The weekend's top stakes action is centered at Saratoga and Del Mar this Saturday afternoon with two of the premier summer events: the Travers Stakes and the Pacific Classic. No major changes at either track so far this morning, although Del Mar won't release their initial changes until a bit later this morning.
Del Mar Scratches & Changes
Saratoga Scratches & Changes
Saratoga is listing the track as Fast and Firm this morning with very few scratches or changes in their graded stakes card.
Turf rail at 0 feet on both the inner and Mellon turf courses.
I'm playing in the on-line Travers Day NHC Tour handicapping contest today so I'm going to provide a bit of live blog commentary throughout the day on that and the cards at Saratoga and Del Mar.
5:02 PM: Nice win by Richard's Kid in the Pacific Classic, edging out my pick, Crowded House in the final furlong. I believe it's time for a few beers.
4:29 PM: I haven't picked too much that's come home in first today so I might as well continue to shoot for the moon by going with the 8-Crowded House (GB), currently at 9/1 on the board. Truthfully, I don't have much of a clue in this race but I won't be shocked if this horse turns up with a really good performance in this spot, even if he doesn't win. Additionally, I think synthetic might just be his preferred surface.
3:49 PM: Del Mar is a bit behind today so it looks like the Pacific Classic will go off sometime around 4:45 instead of 4:20.
3:09 PM: I'll just take a guess at this right now, but I think the Beyer folks are going to split the variant for today's Saratoga card for all the main track otherwise the last couple stakes races are going to get fairly middling figures. I'll have to go through the full charts later but, right now, we've got a main track where two year old maiden colts in race 5 ran faster than Grade 3 three year old fillies in the Victory Ride. I'm not sure where they are going to make the split but I'd be shocked if Discreetly Mine and Afleet Express end up with anything other than high figures.
2:58 PM: Trainer Nick Zito has got to be wondering "what if" with Fly Down after his colt lost by a nose to Afleet Express in the Travers after failing to switch leads in the stretch. Tough, tough loss for Zito but a big win for Jimmy Jerkens and Afleet Express, a colt that is really coming into his own in the last two months.
Final time of the Travers...a not very pretty 2:03.28. A thrilling race but very slow.
2:46 PM: I'm going to go with First Dude in the Travers hoping that speed plays as well at two-turns as it has in the sprints. A light exacta with First Dude, A Little Warm, and Miner's Reserve will back it up.
2:42 PM: It would have been nice if Enriched would have stayed at a little bit better odds but loading up on lone speed on the current Del Mar turf course is akin to stealing.
2:28 PM: The Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap and the scratch of 2-Golden Mexico (IRE) puts 6-Enriched (current 7/2 odds) at the top of my list as he should be lone speed on a turf course that has been playing very fast the past few days.
Out at Saratoga, we're 20+ minutes from the Travers and the way speed is playing on the main track has me completely re-thinking how this race will turn out. I was contemplating the closers but I'm much more inclined to lean towards the speed, especially along the inside. 1-Miner's Reserve and 4-First Dude could be tough to get by if the track plays similar at two-turns as it has for all the sprint races today.
2:18 PM: Check the replay on the King's Bishop because Bank Merger completely shut-off D'Funnybone as they were coming off the far turn. I don't think D'Funnybone would have won this race but he should be eligible to run much better in his next start, especially if they cut him back to six furlongs.
A good run by Discreetly Mine and another wire-to-wire main track sprint winner at Saratoga. Speed is not only winning but it's holding on after blazing fractions.
2:11 PM: I'm getting a big time Merry-Go-Round feeling at Del Mar on the main track today. In the first race the 1-2 horses at the start were 1-2 at the finish. In the third race it was 6-8-3 after the first quarter and a last gasp drive by the 8 secured an 8-6-3 finish. Speed seems to be holding awfully well as the 2/1 favorite, Pride of Wilshire was all-out to beat a 22/1 pacesetter, Cynical Wager.
1:59 PM: I'm not sure how he'll like the switch from dirt to Del Mar's Polytrack, but I like the Prairie Meadows shipper, 3-Locked In, in the 3rd race at Del Mar. He seemed to run okay in the early part of his turf try two races back although I think the distance was a bit short for him. A low percentage jockey gets in the irons and that's always a bit of a concern but I'm willing to take a shot that he takes to the surface 7/1 odds.
1:43 PM: Speed is doing some major holding on at Saratoga in sprint races today as 1-Rightly So wins the Ballerina from the gate. If my memory serves me that's three sprint wire-to-wire winners on the main track today.
Warbling broke well and finished second.
1:26 PM: I'd like to see what kind of race 2-Warbling could run if she could just get out of the gate in good order, as opposed to her last two races where she broke poorly. She's being ignored on the board right now at 7/1 odds in the Ballerina Stakes.
1:09 PM: Put Rapport's name on the list of top contenders for the Filly & Mare Sprint as she ran that field off the course in the Grade 3 Victory Ride. Solid performance by that three-year-old filly by Songandaprayer. The first at Del Mar sees Musical Grace and Stay Put run 1-2 the entire way around the track for a gate-to-wire win around two turns on the main track.
.12:52 PM: TVG just talked about her and I agree that there's a lot to like about the 1-Simply Put in the first race at Del Mar. I like the move from open company to N2L's and she's got enough early speed to put her right in the mix with this small field in the early going. 4/1 is solid for a six horse field.
12:44 PM: The Pick 4 at Saratoga, with a bevy of price horses, just paid a fat $1,015.50 for a $1. If you had a piece of that one, enjoy.
12:37 PM: Dynaslew, a solid 7/1 on the board, takes the Grade 2 Ballaston Spa Handicap over pacesetter Silver Reunion.
Man, the older filly turf horses are really thin this year. The Filly and Mare Turf is going to be a Euro-fest unless somebody figures out a way to greatly improve their form. I realize this race isn't considered a hugely significant prep for the Breeders' Cup but it seems like the whole division, while very competitive, lacks consistent star power.
12:04 PM: The pleasantries are out of the way at Saratoga setting the stage for five consecutive graded stakes races culminating with the Grade 1 Travers Stakes.
The Ballaston Spa is up first and I'm going stick with the horse mare that I picked out the other day, 8-Cherokee Queen (6/1 ML). I like her coming back after that complete throw out of a race at Monmouth and she get's Leparoux back in the saddle after Elvis Trujillo rode her in the Matchmaker.
TVG has switched out the talent from Wolf and Mr. B to Rudulph and Carruthers with Carruthers singlehandedly holding the ship together. If it had been a Schruup/Rudulph tag-team I'd be watching HRTV right now. As it is I might still make the switch over in order to keep my sanity.
11:47 AM: Shower done. Bowl of instant oatmeal prepared. Dog outside running around the yard. Fiancée in her sewing room doing her sewing. And I am firmly entrenched in the Man Cave ready to ride out the rest of the Travers/Pacific Classic Day...or at least until I've gone completely bust.
If I was playing the seventh race at Saratoga in the contest today (which I'm not since it's not among the mandatory races), I'd be tempted to play 12-Aikenite in his first try on the lawn. He's got the running style to suggest the lawn will be a good spot for him and the pedigree and his prior success on synthetic surfaces indicate that he should make the transfer in an orderly fashion. 5/1 on the board? Why not.
11:25 AM: The 5 looked like he was going to make a winning move coming off the far turn but looking like you're going to make a winning move and actually making a winning move aren't the same thing. He flattened out in the stretch and finished either 3rd or 4th behind the first time starter and winner, 9-Headintothecity.
There's an hour break on the NHC contest until the next mandatory which is race 8. That gives me a short window to shower and attempt to at least look like a productive member of society.
11:13 AM: Going to switch my pick in here from the four to the horse to his outside, 5-Fourseventeen. This horse had some major trouble in his last effort and even though he's stepping back up to Maiden Special company he fits in pretty well with this group. His ML of 12/1 has been bet down to 6/1 but those are still de cent odds for a horse that should show improvement with a better trip.
11:01 AM: I generally like to play m
aiden races but Saratoga is just litter
ed with them today, including a couple of the standard New York-bred affairs. The sixth race follows that same pattern and doesn't offer a whole lot to love. Since I'm pretty much throwing darts at the board at this point I'm going to lean towards the
124-Brolio, a second time starter for Harold Bond who had an awful time of it when he ran over the slop last time out. I'll toss that effort and look forward to a much improvedperformance today over the lawn. 12/1 on the ML and nice, dead 14/1 on the current tote; at this point, I'd be happy to see on finish in second.
10:49 AM: Yeah, it's that kind of day. The five breaks about...oh, I don't know, ten feet behind the pack and proceeds to run up the track and well behind the even money favorite 3-Uncle Mo. The start doesn't bother me too much because there is no way he could have beaten the winner but would have been so awful to grab the place spot?
10:31 AM: What's with the trendy music TVG is playing when they come back from commercials? Is it just me, or does it seem a little odd to hear "Break Your Heart" by Taio Cruz (that's what it said on screen...I wouldn't have had a clue what the song was) and then watch as the camera cut s to a shot of Mr. B? Don't get me wrong, Mr. B. kicks ass, but I'm not sure that's the right lead-in for him. Or Greg Wolf.
10:27 AM: My chances of doing anything of note in this contest are pretty much nill at this point but I'll try to scramble some winners in the remaining six races.
Race 5 is filled with two-year-old first time
fillies colts...ten of them. I'm going after pure board play on this one: the 5-Believe in You and the 7-Northern Hammer were both 15/1 on the ML. The 5 has been bet down to 4/1 while the 7 has seen his odds got to 8/1. I'll choose between one of those two at post-time, probably the 5 unless he drops below 4/1.
10:15 AM: You've got to be kidding me. On my Form, the 5-Monastir is the horse I circled two night ago but, of course, shied away from today due to his awful 19-1-3-5 lifetime r ecord. I liked his closing times but the current form was just too much to handle...and then he takes this race at 12/1. Is it too early for a beer? I think not.
9:58 AM: Race 4 is a race restricted to New York-bred horses, not a category that I do very well with, to be perfectly honest. I'm going to eschew any thoughts of betting a horse at small odds (or one that looks like it could get bet down to small odds) and instead reach for a price in this spot. The 10-Wishinonadream is coming right back after winning against N2L $25k non-statebred claimer last time out and it was the first time in a long, long time that this horse has displayed interest in the early going. He's 3-1-1-0 at Saratoga in his career, which is a pretty nice line when you consider that he's 19-2-2-1 in his entire career. The 10 is 16/1 on the board right now and I'll ride that to post-time and hope I can bring home a bit of a price.
9:43 AM: Not sure what happened to the pace duel I was expecting in this race. Forum, at 4/1, beats 7/2 Volcker at the wire while my pick, after getting hammered to 2/1, flattens out in the stretch. And with that I'm going to start going after much bigger prices for the rest of the card as I've managed to get very little from the first three races.
9:37 AM: Well, the odds on the 4 dropped like a rock in a lake as it got closer to post-time. I attempted to switch my pick to the #2 but didn't get it in on time.
9:20 AM: All right, we got tho se first two races out of the way and finally get to one where I actually have a strong opinion about one of the entries. The 3rd race is a 1 1/16 mile Maiden Special on the grass where I really like the 4-Nolangrant'skitten, a second time starter out of Kitten's Joy for Michael Maker. I've had some success playing the Kitten's Joy offspring this summer, either in making their turf debuts or in their second or third career starts. This one comes off a decent debut at the same distance where he ran the final 3/16ths in a solid 29.12 after being a bit rank in the early going. Leparoux gets back on bo ard and the 4 is a good 6/1 on the ML and hopefully will stay in that range up until post-time.
9:10 AM: Promise Me a Cat got a much better trip than in her debut effort but she could only manage a second place finish to the runaway second favorite, 9-Alexandra Rylee, a first time starter out of Afleet Alex. The win by the 9 is a good lesson in watching the board for first time starters - Alexandra Rylee was 15/1 on the ML but was bet down to 5/2 at post-time. If I wasn't playing in a contest she would have made a good bet, especially singl ed in an exacta or tri.
The place finish by Promise Me a Cat gets me on the board but that's about it as the payout is a palt ry $4.40. Hey, at least I won't get shutout!
8:54 AM: With a better break I would expect 5-Promise Me a Cat to run a much better race in her second career start. The Baffert filly to her outside will be the one to catch but perhaps that one will be a bit off on the transfer to the dirt - I can certainly hope. The 5 is a tepid 4/1...a bit lower than I like to take but I think she fits in well should she get a cleaner trip.
8:39 AM: Glad I didn't bet the 10 as he absolutely face planted coming out of the gate. The 6, Litigation Risk, takes the opener at 10/1 and my pick, the 2, finished 3rd...which doesn't do me a bit of good. The three favorites were disappointments so at least I can take solace that I didn't lose the race by betting on the chalk.
8:24 AM: After further review, I'm not taking 3/1 in this contest as that's not going to do me any good in the long run. If I'm going to take a price I'm going to go with the Dutrow colt, 2-Launch N Relaunch, taking the cut-back and making his first start off the lay-off. He's currently sitting at 11/1 on the board.
8:17 AM: The first race is a bit of a messy race to kick off the Travers Day contest at Saratoga. Aspire and Maximus Ruler make the most sense on paper but neither is going to light up the tote board. I'd love to pick a mid to long shot in this race but I really don't find any of them very attractive. I'll probably take whichever horse has the longest odds at post time between Aspire and Maximus Rule and hope a bomb doesn't drop on the first race of the day.