Garrity's first post is 12:50 pm EDT.
There is a good card at Colonial Downs in Virginia today, but we will not be playing it. Management at the track announced this week an increase in takeout rates: The rake on win/place/show bets has been increased from 16% to 18%, exotic takeout goes from 20% to 22%, and a Pick 5 with a low 12% takeout has been eliminated (we’re getting all these numbers via Matt Hegarty of Daily Racing Form). We won’t get into the reason the track gave for the change, other than to say it stinks, but the main impact for us is that barring a change, the total amount we will bet on races at Colonial Downs in 2020 will be zero. We hope other bettors join us, and that a sharply reduced handle causes track management to reconsider. Takeout is something that should unite every bettor, and this kind of eleventh-hour change is wholly unacceptable.
Fortunately, Saratoga Race Course opens for a new week today, with a very good nine-race card. We have four plays on it, and have handicapped all races for fast dirt and firm turf. Let’s go.
Saratoga, Race 1, 12:50 pm
Allowance, 2 1/16 miles (Hurdles), Turf, 4 & Up
One of the quirkier traditions at Saratoga, and one that we enjoy very much, is that each week begins with a jump race, and today’s is this first-level allowance, which drew a field of eight.
We like 5-Fast Car. There must be an interesting story behind this 4-year-old colt: he was purchased for $625,000 as a yearling at the Keeneland September sale, then broke his maiden in his first start -- in a one-mile, $40,000 maiden claiming race on the flat (i.e. not over fences).
His connections decided that that was the end of his career on the flat, because after his maiden win, he went straight to the jumps. It took him a few tries, but he finally broke his maiden last out, against a pretty tough field at Great Meadow in Virginia on June 27, and he looks like a young jumper on the come. We think he looks poised for further improvement, and that means he should be able to handle this modest group. We will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Saratoga, Race 1, $25 to win on 5-Fast Car.
Saratoga, Race 5, 3:02 pm
$85,000 Dayatthespa Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, New York-breds 3 & Up
Seven female horses are entered in the Dayatthespa, but the race appears to come down to three of them: 1-War Canoe, who goes for Chad Brown; and 2-Wegetdamunnys and 4-Classic Lady, both of whom start for Christophe Clement. The other four look like non-contenders.
Of the three, we like War Canoe: Brown claimed her for $62,500 two starts back, and in her fist start for him, she took the lead in a state-bred stakes race at Belmont Park, a very similar spot to today, before getting caught late and finishing third, just over a length behind the winner. We think a similar effort will win here, and we also like the fact that she has a forwardly-placed running style: we expect the pace in this race to be slow, which will put the Clement runners, both of whom are deep closers, at a disadvantage. We will bet War Canoe to win at 8/5. The bet: Saratoga, Race 5, $40 to win on 1-War Canoe.
Saratoga, Race 8, 4:46 pm ET
Allowance, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, New York-breds 3 & Up
Nine state-breds line up for this nine-furlong dirt allowance, and class makes the pick easy: it’s 6-Blackjack Davey, who starts for trainer Linda Rice. The other runners have all tried, and failed, to win at this level, some of them many, many times. Blackjack Davey has not: He broke his maiden very impressively last out, taking a maiden race at Belmont on July 2, and we think he wins right back in his first try against winners. Look for him to sit just behind the pacesetters, and win this one going away with a strong move around the far turn. We will bet him to win at 2-1, and we will do so enthusiastically. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $50 to win on 6-Blackjack Davey.
Saratoga, Race 9, 5:17 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 4 & Up
This is a very classy (non-winners-of-five) allowance, and we’d expect a race with these conditions to have a field similar to what we’d see in a stakes race. That’s certainly the case, as all seven starters have stakes experience, and most of them have won stakes races. It’s a salty field.
We’re going with a fresh shooter here, 1-Wissahickon: He’s a 5-year-old Augustin Stable homebred with twelve career starts, all in Europe, where he amassed an impressive record. He has eight wins in twelve career starts. While he raced mostly on synthetic surfaces over there, he did run, and run well, on turf, including a very good fourth, only two lengths behind the winner, in a Group 3 stakes at York, in his last start. That race was in May of 2019, so he’s coming off a long layoff, but trainer Jonathan Thomas has very, very good numbers both with horses coming off the bench, and with horses making their first North American start (23% and 40% win rates, respectively). This horse has a lot of class, and while he’ll need every bit of it to beat this field, we think he is up to the task. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $40 to win on 1-Wissahickon.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.