win on 5-Regal Glory.
Saratoga Race 10, 5:59 pm ET
The Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, 1 1/4 miles, dirt, 3-year-old fillies
The Alabama is one of the highlights of every Saratoga meeting. It’s another great Spa stakes race with a rich history, and this year’s edition more than lives up to its heritage.
It’s a fascinating race to handicap, largely due the presence of the favorite, 1-Dunbar Road, who’s 8/5 on the morning line. This daughter of Quality Road has been brilliant in her four career starts: She’s won three of them, including her last-out victory in the Grade 2 Mother Goose at Belmont Park; her only defeat was a game second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks in March. She has been visually impressive as well: In the Mother Goose, she sat comfortably behind the leaders before blowing away the field with a powerful stretch move. If we’re going by visual impressions, then we should probably bet our lives on Dunbar Road.
But Dunbar Road’s past performances reveal one glaring issue: She’s never run all that fast. She earned an 87 Beyer Speed Figure winning the Mother Goose, and her career-best Beyer is the 90 she earned in an allowance at Belmont Park in May. She’s looked good winning her races, but she’s never run all that fast.
This is something that handicappers deal with all the time: it’s the old class-versus-speed debate, and we are firmly in the speed camp. Great horses run fast, period, and taking a short price on Dunbar Road when other fillies in the field here have run just as fast as her (and in a few cases, even faster), is a very poor wagering proposition to us. Dunbar Road is a nice filly, and she may turn out to be something special, but miserly odds likely to be in the neighborhood of even money, she is an absolute play-against.
We like 7-Point of Honor in this spot, and we like her very, very much. This filly won the Black Eyed Susan at Pimlico, on the eve of the Preakness, two starts back, and finished a very good second in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga last month. We think that this last race, in fact, was a sensational effort, even better than it looks on paper, as Point of Honor tried to rally from off the pace on a day when the main track at Saratoga had a severe speed bias. No horses running from off the pace did well that day, but Point of Honor did better than virtually all of them. That she earned a Beyer Speed Figure virtually identical to her win in the Black Eyed Susan – 90 in Baltimore, 91 in the CCA Oaks – is powerful evidence that she’s improving dramatically. We expect to see another step forward here, and we think that means that the rest of the field is strictly running for second money. We will bet Point of Honor to Win, and we will do so aggressively and enthusiastically. The bet: Saratoga, Race 10, $75 to win on 7-Point of Honor.
Monmouth Park Race 5, 2:40 pm ET
The Grade 3 Monmouth Park Oaks, 1 1/16 mile, dirt, 3-year-old fillies
The Monmouth Park Oaks marks the return of 4-Jaywalk, last year’s champion juvenile filly, whose 2019 season was an unmitigated disaster until she wired the field last month in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks. In that race, Jaywalk was impressive both visually and against the clock; she won by nine lengths, and earned a very fast Beyer Speed Figure of 96 for the effort. She’s the odds-on 4/5 favorite in this one.
Jaywalk has run in enough races by now that a clear pattern is discernible in her record: when she gets an easy early lead, she wins; when she is outrun early, or has to fight for the lead, she loses. The question here, then, is a very simple one: Can any of the four other fillies running against her keep up with her during the early part of the race? We think so, especially 1-Horologist, who has some early zip of her own.
Jaywalk may just run this group off her feet, but at 1/5, we are going to take a shot against her, and we are going to do so with 2-Sweet Sami D. She'll need to improve to win this, but we think she may just be ready to do so. We will bet her to win at 3-1, and we will also bet her to show: we normally hate show bets, but we'll bet her to show in case Jaywalk finishes off the board. There will probably be a negative show pool on Jaywalk, and if she runs out, the show payoffs will be boxcars. The bets: Monmouth Park, Race 5, $10 to win and $20 to show on 2-Sweet Sami D.
Del Mar Race 7, 8:00 pm ET
The Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap, 1 3/8 miles, turf, 3 & up
A good field of nine drew into this one, and we like one of them: it's 5-United. This 4-year-old gelded son of Giant's Causeway comes from the Richard Mandella barn, and Mandella has been bringing him along patiently since he started training him over the winter. This is standard operating procedure for Mandella: Unlike most other trainers, he does not automatically rush a horse into stakes races once he thinks he has a runner. Mandella has allowed United to work his way through his allowance conditions, with a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Whittingham at Santa Anita thrown in. His race record, and the way Mandella has handled him -- Mandella is as good a trainer of Thoroughbreds as anyone in the world -- suggest to us that United is ready for a maximum effort today, and that is enough for us. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $40 to win on 5-United.
Del Mar Race 8, 8:30 pm ET
The Grade 3 Torrey Pines Stakes, 1 mile, dirt, 3-year-old fillies
The Torrey Pines drew a field of eight, and presents a fascinating handicapping question: 5/2 morning-line favorite 7-Fighting Mad is clearly the fastest horse in the race, but she has never raced beyond six furlongs. Can she carry her sprinter's speed around two turns to win this one?
We think that she probably can, but we do not think that this is going to be the spot for her to do it. There are too many other speedy runners entered, and the pace of the Torrey Pines looks to us like it's going to be fast, perhaps even very fast. We're looking for a runner who can come off the pace.
We like a price in here, and it's 1-Into Chocolate. She starts for the Cliff Sise barn, and though she is making just her fourth career start, and her first in a stakes race, she has shown plenty of ability, especially in her last race, an allowance last month at Del Mar, when she stumbled at the start, raced wide all the way, and still managed to finish second. She displayed a powerful move around the far turn in that one, the kind of move that wins stakes races. She gets blinkers today, and the rail; we think she's sitting on a big one. We will bet her to win at 10-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 8, $25 to win on 1-Into Chocolate.
Del Mar Race 9, 9:00 pm ET
The Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks, 1 1/8 miles, dirt, 3-year-old fillies
A full field of 12 go here, but we don't think one has to look very far to find the winner: starting from the rail is 1-Cambier Parc, who ships West for Chad Brown. She seems to outclass this field, and the fact that jockey John Velazquez comes with her is a sign that they're not coming for the Del Mar ambiance. They're here to win, and we think they'll do it. We will bet Cambier Parc to win at 5/2. The bet: Del Mar, Race 9, $30 to win on 1-Cambier Parc.
Del Mar Race 10, 9:30 pm ET
The Grade 1 Pacific Classic, 1 1/4 miles, dirt, 3 & up
The headline race at Del Mar, and the headliner nationally, is the Pacific Classic. Unlike previous editions, which have been plagued by short fields, a deep and evenly matched group of 10 will run today. There is no clear standout, which makes this a good betting race.
The 10 furlong distance is a big factor in handicapping the Pacific Classic. Because of the way the track is configured, Del Mar runs very, very few races at this distance, and it does not play the same way that a mile and a quarter does at other tracks. We want a horse with stamina, and we want a horse who has shown an affinity for the racing surface at Del Mar.
There is one runner who fits this to a tee: it's 8-Campaign, who starts for trainer John Sadler. This horse can run all day, as is evidenced by his prep for this race, a win in the mile and a half, Grade 3 Cougar Handicap at Del Mar last month. There should be a legitimate early pace in the race, and we think that will set the table for Campaign. He does not have a brilliant turn of foot -- he's a grinder -- but we think that style is a good fit here. We will bet him to win at 6-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 10, $30 to win on 8-Campaign.
That's all for today. Enjoy the racing, and, as always, good luck at the windows.