Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks the Test & Whitney at Saratoga, the West Virginia Derby, one at Del Mar, more
It’s a big day today, one of the sport’s biggest days of the summer. There are stakes races all over the place, but the primary focus of our six Saturday plays will be Saratoga, where a trio of Grade 1 stakes, the Test, Saratoga Derby, and Whitney, headline a spectacular 12-race card.
We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races, so let’s go.
Saratoga, Race 7, 3:58 pm ET
Grade 2 Glens Falls Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
A field of seven older females lines up for the Glens Falls, the first of four consecutive graded stakes at Saratoga this afternoon. The past performances of the runners makes a slow pace likely, which will compromise the chances of favored 3-War Like Goddess, who is terrific, but whose come-from-behind running style will probably put her too far back to win.
We like 1-Call Me Love, a Christophe Clement trainee who should get a better, more forwardly-placed trip than the favorite. She has a world-class turf pedigree, especially at this 12-furlong distance, and she comes into the race in fine form, with wins in her last two starts. We will bet her to win at 8-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 7, $40 to win on 1-Call Me Love.
Saratoga, Race 8, 4:34 pm ET
Grade 1 Test Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
Eight sophomore fillies go in the Test. With the main track at Saratoga speed-favoring of late -- we wouldn’t go so far as to call it a bias, but runners on or near the early lead definitely have an edge -- we are discounting the chances of the closers, and going with 5-Always Carina, a Chad Brown runner who cuts back to 7 furlongs after finishing a very good second in the 1 1/16 mile Mother Goose at Belmont Park on June 5. She will probably not get the early lead -- that will probably go to speedball 8-Bella Sofia -- but she does have enough natural speed to be close early, and we see her earning a trip to the winner’s circle with a trip stalking the pace. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $40 to win on 5-Always Carina.
Saratoga, Race 9, 5:10 pm
Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational, 1 3/16 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Olds
The Saratoga Derby has the day’s best field, in New York or anywhere else, as eleven 3-year-old colts will line up. Five of them are horses with European connections, and we think the winner will come from that group, as the American runners, as is so often the case, appear a cut below the horses from the Continent. Our pick is 6-Bolshoi Ballet, who comes from the powerful Coolmore/Aidan O’Brien team, and who won the Grade 1 Belmont Derby at Belmont Park in his last start. He is the kind of European runner who warms the cockles of our hardened handicapper’s heart: He has a world-class turf pedigree, being by all-time great sire Galileo, who died recently; and he also has shown a fondness for firm going, which he will get today, and which presumably is why his connections brought him to the U.S. He also has a terrific turn of foot, and should improve in his second North American start. We think Bolshoi Ballet is the class of this field, and we will bet him to win, at 2-1 odds, accordingly. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $50 to win on 6-Bolshoi Ballet.
Mountaineer Park, Race 8, 5:35 pm ET
Grade 3 West Virginia Derby, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
Seven go in the West Virginia Derby. 1-Bourbounic’s last two starts were in the Belmont Stakes and the Kentucky Derby, and while we hated him in both those spots, we think this one makes a lot more sense for him, as there are no colts anywhere near the caliber of Essential Quality or Hot Rod Charlie in this group. We also think his grinding style will be an asset for him here, as the early pace looks quick, and that should favor his late charge. We will bet Bourbonic to win at 3-1. The bet: Mountaineer Park, Race 8, $35 to win on 1-Bourbonic.
Saratoga, Race 10, 5:48 pm ET
Grade 1 Whitney Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Dirt, 4 & Up
The field of the Whitney came up short, with just five runners, and while there has been blather along the rail this week that the quality of the entrants makes up for the small field -- this is baloney; bigger fields always make better betting races -- it is a bit disappointing that a race of this magnitude could not draw a larger group.
That said, this is a talented quintet, and the old racetrack saw that any of them could win is true. We like favored 4-Knicks Go, who comes into this race off a jaw-dropping win in the Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows in Iowa, where he earned a gaudy 113 Beyer Speed Figure, which is merely the best Beyer a horse in North American has run this year, on any surface, and at any distance. That number puts him in some rarefied air, and what is even better for his prospects today is that he has a massive edge in early speed on the rest of the field, which will give him an uncontested early lead, running very comfortably in front through what should be for him very moderate fractions. On the speed-favoring Saratoga main track, that means no horse will be able to catch him. We think Knicks Go will wire this group, and will bet him to win at 6/5. The bet: Saratoga, Race 10, $50 to win on 4-Knicks Go.
Del Mar, Race 10. 9:36 pm ET
Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
A deep field of ten will go to the post to run the eight and a half furlongs of the Yellow Ribbon. We like 9-Maxim Rate, who comes into this spot having run in Grade 1 races in her last three starts, including a win in the Gamely at Santa Anita on May 31. She has the class, she has the right running style -- a high cruising speed with a strong finishing kick -- and she has an excellent trainer in Simon Callaghan, who has a very strong 29% win rate at the current Del Mar meet. Add it up and we think Maxim Rate will take the Yellow Ribbon; we will bet her to win at 7/2. The bet: Del Mar, Race 10, $40 to win on 9-Maxim Rate.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.