Garrity's Saturday Stakes Saratoga Picks: The Forego, Allen Jerkens, Ballerina, Sword Dancer, and Travers
It’s Travers day at Saratoga, the venerable racetrack in Upstate New York, the biggest day of the sport’s premier summer meeting. There are five Grade 1 races on the card, and these comprise our plays. We expect a fast main track, but soft turf, as described below. Let’s go.
Saratoga Race Course, Race 7, 3:07 pm ET
Grade 1 Forego Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up
Short fields have been a problem all meet in Upstate New York, and the Forego is a good example: It’s one of the premier races of the meet, and it drew a field of just five. It looks like a two-horse race on paper, as the top two finishers from the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes, 3-Elite Power and 2-Gunite, who are 1/2 and 6/5, respectively, appear to tower over the rest. Elite Power prevailed over his rival last time, but we think Gunite can turn the tables today, as the Vanderbilt was run on a sloppy track, and we are not entirely convinced that the big speed figure Elite Power earned that day was not enhanced by the off going. On a fast track, which the two will get today, we think Gunite looks better, and as he should be a better price, which horse to bet appears to be an easy decision: we will bet Gunite to win. The bet: Saratoga, Race 7, $50 to win on 2-Gunite.
Saratoga Race Course, Race 9, 4:19 pm ET
Grade 1 Allen Jerkins Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3-year-Olds
The Allen Jerkins drew a field of six. We’re all in on 6-Arabian Lion, who showed enough promise last year that he was considered a leading Kentucky Derby contender for trainer Bob Baffert. He faltered as the distances got longer, but has been absolutely deadly in one-turn races, like his last, when he prevailed in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park on June 10. He figures to get a dream trip from his outside post here, stalking the pacesetters early and rolling late. We will bet him to win at 2-1 odds. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $50 to win on 6-Arabian Lion.
Saratoga Race Course, Race 10, 4:55 pm ET
Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
An octet of filly and mare dirt sprinters lines up for the Ballerina. Much of the attention, both sporting and pari-mutuel, will be pointed in the direction of 6-Echo Zulu, who is the 7/5 morning line favorite coming off a very fast win in the Honorable Miss a month ago. While she could certainly win, we are betting against her, as she beat only three horses that day, and had a ridiculously easy trip doing so. This is a much, much tougher spot for her, and we think a regression is likely, which makes her a play-against.
The pick is 7-Goodnight Olive. Like Echo Zulu, she beat a small field in her last start, winning the Bed of Roses at Belmont Park in June, but she did not have things her own way that day, as she had to close into a slow pace, running down horses who still had plenty left in the tank. We think her effort that day was very good, and as such is a sign that she can prevail here. Look for her to be behind the first flight of horses early, to move to the front around the far turn, and to prevail after a strong stretch drive. We will bet her to win at 9/5. The bet: Saratoga, Race 10, $40 to win on 7-Goodnight Olive.
Saratoga Race Course, Race 11, 5:31 pm ET
Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Turf, 4 & Up
Saratoga has been plagued by rain all meeting, and while today should be dry, enough fell over the last few days that the turf course will have some give to it. We expect the half dozen entered in the Sword Dancer to run over a course rated good. That makes the pick 3-Bolshoi Ballet, who has been a second-stringer in Europe, as evidenced by a 6th place finish in his most recent start, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting, but who showed affinity for this kind of going before, when he won the Grade 1 Belmont Derby as a 3-year-old in 2021 over a turf course rated good. This is a horse who has not won a race in over two years, but he has been running in some of the toughest turf races in the world, and he therefore looks to us to have enough ability to beat this modest group. We will bet him to win at 5-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 11, $40 to win on 3-Bolshoi Ballet.
Saratoga Race Course, Race 12, 6:11 pm ET
Grade 1 Travers Stakes, 1 ¼ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
The biggest race of the Saratoga meeting, and one of the biggest races of the year, in New York or anywhere else, is the Travers, which drew a field of seven. It’s a fascinating group, as the winners of all three Triple Crown races are present – and none of the trio is favored, with 1-Forte, last year’s juvenile champion and the favorite in this year’s Kentucky Derby until he was scratched the morning of the big race, installed as the chalk off an impressive win in the Jim Dandy Stakes a month ago.
We like 4-Mage. He won the Kentucky Derby in which Forte could not participate, and after his victory, there were some who questioned the quality of his victory, doubts that were not exactly assuaged after he ran third in the Preakness and second in the Haskell. But we think that he is a very good colt, that his win in the Run for the Roses was extremely good, especially considering that he’d had just three starts beforehand, and that his also-ran finishes in his subsequent races were for excusable reasons. We think Mage is the best colt of his generation, and he seems poised to show it today by winning the 2023 Travers Stakes. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 12, $50 to win on 4-Mage.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.