The Jury: Bets and fades for July 30

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July 29th, 2022

A showdown among many of the nation's top three-year-olds at Saratoga and the return of a leading older horse at Del Mar highlight this weekend's racing action. The TwinSpires Jury of James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson are also back together to provide their plays and fades.

What is your best bet?

James Scully: #3 Bagboss brings improving form to his stakes debut, Saturday's $400,000 Bing Crosby (G1) at Del Mar, and the four-year-old doesn't face an imposing group of rivals. A sharp wire-to-wire, entry-level allowance scorer during Kentucky Derby week, the Brendan Walsh-trained colt came back five weeks later to romp over conditioned allowance foes from just off the pace, netting a 97 Brisnet Speed rating that fits in the Bing Crosby. His positional speed is an advantage in a race lacking speed, and Bagboss is moving forward at the right time in a sprint division lacking depth. His 8-1 morning line price adds to the appeal.

Kellie Reilly: #8 Homer Screen could be poised for his best stateside effort so far in Sunday's Eddie Read (G2) at Del Mar. Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale boasts a 29% strike rate in the "third start off a layoff" category, and the Brazilian import has performed well in both lead-up runs. After a fine comeback fourth in the Daytona (G3) on the downhill sprint course, Homer Screen improved stretching out to a mile in the American (G3). He was overlooked at nearly 29-1, but closed within a length of favorite Hong Kong Harry. Another furlong here, in this second route of the season, figures to suit the full brother to Brazilian champion Easiest Way. Out of champion Smile Jenny, Homer Screen was 5-for-6 in his homeland, including a Group 2 romp by a pole in 1:32.96 for the metric mile.

Vance Hanson: #2 Missy Greer (12-1) is worth a look in Saturday's sixth race at Saratoga, a 1 1/16-mile, first-level allowance for fillies and mares on the turf. She debuted on grass last fall, finishing second behind a subsequent stakes winner, but has spent much of her time since running on the main track. Overmatched in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) last time, she fits better in this spot, and her early foot and inside post might prove dangerous here. Her recent work pattern over the Oklahoma training track also looks positive.

Who is the horse to fade?

JS: The Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) has proven to be a negative key race, with horses recording a 0-for-9 record in their next start, and #7 Corniche had everything his own way in a race that came back slower than the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). The unbeaten champion two-year-old male has been able to dictate terms throughout in all three starts, but that won't be the case in Sunday's Amsterdam (G2) at Saratoga. Pinehurst can fly early, leading wire-to-wire in the Saudi Derby (G3) two back, and he appears certain to show speed from the innermost post while returning from a freshening Sunday. Corniche doesn't have the same cache as Life Is Good, who dropped his first start for Todd Pletcher when returning from a lengthy layoff in a Saratoga stakes last summer at short odds, and Corniche looks vulnerable at odds-on against a solid field in the Amsterdam.

KR: #8 Country Grammer has a few negatives as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in Saturday's San Diego H. (G2) at Del Mar. Unraced since his career score in the Dubai World Cup (G1), he's resuming at a 1 1/16-mile trip that's too short for him. And he has to tote the top weight of 125 pounds against sharper, race-fit rivals. Aside from his own particular profile, Country Grammer has to defy a larger historical pattern: all three of Bob Baffert's past World Cup winners were beaten next time out. Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001) were upset in the Stephen Foster H. (G2), and Arrogate flopped at even shorter odds in the 2017 San Diego. It all points to this as a mere stepping stone to the Pacific Classic (G1).

VH: #5 Jaxon Traveler (5-2) might be overbet in the restricted Ben's Cat S. at Laurel on Saturday. Although he's run well in two prior starts on the turf, including a fine third to the freakish Golden Pal at Saratoga last summer, Jaxon Traveler is arguably a more formidable horse on the main track. Even on that surface, he often needs circumstances to go his way. A case in point was his last-out win in the Maryland Sprint (G3) on Preakness Day, where he countered little pressure over a speed-favoring Pimlico strip. His price will be unappealing in this spot.

What else is worth noting?

JS: Country Grammer, last seen winning the Dubai World Cup by nearly two lengths, will return in Saturday's San Diego at Del Mar, and the five-year-old horse has not run a bad race since being transferred to Bob Baffert in 2021, also winning the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) and recording close seconds in the Saudi Cup (G1) and Californian S. (G2). Country Grammer appears more than capable of proving best in the San Diego, but the 1 1/16-mile distance is a little short from him (no wins or seconds from two attempts at distance). His stablemate, #2 Defunded (5-1), appears to be rounding into top form, finishing second in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita last out, and he's eligible to be the controlling speed from post 2 with Abel Cedillo. Defunded has the best chance for an upset in my estimation.

KR: Saturday's card at Saratoga features a fascinatingly tactical Jim Dandy (G2) and a 127-pound-toting Jackie's Warrior in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1), but don't miss the first two races for juveniles or an allowance later on the card. In the 10th, #12 Capensis (2-1) bids to follow up on his five-length debut conquest for Todd Pletcher. The $2 million Tapit blueblood was under consideration for the Aug. 5 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2), but instead takes the more conservative path of an entry-level allowance. This 1 1/16-mile turf test isn't exactly a soft spot, with Wayne Catalano unveiling French classic-placed #10 Colosseo (6-1), the ubiquitous Chad Brown sending out #3 Orchestration (9-2), and Steve Asmussen's underachieving #11 Hidden Enemy (12-1) possibly reformed as a first-time gelding. Asmussen has a noteworthy first-time starter in the first race, #2 Swiss Guard (5-2) by American Pharoah, who could be going for the daily double with Christophe Clement's #4 American Hustle (6-1) in the second race. It's a measure of American Pharoah's range as a sire that Swiss Guard is in a 5 1/2-furlong dirt maiden, and American Hustle debuts over 1 1/16 miles on turf.

VH: In the highly-anticipated showdown in the Jim Dandy (G2) on Saturday, I like Early Voting (8-5) to assert his claim to being top of the three-year-old male class. Although he enjoyed a better trip than Epicenter in the Preakness (G1) at Pimlico, I'm not sold Epicenter would have beaten his fresher rival in that spot. Unless Epicenter is sent to take some of the starch out of Early Voting, the latter might prove tough to catch in this short field.