As the legendary Red Smith once said about Saratoga, “From New York City, you drive north on the Thruway for about 175 miles, turn off at Exit 14, take Union Avenue heading west – and go back about 100 years.”
Friday is Opening Day at Saratoga, a horseplayer’s holiday, and the racing gods have dropped in a doozy of a stakes race, the Lake George, for all of us to dissect. The first thing that jumps out is that several runners come out of the Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill. That race featured a very fast pace that collapsed, and while the winner, Sweeping Paddy, ran well, she did have a good trip and beat a group of horses that are longer prices in here.
Let’s go through the field.
Lake George (G2) – 3/yo fillies, 8.5 furlongs, turf
#1 Fifty Five (7-2) – Chad Brown scratched this one out of the Belmont Oaks to point to this race. We’ve always been a fan of this one, who has been compromised by pace and wide trips in her last few starts, save the time she beat the impressive La Coronel in the Florida Oaks at Tampa. The knock here is two-fold a) she’ll be a short price in a deep field, and b) how much pace exists here remains to be seen and Fifty Five is at her best when dropping back to make one run.
#2 Fizzy Friday (20-1) – She was sixth without threatening in the Regret despite getting a fast pace to attack and appears overmatched.
#3 Defiant Honor (10-1) – She was always cut out to be a good one, being a full sister to the late Recepta for the same Phillips Partnership / Jimmy Toner connections. After three starts last year, she won her return race at Belmont on June 21st and ran very well in the process, pressing a very fast pace which fell apart and holding off Danceland. She has enough speed to be on the lead or close to the pace and should move forward second start off the layoff, following than the better-than-it-looks return. She’s our top pick.
#4 Chubby Star (15-1) – She was a speed horse earlier this year and ran well in fast-paced races behind two of her rivals today – Fifty Five and Dream Dancing. But lately she’s been taken back, perhaps because of expected pace scenarios, which did materialize, and perhaps also because of drawing the far outside (post 12 of 12 in back to back starts). I would send her to the lead in here, and she’s not without a chance if she is able to clear early.
#5 Corportate Queen (6-1) – She is entered as a Main Track Only runner.
#6 Super Marina (15-1) – One of the more experienced runners in the field, Super Marina has 12 career starts, nine of turf, though none have been good enough to win this race. She won the prep for this, which was rained off the grass on June 24th. She will have to really improve.
#7 Party Boat (6-1) – Graham Motion ships this one up from Fair Hill off a runner-up to Dynatail, who wired the field, going a mile in the Penn Oaks. The third place finisher from that race did come back to win for Todd Pletcher, but won a weaker stakes at Gulfstream and saw her figure fall three points (for what that’s worth). Her last two races are pretty good, though Dream Dancing was far superior to her in the Herecomesthebride when that one had trouble and this one had a clean outside run. She can win, but we prefer others.
#8 Proctor’s Ledge (6-1) – She ran fine to La Coronel in the Edgewood on Oaks Day while running on the best part of the turf course and then passed a bunch behind the fast pace in the Regret. She’s fine, but might need more pace and she’ll have to improve.
#9 Sweeping Paddy (3-1) – She’s run very well in each of her last two starts, a third to La Coronel and Dream Dancing in the Edgewood and a win last time in the Regret, while beating lesser rivals with a good trip (though she crushed the field) earning the best Beyer in the field (91). She should be up close pressing a moderate pace and figures to run a good race, though she might not be too great of a price.
#10 Victory to Victory (8-1) – The first of the two Casse runners was impressive winning the Natalma last year and has excuses in her last two races. She was up on the fast pace in the Hilltop, battling with subsequent stakes winner Dynatail. Then last time, she was going 6.5 furlongs at Woodbine, which is probably too short. They’re taking the blinkers off, which could mean they want to take her back, and she had some tougher trips last year too before winning the Natalma. The feeling here is there is another forward move for this one.
#11 Dream Dancing (9-2) – She’s been caught behind probably the two best 3-year old turf fillies in her last two starts – stablemate La Coronel and New Money Honey, who wired the field in the Wonder Again besting Dream Dancing (who had to be much closer to the pace than she prefers). New Money Honey, of course, came back to win the Belmont Oaks in her next start. Dream Dancing ran huge two-back in the Edgewood, when having to pick her way through runners while La Coronel had the free run on the outside. Her problem, like Fifty Five, is that she has no early speed, and she, unlike Fifty Five, also has a terrible post.
Pace Scenario – Sweeping Paddy should be up close with Defiant Honor and the key will be whether Chubby Star is sent to the front. If she is, she’s a threat to wire the field at a big price.
Analysis – Defiant Honor is our top selection as we think she’s drawn well to get a good trip behind the speed and should move forward off an excellent return race last month downstate. Dream Dancing is probably the most talented runner in the field but is drawn poorly. Victory to Victory has been a bit out of her game in her last two starts but is talented and should be a big price.
The Play – We’ll play Defiant Honor to win and play her in the exacta with Dream Dancing, Victory to Victory, and a little Fifty Five. We’ll also key her in the top two slots in trifectas while throwing in Chubby Star and Sweeping Paddy.
50c – 3 / 1, 4, 10, 11 / 1, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11 ($10)
50c – 1, 4, 10, 11 / 3 / 1, 4, 7, 9, 10 11 ($10)