Saratoga July 31 – Late Pick-4

Hard to say what the weather will be. It looks like rain is moving in, at least a possibility of showers in the afternoon so the later turf races might get moved.


This is not a straightforward race, and $25,000 starter allowances tend to be that way.

  • 1 Treasury Devil seems to like winning on the turf. Rudy Rodriguez claimed him last time, and Rodriguez is 31% 1st off the claim, although at SAR he’s been ice cold. In 2014 Treasury Devil seems to be at his best at a mile and a sixteenth, but he has gone longer.
  • 2 Media Kid. He’s been right behind Grand Rapport a couple of times and has about the same figures. But if you buy the handicapping philosophy that some horses just have other horse’s numbers, he may wind up second again.
  • 3 Grand Rapport. He fits about every way there is to fit and has a race over the track. 3-1 in the program, and you may be lucky to get that.
  • 4 Majestic Raffy is another one with a race at SAR, but he hasn’t won for two years. I’d say a minor player here.
  • 8 Sayler’s Creek had a win at BEL in May before beating up on a couple of Parx fields. My second choice.
  • 12 Manchurian High. Ran in the United Nations, a Grade 1, last out. He didn’t beat anyone, but he did top a 10-horse field in May at Pimilico. Another minor player.


Of the horses that have turf form four stick out.

  • 5 Shaun’s Blessing is one of those two start horses that has every right to improve. A definite contender.
  • 6 Storm has been racing well against state-breds. He wouldn’t be a total shock but I think he’s not as likely as some.
  • 7 Tiger Bourbon gets the top nod. He’s raced with better, including a Grade 2 at SAR last year. I think his last race is better than looked.
  • 9 Los Borrachos seems to have gotten a little high on the grass. A fast race last out and another improving 3 YO.


The feature is the Evan Shipman for state breds on the main at 1 1/8 miles.

  • 4 Sailmate has been knocking around with optional claimers but has run some fast races. I’ll be giving him consideration.
  • 6 Escapefromreality won the Albany last year at SAR at today’s distance. He finished just behind Sailmate in his last, but given that was his first race of the year I think improvement is more likely. The top pick.
  • 7 Awesome Vision has been knocking around with this kind for a while and is usually competitive. He hasn’t found his 2013 form yet, but with a win and a second at SAR, he could be the danger.
  • 8 Big Business is listed as the 9-5 favorite and loves to win. I think he has all kinds of chances, but I’m going to make him a play against today.


  • 2 Anmaat could be a single for me. He broke his maiden at the mile distance and didn’t race badly at BEL in his first race back after a 4 month layoff. This is a significant drop in class and I think that should put him over the top.
  • Most of the other contender look like professional NW2 horses. The 5, 7, 10, 11 and 12 are a combined 5 for 164. That doesn’t inspire confidence. Perhaps one of the other less heavily raced horses can surprise, but I think I’ll stick with Anmaat.

Lavender Road at Saratoga

Today’s 7th race was a $50,000 starter allowance for fillies and mares on the turf.

The  1 horse, Lavender Road  never made it to the starting gate.

While the horses were warming up and before they made it on to the turf course, Lavender Road was scratched. There was a lot of chatter about whether it was the jockey or the vet who scratched the horse, but it really doesn’t matter. From my vantage point it looked like Junior Alvarado initiated the scratch, telling the vet she was warming up poorly and making strange noises. Alvarado may have saved Lavender Road’s life because as they were leading her off the track she collapsed.

Clearly she was disoriented and in bad shape. The vets and track staff worked furiously to bring her back around, even starting an IV and  packing bags of ice around her. She tried getting up six or seven times, but collapsed back on the track each time. Finally, they managed to sedate her and load her into the horse ambulance and she was taken to the highly regarded Rood and Riddle Vet Clinic.

I would give the highest marks to Junior Alvarado, the track staff, and the vets for how they handled the situation. I’d also give high marks to the track for holding the 8th race up for an hour while the vets worked on Lavender Road. The potential biggest losers were the horses in that 8th race who had to walk endlessly around the saddling trees in the paddock, but incredibly they stayed calm and managed to run a fairly predictable race.

So why the blog? Two things. Trainer Abigail Adsit  doesn’t start many horses in New York. In fact, Lavender Road was her second starter at the meet. I don’t know anything about Adsit, but I have to wonder how the horse made it on to the track in the first place. Second, I’d be very interested to know if medications might have had anything to do with it.

I’ll tell you what I don’t think it was. The weather. It was not hot. The NYRA web site showed the temperature was in the 60’s at first post and it really didn’t get a lot warmer. It wasn’t one of those brutal northeast days where everything wilts.

I think the betting public deserves an answer. I believe we need to know how the horse got out of the paddock and what exactly happened to cause her collapse. I believe we are owed some sort of investigation into trainer Adsit’s training methods. There were people on the public media expressing sympathy for Adsit. I’m holding off feeling bad for Adsit until someone says she did everything right and it was just one of those unfortunate things. Now read that carefully. I’m not accusing her of any mismanagement. I’m simply saying until we know the whole story let’s hold off on making any conclusions one way or the other.

Horseracing suffers enough bad publicity. When this sort of thing happens at one of the biggest race meets of the year, only the transparency of full disclosure makes sense for Saratoga and horseracing in general. I hope we get the answers we deserve.

Saratoga July 30 – Late Pick 4

Update: Total bonehead in the blog. By the time I got to the 7th race the drumbeats for Ear D’Rhythm were pounding in my ear and I realized I had wrongly overlooked the horse. Worse, it seemed like everyone knew it because she dropped from 6-1 at the opening to 5-2. Big apologies to anyone who read the blog. I hope you figured out the 4 anyway. Otherwise it was a pretty easy pick-4. La Madrina was a clear winner in the 8th.  Stars Above Me exploded through the stretch to take the 9th. Candir won the 10th at almost 9-2 and Uptown Joe completed a $76 exacta so there was some consolation to the day. I made a lot more in the 10th race  than I would have betting a 50 cent pick-4.

The main track looked like it was back to fast, and the forecast is for cooler temperatures with a possibility of a scattered shower. That means if it rains, it will be directly over the track. Three of the last four races are on the turf, and if they decide to run on the lawn it should still be soft or yielding. I’m going to handicap for on the turf. I’ll admit that when races go off the turf I lose my enthusiasm.

It’s Wednesday which means today’s stakes race is a 5 1/2 furlong affair on the turf.


There is not really a stickout in this race, which usually means either the crowd favorite wins or a bomber comes in.

  • 2 Casey Roo is one of the contenders. She has two decent races on the turf and was claimed out of her last by Richard Schosberg. Schosberg is not known as a miracle worker when it comes to claims, but either Jonny V knows something or Casey Roo was the best he could come up with in his battle with Javier Castellano, She broke her maiden for $40K on the turf at 5F and has never been the mile distance, although she has plenty of turf distance breeding. I can’t imagine she’ll be 10-1 at post, but if she is I’d be a little concerned.
  • 3 Benny’s Bullet seemed to be suffering from seconditis until she broke her maiden in a $40K claimer. Then, even though she went back to finishing second, Gary Gullo decided to take a chance by claiming the horse. He’s another one that isn’t known for his first off the claim. He puts blinkers on and puts Irad Ortiz in the saddle, at least a slight upgrade from Rosario Montanez. She’s another one that doesn’t look like she’ll go off as high as her ML odds of 5-1. She’ll be the top choice, but barely.
  • 7 Sundae School has a 17-1-4-5 record. She broke her maiden in a mile dirt event for $25K then went right back to finishing behind horses. She’s certainly fast enough and has plenty of experience at the distance, but I just have an impediment when it comes to horses that seem more inclined to finish in the money. She fits and could inherit the win, but I when it comes time to push the send button, I’m not sure she’ll be on the ticket.
  • 8 Wine Burglar broke her maiden in her 8th start, and ran respectably in a $50K starter allowance. I think she looks like a horse that matured from 3 to 4 and could improve. She showed a nice pressing style in her last. A close second choice.


  • 2 Ocean Boulevard was in two stakes races in her last two of 2013 after breaking her maiden at Saratoga. She’s not the fastest horse in the race, she’s been off nearly 9 months, and she has pretty ordinary workouts for her return. I think that you have to include her because the return is in a NW1X.
  • 4 Tiz May West won first time out last June and came back a year later and ran a competitive race at CD. She has every reason to improve. I’ll make her top pick.
  • 5 Eddy Gourmet ran a monster race on the dirt at Delaware last out after spending most of her career on the turf. Hugh McMahon is one of those competent mid-Atlantic trainers who comes to Saratoga with a few promising horses. I don’t think you can dismiss the horse out of hand.
  • 6 La Madrina has run two nice races at 7F. As long as she doesn’t lose contact with the pack she has a legitimate chance.
  • 7 Dear Mama ran a very nice 6 1/2 F race at BEL first out in America. She’s a temptress in this field.
  • 11 Love You Loads finally broke her maiden for Todd Pletcher at MTH. She has plenty of speed and Joe Bravo comes in to ride her.


  • 3 Burn Control has two nice races at Parx. Frankly, I think the snootier NY handicappers dismiss the horses from a cheaper circuit out of hand, but until someone beats her, I think you have to put her in the mix.
  • 7 Stars Above Me is a speedster from England that gets Graham Motion, Irad Ortiz and Lasix. She’d certainly be value at 5-1.
  • 9 Isabelle looks like one of the horses that is hoping for the race to move to the dirt. If it doesn’t I still think she is fast enough to lead this field to the wire.


Although this race is carded at a mile on the turf, only 7, 8, and 12 even have a race on the turf.  Sort of looks like a bunch of horses are hoping for a shift to dirt. Pletcher sends out the first-timer 5 Same As and Velasquez gets the ride. The horse is listed at 5-1 on the ML, and she is getting some hype. I really don’t like the workout pattern  and he would be a bet against for me. 2 All the Way is also getting some hype, mainly based on his sibling and dam. I’m not initially interested, but if he gets live on the board I’d take a second look. If the race moves to the dirt, I’d really monitor the action on the MTOs. Neither sticks out. 10 Alexndeed moves way up on the dirt and would be a must use. 9 First Bid, the other Chad Brown trainee is another that moves up on the dirt.  The turf choices are below.

  • 7 Uptown Joe has turf experience and his figures aren’t bad. Other than the AE’s , he at least has decent turf form.
  • 11 Candir is well-bred for the turf and should improve on that surface. He gets a trainer switch to Chad Brown and a modest jockey improvement to Javier Castellano. He’s not a stickout – in fact, I’d say he’s underlayed at 7-2, but he may get excessive action because (1) there isn’t much else to take action and (2)  Brown/Castellano is a 30% combo. That means if you know nothing at all about horseracing and you bet that combo every time, you’d actually be making 1.5 cents on the dollar. On the other hand, they are in the slushy, if not frozen stage, at the Spa with zero wins in 5 starts. Perhaps they are due.
  • Both of the AEs, 13 Jimmy Soul and 14 Jimmy Fillpot are on the must use list if they scratch in.

Do We Ever Blame the Horse?

Yesterday was a pretty good day for upsets. Untapable got drubbed by Bayern (as did every other horse in the Haskell). Goldencents was held at bay by Big Macher. Every time this happens it almost seems to become personal. And then the excuses fly.

  • Untapable was wide around both turns.
  • Goldencents was at the wrong distance.
  • Bayern fell into a highly speed favoring track.
  • Goldencents didn’t get into the bit until late in the race.
  • Social Inclusion was apparently suffering Lasix withdrawal (some humor) and was fractious in the gate, bothering Untapable.

I have an interesting explanation. Bayern and Big Macher were better horses in those races. Just because the crowd makes a horse the favorite doesn’t mean the horse is the best horse IN THAT RACE. The crowd is wrong about that 65% of the time.

Untapable was never going to live up to her hype in a field with the talent the Haskell had.  In her last race she swamped Princess Violet, a horse still eligible for NW2X and America, a horse eligible for NW2L.   My Miss Sophia and Unbridled Forever, the place and show horses from the Kentucky Oaks aren’t a lot more distinguished. I’m just going to ask you to think about this. Substitute Bayern for Untapable in the Mother Goose and speculate on the winning lengths.

Untapable was more an example of a hype horse, a horse people just wanted to see succeed. Anyone who said Untapable was completely outless in the Haskell would have been pilloried on social media. Is she a prize filly? You bet. Is she Rachel Alexandra? Not yet.

I’ve been in horseracing long enough to know that sometimes horses lose because they get poor trips. Sometimes they lose because they run into a bias that is against their running style. Sometimes they lose because they are sprinters trying to get a route and sometimes they are routers trying to sprint. And apparently they lose because other owners cheat and enter their fresh horse against your tired runner. But most of the time, horse lose because they are not as good as the winner.

It’s human nature to think you lost because things went wrong. But I, for one, am kind of tired of reading about all the reasons why the favorite lost. How about trying this one on for size. There was a better horse in the race today.

Distasters at Del Mar

So Del Mar decided to make a wider turf course in an attempt to attract the Breeder’s Cup. Apparently that was what took them past the finish line. 2017 is BC at the beach.

But something went wrong in the first two weeks of the meeting. Four horses have been put down after racing on the turf. Here is Del Mar’s statement:

“Del Mar is deeply saddened by the loss of Thoroughbred lives we have experienced at the track since the start of our season. Four of those losses have come on our new turf course. Despite that, we continue to have the utmost confidence in the course, as do our partners in this race meet — the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the California Thoroughbred Trainers, the Jockeys’ Guild and the California Horse Racing Board – all of whom have expressed that confidence to us today.

Nonetheless, as a precautionary measure, Del Mar will shift the two turf races scheduled for Sunday’s card off the course and run them instead on our main track. Additionally, we will move up scheduled maintenance on the turf course to Saturday evening instead of the Sunday evening schedule that had been planned. The entire course will be aerated and watered starting on Sunday. Track crews will work on it for the next three days and, in the end, reposition the inner rail at the 18-foot position.”

Track officials feel that they are adjusting on the side of caution with these moves. They are meant to give all parties involved – riders, trainers, owners and fans – assurance that everything possible is being done to ensure the track’s first priority, which is safety of horses and riders. Those same officials feel strongly that when racing resumes on Wednesday, the turf course will perform in a positive fashion.

So this is my interpretation of the statement.

Yeah, four horses broke down, but we don’t think it was the turf course. But, we realize that if another horse breaks down before we move the deck chairs around, we’ll have a shitstorm to deal with so we’re going to take racing off the turf.

Del Mar will aerate the course first. The purpose of aeration is to allow nutrients and water to get to the roots of the grass, and it is often used when soil is highly compacted.

So either the turf course was as hard as a rock, or they just had to do something and aeration was the first thing that popped up. I’ve written earlier about turf racing in America. The courses drain poorly, resulting in races being removed from the turf after a rain. Turf courses, other than at a few tracks, are really the stepchildren of the racetrack.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that California turf courses look like putting greens, while eastern turf courses look like the rough.

I’m going to flat out say this. Turf racing is inherently safer than dirt racing. The ground is softer, and as I’ve mentioned in my previous blog, horses don’t slide on the turf like they do on the dirt or synthetic. The roots of the grass stabilize the stride. Del Mar took great pains to issue a statement that said nothing was wrong – they just figured they’d come down on the side of caution. Let’s face it. To admit your turf course is unsafe really screams that the maintenance folks have done something wrong, either the wrong type of grass or poor maintenance practices. And if that is the case, somebody might just scream negligence.

I mean, assuming there was something wrong with the turf course.

The other thing Del Mar is doing is repositioning the rail. I assume this is so that horses are racing on the older, more mature part of the turf course and the turns aren’t quite as sharp. But again, if they think the rail was not in a good place, they are in essence admitting there was a flaw in the track.

There is another possibility of course. It just happened to be Del Mar’s bad luck to have four horses ready to break down racing on the track. From the reading I’ve done, catastrophic injury is usually not a random event.  Horses have multiple injuries which over time pile up until one day – snap! I’m not sure I’ve heard anyone say, maybe it’s the trainers who aren’t diagnosing these injuries, or maybe they are just filling their horses up with anti-inflammatories and analgesics to keep them on the track. As long as we are speculating, it’s at least as much a possibility as poor track maintenance.

I’m going to mention one other thing. If you are a veteran jockey, you have to know when horses are not traveling well because the course is not right. You have to feel the difference. Nobody else has the perspective of the person sitting on the back of a charging thoroughbred. Did the jockeys ever say anything? Hey, the course is hard as a rock. Or, my horse is sliding all over the place. I’m pretty tired of jockeys refusing to speak up for fear that a petty trainer will take them off a mount, or they’ll get a reputation as a complainer. I have to believe if ALL the jockeys adopt the same attitude the concerns related to trainers would be obviated. Jockeys are flat out risking their bodies every time they ride, and if they believe the course is some way or another “unsafe” they need to speak up.

We all want it to be the track because that is an easy fix. Pull some plugs, soak the grass, move the rail and we’re good to go. But we absolutely have to know if it is the horses. I understand that there are necropsies scheduled. I hope they are thorough in describing not only the horses’ injuries, but what other contributing factors may have been at work. Mostly I hope they make those results public. The people risking their money on thoroughbreds have the absolute right to know why horses they bet on couldn’t finish a race.

Tracks are hesitant to ever criticize owners or trainers. They are the life blood of the business (well, except for all the bettors who pay the bills). But sooner or later this boil is going to burst. For every Pletcher or Baffert that can afford to treat their horses like house pets, there are dozens of marginal trainers who have to find ways to keep horses running in order to pay the bills. I just have a hard time believing that the blame isn’t proportioned in some way between the jockeys, trainers and track maintenance people. Do I know the proportion? I wish I did.

But, it can’t be as simple as, it’s 100% the track. Let’s not just make a few simple changes and expect that is the end of breakdowns. Let’s really dig into the problem and find some answers, even if they are the hard answers.

Saratoga July 27 – Late Pick 4

Since we can’t wait until 2 minutes to post to get the scratches (thanks NYRA) I’m putting this up now. Take the off the turf races for what they are worth.

It looks like the inevitable summer rain has hit paradise, and with two races coming off the turf in the late sequence it looks like big changes and scratches will be coming.

I wanted to do something a little different with the 7th and 10th races today. In cheaper races, especially maiden claiming and NW2, there are often horses that show as non-win types or simply out of all condition. When we are playing a multiple race sequence we can safely eliminate these horses from the win slot, even though they may have competitive numbers and a reasonably high probability of finishing in the money.


This is a NW2 race on for $25000 Claimers off the turf. Scratches are 3, 4, 5, 6, 8. We’ll eliminate right off the top the following horses:

  • My Four Rewards (1 for 15)
  • Kate is a Ten (1 for 19)
  • Echluath(1 for 12)
  • Datts da Boss (1 for 18)
  • Eurokay by Me ((1 for 41)
  • Baal Perazim (1 for 26)
  • Golden Cheetah (1 for 17)

That leaves us three horses and an MTO to handicap. If the race goes off the turf, we’ll throw in the MTO, 13 Mr Rico Is Valid. 7 Sultry Warrior is listed at 5-1 on the morning line for no reason I can discern. She looks to be in poor condition. 2 Lemon and Honey has been knocking around this class a while but was just claimed by Gary Contessa and for that reason I didn’t put her in the non-win class. Contessa gets one more chance to turn the horse around. 11 Tacones has been racing in Florida and certainly doesn’t look outclassed in this group.

In the pick-4 we’ll use some combination of 2-11-13.


8 is scratched. That sucks because I had the best line about 8.

  • 1 NightManeuver has been knocking at the door and has a win and  two thirds on wet tracks. The 1 post is no advantage at 7 furlongs and hopefully by the 8th we’ll know how the track is playing.
  • 2 River Rocks just won his NW1X race and looks competitive here. He should have enough speed to avoid an serious backsplash.
  • 1A Ground Force completes the military jargon entry. He also has 2 wins and 2 seconds on wet tracks. He just won an OC40000 – in fact he has 8 wins overall – so he is in for a tag today.
  • 8 Eastwood – go ahead, make my day. Here’s a broken record at Saratoga – Pletcher/Velasquez, moving up through the conditions, plenty of speed. He’ll be the favorite and probably should be.


The Shuvee is already scheduled for the dirt so the question is who will defect.

  • 2 Flashy American has been consistent for trainer Kenny McPeek, only finishing out the money twice in her last 10 races. She ran creditably in the Delaware Handicap, losing second by a half length to the well-regarded Princess of Sylmar.
  • 3 Antipathy is listed at 9-5 on the ML and on a wet track could go off even shorter. After spending a few races with optional claimers,  she finished third, coincidentally behind Close Hatches and Princess of Sylmar in the Ogden Phipps at odds of 30-1. She has nice numbers and I think her last shows her to be a Graded horse, but 30-1 to even money is a dramatic change.
  • As far as the other runners, S1 Swinger’s Party looks more suited to lesser stakes, 4 Unlimited Budget doesn’t appear to be in top form (I know, Pletcher/Castellano) but you should look at the board to see if she’s live, 5 Stanwyk seems to be a horse that likes to finish close without winning, 6 Hot Stones might be better suited to sprints, and 7 Ambusher looks maybe a cut below.


If we do the same exercise as the 7th race, 2 As Well, 4 Milkyyourway, 8 Zafiro Azul, and 11 Life’s A Stage all get eliminated at a glance. The race will be off the turf, so the MTOs are in. Scartches are 1, 2, 3, 8, 10, 11 ,14. After the scratches all I have are the MTOs

  • Both the MTOs 15 Very Accomplished and 16 Touching My Toes are contenders. But like most MTOs they will be overbet.

That leaves me with 24 combinations. Pretty cheap to get a thrill. As Shapperdacapper put it, tread lightly today.

Saratoga July 26 – Late Pick-4

Yesterday was a tough day for me. I really got stuck on Charge Now in the Curlin and swung for the fences. Unfortunately, VE Day made a leaping catch at the wall and robbed me of a major score. But today is another day and there is still plenty of money to be made.


The 8th is my sentimental favorite race of the meet, the Amsterdam. It is named for the town I grew up in, originally home to the famous Sanford Farm and where the fabulous Nick Kling is the king of the OTB. It is one of the major prep races for the King’s Bishop at the end of the month.

  • 2 Rock Fall was one of my early picks but was scratched.
  • 4 Coup de Grace goes for top Kentucky trainer Larry Jones. It looks to me like the longer the distance, the less he likes it. He has an impressive off the pace win in the Oh Say at Delaware, and a solid work just five days ago. If he breaks cleanly he’ll have every chance to close by the front runners.
  • With the two scratches 5 Tiznowforamerica makes it into the top three. I’m not sold on the horse, but someone has to complete the trifecta.
  • 7 Noble Moon was another top selection that was scratched.
  • 8 Captain Serious was just nipped in the Dwyer after slicing through statebreds in his first three races. He’s certainly fast enough to easily establish himself on the front and the Dwyer showed major talent.


  • 2 Palace Dreams has been off since November and while she usually shows a lot of competitiveness, I had hesitations because she’s steadily been moving down the class ladder. Not a shocker, but not my first choice.
  • 3 Miz Owell has a nice third on the SAR lawn and her last race on a yielding Belmont turf should have given her plenty of condition. Top pick.
  • 6 Lady’s Lunar Luck is one of those horses that bounces up to restricted stakes and allowances and then rebounds to the optional claiming ranks. She fits here and really takes to the SAR turf.


  • 3 Ulanbator. For all you geography buffs, Ulanbator is the capital of Mongolia. I think he is a bit of a guru longshot, but he’ll be 20-1 while the horse that beat him will be more in the 5-1 range. I think he is improving and might hit the board here.
  • 4 Tonalist. This begins his drive for 3 YO of the year. I think if he wins out, he gets the nod over Chrome. This isn’t sentimentality. It is dispassionate analysis. He’s the best horse in the race, he has a good style, he wins on any kind of track, and he is the quintessential improving 3 YO. He’s not unbeatable, but he is strong.
  • 5 Kid Cruz has done little wrong this spring and early summer. Other than a clunker in the Preakness, he’s shown ability in three restricted stakes and and the Graded Dwyer. I just don’t think you can label him as outless in this group.
  • 7 Wicked Strong. 2-1 on the ML seems pretty ambitious for this horse. He has a closing style that may not be useful given the pace scenario and he seems to be moody about throwing his best into a race.


  • 2 Ballybrit. Gary Contessa has been trying to figure out how to get this horse to the winner’s circle since he claimed him. The fact that he is keeping him at the ALW1X level is enough for me to give him one more chance.
  • 6 Elroi has some decent figures and seems to run about the same each time. I never favor a horse with a plodding style. He is 0 for 2 at SAR. He looks like a contender but he’s hard to fall in love with.
  • 10 Poliziotto would be a perfect choice if his last race was July 2014 instead of 2013. His pace figures put this field away. This will be his 6th race since 2011 which screams physical issues. However, Chad Brown trains and that means he’s in the mix. Of course I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins or is vanned off.
  • 11 Tapitation gets the top nod. Not because he looks so much better than anyone else, but because he isn’t one of those professional NW1X horses yet and his one turf race gives me some confidence. The comment in that race was “rank on bit, climbing.” That tells me that Lezcano was trying to get the horse to relax and the horse wanted to run. I realize jockeys have to follow instructions, but I think pulling a horse like that rarely works out. Ortiz seemed to match better with the horse in an off the turf race last out and he stays with him.

Saratoga July 25 – Late Pick-4

This one seems full of races where any of five horses would not be a surprise.


  • 2 – Shift Colors. While Shift Colors has had two bad starts, she’s had two very nice finishes. Note that Lopresti worked her out of the gate last time in 36 3/5. I’m going to make her the top selection.
  • 3 – Hope Cross. Anybody but Chad Brown and Javier Castellano and I’m really downgrading the horse. She had the lead in the stretch last time and coughed it up, which normally is a negative. But with the connections she gets a fresh chance.
  • 4 – Sumba Sunset. Another one with 2 place finishes in a row, the last after taking the lead in the stretch. On the other hand the winner of her last did come back to win a NW1X.
  • After taking a second look I’m going to add the 8 Place Card, although honestly the addition is really more of an angle play. I’m still ambiguous on the horse but some good handicappers are high on her chances. I’m posting this well before post time
  • 9 – Mobilize. This is sort of a, if you like Sumba Sunset you have to like Mobilize, pick, although Sumba Sunset has been the better of the two both times they met.
  • 11- Truly Mizzed. Seems much better suited to the mile, but the outside post is a real impediment.


  • 3 – Readthebyline. He ran a monster on May 7 and then came back with a bit of a clunker against better. He has some back class and there is no reason he shouldn’t improve off his last today. I’ll make him the top pick.
  • 6 – MJ Plus has developed a serious case of seconditis, but given in his last nine races he’s been 1st or 2nd, and his total lengths behind in his seven place finishes is about 5 lengths, he is certainly eligible to be the one with his nose in front.
  • 9 – Bug Juice is 3 for 4 at the distance and 2 for 2 at Saratoga. That is more than enough reason to put him in the mix.


I can’t get excited about #1 Commanding Curve, although there will probably be plenty of pace to run at. Update: Commanding Curve is scratched in favor of the Jim Dandy.

  • 3 – Protonico. Pletcher, Castellano, stakes race. This is Pletcher’s Saratoga wheel house.
  • 5- Charge Now. This is going to be my top pick. That Iowa Derby track was a mess, and once he didn’t break his race was over. I think he gets one more chance to prove he belongs.
  • 9 – Joint Custody. 10 of 11 in the money and a terror on the mid-Atlantic circuit. We can give him one shot in the majors.


  • 3 – Itapa is 20-1. I’m not sure why, but the post is good, the connections are good, and I can’t imagine she won’t get the mile trip.
  • 4 Knotty Pine was the front runner, and 5 Jolene was the presser and they finished a nose apart. I’m not sure I could separate them comfortably today.
  • 7 – Forensic is getting top billing for me. She was a bit unimpressive in the stretch in her last, but I like her style and I like her figures.

2-3-4-(8)-9-11/3-6-9/5-3-9/7-3-(4, 5)

Saratoga July 24 – Late Pick-4

After babbling about how tough the pick-4 was on Wednesday, it actually came down to a horse I wound up substituting for a scratched horse I was going to play (the 1 for the 7 in the 7th), two favorites and a standout 9-1 shot. As it turned out, the pick-4 was actually a bad investment with the favorite in the 10th race. If I had taken the $150 I put into the pick-4 and just bet it on Shankapotomus in the 8th I’d have come out $300 better than the pick-4 and only had to sweat once. On the other hand, if anyone BUT Hot Squeeze had come in I was in for a much bigger collection, so maybe the pick-4 wasn’t such a bad bet. But on the other other hand, none of my other four choices finished second, so $1,318 was as good as I was going to do on the pick-4. Dare I say Friday’s pick-4 is a little easier, at least at first glance.

I’m writing this before scratches and I’m going on David Aragona’s expert analysis that there wasn’t enough rain (yet) to knock any races off the turf.


I think this is the toughest of the four legs. I think the contenders are

  • 2 – Glowing Ember. He is a front running horse, but he doesn’t seem heartless in the stretch. In fact, if Abilio scratched he’d look like lone speed to me. Given his high early, he should have no trouble clearing the turn in front. He does take a slight downgrade in jockey from Castellano to Jose Ortiz, but Ortiz has been riding well. Gotta fear the speed.
  • 3 – Sneaky Kitten. He is a pace presser with that budding seconditis look. 19 starts, 9 seconds. I’m going to say he could win the race, but he is near the bottom of my win probables list.
  • 5 – Captain Gaughen. He’s only had two starts at 4, and both races have been useful. His 4 year-old figures are higher than anything he ran at 3, which is a very good sign. He’s actually won at today’s distance and he has a good tracking style. I’d be surprised if he went off at 12-1.
  • 6 – Abilio is the headache horse. Really fast figures. Plenty of early pop. Graded stakes runner. And on the down side, he’s 0 for ten in the last two years. You can’t leave him out, but I’m not rooting for him to come  in.
  • 8 – Powerful Instinct. He seems well placed, and despite his 2 for 24 record lifetime, he is 3 of 6 in the money in the last two years. This is his second start of the year, he’s trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Javier Castellano and if he goes off at his morning line 9-2 he’s probably an overlay.
  • 11 – Lawyer Jim. It’s his first start of the year after finishing 2013 4 for 8 wins. I like his style, he’s at the right class, and he has a win at Saratoga. I think I would demand more than the 6-1 ML, but he’s in the mix.

So I like 2, 5, and 8 best but would throw in 3, 6, and 11.


How do you make a bottom level claimer part of the late pick-4 and not have it as the last leg?

  • 3 – Wild Kay has speed, and has won at better than 50% in the last two years. I’m not enamored with the low percentage trainer, but the horse certainly isn’t over her head.
  • 6 – Wholelotaroyalty is another one that looks like a world beater in the lower claiming ranks. I think the drop to $16000 at Saratoga was shrewd especially considering those $40000 claimers in the midwest probably attract much better horses overall. Probably the favorite.
  • 7- Heir to Dare is 1 for 10 in the last two years with 4 seconds. She doesn’t seem to show a lot of heart these days but still can run competitively at this level. She certainly doesn’t look like 4-1 to me.

I leaning toward 3, 6 but might use the 7.


This 5 1/2F affair on the turf is very competitive.

  • 1 – Pure Sensation. Big numbers, lots of speed, and a little bit of hesitancy to win. He doesn’t look any better than a restricted stakes horse.
  • 2 – Harpoon. What a disappointment he’s been. 2nd in a Grade 3, to the Gotham, to the Wood, and then getting his butt kicked at OC50K. I don’t want to totally pitch him but I’m not really in his corner either.
  • 4 – Good Bye Greg has been dominant on the synthetic. He’s too damn fast to leave out.
  • 5 – Favorite Tale might go favorite. Unlike Harpoon, he took his Grade 2 licking and then came back to just miss in the Oh Say Stakes at Delaware. This is his level, and he looks more than fast enough to win.

I will use 1, 4, 5 and throw in the 2 just to keep from being thick-headed.


I’m feeling pretty bold about this race.

  • 1 – Bold Senator. Speed from the rail and a competitive figure. Zito and Saez…eh, not all goose bumpy about that combo.
  • 3 – Harmony Bay is one of those Hurdles to Turf runner that I think are often overlooked. He’s only at 3-1 ML but I don’t think you can leave him out.
  • 8 – All Over Me has a really nice race on Jun 4 at BEL, and that certainly makes him competitive, but overall he’s been sort of disappointing at MSW. But, Maker finally drops the horse to a level at which he can win.
  • 12- Larrytheeducator. Call me crazy but I like this horse in this spot. He has plenty of negatives. Yes, his trainer is 8% but he has two seconds in three starts at the Spa. Friedman is trying to make an impact here. Yes, Mejias has only gotten three rides, but I figure when a guy gets that few opportunities he’s going to be riding his ass off. Yes, he was clobbered in his first two races, but then he was moved to the turf and sort of woke up. Yes, he is breaking from the outside, but he showed tactical speed the last time and might just get reasonable position out of the first turn. I don’t think he is a need to lead type. Ok, in reality he needs everything to go perfect, but he’ll be on my tickets.

I’m going to back my bold selection, the 12, but not be so immovable that I won’t be playing around with the 1, 3,  and 8.

Saratoga July 23 – Late Pick-4

Someone said today’s pick-4 was tough. They underspoke. It is impossible. There are only 10,000 different combinations and it might not be a bad day to box the board.


  1. Treaty Royal is an 8 start maiden with 5 in-the-money finishes. She is one of the many horses dropping from MSW. She will be part of the early pace picture, and based on her pace figures she looks to be competitive.
  2. Galroyale is making her third start. She seems to prefer coming from well off the pace, although given her start problems last out we can’t be sure. She actually ran a better than looked last out, losing all chance at the break and going wide around the turn. She certainly has outs.
  3. It’s Macaroni in another one dropping into MdnCl. Jason Servis and Irad Ortiz are 33% at SAR and she puts the blinkers on.Your guess is as good as mine if this makes a difference.
  4. Arch Tiger is shipping from the always dangerous Jonathan Sheppard and is also dropping into the claiming ranks for the first time. She has 2 seconds and a third in three lifetime starts. Sheppard is always dangerous at the Spa.
  5. Silverama almost won a $40000 MdnCl at Belmont in May and was taken out of that race by Leah Gyarmanti. Her return in a MSW was poor, but if she runs back to the May 15 race she is a contender.
  6. Time for Harlan is another horse getting better. In his last he took the lead in the stretch before getting passed by two horses. You can’t just throw him out either.
  7. All Star Kitten is scratched.
  8. Winner’s Legacy is an 8 start maiden and the drop to MdnCl did wonders for her last time. She is another closer and may get shut out of position, but her times are fast enough for her to qualify
  9. Lateen has no turf starts. I’m going to step out and pitch her.
  10. Beauty Surprise is a Clement runner with plenty of early foot. She’s been a little faint hearted in the stretch, but could wire the field. Clement takes the blinkers off, and perhaps that will allow the horse to relax. Definitely a contender.
  11. One More Song is a firster for Clement. I’d watch the board on this one.
  12. Late Night Artist is another early speed sort with very fast figures. Dale Romans ships her in from CD and drops her into her first MdnCl. Another who would be no surprise.

So that is the first  leg. Maybe two confident eliminations in a 12-horse field. If I’m pressed, I’ll go short with 4, 5, 7, 10, 12


The only thing easier about Race 8 is that there are two fewer horses.

  1. Go Appeal is looking for three in a row. Eddie Kenneally claimed the horse for $50K last out, and drops him the $25K off a win. I think the drop is negative, but he’s still fast enough to win this.
  2. Haverhill doesn’t do much for me. Perhaps an in-the-money horse.
  3. Bernie the Maestro is another dropping 50% in claiming price. He’s an older gelding and I think his positives aren’t that impressive.
  4. Street Shark was claimed last out by the sly Gary Contessa. He brings the horse back in a little over a month at the same price. Another one who wouldn’t be a shock, but if you have to start drawing lines, I think he is one of the horses that goes.
  5. Shankapotamus is a hard-knocking claimer who just won last out for $12500. He has a couple of wins on the Saratoga main and is 5 for 5 in the money. Jeremiah Englehart is a high percentage trainer who does reasonably well first off the claim. His pace figure is good  but he may be pushed at the front. Still, a major player.
  6. Christopher’s Joy ships in from Finger Lakes and although he looks competitive, I just don’t like the FL to SAR angle. At six furlongs he’d be a must use. At seven I am wary.
  7. Bemata is a Chad Brown trainee dropping to his lowest level since last September. He’ll be bet and deservedly so.
  8. Photon is scratched
  9. Real Estate Rich has been over his head lately but has been reasonably competitive.
  10. Love to Run is scratched

My short list of contenders is 1, 5, 7


The featured Grade 2 Lake George is just like the real Lake George – deep, although in this case short.

  1. Daring Kathy is  4 for 5 lifetime but looks a bit outclassed here.
  2. Daring Dancer never got involved in the Wonder Again but was flattered when the first two finishers in that race finished 1-2 in the Belmont Oaks. You simply can’t leave her out.
  3. Duff One doesn’t seem like a graded horse.
  4. Sweet Acclaim is an Irish-bred with a second to Daring Dancer and two other close finishes.
  5. Speed Seeker could be any kind, but she won’t get my money this time.
  6. Little Journey is making he third start in America for Chad Brown, and you leave this horse out at your own peril.
  7. A Little Bit Sassy is definitely a contender, although Saez showed last time why he has trouble getting top mounts. I’d really like this horse if someone told me Saez was sure to get the most out of her.

The picks are 2, 5, 6, 7


If you are live going into the finale I hope you have an all.

  1. All Mine Tonight doesn’t look like a contender to me.
  2. Royal Jest has that negative pattern for me of 7 starts with 4 seconds. She did break her maiden last out so may have figured it out.
  3. Saucon Valley didn’t have the best of trips last time but still only lost by 2 1/4.
  4. Kimmie’s Lucky Star is just one of the many horses in this race that could vie for the backholes, but I don’t think she is a win prospect.
  5. The Lost Tigress tries the turf for the first time and has enough speed to be in the mix.
  6. Summerdale showed a lot first on the turf last out and she definitely makes the contenders list.
  7. Courageous Kitten took 12 starts to break her maiden and ran a decent race in her first with winners. She’s been off since October so I think I might give her a race or two.
  8. Hot Squeeze is a speedball with a win over the Saratoga turf. Speed is ever dangerous so she is a contender.
  9. Official is another one that has enough positives that she wouldn’t be a surprise. She goes into the “use” bucket, but I’m not enthused about her chances.
  10. Maggiesfreudnslip looks up against it.
  11. Mighty Reward is 0 for 3 at Saratoga on the turf. Her latest win was against $20000 claimers last October. Not impossible, but if you have to make a cut I think she goes by the wayside.
  12. White Crane is a professional NW1X runner and while she is a must use in the tri/super, I can’t put her in the win slot.

So the contenders are 3, 5, 6, 8, 9

If you used everyone I mentioned, it would be 5X3X4X5 for a total of $150 in 50 cent pick-4’s. That is a lot to spend for not having brimming confidence.