Potential value plays in Saturday stakes
Whether any of these actually ends up representing value or not, we'll see, but here are a few horses who stood out to me at a price:
Saratoga's 7TH, the De La Rose: Token of Love probably won't go off at 10-1, especially with the scratches of J Wonder and Stellar Path, but the Graham Motion trainee still has appeal. The three-quarter sister to current Epsom Derby (G1) and Eclipse (G1) hero Golden Horn has taken a couple of starts to find herself in the U.S., but she put it all together last time out at Belmont Park (and posted a 103 BRIS Late Pace rating). With a few pace factors signed on, the Oppenheimer homebred should get something like an honest set-up for her closing kick. She has the back class for this assignment, having defeated Lady Lara in the Dick Hern Fillies' S. at Haydock last summer.
Saratoga's 8TH, the Test (G1): As a fan of Irish Jasper, I can easily see why our ace James Scully tabbed her in his blog. The only reason my eyes were drawn to By the Moon is the fact that she's a proven Grade 1 commodity at the same 8-1 price, and she's coming out of a fantastic near-miss in the Acorn (G1). After chasing the scorching pace, she kicked clear and was just denied late by Curalina, who came back to take the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) via DQ. The Michelle Nevin filly is also proven at Saratoga. She broke her maiden here, finished best of the rest in the sloppy Spinaway (G1), and fired a bullet over the track in preparation. By the Moon is also tops in BRIS Prime Power.
Saratoga's 9TH, the Whitney (G1): As a longtime fan of both Honor Code and Tonalist, I'd be delighted if either won. Both are top-class individuals who would be worthy winners of this prestigious -- and historic -- contest. But this shapes up as a very contentious race, and in the circumstances, it could be a perfect storm for Wicked Strong (20-1). On current form, he's got a lot to prove. On the other hand, he's also a Saratoga specialist who's run two of his better races here, when upending Tonalist in last year's Jim Dandy (G2) at this track and trip and missing by a whisker to stablemate V.E. Day in the Travers (G1). Nine furlongs could be his ideal distance. Also note that trainer Jimmy Jerkens boasts a gaudy 31% strike rate when going turf-to-dirt. Is Wicked Strong good enough to win this? I don't know, but it's logical to think that he's going to outperform his odds. I'm tempted to say ignore him at your peril. (For an excellent discussion of the field, see Vance Hanson's post.)
Saratoga's 10TH, the Waya (G3): Chad Brown's French import Goldy Espone (5-1) looks like a real wire threat on paper. But I'd be remiss not to mention Motion's Eastern Belle (6-1), a half-sister to Golden Horn and therefore a close relative of De La Rose contender Token of Love. While I wouldn't be so bold as to claim a family double, I hope one or the other can get the job done. An English stakes winner last year who was also beaten five lengths in the Nassau (G1), she's entitled to appreciate the step up in trip. The Oppenheimer homebred has finished a close second in her past two, splitting Ceisteach (subsequent Robert G. Dick Memorial [G3] winner) and Walk Close (subsequent Modesty [G3] winner) in the Keertana and rallying smartly off a slow pace in the New York (G2).
Del Mar's 8TH, the John C. Mabee (G2): I could say that Scully stole my thunder with Elektrum (6-1), but honestly, his support for her is more of a reassurance that I might be on the right track. The High Chaparral filly was traveling almost as well as Hard Not to Like in the Gamely (G1), but unlike the eventual winner, she didn't get room. This time, Elektrum gets a rider switch to Victor Espinoza, who masterminded Hard Not to Like's trip in the Gamely. She should be quickening late for trainer John Sadler, who's winning at a 23% clip at present.