Three spot plays on the grass Saturday at Saratoga

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

July 22nd, 2017

A pair of grass allowances and the Diana (G1) are the focal points for our spot plays on the first Saturday of the Saratoga meet.

Trainer Wesley Ward has two intriguing imports in the 7th race, a 5 1/2-furlong N2X allowance/optional claimer. Evacuation (#7, 6-1) was a promising sort in Australia for Gai Waterhouse and adds Lasix for his U.S. debut, while the Team Valor-owned High Hours (#12, 15-1) narrowly missed three times in Group 1 company in Brazil and has the benefit of one run stateside when second in an off-the turf allowance at Arlington.

Neither would be a surprise, but Ray'swarrior (#1, 12-1) is an intriguing longshot. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez claimed him off a win for $40,000 at Belmont in late May, and now offers him for the optional $62,500 tag since he is no longer eligible for the allowance condition. The barn wins at better than 30% off the claim, so I find the class rise a seemingly confident move.

Ray'swarrior figures to be overlooked with a limited turf record to go by. His one go at it was in the $63,000 Mighty Beau at Churchill Downs in June 2016. He was non-threatening fifth there, but note the winning Latent Revenge is a capable sort at times having run a strong second in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3) in early May. The Mighty Beau second and third, Rivers Run Deep and Bucchero, both won their next starts and are multiple stakes winners in their own right in Ohio and Indiana, respectively.

I won't hold Ray'swarrior's performance in that tough field against him, especially since he was out of action for the next seven months, and will rely on Rodriguez to have him ready to flash is customary speed and to handle the grass at a square price.

In the 8th race, an N2X allowance/optional claimer for fillies and mares, Penjade (#2, 6-1) looks bettable off a last-out win at Belmont two months ago. The French import settled for minor awards in her first four tries in this country, including a third and a second at the Spa last summer, but finally turned things around in early May for Chad Brown. Perhaps due to an outside draw, she was farther back in the pack than usual in that one-mile test and turned in a strong closing kick to win in a photo. She covered her final quarter-mile in a shade over 22 seconds, and could be dangerous if she shows a similar late burst.

Speaking of late bursts, I thought Antonoe's (#2, 3-1) in the June 10 Just a Game (G1) was a remarkable display, and will be backing her against her beloved stablemate and likely odds-on favorite Lady Eli (#3, 4-5) in the Diana. Based on what we've seen from Antonoe in her two U.S. appearances, the sky is undeniably the limit.

Good luck!