Saratoga July 24

Opening Day at the Spa is finally here. The weather is a little dicey – the forecast calls for a 30-40% chance of rain in Saratoga, with some potentially drenching showers. Of course, the rain could also miss the track, but if it doesn’t it could affect the later turf races. The card looks very encouraging. Lots of full fields and competitive races.

Race 1      4-3-8

Let’s go for a longshot right away in the first race and tab Moneyinyour Pocket in the win slot. Moneyinyour Pocket was competitive with much better in late 2014 and was taken by the usually shrewd David Jacobson for $40K in April of this year. He dropped the horse to $12,500 and finally got an impressive win last out. He’s got a second and a third at the distance. The jump to state-bred OC$40 is not quite as big a leap as it may appear. Worth considering. Beyond Empire has a win over the SAR surface at this distance. His two runs in Dubai were nothing special, but the return at BEL at this level showed some of the talent he’d shown previously stateside.  Fox Rules is another longshot that intrigues me. He’s a versatile horse who can win turf or dirt, short and long, but seems most effective in routes on the dirt. His numbers suggest he is as good as anything off his best.

Race 2      1-3-4

I’d like Lemon Liqueur a lot more if she wasn’t breaking from the rail post. Still, I searched high and low in this field and it was hard to come up with anything that looked better than her. She has an impressive set of steady works and Violette is excellent with first time runners. If she doesn’t get buried out of the gate she certainly has a big chance. Night Madam is another with good morning works. She’s sired by a BC sprint winner and while Contessa is not in Violette’s league with newcomers, he is a competent trainer. Lady’s First  is shipped up from Kentucky by Dallas Stewart. She sold for less than the stud fee, not a great sign, but the works show some ability. If I know anything about state-bred two year old races, it is that anything can happen so go with caution.

Race 3      4-7-1-10

The nod in the first turf race of the year goes to Little Mary Ellen. She appears to have settled at this level in search of a win. Horses able to establish position early have a big advantage in races on the inner turf, and she should settle into a good striking spot. You can toss out her last on the good dirt, and her best effort should top this field. Khaleesi Cat drops from MSW to the claiming ranks for this start. The horse has had bad luck in both her starts. In the first she clipped heels and lost the jockey. In the second she was squeezed back at the start and was never able to get into the race. She puts the blinkers on today and gets first Lasix. Mott trainees usually take a few races to get going, so no surpise if she shows up today. Dacoma is another dropping out of MSW. She’s also moving up to a route, and that should allow her to show more speed from the rail. There are questions about why Ward would give up on the horse after only two starts – she’s running at a $120K discount from her purchase price – but if she doesn’t get snagged it might turn out to be a shrewd move. Ambiguous but with possibilities. Flying K C has been sprinting for RuRod. Usually the outside posts are death on the inner, but she may have enough speed to establish position.

Race 4      7-6-1

One of the things I love about Saratoga is naming graded stakes after some of the smaller places in the area. The Amsterdam, the Ballston Spa, and in this case the 97th running of the Schuylerville. This is a talented field, and as is usually the case, two year olds can improve dramatically in their early starts. Still, until Todd Pletcher shows signs of weakness, his horses get the most consideration in the two year old stakes. In this race Positively Royal looks very strong. She broke her maiden powerfully in a fast time at BEL. In that race she was actually a little green, and if she learned her lessons, she should be more professional in this race. The bullet at SAR a week ago says she is ready to enter the ranks of graded stakes winner. Moment is Right has shown high early speed and has been working like a champion at KEE. Every reason to expect she’ll be winging and will have to be caught. Decked Out has more of a pressing/closing running style and should appreciate the increase in distance. Hopefully the rail doesn’t keep her from finding a good spot from which to make a late run.

Race 5      3-8-11

Nile Princess broke her maiden at a price at BEL in May, jumped way up to a $50K starter allowance where she raced decently, and comes down to a NW3 claiming event. She’s eligible for NW2 and that is of concern, but she’s not up against a strong bunch. At 12-1 ML I’m interested. Jennys Creek has shown a tendency to finish in the money more than win, but she did beat a NW2L field a month and a half ago and didn’t show badly against a state-bred NW1X field. She fits the race pretty well. Queenofzeenile only missed at this level last out by half a length and would be given more consideration if she wasn’t coming from the outside. If she gets the right position she could be a winner.

Race 6      6-4-5

Anna House was a $600K yearling purchase, trained by Pletcher and working well. Johnny V takes the mount and that combo is exceptional with these sorts. Silky Girl has been working up a storm for Violette and at 8-1 is worth considering. Welcoming goes for Clement and Leparoux and that combination is a solid 21%. She’s been working at SAR and has looked good doing it.

Race 7      4-5-3-12

Lahinch Classics is one of two Chad Brown trained entrants here. Interestingly Irad Ortiz and Javier Castellano are both 28% riding for Brown, so I’m looking at betting the value. Lahinch Classics is 10-1 on the ML and gets the “secondary” rider in Ortiz. She missed by the slimmest of margins in a G2 at theCurragh and if she replicates that run she’s as good as anythig in here. It’s a bit of a concern that she flopped as the heavy favorite in a $25K OC last out, but she’ll have no issue with the distance and you have to trust CB. Bishop’s Pond, the other Brown runner just broke her maiden after four previous tries. She’ll be mid-pack and should be coming at the end. Chrysolite stretches out to 1 3/16. She’s been competitive with this level and if she adapts to the longer distance she can be a factor. Trophee just broke her maiden for Clement after knocking on the door in all her U.S. races. She’s an obviously talented runner, but is stuck on the far outside. She’ll have to overcome that to beat this field.

Race 8      3-6-4

Doubledown Again has been competitive in every race and has very consistent figures. Figures to be on top of his game in this one. Doc Almon has looked excellent since DJ took over conditioning. Is as good as any horse in the field. Scatter Joy is the best speed in the race and may take this field the whole way. Great winning percentage at the distance.

Race 9      9-10-3

Mrs MacDougal comes in from SA for Chad Brown. She looked good in the American Oaks but couldn’t contend with Feathered and Spanish Queen. I think the cutback in distance will be in her favor. Ortiz was the rider in her only win.  Feathered almost wired the field in the American Oaks and prior to that did make it gate to wire in the Edgewood. May seek the front this time. Jellicle Ball goes first time for Motion. She was graded stakes placed in Europe. No listed works, so we’ll see if she goes.

Race 10   6-4-2

Culprit goes third off the long layoff and drops to the SAR price basement. Have to use him, but not delirious about him. Big Blue Talent is another steep dropper going third off the layoff. One of the contenders in a weak field. Bacigliano almost wired a field at this level last time. With that race under his belt might just go all the way. Joe Sharp is usually good with his recent claims.