The Violet Stakes (G3)

Seven older fillies & mares go postward in today’s 11th at Monmouth, the Grade 3 Violet Stakes.

The favorite is likely #2 Light Up Our World (5-2), who goes out for Arnaud Delacour. She was a solid fourth last time on the 4th of July at Parx against Fourstar Crook, winner of seven straight races for Chad Brown. That was a tougher field (in addition to the talented winner, Cambodia came out of this race to win at Del Mar and Thundering Sky would win a stakes race at Saratoga) than today’s assignment, but Light Up Our World didn’t do a ton of running in there, saving ground and angling out late with an overall good trip.

#8 Pricedtoperfection (3-1) comes out of an allowance race at Saratoga where she put in a belated rally behind a pretty strong pace. She can win but figures to be a short-ish price and will need a strong pace to attack.

The horse we want to bet is #4 Tricky Escape (6-1), which might not surprise you. We really liked her race here in the Eatontown on June 3rd, in which she was 4th with serious trouble to the excellent Grand Jete. We bet Tricky Escape in the Dick Memorial two back (write-up here) and Grand Jete should have won the Beverly D last week if not for a ton of late trouble (of course we had her). Tricky Escape ran fine in the Dick but 11 furlongs was too far and you can throw out her dirt race last time. The price should be fair and if she runs back to the Eatontown, Tricky Escape can upset the Violet at a square price.

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Saratoga/Del Mar Cross Country Pick-4

Saratoga and Del Mar team up today on a special Cross Country Pick-4 that features four graded stakes races, including the Alabama at Saratoga and the Pacific Classic (with Arrogate) at Del Mar.

Leg 1 – Lake Placid Stakes (Saratoga Race 8) – There is no speed signed on for this nine-furlong race for three-year old fillies.  The horse to beat is #3 La Coronel (8-5), who was very good in the spring and then ran in the exceedingly difficult Coronation Stakes at Ascot. This is her first race back, but she will be a short price. Perfect trip or not, it was hard not to be impressed with #4 Proctor’s Ledge (5-2) in winning the Lake George here on July 21st. She showed improved speed and buried the field, winning very easily. They are our top two. We’ll throw in #1 Coasted (8-1), who seems like the horse that could benefit most from just being sent to the lead, and she does have some ability. #6 Uni (3-1) looms a short price and figures to be against the flow of the race. She did have a good trip last time in the Belmont Oaks and feels like a bad bet at her likely odds, but it would feel pretty foolish to get knocked out of this by Chad Brown in a filly-turf stakes.

A – 3, 4
B – none
C – 1, 6

Leg 2 – Alabama Stakes (Saratoga Race 9) – This is a tremendous race. New Money Honey, who has run exclusively on turf, and Holy Helena, who really improved on synthetic, have to answer the dirt question in here. Our top pick is #7 Elate (6-1) for Bill Mott, who ran very well last time, albeit with a good trip, in just missing to Abel Tasmen in the CCA Oaks and seems ready to break through here. #5 Unchained Melody (3-1) won the Mother Goose last time, should get the 10 furlongs and is loose on the lead. They are the top two. We’re huge #6 Salty (9-2) fans, but think she is better shorter (we would have run her in the Ballerina against older horses next weekend). We’ll toss in #9 Actress (15-1), who might not get enough pace, but should get the distance and improved last time in the slow-paced Delaware Oaks, and goes out for a red-hot trainer in Jason Servis.

A – 5, 7
B – 9
C – none

Leg 3 – Pacific Classic (Del Mar Race 8) – We have to approach this thinking that if anything were slightly amiss with #8 Arrogate (1-1) that he would not be running here after his dud in the San Diego four weeks ago. He never ran a step in that race, but his previous four races would obviously drown this field. We’ll just put our trust in Baffert here, assuming that the real Arrogate will show up. Now, there is a chance that he doesn’t, based on his last race, or that he doesn’t like Del Mar, so we will back up with #2 Collected (5-2), also for Baffert. He does have to go 10 furlongs (and he is by City Zip), but he is in great form and has reportedly been working very well. He’ll be our lone backup.

A – 8
B – none
C – 2

Leg 4 – Del Mar Oaks (Del Mar Race 10) – The payoff leg is a skullbuster, and we’ll have to spread a bit. Our top pick is #11 Pacific Wind (12-1). She should have won the Honeymoon two-back but got into all kinds of trouble in the stretch. Last time, she made the early wide move into a moderate pace and maybe should have gotten by Meadowsweet, who returns here. Still, that one faces more pace pressure today and that should help Pacific Wind. We’ll give #12 Beau Recall (6-1) a pass for the 10-furlong Belmont Oaks in which she shipped across the country and actually ran decently after getting shuffled back a bit on the turn. This is an easier spot, though she didn’t draw especially well. We also want to use #7 Vexatious (8-1), who is by Giant’s Causeway and there is some turf/synthetic on the dam-side (full to Creative Cause).

A – 7, 11, 12
B – 13
C – 10

The All-A ticket will be played for $1.50 and then 3A/1B, 2A/2B, and 3A/1C for $1. The total play is $58. Good luck.

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Saturday at the Spa

A few quick spot plays for Saturday at Saratoga.

Race 2 – #3 Get the Facts (6-1) was green in his debut going 5.5 furlongs behind and impressive wire to wire winner on the opening Saturday of the meet and comes back in three weeks stretching out to seven furlongs for Mark Casse, whose barn is due to get going (44: 1-6-9). Experience, always valuable, is even moreso important in seven furlong races for these babies early in the year and he should move forward off his debut.

Adirondack Stakes (Race 4) – This 6.5 furlong test for 2-year old fillies features a couple of runners that have already won at the meet and one is our pick here – #8 Southhampton Way (5-1) for Horacio DePaz. These Sagamore connections have had a tremendous year and this horse is drawn perfectly outside to stalk the speed, the same way she won her debut on Opening Day. She showed some tenacity in that race, repelling a rival in the last furlong, and she’s well positioned to get a win her today.

Race 5 – This is a wide-open race and I’m not sure he can win but we’ll try to get #1 Husband’s Folly (30-1) into the mix. It’s a race where you have some shaky dropdowns, potential pace, and poorly drawn contenders, so why not take a shot with a horse that has a few races that put him in the mix, specifically his race on April 12th at Aqueduct.You can throw out his last two races, one going 11 furlongs – too far – and one on dirt. He has an inside post position too. We’ll use with Blarp, McIlroy, and Italian Charm.

Race 7 – This is the other division of Race 2, a 7-furlong race for juveniles. Our pick is #1 Wyatt’s Town (9-2) for Steve Asmussen. He drew the rail in his debut on June 22nd at Churchill Downs and was hemmed in for much of the stretch while the winner, Baffin, opened up to wire the field (Baffin was 4th in the Sanford after being part of a fast pace). Asmussen is typically better with his second time starters and again, we’ll prioritize experience in these seven furlong races.

Fourstardave (Race 10) – These one-mile races on the inner turf course tend to be speed favoring races and we’ll take a shot with #5 Sassy Little Lila (6-1), a filly facing the boys. She could have won the Just a Game last time and yes, she was aided by a moderate pace, but it took a tremendous effort from Antonoe to run her down. I also think that she ran well going a flat mile when she had been running 8.5 – 10 furlong races previously. Further, a one-turn mile on the Widener turf course at Belmont does not necessarily flatter her style the way a two-turn mile on the Saratoga inner-turf course tends to. She should be a good price in a race where some of the contenders have questions (Time Test has disappointed in his two US starts, World Approval has to turn all the way back to a mile, Disco Partner has to handle a two-turn mile here and is going to be a very short price).

Monmouth Oaks (Monmouth, Race 10) – Here’s a bonus pick from Monmouth Park today. We like #7 You Know Too (8-1) in the Monmouth Oaks. She is improving and makes her third start off the layoff today. Last time, in the Delaware Oaks, she was inside into the lane and maybe a little hesitant to get through in tight, slightly steadied, and finished fourth. Still, that was a solid effort for her first time going a route of ground, stretching out from 5.5 furlongs, and her second start off a nine month layoff. She can upset the field with a step forward and there is some pace for her to stalk in here.

Good luck!

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Showcase Horse – Grand Jete Can Upset Beverly D

Arlington has an outstanding card today that includes the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes and the Arlington Million, but we’re most interested in the Beverly D, which goes as Race 10.

The favorite is likely #4 Dona Bruja (7-2), who has been very impressive winning stakes at Churchill and Arlington. However, she faces a much tougher field than anything she’s faced previously. #2 Prado’s Sweet Ride, who was the runner-up in the Modesty behind Dona Bruja, is a 30-1 longshot in this race.

Among some of the other horses that will take money…#9 Hawksmoor (9-2) is dressed up after setting very slow paces in both the Beaugay and the New York at Belmont. #10 Rain Goddess (5-1) is a 3-year old for Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore. This is a tougher spot against older horses and she was beaten by Con Te Partiro at Ascot, a listed-stakes type US horse for Wesley Ward. She is going to take money and this is a tougher spot. #1 Dacita (4-1) is probably the horse to beat. She’s had legitimate excuses in her two starts this year – the very soft ground in the Beaugay and the crawling pace in the New York. She might get some more pace here but she is reliant on a bit coming from so far back.

This brings us to #5 Grand Jete (6-1), our top selection for trainer Chad Brown. It was hard not to be impressed by her 4 1/2 length win in her US debut at Keeneland. She buried the field in the Eatontown at Monmouth, flying home to win. Then last time, in a Belmont allowance that was her prep for this race, she was bottled up at the top of the lane, and ran down Bar of Gold, a solid runner. This is a tougher field, obviously, but she’s up to the task.

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Saturday at the Spa

We played Snap Decision in yesterday’s Hall of Fame Stakes and he just moved up on the turn but just didn’t have enough late punch behind the very impressive Bricks & Mortar, who is now a perfect 4-4 for Chad Brown and possesses a devastating late kick.

On to Saturday’s card where there are a few horses we think can outrun their odds.

Waya Stakes (G3) – Race 3 – #2 Estrechada (6-1) comes back to New York for another try against the local turf marathon runners after running sixth in the River Memories downstate on July 9th. In that race, Apple Betty, who is in this race, set a very slow pace and wired the field, while Estrechada was buried inside and never had a clear path for even a few strides until it was way too late. She switches to Javier Castellano, who should have her a little closer to the pace today. The favorite is #4 Suffused (7-5), who has disappointed in each of her last two races (though there was a very slow pace in the G2 New York on June 9th). Still, Suffused’s last two races seem worse than her best and she is a bit hard to lean on at what promises to be a short price. We’ll bet Estrechada to win and play her in exactas with the favorite.

Race 4 – This is a 2 year old 8.5 furlong race and we’ll try second time starting #6 Eclipsed Moon (5-1), who was 2nd in his debut at Ellis. In that race, he missed the break and then made a big bold wide move, spun 5-6 wide at the top of the lane and was 4-wide around the turn. The winner saved ground and got through up the inside. The race was slow (44 Beyer) but was at a mile and that route experience can play well here in a field that has several first time starters. Ken McPeek is 16% from 68 starters with second time starters in turf routes with a $2.30 ROI (and the ROI is still $2.00 when you remove the one $62 winner) per DRF Formulator.

Race 5 – This is a typical loaded Saratoga allowance race and we have to try #1 Mighty Mo (8-1) from the inside. Last time out, he was surprisingly rated when he should have been up on the pace in a race that was won wire to wire. He ran well behind Highland Sky two-back at Gulfstream and was part of a very fast pace in the Tropical Park Derby on New Year’s Eve. Switching to the aggressive Paco Lopez should mean a forward trip, or even a pace-setting trip from the inside, which would give this Bill Mott runner a big chance to pull off the upset.

Race 6 – This 2 year old Whitney Day dirt sprint feels likely to produce a Hopeful runner and big performance, and we’ll say that is going to come from #9 Arrival (5-1), a $500,000 yearling for Mark Casse. This son of Tapit, half to Bayern, had an impossible trip at Churchill in his debut. He was bumped hard at the start and took a few strides to settle (and by then was in last place), moved up inside, and then had all kinds of trouble in the line. Part of that was him being a bit green, but he was bumped and had to weave his way through a few times in what should be a very good learning experience.

Lure Stakes – Race 7 – #1 Projected (9-5) is obviously the horse to beat and will be a short price. The horse we’ll use with him in the exacta is #4 Our Way (12-1), who is 2-3 at Saratoga and improved over the winter figure-wise for Jim Bond. He does come off a layoff from April 29th but should be a big enough price. Some of the other horses that will take money (Takeover Target off the long layoff, Camelot Kitten also off a layoff and we’re not sure how good he really was last year anyway, Ring Weekend doesn’t seem as strong this year, etc.) are worth opposing underneath.

We don’t have any interest in opposing Gun Runner, especially on what looks to be a fast track for today’s Grade 1 Whitney.

This is a tremendous card. Enjoy, and let’s pick some winners!

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Snap Decision Can Surprise in the Hall of Fame

There are several Hall of Famers (Shug McGaughey, Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott, John Velazquez) and future Hall of Famers (Chad Brown) in the Hall of Fame Stakes today at Saratoga (Race 9), and one rider who is not a Hall of Famer as we type this but will be by race time – Javier Castellano will be inducted this morning.

Hall of Fame Stakes (G2) – 3/yo, 8.5 furlongs, turf – Castellano rides maybe the horse to beat in #2 Big Handsome (3-1). Big Handsome stretches out to 8.5 furlongs today and may be the speed of the speed, though #9 Secretary At War (8-1) likely gets sent towards the front as well. Big Handsome was totally blocked and stymied in the stretch of the Manila last time out and his first two turf races, albeit sprints are very good. He has to answer the two-turns question. The horse that beat Big Handsome last time is #1 Bricks and Mortar (5-2). Bricks and Mortar, trained by Chad Brown, made up five lengths into a last quarter mile run in 22.13 seconds, a sparkling performance. He’s obviously very talented but may be a short price.

While we respect #4 Yoshida (7-2), #10 Arklow (10-1), the horse we want to key on is #5 Snap Decision (5-1) for McGaughey. He’s been caught in some slower-paced races (albeit against weaker) in his last two starts, and just missed to Bricks and Mortar two back at Belmont when Snap Decision had a little trouble finding room in the lane. In his three races since returning from Gulfstream, he has had to close into final fractions of: 28.13, 22.10, and 29.27 (and the 29.27 was on slower ‘good’ turf in a race won wire to wire by a solid older runner, Conquest Sandman).

We’ll toss in #6 Makarios (20-1) underneath in exactas and trifectas. He showed some ability over the winter and was compromised by very slow paces set by Oscar Performance in his last two races, plus will be a huge price.

5 / 1, 3, 6, 8, 10 / 1, 3, 6, 8, 10
1, 3, 6, 8, 10 / 5 / 1, 3, 6, 8, 10

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Haskell Day

Let’s look at some spots on the Haskell Day card at Monmouth Park.

Haskell Invitational (Race 12) – While it appears #4 Practical Joke (4-1) is better at one-turn, he is still a solid runner going two-turns and if he is going to win a Grade 1 going 9 furlongs, he’s going to do it here at Monmouth. This Chad Brown runner has tactical speed to stay close and ran very well last time in the Dwyer, running down Battalion Runner after some moderate early fractions. The pace here should be solid, with Irish War Cry drawn inside of Battle of Midway and Timeline. That should help set up the off-the-pace runners and we think Practical Joke is the best of that group. However, we’ll also use #5 McCraken (9-2). He was probably a short horse in the Blue Grass after his injury. He was very wide in the Derby when inside runners did best. Then last time, he won easily against a weak field but is cycling back towards the 95 Beyer he ran when winning the Sam Davis. He seems poised for another forward move. Practical Joke, however, is our top pick.

Molly Pitcher (Race 10) – Our pick is #5 Mo’Green (4-1). She got good over the winter and while didn’t run well last time at Delaware, that can be a quirky course that not all horses handle. She has races to get back to that others in the field simply do not, including Power of Snunner who beat Mo’Green in the Obeah on June 10th.

Race 8 (Jersey-bred allowance) – #6 Mello Groove (8-1) seems poised to run his best race here against Jersey breds. This is his fifth start of the meet and has run well in all four. On May 14th, he blew out an open-company allowance running fast enough to win this race. Three-back, he was compromised by a very slow pace. Two-back, he was a fine third behind two stakes horses and the winner, Ostrolenka, was second in a NY-bred stakes race on Thursday at Saratoga. Then last time, Mello Groove was a solid second going a mile, which is too far. The turnback suits him perfectly.

I’m also a little interested in #1 Bolting (12-1) in the Monmouth Stakes (Race 7). His Poker was a mess, which included yielding turf and a terrible break. His best races are on firm turf from Europe and if you draw a line through his US debut, maybe he can jump up and challenge obvious horse-to-beat Money Multiplier.

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Saturday at the Spa

Let’s look at the late Pick-4 today at Saratoga, a sequence that includes three stakes races.

Race 8 (G1 Vanderbilt) – 3/up, 6 furlongs, dirt – As you would expect from a Grade 1 sprint, there is a lot of speed, though #3 El Deal (7-2) might be fastest of them all. The question is, at a short price, do you want to take this Jorge Navarro trainee who has faced much weaker? We don’t. #8 Limousine Liberal (3-1) has beaten weaker fields in his last two but is drawn perfectly outside. Our top pick, however is #5 Bird Song (5-1). He turns back out of route races and was poorly ridden and inexplicably rated in the Foster last time out. The turnback suits him perfectly. #4 AP Indian (5-2) is logical and was part of a strong pace behind Whitmore last time, but he missed training time and two races (True North, Belmont Sprint) since then and his races last year were much faster.

A – 5, 8
B – 4
C – none

Race 9 (G2 Bowling Green) – 3/up, 11 furlongs, turf – Our best bet of the day is #4 Sadler’s Joy (3-1) in here for Tom Albetrani. He was a fast-closing third behind #7 Ascend (7-5) in the Manhattan last time, but that was going 10 furlongs, and the extra ground should suit Sadler’s Joy perfectly, who won the 12 furlong Pan American in April. Plus, in the Manhattan, Sadler’s Joy had to close from seventh into a last quarter run in 21.99 seconds. We’ll note that Ascend ran very well last time with a wide trip but the extra distance is also a bit of a question and he’ll be a short price. #1 Bigger Picture (7-2) won the Grade 1 United Nations last time but had a dream inside run under Joe Bravo and this is a tougher spot.

A – 4
B – none
C – none

Race 10 (G2 Jim Dandy) – 3yo, 9 furlongs, dirt – This is the first time that the Derby and Preakness winners have met in the Jim Dandy and we prefer #2 Cloud Computing (6-5), the Preakness winner for trainer Chad Brown. We’ve been impressed with each one of his four starts and he was very game running down Classic Empre (who did do the dirty work) in the Preakness. #1 Always Dreaming (1-1) had an easy trip on a soft pace in the Florida Derby and ran well but was aided by being on the inside in the Derby. His Preakness was bad, I think has to be a little bit of a concern, though Todd Pletcher certainly thrives more off breaks (like this 10-week break) compared to the two-week break he had in the Preakness. #5 Good Samaritan (12-1) is a turf horse but they are taking a shot here – he’s had some tough turf trips, but his dam was a turf horse, and the only sibling to win did so on grass.

A – 2
B – 1
C – none

Race 11 (Maiden Special Weight) – 3/up F&M, 8.5 furlongs, turf – #2 Durable Goods (3-1) is very logical off a solid bow in a good field in which she waited in some traffic at the top of the lane, but there are a few others that we’ll use. #7 Remarqued (8-1) ran well in her turf debut behind the impressive Rubilinda and stretches out. Though the dam was a sprinter, she is by Arch so 8.5 furlongs should be within reach. #4 Fashion Length (12-1) is the second foal from stakes-winning turfer Theyskens Theory and gets on the lawn for the first time for Shug McGaughey. #5 Length (12-1) is from a good Claiborne family (Size, Width) and goes out as a first time starter for Bill Mott who has had one turf FTS run well at this meet. Finally, #1 Elude ran well at Gulfstream (her trip on January 7th was a disaster and her subsequent race on February 19th gives her a chance here). She was wired at Tampa and hasn’t been seen since, but if she has improved a bit since then, she can hit the board at a big price.

A – 2
B – 1, 7
C- 4, 5

For $60, we’ll play the All-A ticket for $4, and the 3A/1B and 2A/2B tickets for $2 apiece.

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Friday Showcase Horse – Soar Once More…Can

Let’s look at a good-priced runner in Friday’s third at Saratoga.

Race 3 – Maiden Special Weight (F&M, 11 furlongs, turf) – This maiden special weight for marathon fillies features a few runners stretching out and one especially should thrive on the extra distance: #3 Soar Once More (10-1). She’s of Breeders Cup F&M Turf winner Soaring Softly, who was 2-2 going this 11 furlong distance and 4-4 going at least 10 furlongs. While Soaring Softly did not foal a horse between 2009 and 2012, she did drop Manitoulin in 2013 (one year before Soar Once More). Manitoulin has earned almost $200,000 on the grass and has really improved when stretched out in distance.

Soar Once More’s start two-back was the race that we were most impressed with, going a mile, being forced wide and putting in a nice rally in a strong field behind two Chad Brown runners. Her last race doesn’t look great on paper, but she ended up forced out in the 4-5 path into the lane in a race that was dominated by runners that saved ground (though Soar Once More did save ground until being angled off the rail mid-way on the far turn). Most notably though, the extra distance should really help.

UPDATE – She did not run well at all, beating one horse, a longshot that was eased.

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