I had a great episode of Final Furlongs all planned out for your guys this week as last night JP Fanshawe and I recorded a nice segment where we handicapped the Travers in detail, as well as our picks for the Ballston Spa, King's Bishop and Test Stakes. And then the call recording program that I use in conjunction with Skype ate the friggin' MP3 file.
The "instantly saved" local copy? Gone.
The supposed "cloud back-up" copy? Gone.
What was I left with? A whole lotta nuttin'.
To say that I was a little livid last night would be an understatement.
Anyway, apologies for the technical difficulties that resulted in no podcast this week.* And apologies to JP for not being able to use what was a great handicapping segment.
*The first two podcasts went off almost seamlessly. So much so that the other day I was thinking to myself, "I haven't had a file eaten or destroyed yet. Cool." That'll teach me to tempt fate.
So, with that dreadful information out of the way, I'll dive in to Saturday's Travers card at Saratoga and, perhaps, impart some profound piece of wisdom out of this whole mess. But I wouldn't count on it.
Race 9: Grade 2 Ballston Spa
1 1/16 Miles, Turf
Fillies & Mares, 3&up
Two runners jump off the page to me in this race (but not in a way that makes me want to bet them to win): 5-Summer Soiree and 6-Tapitsfly. Both of these females like to get out an run hard early. Tapitsfly, while she's won by coming off the pace, is most effective when she can control the pace from the outset. Summer Soiree has yet to prove she can do anything but run hard early and hope to carry her speed all the way around the track.
With Tapitsfly and Summer Soiree setting what I expect to be a solid pace, I'm looking for something to come from the back of the pack and that filly is - Hungry Island (3/1). This Shug McGaughey trainee is strong at the distance (6-3-0-1) and she's taking a slight cut-back in distance after a disappointing effort in the G1-Diana.
Race 10: Grade 1 Test
7 Furlongs, Dirt
Speed, speed and more speed. The Test has drawn a field of 10 very eager and fast fillies and it looks like a race where fillies that can come from off the pace will have the advantage. Additionally, as JP talked about in our now forever-to-be-lost podcast segment, these seven furlong races are quite tricky and tend to favor horses than have run successfully at the distance in the past.
3-Book Review (5/2) fits this race to a "T". She's run well at the distance (2-2-0-0) and at Saratoga (2-1-1-0), she's lightly races (5-2-2-1) and she appears to be developing nicely as she moves into the fall of her three-year-old campaign. But the biggest factor in her favor: she can come from off the pace in a race that looks to have plenty of speed up front.
My price play in this spot is 6-Jazzy Idea (15/1), a Maryland-bred filly trained and owned by Edwin Merryman. Jazzy Idea doesn't jump off the page at me like Book Review but I think she'd would be a nice overlay at 15/1 (should she stay at those odds near post time). She prefers to run from the back of the pack (although she's shown some speed in prior races) and she's coming out of a pretty good race in the G1-Prioress Stakes. Emma's Encore, Judy the Beauty and Agave Kiss - the three fillies to finish in front of Jazzy Idea in the Prioress - are quality sprinters. Jazzy Idea's fourth place finish was disappointing but not a disaster and I could see improvement in the Test.
Race 11: G1-King's Bishop
7 Furlongs, Dirt
The expected early pace duel between 9-Trinniberg (7/2) and 10-Doctor Chit (5/1) should be fun to watch but I wonder if these two colts might take too much out of each other in the early stages of the King's Bishop. I don't think this race sets-up for a deep closer or a run from a horse well of the pace, but I do think that any colt that can find himself in the garden spot behind the pacemakers should be a good spot coming into the final furlong.
I'm concerned that 4-Fort Loudon (12/1) has run his best races at Calder, while struggling at other tracks around the country. He ran decent in the Amsterdam but I haven't seen enough from his non-Calder form to get on board in this spot.
3-Currency Swap (5/2) makes sense in many ways: he's coming off two very strong races against Graded company, he can press the pace in the early stages, he's been burning up the track in his morning works, and the jockey/trainer combination (Pompay and Maragh) has been on fire over the past year (44 starts, 25% Win, $2.20 $2 ROI). Lots of reasons to get behind Currency Swap in this race.
1-Willy Beamin (I'm assuming named in honor of Steamin' Willie Beamen) is a very interesting entry in this race when you consider that he ran his most recent race on... Wednesday. Dutrow wheeling a horse back on three days rest? Interesting or just crazy?
For a price play, I like 8-Unbridled's Note (10/1) as a horse that can stalk a good pace and fits in well at the seven panel distance. He's lightly raced, coming off a good effort in the Amsterdam and needs to take another step forward in order to challenge the best in this race but, if I'm looking to add a price to an exacta or tri, I like Unbridled's Note to be in the mix.
Race 12: G1-Travers Stakes
1 ¼ Miles, Dirt
The feature race of the day and of the Saratoga meet: the 143rd running of the Mid-Summer Derby, the Travers Stakes. While this race doesn't have Bodemeister, I'll Have Another, Paynter or Union Rags (or Hansen, if you were hoping for some White Lighting), it does have a very deep and even group of colts looking to make a big splash as we head into the fall racing season.
I'll just get this out there right off the bat: I'm absolutely going against 6-Alpha (5/2) in this spot (JP was with me on this one; he's also taking a stand against Alpha). He's a lukewarm favorite on the morning line for a reason: there are several rivals that, on paper, appear to be moving in a better direct than the Jim Dandy winner. There's no question that Alpha does his best running in New York and his Jim Dandy win was a solid, if unspectacular effort. On the other hand, this colt looks like he's leveled out since this spring and I'm not sure he's a good bet to take a step forward in this race. At (likely) short odds, I have to look elsewhere to find the winner.
I love two horses in this year's Travers: 10-Nonios (4/1) and 8-Neck ‘n Neck (9/2). My top play is Nonios.
Of the many things I love about Nonios, I am very impressed with the way he transferred his California synthetic form over to dirt and his ability to run right up on the pace, or several lengths back. For me, that indicates a horse that is (here comes my favorite word) versatile. He's also lightly raced (6-3-2-1) and appears to be moving in the right direction as we head into the fall. Regardless of the figures you prefer, Nonios has put up his best numbers as Hollendorfer has stretched him out and, based on what I saw in the Haskell, I think he could be sitting on a big, big effort in the Travers.
A good looking Hollendorfer colt with Johnny V. in the irons at a possible 4/1 on the board? Yes, please.
Like Nonios, Neck ‘n Neck looks to me like a colt heading in the right direction and finally "figuring things out" for trainer Ian Wilkes. His Jim Dandy was a pretty good race but I'm not sure he's at his best when racing over a wet surface. Should the track stay dry at Saratoga on Saturday, I like Neck ‘n Neck to put forth a big effort.
A horse that JP and I talked about at length on Thursday was 4-Stealcase (15/1), a colt that's had just a bit of trouble in his last two races. In the Haskell, he slammed into the gate at the start of the race but still managed to finish third. In the G3-Matt Winn at Churchill Downs, he was rank, steadied and wide for much of the race.
If - and it's a big "IF" - if Stealcase can avoid the problems that have plagued him in his last two races, I could see him running a big race at fat odds. He's shown ability and talent in the past. The consistency has been lacking but it's definitely present if you want to dig into his past performances. While I'm leery of horses that continually find trouble during their races, there is also something to be said for a horse at long odds that has a good list of excuses in his prior races.