The Jury: Bets and fades for July 23
With a number of stakes races on tap for the weekend at Monmouth Park, Saratoga, Del Mar, and Woodbine, the TwinSpires Jury of James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Ashley Anderson name their best bets and the horses to fade.
What is your best bet?
James Scully: Army Wife (7-2) thrived in her third start back from the layoff last year, winning the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) by open lengths, and she looks poised for her best under similar circumstances in the Molly Pitcher (G3) at Monmouth Park. Winner of the lucrative Lady Jacqueline S. at Thistledown last out, the four-year-old netted encouraging Brisnet Speed (95) and Late Pace (103) numbers for the about one-length decision, and she’s now 3-for-3 when racing with Lasix (which she receives Saturday). Army Wife is rounding into top form and should receive a favorable setup on Saturday.
Kellie Reilly: Saturday’s San Clemente (G2) at Del Mar features a competitive field of turf fillies, but #7 Island of Love (5-1) could be best poised to win. After a couple of tough trips in her first two stateside starts, the Phil D’Amato filly broke through decisively in the Senorita (G3) with new rider Juan Hernandez. The daughter of Kodiac followed up by challenging in the Honeymoon (G3), only to be outstayed late in the 1 1/8-mile test. Back at her optimal mile distance here, Island of Love has a recency edge over talented stablemate #6 Bellabel (4-1) as well as #4 Tezzeray (6-1), both returning from lengthy layoffs. She can capitalize on any ring-rustiness on their part in this prep for the Del Mar Oaks (G1), presumably their main aim.
Ashley Anderson: #1 Caravel (5-2) will look for her second straight win in her return to the Spa in the 5 1/2-furlong Caress (G3). The five-year-old mare won by a length over Star Devine, who re-opposes here, in the Intercontinental (G3) at Belmont last out and won the Caress last year by 2 1/2 lengths in her lone career start at Saratoga. Trainer Brad Cox is 4-for-11 to start the Saratoga meet and should get his third win with the Mizzen Mast gray, who was sent to his barn after Caravel was purchased by her current owners in November.
Who is the horse to fade?
JS: Stage Raider (even-money) has never started at 1 1/8 miles, making 5-of-6 starts at a one-turn mile or less, and his lone two-turn attempt wasn’t good, finishing a couple of lengths back of longshot Buck Moon, who did not flatter the race’s form in his next couple of starts. One-turn specialists at Belmont are often vulnerable stretching out to nine furlongs at Saratoga, and Stage Raider will be a play-against.
KR: Fluffy Socks (5-2) strikes me as an iffy morning-line favorite in Saturday’s Matchmaker (G3) at Monmouth. A cut below the top rank of Chad Brown’s barn, she has to deal with a couple of solid stablemates in #5 Flighty Lady (7-2) and #2 Lemista (5-1), as well as a potential breakout performance from the Brendan Walsh-trained #4 Lady Rockstar (3-1). Then there’s also Monmouth aficionado #7 Vigilantes Way (7-2). Although Fluffy Socks is capable on her day, that might not be Saturday.
AA: #14 Shirl's Speight (3-1) will cut back in distance and return to turf in the seven-furlong Connaught Cup (G2) at Woodbine on Saturday. The surprise winner of the Maker's Mark Mile (G1) three back has since finished fourth when stretching out to nine furlongs in the Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 7 and placed third in the Salvator Mile (G3) at Monmouth in June. The five-year-old Roger Attfield pupil broke his maiden in a seven-furlong turf sprint at Woodbine in July 2020, but I'll fade the favorite in this loaded field of three-year-olds and older. I'll look for value with #1 March to the Arch (10-1) out of Mark Casse's barn. The seven-year-old drew the rail post, which is winning at a 29% clip, and a return to rider Patrick Husbands (a 22% winner this meet) could send the gelding back to the winner's circle at Woodbine, where March to the Arch is 6 3-1-1 for his career.
What else is worth noting?
JR: Taiba (7-5) is my pick in the Haskell (G1). The Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Wood Memorial (G2) were easily the fastest races for three-year-olds this spring, as the victors netted 111 Speed ratings, and the latter produced the winners of the Preakness (G1) and Belmont S. (G1). It’s now time for Taiba to shine. A spectacular debut winner in March, he stepped up to face a well-meant stablemate in the Santa Anita Derby, and Messier got the jump on him, entering the stretch with a clear lead, but Taiba closed powerfully to win going away by 2 1/4 lengths, earning a 109 Late Pace figure. Things didn’t work out for the inexperienced colt in the Kentucky Derby, but Taiba appears to have bounced back well, training forwardly for the Haskell. I will tab him wire-to-wire from post 2.
KR: Trainer Mark Casse has a pair of interesting fillies in turf stakes this weekend. In Saturday’s Caress (G3) at Saratoga, #8 Souper Sensational (8-1) has appeal as a price play. The daughter of Curlin transferred her dirt and all-weather form to turf last out in the 6 1/2-furlong Royal North (G2) at Woodbine, where she was just denied by the classy Boardroom. Shortening up to 5 1/2 furlongs figures to suit Souper Sensational, who breezed a sharp half-mile July 14 over Saratoga’s main track in :47.77. In Sunday’s Dance Smartly (G2) at Woodbine, European import #3 Fev Rover (7-2) makes her North American debut. A $975K purchase at Tattersalls in December, Fev Rover placed third to Mother Earth and Saffron Beach in last year’s 1000 Guineas (G1) and held her own in both starts versus older males. She was second in the Solonoway (G2) (at left-handed Leopardstown) during Irish Champions Weekend and ended 2021 with a fourth to Lord Glitters and Barney Roy in the Bahrain International Trophy (G3). The Dance Smartly is no soft spot, with #7 Wakanaka (2-1) and #4 Lady Speightspeare (3-1) on the scene, but Fev Rover is working as though she’s ready to make her presence felt.
AA: Top three-year-old females Secret Oath and Nest square up in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday in their first starts since running against the boys in the Preakness and Belmont, respectively. Nest lost by two lengths to Secret Oath in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) but relished the extra distance of the Belmont, settling just off the pace in the 1 1/2-mile test and finishing three lengths behind stablemate Mo Donegal in second. I like the Curlin filly to rebound in her rematch with Secret Oath, who lacked the speed to seriously contend in the Preakness last out. Another intriguing rematch will also take place in the Shuvee S. (G2) Sunday at the Spa between four-year-olds Clairiere and Malathaat, who finished first and second in the Ogden Phipps (G1) at Belmont June 11.