Race 1 at Saratoga goes off at 12:50 pm EDT.
WANNA BET HORSES?
If you're a horse player in any of 30 states, you can sign up with NYRA BETS. Promo code: INSIDER. Free first deposit match up to $200.
There's an excellent card at Saratoga today, and a good one at Del Mar. The weather in upstate New York continues to be an issue; there was a deluge yesterday, and more showers and thunderstorms are possible today. It was dry at the Spa on Thursday morning, and we will guess that the dirt will dry out, and be fast, by first post, and that the turf course will be rated something like soft, with some give to it, but not a bog either. Del Mar, of course, will be fast and firm. Let's go.
Saratoga Race 1, 12:50 ET
Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap, 2 3/8 miles (hurdles), grass, 4 & up
This is a highlight of the jump races at the Saratoga Summer meeting, a Grade 1 race for the best jumpers around. 2-Winston C is the heavy 4/5 favorite, after winning the slightly shorter A.P. Smithwick Memorial Stakes at the Spa a month ago. He looks tough, but at odds-on, he's an underlay, so we are going to try to beat him.
Most of the runners in the race are also coming out the Smithwick: All but one of the nine runners last ran in that race, so there's good familiarity, across the board, with recent form. The one we think has the best chance of improving is 7-Peppay Le Pugh: this Irish-bred 8-year-old was a competitive jumper in England, but the Smithwick was both his first race in North America, and his first race after a nine-month layoff. We're going to assume that he needed that race, and that he will improve today. And that makes him a threat. We will bet him to win at 10-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 1, $10 to win on 7-Peppay Le Pugh.
Saratoga Race 5, 2:58 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 1 1/16 miles, turf, 2-year-old fillies
The babies have started to go long now, we have nine runners in this one, plus one main-track-only entrant. The horses who have already made starts haven't done much in them, which makes us look to a first-time starter. We think we've found a good one in 7-Las Ramblas. This girl is out of Breeders Cup Mile winner Karakontie, so the turf breeding is there. She's also trained very well for this, and comes from the barn of Wesley Ward, who is excellent (31% win rate) with first-time starters. Winning at first asking is never easy, especially going around two turns on the turf, but we think this filly looks to be up to the task. We will bet her to win at 2-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 5, $20 to win on 7-Las Ramblas.
Saratoga Race 9, 5:06 pm ET
The $100,000 Riskaverse Stakes, 1 mile, turf, 3-year-old fillies
The Riskaverse drew a good field of eight. Chad Brown starts two, including 7/5 morning line favorite 6-Catch a Bid, who is a neck from being undefeated in two career starts. Brown owns New York turf stakes these days, and his duo should be tough.
But we like a long shot here, 7-Dalika. We picked this German-bred filly in her last race, when she ran a terrible sixth at 3-1 in the Hatoof Stakes at Arlington Park, and we would normally write her off after a no-excuse dud like that. But we think she moves up, a lot, on soft turf, as she ran two very good races, a win and a second, in turf races in Europe last year on grass that had some give to it. We think she may be poised for a top effort -- she certainly didn't exhaust herself running in her last race -- and she will be a huge price. We will bet her to win and to place at 15-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $15 to win and place on 7-Dalika.
Del Mar Race 2, 5:30 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile, dirt, fillies & mares 3 & up
Six drew into this one, including 4-Unicorn, who's the 6/5 favorite. We think she is a strong play here. She's run three races, all on turf, and there's not a bad effort among them. She's trained by Richie Baltas, who's been hot at Del Mar, and who is good with the turf-to-dirt angle. Unicorn's sire is Bodemeister, which means that she should do just fine on the dirt. We'll bet her to win at 6/5. The bet: Del Mar, Race 5, $40 to win on 4-Unicorn.
Del Mar Race 5, 7:00 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile, turf, California-bred 2-year-olds
A field of nine go here, and the full field makes it a good betting race. We like a first-time starter, 8-Lemon King. This colt is by top turf sire Kitten's Joy, is trained by Tim Yakteen, who's having a good Del Mar meeting, and gets the services of top rider Flavien Prat, who's good on any surface, but is an ace on the sod. He has a good workout pattern, with plenty of stamina-building morning drills. We think he's ready to win first out, and we think he's a good bet at 5-1. We will bet him to win. The bet: Del Mar, Race 5, $25 to win on 8-Lemon King.
That's all for today. We'll be back for Travers day on Saturday, which is a tremendous day of racing. Until then, good luck at the windows.