We have plays in six races at these three tracks, all stakes, and except as noted below, we expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them. First picked race is the 9th at Saratoga at 5:46 pm.
Tonight is the biggest night of the year at Charles Town in West Virginia, where the Charles Town Classic and Oaks will be run under the lights, highlighting a card with seven stakes races. There are also stakes at Saratoga and Del Mar, which make the simulcasting lineup on this late summer day much busier, and much better, than any Friday we’ve seen in quite a while. We have plays in six races at these three tracks, all stakes, and we will note that except as noted below, we expect fast dirt and firm turf in all of them. Let’s go.
The Lake George drew a good field of ten sophomore fillies. After a rainy day yesterday, the New York Racing Association announced this morning that the race would stay on the grass, but that it would be run over a turf course rated as good. So identifying a runner who will take to the soft going is a key component of the handicapping puzzle.
We like 9-Windracer, an Irish-bred who starts for trainer Jack Sisterson. Unlike most of the other runners, who have never run on soft grass before, she has, and she did well on it, breaking her maiden in her first career start on yielding turf at the Curragh in Ireland in July of last year. She finished far back in a couple of Irish stakes later that summer, before being brought to the U.S. this spring, where she won an allowance race in very smart fashion at Arlington Park earlier this month. Sisterson doesn’t run many horses at Saratoga, but when he ships to upstate New York, he’s live, as his 40% win rate at the current meeting (2-for-5) shows. We’d probably fancy Windracer on any surface, but the soft going makes us like her even more. We will bet her to win at 12-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $40 to win on 9-Windracer.
The main track at Charles Town was fast Thursday night, but the forecast this afternoon is very iffy, with scattered showers and thunderstorms possible. So while we’ve handicapped these races for a fast track, please check actual conditions in advance of the evening program.
The Dance to Bristol Stakes looks easy: 7-A Bit of Both, who starts for trainer Brad Cox, has an edge in both speed figures and in early pace: this means that she’s the fastest overall, and the fastest early. At a speed-favoring bullring like Charles Town, the combination of these two traits is lethal. She’s the favorite, but as we’ve said here many times, there is value in every winner, and A Bit of Both is overwhelmingly the likeliest winner of this race. We will bet her to win. The bet: Charles Town, Race 7, $40 to win on 7-A Bit of Both.
Only five go in the Tranquility Lake, but as they’re evenly matched, it’s a decent betting race. The pick is 1-Zusha, who is moving from deep waters to the kiddie pool, having run in five consecutive graded stakes coming into this one. She didn’t win any of those stakes, but neither did she embarrass herself, with a second and a couple of thirds to show for it. She faces much, much, much lesser here, and gets a rail post to boot, which is an advantage in mile races on Del Mar’s main track. We think she’s simply better than the other fillies, and will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Del Mar, Race 8, $40 to win on 1-Zusha.
A full field of ten goes to the gate for the Charles Town Oaks. We like the filly all the way on the outside, 10-Hopeful Growth, who is coming off a very good win in the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks at the Jersey Shore. The draw didn’t do her any favors -- outside gates at Charles Town’s tight, six furlong oval are generally bad -- but we think she can overcome the lousy post, as she’s a stalker in a field filled with early speed. We see her sitting behind the early pace, being able to avoid losing too much ground around the turns, and overtaking the pacesetters late to get up to win. Being ridden by Arnaldo Bocachica, the leading jockey at Charles Town, is a big plus in her avoiding a nightmarish trip. Hopeful Growth is in fine form, seems to be heading in the right direction, and and at 4-1, we like her chances here. We will bet her to win. The bet: Charles Town, Race 10, $35 to win on 10-Hopeful Growth.
The Charles Town Classic also has a full field, with ten older horses going to the post. It’s an interesting race to handicap, as the leading contenders all have little early speed, and the same come-from-behind running style. We like a horse at a big price, 8-Plus Que Parfait, who has been running in shorter races, and should like the additional distance here. He’s a 4-year-old who won the United Arab Emirates Derby last year, a win that earned him a spot in the Kentucky Derby, and while he’s not won since, we think he’s a pretty good horse, and his running style is a fit with how we expect the pace of this race to develop. He may not be more than perfect, but at 15-1, we think he just might be good enough. We will bet him to win and to place. The bet: Charles Town, Race 11, $25 to win/$15 to place on 8-Plus Que Parfait.
That’s all for today. Enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.