Update: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times in the Pick-4. The best of times because I hit it, the worst of times because the scratches had it paying $89. In the 7th race Tiz Sardonic Joe threw a shoe before the race. They decided to let him run, but for purse money only. As expected the #8 Joe’s Blazing Aaron sprinted to the lead and wired the field with “Shoeless Joe” making a race out of it for second. Monument Hill picked up the payoff place. So everyone who had the 3 wound up with the 8, which kept a lot of the crowd alive for the Pick-4. The 8th race had four early scratches so a field of only seven went postward. As expected Adventure Love led all the way around the track with Kiss Me Lola second and Ballerina Belle third. The 9th race went to Tourist with Ring Weekend second and Storming Inti third. The 10th race was my strongest play, Jet Majesty. Jet Majesty was hanging around as the second choice to Winter Wish, but unfortunately Winter Wish went cuckoo for cocoa puffs in the paddock and was scratched. So all the Winter Wish money went to Jet Majesty, dropping the Pick-4 pay from $160 to $89. It may have been closer to $300 if Tiz Sardonic Joe stayed in the 7th race and won and Winter Wish stayed in the 10th and won. But, it was a hit to start the season.
Opening day at the Spa is always testing for handicappers. Shippers from different tracks, layoff horses that have been prepping for Saratoga, and horses hoping to carry over Belmont form. You have to love that the late pick-4 has mostly full fields entered. I’d be shocked if the late pick-4 wasn’t a big one.
There is a lot of ambiguity in this race. #2 Monument Hill has a lot of positives. George Weaver does well at Saratoga, the horse seems to be at the right class and distance, his pace figures are competitive, he has a second over the track, and he should be able to establish good position from the inside post on the tighter-turned inner turf course. #8 Joe’s Blazing Aaron should go off as the favorite. With his natural speed he should be able to clear the horses to his inside, but that hard run to the first turn might take something out of him. He is 0 for 7 at the distance and 0 for 2 on the Saratoga turf. On the positive side, Michael Maker and Javier Castellano have formed a potent combination, and there is no reason to worry about the layoff since late May. Still, with only one win in the last two years, I wouldn’t call him a standout. I suspect either he wires the field or airballs. #3 Tiz Sardonic Joe is a lightly raced 5 year-old that seems to be in good condition. He was black type stakes placed a little over a year ago and is 2 for 3 on the Saratoga Turf. Having Frankie Dettori up can’t hurt. If you are going deep in your pick-4’s, the #4, #5, and #7 at least have the potential to upset.
Because of Saratoga’s configuration, turf sprint races are run at the 5 1/2 furlong distance. #10 Ballerina Belle might be the best closer in the race, but she may have trouble if she doesn’t get a good early position. If she is no more than three or four back entering the turn, she could run by them all. #3 Adventure Love is a turf sprint specialist who gets the services of Frankie Dettori. She comes off a strong win at Arlington Park at today’s distance. Her pace figure makes her competitive and she should be able to establish a strategic position. #4 Kiss Me Lola has a win and a close second on the Saratoga turf and lately has been staying well in turf sprints. If she runs back to last year’s Saratoga’s winning race, she should notch her second win. The five year-old mare #1 Zamquick just broke her maiden at five furlongs and could improve now that she’s learned to win.
#1 Storming Inti and #5 Tourist should vie for favoritism, and rightly so. #1 Storming Inti is for 4 for 9 lifetime and is graded stakes placed. He’s had a consistent career and even has a third at Saratoga. #5 Tourist won his first race for winners in hand by open lengths. Since switching the horse to the turf trainer Billy Mott has seen the horse blossom. She will be very tough today. #7 Ring Weekend has been way over his head since winning the Tampa Bay Derby. He does have a nice second on the Gulfstream Park turf and trainer Graham Motion seems to have put him in a more reasonable spot. #2 Cabo Cat is also well spotted and has been very competitive in his last three.
The nightcap is a 1 1/16 mile turf maiden for state-breds. In these races it either looks obvious or totally chaotic. Today it is closer to chaos. If you read my piece an angle handicapping, you would know one of the strongest angles, especially in maiden races, is betting a horse with figures from the previous year higher than any other horse has from this year. #9 Jet Majesty fits that bill. The Wesley Ward trainee opened up her career in a turf sprint at Belmont and ran respectably. She then came back a month later and finished third by a length to males before laying up over the winter. Ward does well with layoff horses and the switch from Abel Lezcano to Frankie Dettori is about as positive as it gets. The rest of the field all have their negative and positives. #1 Resolutely hasn’t started since last year at Saratoga, but does have a third over the course. #8 Winter Wish had an eventful race last time, being steadied at the start and racing six wide into the stretch. She has figures that should put her in the mix. #11 Chasing Paradise has raced consistently over the turf and should do well if she gains good early position. #5 Traipse in Utopia was well over her head the last time but should be charging at the end.