Garrity's first post is the Ballerina Stakes at 3:42 pm EDT.
A terrific day of racing is in store today. Saratoga has a big card, with five stakes, three of them Grade 1, and there are a pair of Grade 2 races at Del Mar. The headliner is the Runhappy Travers, which in this upside-down year is a Kentucky Derby prep, and which features the return of Belmont Stakes winner and current Derby favorite Tiz the Law. It’s a terrific lineup, and we are going to take a stab at all seven of these stakes.
The weather at Del Mar will be perfect, of course, as it is every day during the summer, and conditions will be fast and firm. The main track at Saratoga will be fast, and while the turf at Saratoga is listed as firm, due to all the rain we’ve had this week, we’re expecting the grass to have just a little bit of give to it. With that out of the way, let’s go.
Saratoga, Race 7, 3:42 pm ET
Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
The first stakes race of the day is a good one: the Ballerina drew an imposing field of seven, with big-name runners 1-Serengeti Empress, 4-Bellafina, and 7-Come Dancing, all of whom are Grade 1 winners, in the group.
All three of these will get a lot of attention at the windows, but we are looking elsewhere, and it’s due to pace: This contest, on paper at least, has the appearance of a race in which the early speed will absolutely collapse. Four of the seven are one-way frontrunners, who have only won races by leading wire-to-wire, and all four of them trying to get the early lead at the same time is going to result in a wickedly fast pace that should leave them all gassed at the top of the stretch. This should set the table for our pick, the stretch-running 6-Pink Sands, who should be last early, but who will enjoy the destructive pace duel happening in front of her. We think she goes from last to first, and will bet her to win at 10-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 7, $40 to win on 6-Pink Sands.
Saratoga, Race 8, 4:22 pm ET
Grade 3 Troy Stakes, 5 ½ furlongs, Turf, 4 & Up
We’re expecting another come-from-behind winner here, 7-Chewing Gum. He’s a Bill Mott-trained 5-year-old who looks like a late bloomer, and Mott, as he usually does, has given him time to develop. It looks like he’s sitting on a big one, and the pace should favor him: He’s a stretch runner in a field that is absolutely loaded with early speed. Deep closers are tough to bet in these short turf sprints, because they are so vulnerable to traffic trouble, but with a field of just seven here, we think that Chewing Gum will get a clean trip, and will mow them all down late. We will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $40 to win on 7-Chewing Gum.
Saratoga, Race 9, 5:02 pm ET
Grade 3 Waya Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
The Waya drew just six runners, and none of them has any early speed. That, coupled with the fact that the Saratoga turf should just have a bit of give to it this afternoon, may result in the slowest pace in a grass race all meeting.
When these paceless turf marathons occur, as they do with some frequency, the field usually bunches up with about a half mile to go, and it becomes a sprint to the finish line, with the winner being the runner with the best late kick. We think that here that runner is 5-Olympic Games, who has the best late-pace figures in the group, and who also starts for trainer Christophe Clement, who has been white-hot the entire Saratoga meeting. Look for her to get first jump on the other closers, and to win a close one. We will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $35 to win on 5-Olympic Games.
Saratoga, Race 10, 5:39 pm ET
Grade 1 Longines Test Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
The parade of riches at Saratoga continues with the Test, which drew seven sophomore fillies. The star here is 5-Gamine, who won the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont on June 20 in one of the most sensational performances we can remember, with her official winning margin an eye-popping 18 ¾ lengths. She’s undefeated in three career starts, is absolutely the filly to beat, and has odds that reflect that: she’s 3/5 on the morning line, and will probably be more like 1/5 when the gates open.
Because of that price, we are going to try to beat her, and we will do so with 3-Mrs. Danvers. The only way that Gamine can lose, we think, is if the other jockeys gang up on her: Gamine is a speed horse, but there are other speedy fillies in the field, and if the riders on the others take it to Gamine early, the result may be an unsustainably fast pace that leaves them all gasping for air down the stretch. That would set the table for Mrs. Danvers, a late runner from the Shug McGaughey barn. We’ll take a flyer on a closer at a big price; we will bet Mrs. Danvers to win at 10-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 10, $10 to win on 3-Mrs. Danvers.
Saratoga, Race 11, 6:15 pm ET
Grade 1 Travers Stakes, 1 ¼ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
The headliner here is 6-Tiz the Law, the Belmont Stakes and Florida Derby winner, who has looked sensational all year. He looked invincible winning the Belmont Stakes and Florida Derby earlier this year, and he has been breathing fire in his recent morning workouts. We’ve liked this colt quite a bit going all the way back to last year, but the question here is whether he is worth a bet at a very short price.
We think the answer is no: TIz the Law, for all his accomplishments, has a very narrow edge in speed figures over the rest of the field, and that means that at a short price, he’s a play against.
We like 3-Uncle Chuck, a West Coast shipper who won the Los Alamitos Derby for trainer Bob Baffert in his last start. He beat only three other horses that day, and while we normally line up to bet against horses who ship East after earning big figures beating short fields in California, this colt seems like an exception, as he’s lightly raced, and has a big, long-striding running style that should work very well at this mile and a quarter distance. He looks primed to take a big step forward, and that is going to make him very tough here. We will bet Uncle Chuck to win at 5/2. The bet: Saratoga, Race 11, $50 to win on 3-Uncle Chuck.
Del Mar, Race 6, 7:40 pm ET
Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 2-Year-Olds
The Best Pal drew a field of seven. We like the favorite, 4-Roderick: he earned a big speed figure winning his maiden at Belmont Park on June 21, and trainer Wesley Ward opted to start him in this spot, rather than in yesterday’s Saratoga Special at the Spa. We think that was a wise move, because we think that Roderick will handle this modest group of California juveniles, and will do so easily. We will bet him to win at 9/5. The bet: Del Mar, Race 6, $40 to win on 4-Roderick.
Del Mar, Race 9, 9:00 pm ET
Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
There are eight females entered in the Yellow Ribbon, and we’re backing a filly who broke our heart last out: it’s 8-Jolie Olimpica, a 4-year-old Brazilian-bred who finished second to Rushing Fall in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland on July 11. That was a terrific effort against a very tough field, and while she did not win, she did show that she can compete in two-turn races at the very highest level. This field appears to be much, much weaker than she faced in her last, and trainer Richard Mandella will have her ready to fire today. We think she’s the most talented horse in the race, and will bet her to win at 5/2, and will do so enthusiastically. The bet: Del Mar, Race 9, $50 to win on 8-Jolie Olimpica.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.