FRIDAY RECAP: How hot was it at the Spa? Hot enough to bake a lasagna in a mailbox. And if that wasn’t hot enough, how about trainer Jorge Abreu who had three winners? Or jockey Luis Saez, who added another three victories to bring his meet-leading total to 39? And not to be outdone, Mr. Ed also brought the heat, cashing four of his six VSiN-posted tickets for $286.50 on $111 worth of plays. That’s hot, folks … As for the all-conditioner law firm of Pletcher, Maker & Brown. It, along with ice-cold jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. were all shut out … In the feature, Race No. 8, Maryland-based trainer Brittany Russell’s #5 Wondrwherecraigis shipped in and captured the $120,000 Tale of the Cat Stakes with Saez aboard, paying $8 to Win … For the 10-race card, the average $2 Win bet returned $13.10. The carryover $1 Pick 6 paid $87,355.
MY PAL, JUNIOR: At the crack of dawn, Mr. Ed made his initial foray to the backstretch, where he caught up with long-time friend, Junior McFarlane, a veteran groom in the Jimmy Jerkens barn. Junior and I became fast friends about a decade ago when I was freelancing for the now-defunct HorsePlayer magazine … Jerkens invited me to spend a week in his first-class stable with one proviso -- “Stay away from the horses,” he barked upon our introduction … It wasn’t long before I was nearly trampled by a 1,500-pound, 2-year-old who had broken away from his hot walker in the shed row. Had it not been for Junior’s abrupt lifesaving shove, I might be writing for a less earthly publication than VSiN … In his more than 30 years on the backstretch (his first half-dozen with Jimmy’s dad, the legendary Allen “The Chief” Jerkens), Junior has lovingly cared for such well-known thoroughbred standouts as Corinthian, Preservationist and my favorite, Effinex (but that’s whole another story) … Recently recognized by Mike Penna on the Horse Racing Radio Network as an Unsung Hero of Racing, Junior’s proudest accomplishment has been helping his daughter earn her degree in nursing. “She’s the light of my life,” the Jamaican-born McFarlane says with the smile of a very proud papa. Junior will always be a shining light in Mr. Ed’s life.
ON TAP TODAY: A pair of outstanding stakes, the Grade 2 Saratoga Special for 2-year-olds and the Grade 1 Fourstardave for 3-year-olds & up headline the 11-race card … Leading rider Luis Saez will be absent as he accepts stakes mounts at Arlington … Overnight showers expected in Saratoga Springs area.
DAILY DOUBLE (Races Nos. 1 & 2, 1:05 p.m. ET/10:05 a.m. PT)
In an aggressive effort to cash a winning ticket early, Mr. Ed Likes #1 Giramonte (6-1 morning line) in Race No. 1 parlayed with 5,7 & 9 in Race No. 2. Wager: $2 Daily Double of 1 with 5,7 &9. ($6)
EXACTA EXTRA (Race No. 2, 1:41 p.m. ET/10:41 a.m. PT)
A trio of 3-year-old maidens looks better than the rest: #5 Sound Money (8-1 morning line), #7 Askin for a Baskin (8-5) and #9 Laughing Boy (5-2). Wager: $5 Exacta box of 5,7 & 9. ($30)
$0.50 LATE PICK 4 (Races Nos. 8-11, 5:03 p.m. ET/2:03 p.m. PT)
Race 8: 1,3,4,5,6
Race 9: 1,6,8,10
Race 10: 1,5
Race 11: 2,4,7 ($60)
PRICE PLAY (Race No. 9, 5:39 p.m. ET/2:39 p.m. PT)
Leading trainer Michael Maker & hot jock Jose Ortiz team up on #6 Stolen Base (8-1 morning line). This 2-year-old colt looks to repeat his debut effort while stretching out to 6 1/2 furlongs. Eye-popping work last week says he’s ready to steal this one. Wager: $10 to Win & Place on 6. ($20)
BEST BET (Race No. 10, 6:13 p.m. ET/3:13 p.m. PT)
Sharp bluegrass-based rider Florent Geroux ships in to ride Brad Cox-trained #5 Set Piece (5-2 morning line) in loaded Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap. Victorious in his last three, including Grade 2 Wise Dan at Churchill Downs, gelding is poised to take another step forward. Wager: $20 to Win, $10 to Place on #5. ($30)
TOTAL WAGERS: $146