God's Tipster's Saturday Saratoga Picks: 8 big races, including The Travers with Epicenter, Cyberknife
Friday’s Race Recap from Saratoga:
(All odds US)
Race replays for yesterday’s races from Saratoga can be found here:
Race 3: 2nd@ 1.95/1
Race 6: SCRATCH
Race 10: 3rd@ 1.90/1
After heavy rains washed us off the turf we were left with two selections. In Race 3, Barese battled for the lead til the very end when rank outsider, Bossmakinbossmoves was the only runner in the field taken off the pace circled and swooped in for the win. After a scratch in Race 6, we had Jerry the Nipper - now racing on dirt as we rained off the turf and battled for the lead before fading in the drive.
Well we finally made it to the main event. It’s Travers Day at Saratoga! The marquee race day on the Saratoga calendar. We’re expecting fast and firm conditions with more beautiful weather. There were a few Grade 1 races I didn’t handicap here because I think the favorites look tough and don’t think those races offer as much value as the ones I’ve listed below. Let’s get to work!
Saturday at Saratoga:
Race 1: Track Mate - 1 pt win (US Morning Line Odds: 8/1)
Blue-blooded group of maidens kicks off our Travers card. There are a few in here that look like they might be the goods. It’s tough to tell with debut runners. I’m actually siding in here with one of only two runners with a start under his belt - Track Mate for Hall of Fame trainer Wayne Lukas. Track Mate is by Union Rags out of Teammate and really has no turf breeding at all. That’s why it was so odd to see him running on turf in his debut. But Lukas has his ways of getting his horses ready to run and I’m just going to chalk the turf race up to “he wanted to get him some experience”. Despite the fact that he’s not bred for turf he didn’t run terribly. The running lines make his race look worse than it was but he was closing fastest of anyone at the end after going wide on the turn. Jockey, Luis Saez takes over for a trainer that has a positive ROI with second time starters at Saratoga of $21.00. Might be more here than meets the eye at a square price.
Race 2: Highland Lord - 1 pt win (US Morning Line Odds: 10/1)
Two-year-olds on turf in this maiden race. Chad Brown’s got a first time starter that will probably go favored. These races can be tricky as these runners try to navigate a route of ground, most of them for their first start. Highland Lord hails from the low profile connections of Barclay Tagg who doesn’t win a ton of races first time out but the dam of this runner is Kristi With a K, who also raced for this barn and finished either first, second or third in 13 of 17 turf starts. As a broodmare, Kristi has thrown Highland Sky, who was a multiple stakes winner (and a debut winner) for Tagg and company. This dam also threw Highland Glory who had two turf wins, including a Stakes win in three turf starts and was Graded stakes placed. This one’s price will probably be bigger than the 10/1 morning line and I wouldn’t be shocked if he came with a big run on debut.
Race 3: Bold Journey - 1 pt win (US Morning Line Odds: 9/2)
New York bred allowance runners sprint 7 furlongs in this one. On the Hill is a tepid 3/1 morning line choice but he had a dream trip last time and really didn’t beat much. I prefer Bold Journey who returned from an April layoff to finish a strong, closing second to Unique Unions. In that race, Bold Journey had a bit of a stumbling start and then raced near the back for most of the way. A change in tactics from the races he had successfully run in the past. Jockey Jose Ortiz even looked like he stopped riding a little early in this race or he might’ve even won. Second off the layoff with a bullet workout in his holster. Bold Journey offers great value at 9/2.
Race 8: Happy Jack - 1 pt win (US Morning Line Odds: 15/1)
The H. Allen Jerkens Memorial is the first Grade 1 we’ll cover. The once-defeated Jack Christopher is the 6/5 morning line favorite and will probably go off at odds on. He’s definitely in the mix but after taking a long look at the runners he’s actually defeated in his sprint races, I’ve realized he hasn’t beaten much so I’m taking a stand against him at short odds in what should be the sternest test at one turn he’s faced thus far. I’m siding with Triple Crown Trail dropout Happy Jack who seems much better served sprinting than routing. This race goes through Conagher who breaks with the rail speed. Jack Christopher won’t be far off what looks like a rapid early pace and Gunite will be up on the pace as well. So three of our top four morning line choices should be positioned near the lead early. Accretive is expected to stalk the pace but he had dead aim on Gunite last time out and failed to get by. Happy Jack should have the pace to chase which is something he didn’t have last time out at Ellis Park. He still closed nicely after being sandwiched at the start but that race had the feel of a prep. Prior to that he ran a strong 7 furlongs to defeat a talented field of eleven rivals at Churchill Downs. Picks up the pieces at long odds.
Race 10: Gufo 9/2 - 1 pt win (US Morning Line Odds: 9/2)
Our second Grade 1 of the afternoon is the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at a mile and a half on turf. As usual Chad Brown is loaded with runners here. We’ve got early speed with the presence of Tribhuvan and Channel Maker signed on. I’m siding with Gufo who will be adding blinkers for the first time since last year’s Breeder’s Cup Turf in an effort to keep him a bit more interested early. Gufo has won three of five races at today’s distance and is a closing head away from being two for two here at Saratoga. In his last two starts he hasn’t had much pace to close into and that’s dampened his closing kick a little. Today he gets pace and those blinkers, which he wore when he won this race last year. 9/2 odds seem fair on Gufo under Joel Rosario.
Race 11: Cyberknife - 1 pt win (US Morning Line Odds: 7/2)
Some call it the “Midsummer Derby, some call it the unofficial Fourth Jewel of the Triple Crown. The Grade 1 Travers is the main event of the Saratoga race meet at the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles. Epicenter is our morning line favorite after an easy win in the Jim Dandy. Oddly enough, there are four Grade 1 winners in this field and Epicenter isn’t one of them. I would’ve preferred to have seen him have more of a fight in his prep race like Cyberknife did in his track record performance where he defeated Taiba and Jack Christopher. Cyberknife has been developing throughout the year. He won the Arkansas Derby as a lanky, awkward teenager, got fried with the early pace in the Kentucky Derby and came back with a tour de force to win the Haskell. I loved the way he gamely stuck his neck out as he felt Taiba come to him. Cyberknife has worked well since that race and 7/2 odds for the trainer who won this race last year with Essential Quality are more than fair.
Race 12: Heymackit’sjack - 2 pts win - BEST BET (US Morning Line Odds: 3/1)
As the dust settles from the Travers we’ve got a maiden race to take a look at. A few of these runners are exiting the same race where Heymackit’sjack was easily second best to the winner. None of the runners exiting other races have shown much and although there’s a first time starter on the rail, that can be a tough place for a first time starter to be in a turf sprint. Based on the runner’s who have raced before which is the vast majority of this field, it’s Mack’s race to win or lose.
Race 13: Salimah - 1 pt win (US Morning Line Odds: 7/2)
Salimah races for Chad Brown’s red hot barn and there’s very little chance this runner goes off at the 7/2 morning line odds. She should be closer to 9/5 or 2/1 off a sharp maiden score at Tampa this winter. The runner up from that race came back to score in her next start. Irad Ortiz takes the reins on this runner for the Brant barn who prepped many of their best runners, including Grade 1 winning In Italian, at Tampa Bay Downs this winter. If you can lock in 7/2 on this one with your bookmaker, please do so.
Best of luck to all our members wagering on Travers Day at Saratoga!