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The speedy Shancelot, winning The Amsterdam last month at Saratoga, races Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in the Allen Jerkins Stakes.
The speedy Shancelot, winning The Amsterdam last month at Saratoga, races Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in the Allen Jerkins Stakes.|Associated Press

Saratoga Saturday: Garrity picks a great day of horse racing including The Travers, The Forego and the duel between Midnight Bisou and Elate

The 5th race, The Forego, goes off at 1:48 pm EDT

Chris Garrity


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It's the biggest day of the meeting at Saraotga today. The headliner is the Grade 1 Travers, but there are five other Grade 1 races, plus the Grade 2 Ballston Spa. We will look at all of them.

It will be a gorgeous afternoon for racing in upstate New York, probably the nicest day of the entire Saratoga meeting. The folks at the New York Racing Association have really lucked out that the biggest day and the nicest day align today. The main track will be fast, and while the condition of the turf was unavailable to us at press time Saturday morning, we are expecting the grass at Saratoga to have some give to it, to be somewhere between good, which it was Friday, and firm. With that out of the way, let's go.

Saratoga, Race 5, 1:48 PM ET

Grade 1 Forego Stakes, 7 furlongs, dirt, 3 & up

The incredible lineup of stakes racing at the Spa starts with the Forego, which drew six entrants. The race is a fascinating matchup between two of the fastest horses in training in North America, 1-Promises Fulfilled, who's 5/2, and 3-Mitole, who's the 4/5 morning line favorite. It's hard to find fault with Mitole, who has never finished off the board in his 12 career starts, and who has won 8 of them.

We tried to find a way to beat Mitole, and we did it by looking at his last race, when he finished third last month as the 1-2 favorite in the Vanderbilt at Saratoga. Maybe today Mitole gets engaged in another suicidal speed duel, as he did in the Vanderbilt, and runs out of gas down the stretch.

We don't see that happening. Mitole drew the rail in the Vanderbilt, but gets post position 3 today, but much more important than being two spaces farther from the rail is that he drew outside of Promises Fulfilled, who's the only other horse in the race with early speed comparable to his (the other four horses have zero chance of being anywhere close to either of them early in the race). Mitole got pinned against the rail in the Vanderbilt, and that simply cannot and will not happen today. We see him sitting right off the flank of Promises Fulfilled, and seizing control of the race at the top of the stretch. We can't bet Mitole to win, because he'll be 3/5, but we will try to squeeze some value out of the race by betting a cold Mitole-Promises Fulfilled exacta, because that's how we see the race ending. The bet: Saratoga, Race 5, $20 exacta, 3 (Mitole) with 1 (Promises Fulfilled).

Saratoga, Race 6, 2:23 PM ET

Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes, 7 furlongs, dirt, fillies & mares 3 & up

The Ballerina drew a field of seven. We will be blunt here: We think favored 2-Come Dancing is an absolute cinch in this spot. She finished second in her last race, the Ogden Phipps at Belmont, but that race was at a mile and a sixteenth, which is probably too far for her. She has been absolutely dominant in sprint races this year, and we think the rest of the field has virtually no chance. This is an emtpy-the-pockets, mortgage-the-house, bet-the-wife's-dowry win play on Come Dancing. We will bet her to win at 6/5. The bet: Saratoga, Race 6, $100 to win on 2-Come Dancing.

Saratoga, Race 7, 2:59 PM ET

Grade 1 Allen Jerkins Stakes, 7 furlongs, dirt, 3-year-olds

The parade of 7 furlong dirt stakes continues with the Jerkins. The heaviest favorite on the card is in this one, as 1-Shancelot is 1/2 on the morning line. His last race, a win in the Amsterdam at Saratoga on July 28, was an effort that made speed figure handicappers throw their red pens in the air: Shancelot ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14 flat, and earned a stratospheric Beyer Speed Figure of 121 for the effort. This is the highest Beyer fig a horse has earned at any distance, on any surface, in North America this year, and it's the highest we ever remember a 3-year-old earning, especially at this point in the year (American Pharoah, by contrast, earned figures of 105 winning the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont, a 102 in the Preakness, and a 120 winning the Breeders Cup Classic).

Shancelot is obviously a freakishly fast horse, but the questions today are whether he will win the Jerkins, and whether he is a good bet. We think the answers to these questions are maybe and absolutely not. We are absolutely taking a shot against him, parimutuelly speaking, and we will do it with 6-Mind Control. This colt's last two races look bad on paper, but he had excuses in each, and his form prior to that makes him absolutely competitive here, and he's been working very well in the morning, an indication that he's sitting on a top effort today. We will bet him to win at 15-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 7, $25 to win on 6-Mind Control.

Saratoga, Race 8, 3:35 PM ET

Grade 2 Ballston Spa Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, turf, fillies & mares 3 & up

The lone Grade 2 stakes on the card at the Spa today reminds us of the old Three Stooges gag: Moe would be going through a wad of $100 bills, would find a $20, and say, "Why, a lousy twenty!" and crumple it up and throw it away. This edition of the Ballston Spa is like that: It's a great race, a race that could headline just about any weekend card, but will get somewhat overlooked by being placed in between so many Grade 1 races. But we will not ignore it, because we think it's a good one: a very, very good field of nine female runners will start, and it should be a competitive, exciting race. We like the horse on the outside, 9-Mascha, who starts for Chad Brown and who will be ridden by Irad Ortiz. She's a French-bred 4-year-old filly who raced in France last year, and made her North American debut in a Saratoga allowance on July 31. She won that race with a devastating late kick, on a turf course labelled good -- she will get a very, very similar setup today, and we think she will take the Ballston Spa. We will bet her to win at 9/2. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $40 to win on 9-Mascha.

Saratoga, Race 9, 4:12 PM ET

Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, dirt, fillies & mares 3 & up

A short field of six goes in the Personal Ensign, but we are going to ignore four of them, and focus only on the two favorites: 1-Midnight Bisou, who's 6/5, and 4-Elate, who's 7/5. Both are brilliant, and the matchup between them makes this a great race. We think one of the two will win -- but the question is which one? We think strongly that it will be Elate. Midnight Bisou has gotten the better of Elate in the recent past, beating her in both the Azeri and Apple Blossom Stakes at Oaklawn Park, but those races were at shorter distances than the Personal Ensign, and we think that the nine furlongs today will be the deciding factor. We will bet Elate to win, but this is a race that bears watching even if you don't have a bet down: these are two very, very good horses that will be running against each other. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $20 to win on 4-Elate.

Saratoga, Race 10, 4:49 PM ETGrade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes, 1 1/2 miles, turf, 3 & upThe Sword Dancer is another great race, with nine horses going the classic turf distance of a mile and a half. We like 6-Ya Primo, a gray 4-year-old Chilean-bred who finished second in the Bowling Green at Saratoga on July 27. Considering that this was his first start in North America, and that he probably needed the race, we think that was a good effort, and an improvement in the Sword Dancer should get him the prize. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Saratoga, Race 10, $40 to win on 6-Ya Primo.

Saratoga, Race 11, 5:44 PM ET

Grade 1 Travers Stakes, 1 1/4 miles, dirt, 3-year-olds

We never understood why they call a race run at the end of the summer "The Midsummer Derby," but with that bit of uselessness out of the way, we'll turn to the race, which is worth paying attention to: A good field of 12 makes this a good race, from both a sporting and wagering perspective. There are some very talented colts here.

We like 3-Highest Honors, who comes from the Chad Brown barn, and who will be ridden by Luis Saez. This son of Tapit has run only three times, but he's won two of them, and he's the kind of late-blooming 3-year-old who can be very, very dangerous this time of year. We like the pattern of his races, the way he's run in them, and we like the way he's been working in the morning. And we love his 10-1 odds: if he runs the way we expect him to run today, you'll not see that kind of price on him ever again. We will bet him to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 11, $35 to win on 3-Highest Honors.

That's all for today. Enjoy the racing, and good luck at the windows.