Whitney Day Pick 4 at Saratoga could be a wash-out
The third weekend of racing is upon us at Saratoga, which has drawn up an 11-race card featuring the Test (G1) and the $1.2 million Whitney (G1).
There is a huge chance for rain, so keep that in mind when handicapping and getting involved tomorrow. Hopefully it will not impact the day too much.
While the latter part of the Saturday afternoon card is filled with talent, the presence of short-priced favorites in the Whitney and in the finale makes the late Pick 4 a bit unappealing. If you can make a strong case against Gun Runner or Neolithic, then attacking it with a large budget is not a poor strategy. However, if you are going to single both you want to limit your budget or skip the sequence entirely.
Here are my thoughts on Races 8 through 11, which make up the 50-cent late Pick 4.
Race 8- Test (G1)
The seven- furlong sprint over the main track drew a 10-horse field led by morning line favorite #10 American Gal. The Kaleem Shah homebred was extremely impressive in her first start off the bench last month at Belmont Park in the Victory Ride (G3). The daughter of Concord Point did not get off to a great start, but took a narrow lead on the backstretch and pulled away late en route to a 4 3/4-length score.
The 5-2-top choice on odds maker Travis Stone's line looms the one to beat, but is far from a cinch, especially if we get an off track. She is unlikely to make the lead and while she draws well to the outside, she gets a new rider in Jose Ortiz as Flavian Prat stays in Southern California to ride Avenge and Surrender Now at Del Mar.
I will take a stand against second choice #8 Faypien. I respect everything Hall of Famer Bob Baffert sends out, but I am not sure this daughter of Ghostzapper has the punch to beat this group at seven-eighths of a mile. She can certainly hit the board, but I think there are better options on top.
#3 Chalon for Peter Miller ran huge in the Jersey Girl in June and is likely to be prominent under jockey Paco Lopez. Miller likely gave this daughter of Dialed In enough time off since that career best effort to avoid regression, but this barn has cooled off this summer and Lopez is zero-for-38 at the current Saratoga meeting.
#5 Vertical Oak was up too close to the pace in the Victory Ride last time out. She offers great value at 8-1 on the line and it is likely that Steve Asmussen will have her fully cranked for her first Grade 1 try.
#7 Divine Miss Grey and #2 Your Love both move up in class, but have wins locally and over a sloppy going making them interesting price options.
Race 9- Whitney (G1)
I wish I was more creative in the Whitney, but it is extremely difficult to get by #6 Gun Runner. The son of Candy Ride stands out on numbers and continues to impress visually for trainer Steve Asmussen. Assuming the racetrack is fast he appears to be an extremely likely winner.
If the track comes up sloppy things get a little interesting. #1 War Story is two-for-three over a wet racetrack. I think he is several lengths inferior to the odds-on morning line favorite over a dry course, but Gun Runner is zero-for-three over an off going. I will likely sit out the sequence if the track is listed worse than good.
Race 10- De La Rose
The third leg is scheduled at one mile over the inner turf course. Obviously, if they are off the turf my thoughts change immensely, but I will assume a little give in the grass if it remains on the lawn.
#2 Sassy Little Lila ran huge in the Just A Game (G1) setting the pace, but getting run down by the ferocious charge of Antonoe. However, this is a much different group that possesses more runners with early zip, so she will have to run throughout from her inside draw making her vulnerable, especially over a course with some moisture.
#7 On Leave is another talented filly that has a big chance. She has shown an affinity for the Saratoga lawn and has continued to improve for Shug McGaughey. With the presence of other frontrunners she looms to the one to beat given her ability to relax mid-pack, yet get first run on the closers.
#11 Light In Paris did not fire in the Dr. James Penny Memorial (G3) at Parx on the Fourth of July. Perhaps she regressed off a big effort in the Eatontown (G3) at Monmouth. She should get a more favorable race shape on Saturday. Despite a cold rider and an outside post perhaps she can run a big one at a distance she has thrived at for trainer Chad Brown.
#8 Bar of Gold is slightly intriguing as well. The New York-bred was shuffled back early on against lesser last time out, but battled on to finish a solid second. Irad Ortiz Jr. returns to ride.
The finale is a high-level allowance/optional claimer run at seven furlongs over the main track. #7 Neolithic looks like a massive standout in this one coming off a third place effort in the Dubai World Cup (G1) in March. Sure, if you want to apply the questionable bounce theory for those that return to the States after running at Meydan you may be able to make a case against this Harlan's Holiday colt. However, Todd Pletcher has given him over four months off since the voyage overseas and it appears he had his sights set on this massive $90,000 purse for his return to the races.
The only caveat is his zero-for-two record over wet going. Once again though if the track comes up sloppy or muddy I am likely to pass on the sequence and save my shekels for another day.
Despite the idea that Saratoga is the graveyard of favorites, I simply do not see much value to be found in these races. The Test has a few value options that can run big, so I will try to catch a price in there, but overall this is not a sequence I care to invest much in at all. If it comes up wet I will sit it out completely.
$2 Ticket: 2+5+7+10 with 6 with 7+8+11 with 7
Total Budget : $24
(Gun Runner photo: Coady Photography)