His first race goes off at 5:11 pm EDT
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It’s the last hurrah of the summer season, the last Saturday of both the Saratoga and Del Mar meetings. The summer is fading, and fall is coming. The days are shorter, the nights are cooler, and the change of seasons exerts a deep and powerful tug on all of us, even railbirds. Very soon, the leaves will be turning colors, and we’ll be talking about fall, not summer, racing.
But like a Labor Day kegger on the beach, the horse racing world is determined to end summer with a bang, as there are exceptional cards, and top-notch races, all over the place, more, sadly, than space allows us to cover. We will focus on Saratoga and Del Mar, which have the two best cards, but we’ll throw in a look at a couple of races from Colonial Downs and Kentucky Downs. This is more than we should probably try to cover, but we can’t help ourselves; there’s too much good racing out there, and we love all of it.
The weather just about everywhere should be terrific today, so we are expecting fast dirt and firm turf in all places. Let’s go.
Saratoga, Race 10, 5:27 pm ET
Grade 2 Glens Falls Stakes, 1 3/8 miles, turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & up
Eight runners drew into the Glens Falls, and it’s a fascinating race to handicap. We like 5-Mrs. Sippy, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old filly who last year placed in a few graded stakes at Newmarket in England. She shows a running pattern that we like with Euro imports: She has run better the firmer the turf has been. The hope is that her connections have brought her here to get the truly firm turf that they virtually never get in Europe. She fits on class, trainer Graham Motion gets horses to fire when starting for the first time in North America (18% win rate), and we get a square price of 4-1. That adds up to go; we will bet her to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 10, $40 to win on 5-Mrs. Sippy.
Saratoga, Race 11, 6:00 pm ET
Grade 1 Woodward Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, dirt, 3 & up
The headliner of the day at the Spa is the Woodward, another historically significant Saratoga race which this year drew a field of eight nine. It's a deep and competitive group.
We like 5-Preservationist, who starts for trainer Jimmy Jerkins. His last race was a dud: he finished a dull fourth in the Grade 1 Whitney last month, but that race was a nighmarish experience for him from several angles: he washed out before the race, he was rank, and he ran wide while on the lead all the way around. It's no surprise that he faded.
But we are willing to draw a line through that race, because he's otherwise been an admirably consistent horse all year. Even better, we think he will get a dream trip here, stalking likely pacesetter 9-Tom's d'Etat, who we see running moderate early fractions. This will put Preservationist in a perfect spot to run his best race, and as he showed in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park in July, his best race is very, very good, certainly good enough to beat this field. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Saratoga, Race 11, $40 t on 5-Preservationist.
Kentucky Downs, Race 8, 5:11 pm ET
$750,000 Tourist Mile, 1 mile, turf, 3 & up
Kentucky Downs puts on an extravaganza of all-grass racing today, and the Tourist Mile is the richest race. A full field of twelve will navigate the hairpin-shaped turf course, which is the closest thing on this side of the pond to a European-style race course. Bettors like big, competitive fields, and Kentucky Downs today has a bunch of races with them today, including this one.
We like 2-Next Shares. This 6-year-old gelded Richie Baltas trainee has run in three consecutive Grade 1 turf stakes, which means he's been facing the toughest grass horses in the country. He faces a much less difficult field here, and that means, we think, a trip to the winner's circle. Even better, he's shown an affinity for the idiosyncratic Kentucky Downs course, having won the Old Friends there last year. The pace of the race looks to be fast early, which will suit his one-run closing style. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Kentucky Downs, Race 7, $30 to win on 2-Next Shares.
Kentucky Downs, Race 10, 6:22 pm ET
$500,000 Gainesway Farm Juvenile, 1 mile, turf, 2-year-olds
We're going with a pedigree play, and a big price, in this one: it's 7-Fenwick Station, who starts for trainer Eddie Kenneally. He's made only one start, winning a one-mile turf maiden race at Indiana Grand, but while that was a slow race, we like the fact that he came off the pace in it, as that kind of late-running style fits in a race that looks loaded with early speed. Most of the entrants here are stretching out from sprints, and have never run this far, which means a probable pace meltdown, and a winner coming from far back. We also like the fact that Kenwick Station was sired by Magician, who won the Breeders Cup Turf a few years ago; this means that unlike many of the other runners in the field, who appear to have dirt pedigrees, he was bred to excel on the turf. We will bet him to win at 20-1. The bet: Kentucky Downs, Race 10, $25 to win on 7-Fenwick Station.
Colonial Downs, Race 8, 8:15 pm ET
$150,000 Virginia Oaks, 1 1/8 miles, turf, 3-year-old fillies
There's a good field of nine here, and it looks to us like the race is going to go fast to very fast early, which will set the table for a closer. There are two fillies in this race with strong closing kicks; they are 7-Zonda and 8-Solar Kitten. We prefer Zonda, because she has a more forwardly-placed style than Solar Kitten, who comes from way back, and we think that Zonda should get first jump will be the deciding factor here. We will bet Zonda to win, and box both of them in the exacta. The bets: Colonial Downs, Race 8, $15 to win on 7-Zonda; $5 Exacta Box, 7 (Zonda) with 8 (Solar Kitten). That's $25 in total wagers on this race.
Colonial Downs, Race 9, 9:00 pm ET
Grade 3 Virginia Derby, 1 1/8 miles, turf, 3-year-olds
The biggest race of the year in the Old Dominion has nine 3-year-olds going nine furlongs on the sod in prime time. It's a good race, and it's worth celebrating, as Colonial Downs is having a fine meeting after being closed for a few years.
6-Tracksmith is a strong play here. He's won his last two races, an allowance at Churchill Downs and a minor stakes at Monmouth Park, and he's done so with a strong finishing kick in both, which he'll need in this one. He looks to us like a horse ready to make a move forward, and that makes him very, very dangerous here. We see him sitting in the middle of the pack for the first part of the race, and then taking the prize with a strong stretch run. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Colonial Downs, Race 9, $50 to win on 6-Tracksmith.
Del Mar, Race 7, 8:15 pm ET
Grade 2 John Mabee Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & up
Nine female runners go in the Mabee, and this is a sensational betting race, maybe the best of the day. There are horses here with obvious credentials, but we are going for a price: it's 3-La Force, a 5-year-old mare who switches from dirt to turf for trainer Paddy Gallagher.
What's interesting about La Force is that she was bred in Germany, for turf: it was only after she failed to do much on the grass that she was moved to dirt, where's she's had pretty good success, including winning the Grade 2 Santa Maria in June. But she still looks like a grass horse to us, as her late-running style tends to be much more effective on the sod than on the dirt. Her recent form is very good, she's been working like a fiend in the morning, she looks to be dead fit, and Irishman Gallagher knows grass horses. We think she's poised for a top effort, and that makes her a very dangerous long shot play here. We will bet her to win and to place at 12-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 7, $30 to win and $20 to place on 3-La Force.
Del Mar, Race 9, 9:14 pm ET
Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante Stakes, 7 furlongs, dirt, 3-year-old fillies
This race is loaded with impressive-looking and speedy juvenile fillies. There's so much speed, in fact, that we see this race going very fast early, and that's going to make it tough for any of the high-quality speed horses to last the 7 furlongs. We are looking for a runner coming from off the pace, and 6-Powerfulattraction is just the ticket: she's made up ground late in both of her starts, including last out in the Grade 2 Sorrento at Del Mar, when she finished second, six lengths behind runaway winner Amalfi Sunrise. This runner-up finish is no disgrace, as Amalfi Sunrise is probably one of the best 2-year-old fillies currently in training. We like her back class, we like her running style, and we like her 6-1 price. We'll bet Powerfulattraction to win at 6-1, and we'll root for the speed to collapse. The bet: Del Mar, Race 9, $30 to win on 6-Powerfulattraction.
That's all for today. Enjoy the racing, and, as always, good luck at the windows.