Two-Year-Old Opportunities Opening Day Saratoga
Race #2: Maiden Special Weight at 5.5 furlongs on the dirt
The Todd Pletcher-trained Overspending (8-to-5 morning line favorite) is also eligible after failing to draw into the body of the race. Initially purchased for $100,000 as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton October Sale in Lexington, Overspending sold five months later for $340,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company two-year-olds in training sale. Her purchase price at auction soared largely on the basis of her fast and visually impressive sales drill, which you can view here.
Todd Pletcher has a dazzling record with two-year-old first-time starters on dirt at Saratoga. Over the last five years, he's 37-for-104 (36% wins and $2.65 ROI). The moral is that it generally isn't wise to bet against this type of horse from the Pletcher barn. He gets by far and away the best stock of any trainer, and Saratoga is where he likes to showcase his good two-year-olds that are ready to go. Overspending is obviously the horse to beat if she draws into this race.
If Overspending doesn't draw in, this race will be quite interesting from a betting standpoint. Here's a look at each horse who did draw in.
#1 Aimone: Initially purchased for a lofty $290,000 as an August yearling, she re-sold for just $210,000 as a March two-year-old. This failed pinhook is sired by Lemon Drop Kid and out of a Danehill mare. Her half sister Raw Silk was a Grade 2 winner on turf, and this one’s future appears to be on grass.
#2 Know It All Anna: She was assigned a respectable Brisnet.com Speed Rating of 78 in her career debut at Belmont. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez is 4-2-1-1 (50% wins and $3.50 ROI) with second-time starters at Saratoga, and one of them (My Happy Face) won a 5 ½-furlong Maiden Special Weight race by more than 21 lengths. There's certainly good reason to expect some improvement.
#3 By The Moon: Her dam By The Light was an exceptionally precocious horse. She won her career debut by more than six lengths, going 5 ½ furlongs on dirt at Belmont, and paying $15.00 to win. After that flashy debut win, By The Light strung together four straight stakes wins. She finally tasted defeat for the first time, when second to Indian Blessing in the Grade 1 Prioress going six furlongs at Belmont. This first-time starter is by a good debut sire (Indian Charlie) and her most recent workout seemed to impress clockers, when she reportedly got the best of stablemate Paulassilverlining, who is an unraced 2yo half sister to Carter Handicap winner Dads Caps. By The Moon is trained by former Rick Dutrow Jr. assistant Michelle Nevin, and she has done an excellent training job since going out on her own. However, Nevin is just 1-for-16 with debuters. The only real concern is how cranked up Nevin will have her in preparation for this race.
#4 Lady of Victory: Since 2008, trainer Bill Mott is winless in 98 starts with two-year-old first-time starters at Saratoga. However, this pricy daughter of War Front sold for $410,000 as a yearling and has reportedly been training extremely well. In each of her last three works, Lady of Victory has dominated her workmate. Joel Rosario takes the call. All indications point to this being one of Mott's best two-year-old fillies, but you simply have to play against his juvenile debuters. No matter how she runs, give this horse a look later on.
#5 Zee Sisters: Since 2003, her trainer D. Wayne Lukas is just 106-2-0-7 with first-time starters at Saratoga. And the last one to win, was a grass router named Optimizer who went on to have quite an impressive career. Even though Zee Sisters has a precocious pedigree, you have to play against Lukas debuters at Saratoga, until they start to show some sign of life.
#6 Vinolicious: This Zensational filly is bred for speed on top, but the dam was a stone-cold route horse. Wesley Ward doesn't have a stellar record with two-year-old debuters at Saratoga. He's just 25-2-6-3 (8% wins and $0.94 ROI) with them. Statistically speaking, Ward isn't having his typically strong year with 2-year-olds. Coming into the 2013 Saratoga meet, Ward was 16-for-47 (34% wins) in 2-year-old races. Coming into this years Saratoga meet, he's just 9-for-50 (18% wins and a lousy $1.11 ROI) with his 2yo starters. Perhaps this means that Ward might be saving a few of his best for Saratoga, unlike in the past? It's hard to predict when a trainer might change his M.O. but at her morning line price of 5/2, we need to take a position against Vinolicious.
#7 Ring Knocker: Trainer Tom Albertrani is just 2-for-75 lifetime, with first-time starters at Saratoga. This horse actually has a nice and steady worktab. Ring Knocker has a good route pedigree on top and bottom. This daughter of Birdstone will be one to follow when she eventually stretches out to two turns.
#8 Wall Street Lady: Trainer Tony Dutrow points for Saratoga and he's been sensational with dirt horses at this meet. However, he's been far more lethal with his juvenile second-time starters than with his debuters. Over the last five years, Tony Dutrow is 2-for-12 (17% wins and $2.60 ROI) with his 2-year-old first time starters on the dirt at Saratoga. However, with his second-time starting two-year-olds, he's an impressive 6-for-8 (75% wins and $6.22 ROI) The temptation is to use Wall Street Lady underneath in the exotics. However, I'm very interested in watching her race with an eye to catch her, if she runs back second-time out.
2nd: By The Moon
3rd: Wall Street Lady
4th: Know it all Anna
Race #3: Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes
Drawing just a field of five, this is not an attractive betting race at all. The 3-to-5 morning line favorite is the Pletcher-trained Fashion Alert, and it's hard to argue with that off of the very impressive way in which she captured the Astoria Stakes in her career debut. However, Saratoga bettors tend to go way overboard on Pletcher runners exiting a win in their previous start. Since 2007, they're just 141-31-19-23 (22% wins and $1.10 ROI) in stakes races. In other words, not only do they lose 45% on the betting dollar, but they also finish second at a relatively low rate. With that said, I simply can't find the horse to oppose Fashion Alert with.
The most obvious danger is Tulira's Star. She won her career debut at Arlington Park with an exceptional Brisnet.com Speed Rating of 88. That victory was flattered when the second-place finisher, La Grange, shipped out to Southern California and dominated a $100,000 stakes race. Tulira's Star has been purchased by Team Valor since her flashy debut win, and transferred into the barn of the capable Rick Mettee. However, the concern I have with Tulria's Star is 6that she's exiting the Jimmy DiVito barn and leaving Arlington Park. Since 2007, Jimmy DiVito is 24-for-60 (40% wins and $4.90 ROI) with two-year-old debuters at Arlington Park. What's more, DiVito is especially tough with young horses on the Poly at Arlington. Indeed, in two-year-old races over the Arlington Polytrack at distances of six furlongs or less, DiVito trained horses are 34-for-76 (45% wins and $4.75 ROI), Those are otherworldly stats! Most of these precocious Jimmy DiVito rocket ships tend to disappoint once they leave the friendly confines of Arlington's Polytrack. The bottom line is that Tulria's Star would be my selection in here, if she were still with DiVito and if this race were run at Arlington. However, with the barn change, surface switch, and 5-to-2 morning line, I simply can't recommend betting on her.
The most interesting horse in here is Take Charge Brandi. This D. Wayne Lukas-trained filly is bred to improve by leaps and bounds as the distances increase. Indeed, her dam is a half sister to last year’s champion three-year-old male Will Take Charge and to Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy. I certainly think Take Charge Brandi has the most long-term upside of any horse in this field. Look out for her when she eventually gets a chance to run in a two-turn route race.
Betting Strategy: Pass
Race #6: New York Bred Maiden Special Weight at 5.5 furlongs on dirt
This looks like the best betting race of the three events. The 2-to-1 morning line favorite Full Tap cost a hefty $430,000 as a yearling. However, her dam Miss Challenge was a turf router and her sire Tapit's offspring generally prefer to go a lot further than 5 ½ furlongs. You will see it cited that Christophe Clement has an excellent record with debuters at Saratoga, however, those impressive stats are thanks entirely to his grass debuters. In fact, throughout Clement's training career, he's just 24-1-1-3 (4% wins and $0.32 ROI) with first-time starters on dirt at Saratoga. However, with first-time-starters on Turf, he's 35-9-5-4 (26% wins and $5.45 ROI). The bottom line is that Miss Challenge should be opposed.
This race features a pair of very interesting debuters and a pair of experienced horses who should be respected. The debuters are Graeme Crackers and In Spite Of Mama. The experienced runners are Saluda and Zo Zo.
Graeme Crackers debuts for Rick Violette. Her dam Graeme Central won her career debut at Saratoga, at this same 5.5 furlong distance, for these same connections. Rick Violette has an exceptional record with debuters at Saratoga. This filly has a very nice worktab at Aqueduct and should be well prepared for this race.
In Spite of Mama is the other interesting debuter. Her Dam, Mama Theresa, won her career debut by 8 lengths, going five furlongs on the Saratoga dirt. This filly is very closely related to Grade 1 winner Haynesfield. In fact, she shares the same sire (Speightstown) as Haynesfield, and her dam is a half sister to Haynesfield. Not only does In Spite of Mama have a precocious pedigree, but she's also reportedly been training quite well for her debut, outworking older company. Javier Castellano accepts the call.
Saluda and Zo Zo both have the benefit of a race under their belts, and both have a look to improve. Saluda was ambitiously spotted in her debut, by a very sharp trainer, and was involved in a scorching early speed duel. The horse Saluda dueled with early was an open company winner at Monmouth. She managed to win that battle, but badly lost the war to highly impressive debut winner Wonder Gal. Finally, Zo Zo was quite the disappointment in her career debut when bet to favoritism at Belmont. As mentioned earlier in this write-up, her trainer Tony Dutrow is 6-for-8 (75% wins and $6.22 ROI) with 2-year-old second-time starters at Saratoga. Look for Zo Zo to step up and run a much more respectable race.
2nd: Graeme Crackers
3rd: Zo Zo
4th: In Spite of Mama