Bird Song the pick on cut back

Profile Picture: James Scully

July 29th, 2017

Saratoga features four graded stakes Saturday and the $350,000 A.G. Vanderbilt (G1) is the most appetizing from a betting prospective. A solid field of eight will travel 6-furlongs including defending champion A.P. Indian.

It’s easy to respect A.P. Indian – the classy gelding has registered triple-digit BRIS Speed Ratings in nine straight – but the 7-year-old missed a planned start in the Belmont Sprint (G3) last month due to a foot issue and hasn’t been performing at the same level he did last summer. I will try to beat him at short odds.

Bird Song won the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba (G2) two back and has made his last three starts at two turns for Ian Wilkes, but the 4-year-old prefers less ground. His Alysheba came wire-to-wire over a sloppy track that benefited him and the gray colt was out of gas by the latter stages of the other two route attempts this spring/summer, the Stephen Foster (G1) and Ben Ali (G3).

A sharp winner of the Fred Hooper (G3) at a one-turn mile in early March, Bird Song showed an affinity for 6-furlongs in a pair of outings last summer, comfortably breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs before drawing off to a 1 ¾-length decision over allowance foes at Saratoga. After settling in midpack, he rallied from just off the pace both times, the exact trip he figures to receive Saturday.

A blistering pace appears likely in Vanderbilt, with El Deal and Green Gatto guaranteed to bring it from the gate. That pair is so quick the speedy Awesome Banner, who just missed after blazing a trail on the front end of the Smile Sprint (G3), appears to have little chance of making the early lead.

Bird Song won’t be too far back with his tactical speed and should receive an ideal set-up for his finishing kick.

Here are a couple other horses I like:

Mom’s On Strike can open her 2017 campaign with a victory in race 7. Joe Sharp filly gained valuable experience making a pair of graded starts on dirt last summer before delivering a massive runner-up effort in her turf bow, the Pebbles, traveling extremely wide from post 12 before just running out room on the wire. Her late kick should be even more potent today with three need-the-lead types in the line-up.

Happy Birthday to Bill Mott, who sent out a couple of debut winners last year at Saratoga and has the precociously-bred Length entered in race 11. From the female family of Blame, the filly is by good first-out sire War Front. Her dam won at first asking and so did two of Length's three siblings (including Grade 3 winner Size), the other capturing his second start. I expect to see Length run well.

Good luck!