Garrity's Saturday Stakes: The Saranac, Amsterdam, Forego, Sword Dancer at Saratoga, Ontario Colleen at Woodbine and Pat O'Brien at Del Mar
Garrity's first post is at Saratoga at 2:18 pm EDT.

There are a number of good stakes races across the country today, with most of them in upstate New York: Saratoga has a spectacular card with four graded stakes, including two Grade 1 races. We will play all four, along with stakes at Woodbine and Del Mar, . That adds up to six plays for this late summer Saturday.

Track conditions are going to be more complicated than normal, so we’ll break them down in each race analysis. Let’s go.

Saratoga, Race 3, 2:18 pm ET

Grace 3 Saranac Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

The turf course at Saratoga was listed as yielding late this morning, we expect it to remain so for this afternoon’s racing.

The Saranac drew ten sophomore colts to run a mile on the grass. We like a first-time North American starter, 4-L’Imperator. He’s a French-bred colt from the powerful Chad Brown barn, and he has run four times, all in France, winning three of them. We think he looks good enough to beat this ordinary group, and the fact that there will be some cut in the ground will help him, as all three of his wins in France were on soft turf. We won’t get his 5-1 morning line odds -- he will get bet, and be a lower price at post time -- but we will play him anyway. We will bet him to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 3, $40 to win on 4-L’Imperator.

Woodbine, Race 7, 4:17 pm ET

Grade 3 Ontario Colleen Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies

Seven sophomore fillies go in the Ontario Colleen, and the Woodbine turf course should be firm for the race. Several of the entrants are one-way speed types, which should lead to an unsustainably fast pace, and a winner coming from behind. That makes the pick 5-Diamond Sparkles, a lightly raced Mark Casse trainee. We think she’s been improving lately, but because that improvement is hidden in her form -- she’s been switching back and forth between turf and synthetic, and between sprinting and going long, and this makes her progression hard to see -- she’s 10-1 on the morning line. But we think she’s a quality filly, and we think the shape of this race is going to let her show it. Look for her to be mid-pack early, and rolling late. We will bet her to win. The bet: Woodbine, Race 7, $35 to win on 5-Diamond Sparkles.

Saratoga, Race 7, 4:32 pm ET

Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

There is rain all over the Eastern U.S. as we write this on Saturday morning, and the main track at Saratoga is listed muddy at press time, but it looks like upstate New York will stay mostly dry today, and that should dry the track out, and we’ve therefore handicapped the dirt races at Saratoga for fast going. But check conditions before the races, as rains today, if they occur, could be heavy, and could turn the main track sloppy very quickly.

Only six drew into the Amsterdam, but it’s a fascinating race to handicap in spite of the short field. There’s a lot of speed in the group, and while that would normally have us expecting a fast pace, and a winner coming from just off it, the Saratoga dirt course was very speed-favoring yesterday, and we’re expecting that trend to continue this afternoon. So we think here that we’re going to go back to our formative days as a handicapper in Southern California, where the tracks were so speed-favoring that the thing to do in races like this was to take the speed of the speed, the horse with enough early speed to outrun the other speedsters. That makes the pick 2-Yaupon. He’s an undefeated son of Uncle Mo, trained by Steve Asmussen, who earned a big speed figure winning an allowance race in wire-to-wire fashion on July 18. While his fig for that win was probably inflated a bit due to the shape of the race -- he got an easy lead on a speed-favoring track -- and while we would normally look to play against the big figure for that reason, we think he will get a similar setup today, and the inside post virtually guarantees that his is going to use every bit of his copious early zip. We see another wire-to-wire win, another big speed figure, and a trip to the winner’s circle, and we will bet him to win at 8/5 as a result. The bet: Saratoga, Race 7, $40 to win on 2-Yaupon.

Saratoga, Race 8, 5:07 pm ET

Grade 1 Forego Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up

A deep field of eleven older horses line up for the Forego. For a sprint of this caliber, there is a surprising lack of early speed, and that makes the pick 6-Complexity. He’s a speedy 4-year-old from Chad Brown who should get the early lead, and who may do so quite easily, and he showed as a juvenile two years ago that when he’s let loose on an easy lead, he can win big races: He won the Grade 1 Champagne in exactly that fashion. We see him wiring this field, and at 4-1, we think he’s a fantastic play. We will bet him to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $40 to win on 6-Complexity.

Saratoga, Race 9, 5:43 pm ET

Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Turf, 4 & Up

The Sword Dancer is the featured race at the Spa today, and a highlight of the meeting, as a terrific group of eight older horses will run twelve furlongs on the soft Saratoga sod. The pick is 7-Pedro Cara, a French-bred 4-year-old who starts for Graham Motion. He’s been a globe-trotter, having run in France, Spain, the U.S., and Qatar. We like his ability, we like the fact that Motion is good with horses in this spot, and we especially like that he has run well both at this distance and on softer turf. In a race where none of the more obvious contenders impresses us all that much, we like an outsider to come in and take the prize, and to do so at generous 10-1 odds. We will bet him to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $40 to win on 7-Pedro Cara.

Del Mar, Race 10, 9:38 pm ET

Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

Our last race of the day is the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien from Del Mar, which drew a field of eight. We like 5-C Z Rocket, who starts for trainer Peter Miller. He was claimed for $40,000 out of a race at Oaklawn Park in April, and since then, he has improved dramatically, winning three races in a row. His form is razor sharp right now, his stalking running style is a fit with how we expect the race to be run, and he has shown in the past that he likes this 7 furlong distance. We think he’s headed to the winner’s circle, and will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 10, $35 to win on 5-C Z Rocket.

That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.

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