Saturday Spot Plays

There is some very good racing over the next few weeks. This weekend features two stakes-laded cards at Woodbine, an excellent Sands Point at Belmont, and a stakes-laden card at Laurel. The Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion highlight the action next week at Parx, and then Breeders Cup prep weekends take us into October.

For Saturday, we’ll try a few spot plays posted here and then come back looking at some multi-race tickets tomorrow in the morning.

Laurel, Race 6 (All Along) – #5 On Leave (2-1) is the likely favorite but this is a pretty contentious group. Three horses come out of the Violet at Monmouth but we’ll oppose them: #6 Gianna’s Dream (6-1), who set a very slow pace in there, #4 Pricedtoperfection (8-1), who pressed the moderate pace and had nothing, and #7 Light Up Our World (7-2) who has had good trips in her US races and could be overbet again. Our picks is #7 Juno (4-1), who ships in from California for Neil Drysdale. Juno has been in some faster-paced California races and meets a field that should deliver a far more moderate pace. She’s the pick.

Laurel, Race 7 (Sensible Lady Turf Dash) – #5 Ginger N Rye (8-5) and #2 Miss Ella (5-2) ran 1-2 in the Smart N Fancy at Saratoga on August 27th and come back on 20 days of rest. In that race, they both got a big pace to attack and rallied up the inside, the place to be on the Saratoga turf course late in the meet. That might make them both a little vulnerable. #6 Everything Lovely (15-1) has some races that are good enough and looks like she went off form, but two-back she was surprisingly rated from the inside and put in tight, then at Saratoga last time she tried to rally inside when the whole race collapsed outside of her. The concern is six furlongs – she’s better going five and five-and-a-half furlongs and that can be a significant difference in these turf sprints. #10 Exaggerated (10-1) is our top pick for trainer Arnaud Delacour. She’s run once since June of 2016, a race in April at Keeneland where she had no shot against Lady Aurelila coming in off a 10-month layoff. Something might have gone wrong since she’s been back on the bench for five more months, but Delacour is 5-19 with a 3.13 ROI in turf sprints on 60-200 day layoffs (DRF Formulator).

Laurel Race 8 (Laurel Turf Cup) – #7 Holiday Star (6-1) had every right to need his money allowance off a 21-month layoff at Saratoga last time and further the race featured a very slow pace that held together. He should be much tighter this time for Graham Motion and is the pick in the Turf Cup. We’ll also use #3 Canessar (4-1), who makes his US debut for Arnaud Delacour.

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Kentucky Downs All-Stakes Pick-4

I thought Flatlined, our play in the Tourist Mile on Wednesday, was going to run by in the last furlong Wednesday, but it was not to be. But Kentucky Downs continues to offer very strong cards, and today’s is no different. An all-stakes pick-4 closes out the card. Let’s take a look.

Race 7 – Ladies Turf – #5 Miss Temple City (1-1) is the deserving favorite, but we weren’t thrilled with her comeback race in the Matchmaker last time. It should be noted that she ran substantially better in the Diana, her first race back after the Ascot trip last year. Our pick is #4 Zipessa (7-2), who in our opinion, is much better going shorter than longer and she will appreciate turning back to a mile. We’ll live and die with those two but Zipessa will be the key to the entire play.

A – 4
B – 5
C – none

Race 8 – Ladies Turf Sprint – Trainer Brendan Walsh is making a very savvy move with #3 Corby (20-1), turning her back out of a mile-70 yard stakes race at Mountaineer into this 6.5 furlong dash. She has some speed and was part of a fast pace last time that collapsed (the two pace rivals finished at the back and one was 3-1) and Corby was just caught in the last furlong. In a tough race, she rates an upset chance at a big price. Of the logicals, we prefer #1 Mississippi Delta (3-1), who made an inside move as the Caress collapsed outside of her last time at Saratoga, but that was going 5.5 furlongs, probably shorter than her best. She has a win over the quirky track (in this race) last year too. #2 Fair Point (7-2) can win but her last race was not good and she might be better going a bit shorter. There are two three-year olds in here: #5 Lull (5-1) and #6 Morticia (9-2). Of the two, we prefer Lull, who ran two good turf sprints last year and ran too good to lose the one-mile San Clemente last time, getting caught late. Morticia has a shot but needs to run faster and she is stretching out a furlong after facing weaker than Lull.

A – 1, 3
B – 5
C – 2, 6

Race 9 – Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint – #1 Commend (4-1) is our top pick, going out for Bill Mott. He had a good trip in his turf sprint allowance win at Saratoga but looked like he won easier than the one-length margin would indicate and he seems to be improving. We also have to use #10 Hogy (5-2), who goes first off the claim for Mike Maker, an outstanding trainer. The distance might be at this limit at this stage, but he’s been facing some tough runners. #5 Boundrant (7-2) could take some money but he’ll be coming from pretty far back and there’s not a ton of pace on paper.

A – 1, 10
B- none
C- none

Race 10 – Kentucky Turf Cup – This is a wide-open race so we’ll cast a pretty wide net, but our top pick is #11 Taghleeb (5-1), one of four Mike Maker entries. It’s possible he was better at Gulfstream, but he’s had some excuses lately, including two-back in the Arlington Handicap when he got stopped cold. Last time, #1 Postulation (9-2) got the jump on him after inheriting the lead but Postulation ran well and is a definite contender in this race. We’re using #8 Bullards Alley (12-1), who did not run well in the St. Leger (featuring Taghleeb and Postulation), but maybe he made the lead a bit too soon at Woodbine two-back and we liked his race, where he had some traffic against some solid Euros going two-miles in the Belmont Gold Cup. #7 Enterprising (3-1) is the favorite off his solid fourth in the Arlington Million, but that race featured a bunched finish and he has to stretch out from 10 furlongs all the way to 12. We’ll use defensively only. #4 Oscar Nominated (7-2) is going to be a short price but didn’t do much running in his last two starts, granted against better. He could win but figures to be an underlay. We’ll throw in #12 Nessy (20-1) who might be in too tough but ran well in the John’s Call at Saratoga last time behind a very slow pace and a wire to wire winner.

A – 1, 8, 11
B – 4
C – 7, 12

Using DRF TicketMaker – we’ll play the 4A ticket for $1.50, the 3A/1B ticket for $1, and the 2A/2B and 3A/1C ticket for 50-cents. The total play is $56. Good luck!

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Tourist Mile – Flatlined Can Spring Upset

Kentucky Downs runs the first card of their five-day meet today, re-scheduled from Saturday after heavy rain. The feature is the $400,000 Tourist Mile and it drew a solid field of nine.

Our pick is #2 Flatlined (6-1) for trainer Scooter Dickey. He ran some good races over the winter at Gulfstream, including a second to Gulfstream-loving Heart to Heart in the El Prado and a win in the G2 Fort Laurderdale. He went way off form at Keeneland and Churchill, in two very deep fields, and probably didn’t handle the soft turf on Derby Day. Either way, he was rested for a few months and then came back in a stakes race at Ellis.

His performance in that race was very impressive. One Mean Man and One Go All Go set a pretty pedestrian pace and Flatlined angled out at the top of the lane and ran them both down, making up nine lengths into a final 5/16ths of a mile run in 28.96 seconds. The race didn’t come back especially fast (90 Beyer) but it was a strong effort and his races from Gulfstream are good enough.

There should be a pretty solid pace in this race as well with #1 Hootenanny (5-1), #3 Shining Copper (3-1), #5 Western Reserve (6-1), and #8 Irish Strait (2-1) all potential pace horses. Irish Strait is the horse we want to play against. He set a very slow pace in wiring the Red Bank and stayed on the better inside and had a good trip in the Monmouth Stakes on Haskell Day. Shining Copper is a talented speed horse but might need one off of the 13-month layoff.

Flatlined is the pick and can spring the upset in the Opening Day feature at Kentucky Downs.

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The Hopeful

This Grade-1 staple for two-year olds at Saratoga wraps up the meet today and is a very competitive and field of eight.

As with the Spinaway from Saturday, a few contenders come out of some gold-rail races, creating horses to oppose at short prices. Let’s take a look at the field.

#1 Mojovation (2-1) – One of our key opinions in this race is to oppose Mojovation. He debuted on Jim Dandy day, which was one of the strongest gold-rail days of the meet. Bet to 4-5 for Todd Pletcher, he was cut out to be good, but not only rode the gold rail, he also got away with a very slow first quarter of 23.31 and will deal with additional pace pressure today. The third place finisher from his debut came back to win but Bourbon Resolution was wide off that gold rail in the July 29th race.

#2 Oskar Blues (10-1) – At 33-1, he was wisely put into the race early by Dylan Davis in his seven-furlong debut, but like Mojovation, benefited from being on the gold rail. The race came back pretty fast, and he does have a win at seven furlongs, but today must deal with additional speed as well.

#3 Firenze Fire (7-2) – He was the solid winner of the July 22nd Sanford Stakes, but had a very good trip in there and only earned a 79 Beyer, which puts him behind several of his rivals today. We’re going to oppose the Sanford horses as a group, especially Firenze Fire at a short price.

#4 Psychoanalyze (15-1) – He ran a very good race to win his debut at Belmont going 5.5 furlongs in June, but didn’t really have an excuse in the Sanford. He is another candidate to be a part of the pace and would be a surprise.

#5 National Flag (9-2) – He was crushed to 3-5 in his debut and was done on the turn but responded with a nice win on Whitney Day, winning what appeared to be a pretty strong race with a good outside-stalking trip. He showed he could sit off the pace and that seems like the trip he’ll be getting today.

#6 Sporting Chance (8-1) – After just getting run down by subsequent Ellis Park stakes winner Dak Attack in his June debut, he won a 5.5 furlong maiden race on July 22nd, overpowering the field going 5.5 furlongs. Plus, he should handle the additional 1.5 furlongs without a problem, being by Tiznow out of a Candy Ride mare. He also has two six-furlong workouts between that race and this one, looking poised for a big performance. The problem for Sporting Chance is the additional pace that he will face here, though he is drawn well outside. He’s an underneath use.

#7 Givemeaminit (12-1) – Here’s our pick. Dallas Stewart runners most often need a start, and when one puts in a big run in their debut, you should take notice. He ran in the Sporting Chance race on July 22nd and put in a huge wide move behind the wire to wire winner as basically the only horse to make a meaningful off-the-pace move. That move was strong, as despite drifting in a bit he was moving very well down to the wire and galloped-out best. The extra 1.5 furlongs should be right up his alley and he will get a lot more pace today than he got last time. Dallas Stewart got one Grade 1 win at the meet when Forever Unbridled won the Personal Ensign on Travers Day and we’re betting him to get another one here.

#8 Free Drop Billy (4-1) – We liked him a bit in the Sanford and he was bet from a 15-1 morning line (which seemed like a good line at the time) to surprising 3-1 favoritism. He ran fine, but swung up outside with dead aim and couldn’t get by Firenze Fire in a race that did not come back especially fast. He’ll get more pace here, which should help, but we prefer Givemeaminit.

The Pick – We’re looking forward to betting Givemeaminit, who should benefit from the expected fast pace and comes out of a strong maiden race where he was the only horse to make a meaningful off-the-pace move. He’ll be a good price too. Let’s finish the meet in style.

We’ll play him with National Flag and Sporting Chance, with a little bit of Free Drop Billy.

Good luck.

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Saturday at the Spa

Let’s look at a couple of spots in the last Saturday of the Saratoga meet.

Race 6 – We’ll have to watch the board in this two-year old, seven-furlong Maiden Special Weight but we’re interested in #6 Bourbon Resolution (8-1) for trainer Ian Wilkes. Bourbon Resolution made a big wide move against a gold rail on July 29th for a trainer whose horses get better with racing. Now set for his third start, he’s poised for a step forward. #7 Venezuela (4-1) for Chad Brown and #2 Biblical (9-2) for Todd Pletcher, a half to Princess of Sylmar, could both take money and if one is extensively bet, we’ll certainly play that one with Bourbon Resolution.

Spinaway Stakes (Race 10) – The two favorites are #1 Separationofpowers (6-5) for Chad Brown, off a blowout debut win, and #4 Pure Silver (1-1), who is 3-3 and won the Adirondack last time. Both are talented, but both rode gold rails in their last starts. Pure Silver was also aided by a very slow pace. Our pick is #3 Lady Ivanka (9-2). She was impressive in her debut win, coming from just off the pace. She did beat a much weaker field (the runner-up came back to run eighth in a Maiden Special Weight race last week), but she’ll be a fair price and the gold rails were strong enough to make the two favorites a bit vulnerable today.


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Jersey-Bred Day at Monmouth

It was a great Travers Day at Saratoga. I can’t say I expected to see West Coast go wire to wire but he ran huge (and earned a 108 Beyer in the process).

The three-year olds this year continue to beat up on each other. Gunnevera ran a massive race, making a huge wide move, and for a few strides, it looked like he was going to go by West Coast. That was, by far, the best race he’s ever run. Our pick, Cloud Computing, had nothing and was asked a bit even early on the far turn.

Today at Monmouth, is Jersey-bred day, with 12 races for New Jersey-bred runners. Let’s take a look at a few spots.

Race 7 – This is a contentious J-bred allowance race that should feature a pretty solid pace. #4 Greed Is Good (8-1) got caught in a slow-paced race last time and was stuck chasing wide. #11 R Jolley Dreamer (6-1) was in that race and rallied up the inside but he probably has more room to improve, going second-off-the-claim for Jorge Navarro.

Race 8 – This is a very tough race and we’ll try #10 Bubba Chub (6-1). In a race where many of the contenders have had many chances, Bubba Chub has run just once on turf, where he was even fourth against $14,000 claimers. The second and third place finishers from that race came back to run 1-2 and both improved their Beyer figures. Bubba Chub will have to improve but he only has seven career starts and just one on grass, so that is definitely possible.

Race 9 – Eleven North Handicap – Jersey-bred fillies are going six furlongs and #7 It’s the Truth (6-1) is the horse we’re most excited about betting on this card. Her lone start against J-breds this year was on May 20th when she bobbled at the start and stalked a slow pace and Julia Chubouli wired the field. She faced much tougher two-back against open-company three-other-than runners and got a perfect prep for this when winning an allowance race going long at Delaware. In there, she pressed a pace from a pace rival that finished last and held off two rallyers. She turns back and should get a good trip stalking the pace from up close.

Race 11 – Hesse Handicap – This 8.5 furlong race is highlighted by #6 Chubilicious (2-1), who is the top Jersey-bred sprinter but hasn’t gone a route of ground in two years. He can obviously win but he’s worth opposing at a short price. #7 Fuzzy Muzzle (7-2) is logical alternative as he goes turf to dirt for trainer Jason Servis. The horse we’ll try, however, is #9 Diamond Play (8-1). The post isn’t great, but he should be able to get a good stalking trip behind a few of the speeds. Anthony Margotta is having a great meet, and Diamond Play has improved as he makes his fourth start off the layoff. Diamond Play’s first race of the year was a prep, something in his route race at Parx went wrong, but he showed he’s in good form with his turf win last time.

Good luck!

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Saturday at the Spa – Travers Day

It’s Travers Day at Saratoga! Here is our analysis of the Travers itself. In this post, we’ll look at a few of the different races across the sensational card.

Race 3 – #2 Chirping (12-1) stretches out from 5.5 furlongs to 8.5 furlongs for his second start, going out for Tom Proctor. In his debut, he broke slowly and put in a good rally behind a wire to wire winner and finished just behind a next-out winner. He should stretch out and is well drawn.

Race 5 – #11 Toughest ‘Ombre (20-1) might be a bit of a stretch, but has had some trouble in his races especially two-back when he had gate problems and was compromised by a very slow pace. He didn’t do a ton of running last time, but that was a tougher field than this one with Delta Prince, who won that race easily, is heading to the Baruch next weekend. #5 Derby Champagne (12-1) rallied late and beat our pick by a half-length last time but that race was by far his fastest and he’s had a bunch of chances. Toughest ‘Ombre is a bit of a stretch but this is a very wide open race.

Race 7 – Ballerina (G1) – #7 Highway Star (10-1) turns back, always fires, and ran pretty well last time behind Songbird and Paid Up Subscriber. She’s drawn perfectly on the outside and the two favorites – #3 Paulassilverlining (2-1), #4 By the Moon (3-1), and #5 Carina Mia (7-2) are not so fast that they tower over the field. Of those, we prefer By the Moon, who ran well behind a slow pace last time.

Race 8 – Allen Jerkens (G1) – I’m not looking to oppose #1 Practical Joke (5-2), who is undefeated around one turn and had to wait while getting shuffled back a bit around the far turn in the Haskell last time, going too far. The speed we’ll use is #2 Takaful (5-1), who has run two sprints – an eight-length maiden win and a 5.25 length allowance win on Opening Day.

Race 10 – Sword Dancer (G1) – #7 Idaho (2-1) is much the horse to beat, shipping in for Aidan O’Brien, but #5 Money Multiplier (7-2) got a great prep at Monmouth and ran huge in this race last year with serious trouble behind Flintshire. Further, he really wants firm turf, which he gets here. We’ve always liked #3 Sadler’s Joy (5-1), and while this is a tougher field than last time, he did move early in that race and wants every bit of 12 furlongs. Because it’s a short field, it’s tough to bet this race, but if Sadler’s Joy gets lost, we’ll bet him and box him with Money Multiplier and Idaho in the exacta.

Race 11 – Travers (G1) – We like Cloud Computing and wrote it up here.

Race 13 – #11 Herecomesyourman (5-1) ran very well two-back where he was the first to attack a fast pace that fell apart, just getting caught late by a Shug McGaughey closer. If he runs back to that race here, he’ll be tough.

It’s a great day of racing. Enjoy!

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The Travers (G1)

The Mid-Summer Derby has been run at Saratoga since 1864 and the 2017 version is very deep and contentious. A field of 12 goes postward this afternoon and for the first time since 1982, the Travers features the three different winners of the Triple Crown races.

We’ll go through the field one at a time, and then come back with a few other Travers Day spot plays.

#1 Cloud Coumputing (8-1) – He’s only won twice but has been impressive both times, including running down Classic Empire to win the Preakness and especially when embroiled in the fast-pace in the Gotham. Plus, he was compromised by a slow break and a speed-favoring track in the Wood. Last time, he was pressing Always Dreaming off of a gold rail in a pace that was pretty solid. He’s drawn well here and is the horse we want to bet.

#2 Giuseppe The Great (20-1) – He’s been steadily improving for Nick Zito and ran ok in the Jim Dandy, though he did spend most of the race on the good inside. His Dwyer was decent, and he has the look of a big-price horse that could spice up trifectas. Distance is the question, but he’ll be a huge price.

#3 West Coast (4-1) – Bob Baffert sends in this horse who capitalized on a very fast pace to win the Easy Goer. He then overwhelmed a weak field in the Los Alamitos Derby. He is one of the short-priced horses we’re skeptical of in here. He might be hurt by a potentially slow pace and his two big wins were in a weak field and by benefiting from a very fast pace. Plus, he’ll be a short price.

#4 Tapwrit (7-2) – He’s another short-priced horse that we’ll let beat us. The one race he he’s run good enough to win this race is the Belmont. That was was at a mile-and-a-half race, and Irish War Cry, runner-up that day, came back to run poorly in the Haskell. Plus, Tapwrit had a perfect trip in there too.

#5 Good Samaritan (5-1) – He certainly took to dirt last time in blowing away the field to win the Jim Dandy. He did spend a good chunk of that race on the good inside, but he ran a big race and should benefit from stretching out to 10 furlongs. The pace won’t suit him, and he won’t be that big of a price, but he can win. We’ll use him underneath.

#6 Girvin (10-1) – We were a little skeptical of him coming into the summer, though he did run well to just miss in the Ohio Derby and his Haskell was fine, though he was aided by a pretty strong pace. He did show some speed in the Ohio Derby but probably should have won there. We could use underneath but not any higher than that.

#7 Always Dreaming (6-1) – Here is another short-priced runner that we do not want. We were not sold on him going into the Kentucky Derby after his perfect trip, slow-paced win in the Florida Derby. Then in Kentucky, he was on the good rail and his two subsequent races have been terrible. Granted, the pace was solid last time, but he was on the strongest gold rail of the Saratoga meet. He beats us.

#8 Lookin at Lee (30-1) – He’s just never run a race that is good enough to win this one and his Kentucky Derby was flattered by being on the good inside. Plus, there’s probably not enough pace.

#9 McCraken (12-1) – Maybe he made an early move in the Haskell but ultimately that was a pretty solid pace and he just didn’t finish strong. He too is yet to run a race fast enough to win this and he gives the impression that he wants less ground, not more.

#10 Irap (8-1) – I would hope that they they keep him closer to the pace today and he could get a good trip pressing Always Dreaming. He’ll have to put that one away and hold off the late-runners, but Irap has been running better in the summer and the horse he beat in the Indiana Derby (by five lengths) came back to win the West Virginia Derby with a 95 Beyer.

#11 Gunnevera (20-1) – He ran pretty well last summer and into the early part of the year, but since the Florida Derby, when the racing got very tough, he has been noncompetitive. Plus, there won’t be a ton of pace for  him to attack in this race.

#12 Fayeq (30-1) – This half to Rachel Alexandra has been improving since stretching out, as you would expect, for Kiaran McLaughin. He won an allowance race last time with a perfect trip behind dueling leaders and he’ll have to run faster. We could use underneath in trifectas, but it’s hard to make him winning.

Analysis – We’re betting Cloud Computing to win this race and the two horses we’ll key around in exactas and trifectas are Cloud Computing and Irap. Our longshot use underneath is Giuseppe the Great but we’ll also use Good Samaritan and a little West Coast too.

Trifecta Play
$1 – 1 / 2, 5, 10 / 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 12 ($18)
50 c – 10 / 1, 2, 5 / 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 12 ($9)
50 c – 2, 5 / 1 / 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 12 ($6)

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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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