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Saratoga Play of the Day

By Ron Flatter

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Saratoga closes with a preview of Kentucky Derby

Monday may be closing day at Saratoga, but it is also a day when the seven-furlong feature provides a glimpse to next year’s Run for the Roses. Since 1905 the $350,000 Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes has been a stepping stone for 20 horses to win the following year’s Kentucky Derby, most recently I’ll Have Another (2011 Hopeful, 2012 Derby). Four Triple Crown winners – Omaha, Whirlaway, Secretariat and Affirmed – graduated from the Hopeful. This year the eight 2-year-old colts in the race come in with eight victories in 13 starts. One of the wins belongs to morning-line favorite Mojovation (2-1), one of the two well-bred starters trained by Todd Pletcher. Mojovation was an odds-on favorite for his debut – a wire-to-wire victory five weeks ago at the Spa. That earned him the top speed rating in this field. Mojovation will try to go the extra furlong with John Velázquez riding again. Pletcher’s other colt – WinStar’s $600,000 yearling buy National Flag (9-2) – bounced back from a last-place debut to win early last month at the Spa despite a rough and wide trip. Velázquez gives up the ride to meet leader José Ortiz for this race. But the most impressive past-performance line belongs to Firenze Fire (7-2). He is 2-for-2 after winning the Grade 3 Sanford over this same course in late July. The closer he held off – Free Drop Billy (4-1) – had excuses for being a beaten favorite that day. He keeps piling up bullet works, but he drew wide. With half the field expected to show speed, the play here is on a stalker to pick up the pieces. Firenze Fire is certainly the best of them, so he gets the win play. Yet for this final feature of the Saratoga summer, it will be hard to resist throwing a few extra dollars on either Mojovation, National Flag and Free Drop Billy – as long as there is value.

Play of the day for Monday, Sept. 4: Firenze Fire to win.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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The play call? Student Body right

With rain virtually certain to fall Sunday at Saratoga, it does not hurt that most of the field has wet-track experience headed into the $250,000 Grade 2 Prioress Stakes. Curiously, though, there is only one pure pace-setter among the nine 3-year-old fillies, and she has raced only on fast tracks. Student Body (6-1) comes into this six-furlong feature seven weeks after an 11-length allowance win at Ellis Park. She will put her early speed on display from the rail post on the main track. Morning-line favorite Nonna Mela (5-2) is 2-for-2 at the Spa with wins in last year’s Adirondack and last month’s claiming race that ended a 10-month break. But she, too, is without an “off”-track start. Grade 3 Miss Preakness winner Vertical Oak (3-1) comes off a best-forgotten fifth last month in the Grade 1 Test Stakes, and John Velázquez will be her seventh jockey in 12 races. But she also won by 7¾ lengths in April in a sloppy stakes at Prairie Meadows. Dawn The Destroyer (4-1) has raced twice in the slop since she was transferred to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, most recently winning by three lengths in a Saratoga allowance in late July. Undefeated in her three races, Downtown Mama (8-1) broke her maiden in April in the mud at Laurel Park, but she has never been in a stakes race. Choosing an inexperienced shipper is fraught with peril, but trying to keep things simple, why not choose the horse that has the fastest speed rating that will not get mud kicked in her face and potentially have the shortest trip around the track? The win-place-show bet is on Student Body to wire the Prioress.

Play of the Day for Sunday, Sept. 3: Student Body across the board.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

 

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Looking for the big payoff at Saratoga

Let’s get this out of the way quickly. The top-ranked active thoroughbred in America – Gun Runner (2-5) – will win the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga. He has defeated three of the other four horses in the field, and the other one – Rally Cry (5-2) – lost by an average of 12 lengths in his two graded-stakes tries. So the question here is how to play Gun Runner into other races. How about the 50-cent, all-graded stakes Pick 4? It starts with the ninth race. The Grade 3 Saranac features 3-year-olds going nine furlongs. It looks like a duel between Bricks And Mortar (8-5) and Yoshida (5-2), the top two last month in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame. Voodoo Song (12-1), though, could lead the whole way and steal this to go 4-for-4 for trainer Linda Rice, so he should not be ignored despite moving up in class. Like the Woodward there are only five from which to choose in the seven-furlong, Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. Pure Silver (1-1) ran away with the Adirondack to run her record to 3-for-3, and she could lead this from gate to wire. But Separation Of Powers (6-5), Lady Ivanka (9-2) and Maya Malibu (8-1) won their debuts by an average of 8¼ lengths, and they are also worthy of a check mark. Finally, after Gun Runner wins the Woodward, two females stand out in the 1 3/8-mile Grade 3 Glens Falls on the inner turf. War Flag (3-1) looks to improve on last month’s impressive, second-place finish in the Matchmaker at Monmouth Park. Estrechada (5-1) looked right at home on the Spa’s inner turf last month winning the Grade 3 Waya, and this represents a one-furlong cutback that should suit her. So for $12 the Pick 4 play Saturday is Bricks And Mortar, Yoshida and Voodoo Song (4-2-5) in the Saranac; Pure Silver, Separation Of Powers, Lady Ivanka and Maya Malibu (4-1-3-5) in the Spinaway; Gun Runner (2) in the Woodward; and War Flag and Estrechada in the Glens Falls (4-6).

Play of the Day for Saturday, Sept. 2: See above.

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Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Who will find the Lucky Coin?

Remember Undrafted? Seasoned horseplayers will not forget his signature victory at Royal Ascot. Sent off at 14-1 odds, he won the 2015 Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes. That brought his owner – five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Wes Welker – a meet and greet in the winner’s enclosure with Queen Elizabeth. More than two years have passed, and Undrafted has not been in such fast company, winning only 2 of 11 races since. He spent a lot of his energy just loading into the gate last month before he finished fourth in the Troy Handicap at Saratoga. That is where he will try again Friday. With the only graded-stakes victories in a field mostly full of older geldings, Undrafted (6-1) drew the outside post against eight rivals in the $100,000 Lucky Coin Stakes over 5½ furlongs on the turf. The top two choices on the morning line – Dowse’s Beach (5-2) and Loose On The Town (3-1) – were narrow losers last month in stakes races. The 6-year-old, gray front-runner Dowse’s Beach was caught in the last 50 yards two weeks ago at Woodbine in his first graded stakes. The 5-year-old pace-chasing Loose On The Town earned a big speed figure losing by the bob of a head in a six-furlong dirt stakes at the Spa. He is back on turf, which is where he won twice during the spring. A confidence-building win in a claiming race last month brings Big Rock (9-2) back into stakes company, where he was in too deep at Keeneland last fall. Ready For Rye (6-1) was never a threat five weeks ago when he finished sixth in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt Handicap. Then again, the last time he raced on firm turf was two summers ago, when he won a $100,000 stakes over the same course as Friday’s feature. And then there is Undrafted, a 7-year-old gelding that should win this if he is at his best. That is a big “if.” Loose On The Town is the win play in the Lucky Coin. But at 6-1, both Ready For Rye and Undrafted carry value – and are worth place-show bets behind him. In fact, all three horses are worth a try in exacta and trifecta boxes, too.

Play of the Day for Friday, Sept. 1: Loose On The Town is the win play.

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Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

 

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Nothing is as simple as it seems

It cannot be as simple as it appears in Thursday’s Saratoga inner-turf feature, can it? Racing with blinkers taken off, Mentality (5-2) will take the early lead in the $100,000 P.G. Johnson Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, and morning-line favorite Orbulation (2-1) will do as she did last month in her first turf race, poaching the pace and winning at 1 1/16 miles. Orbulation is the only one in this field of seven that has raced at least a mile, and that alone makes it hard to look past her. A check of the rest of the field only makes her look more attractive. Romantic Babe (9-2) may be the best of the three closers drawn to the outside, but that is not saying much, since she won her debut at 38-1 three weeks ago. Fourth in a $100,000 sprint stakes two weeks ago at the Spa, Life Time Citizen (5-1) had a listless workout Saturday morning that raises questions about whether she is ready to go again so soon. That brings the bettor’s eyes back to the top two choices. Orbulation is the admittedly chalky win-place play in the P.J. Johnson with Mentality boxed into the exacta. And if value is a must, take a flyer on Sassy Sienna (8-1) to move from a $31,000 maiden win at Indiana Downs and into the Saratoga money. 

Play of the Day for Thursday, Aug. 31: Orbulation boxed in exacta with Mentality.

 Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Master of his Domain

Wednesday is graduation day for the 2-year-olds racing 1 1/16 miles on the Saratoga turf. The $150,000 Grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes could very well be a springboard to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Ten colts are making their graded-stakes debut; the one gelding in the race – Nauti Boy (20-1) – drops in from a last-place finish in the Grade 3 Sanford. The four drawn to the inside have never gone two turns, and the rail horse – Morrison (20-1) is on turf for the first time. The top morning-line choices – the front-running Trumpi (7-2) and closer Seabhac (4-1) – drew outside. They finished one-two in their debut early this month over the same course as Wednesday’s feature, but neither has been impressive in workouts since. Bred by Kitten’s Joy, Machtree (9-2) is made for turf, winning his maiden race 2½ weeks ago on the Spa’s inner course, and he has looked good in the mornings. Earth (6-1) will probably stalk the pace as he did going 1-for-2 in sprints, but a late fade in his last race leaves questions about whether he will live up to his breeding for this distance. The closer Evaluator (8-1) went from worst to first three weeks ago against New York state-breds in his debut, but his last workout was nothing to write home about. Another closer – Untamed Domain (6-1) – proved resilient in both his races, checking late each time and even winning despite a wide trip over this course 5½ weeks ago. Saratoga’s leading rider José Ortiz will be aboard for turf-knowing Graham Motion, who also trained this colt’s decorated sire Animal Kingdom. That makes Untamed Domain worthy of an across-the-board bet in the With Anticipation.

Play of the Day for Wednesday, Aug. 30: Untamed Domain across the board.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Making a thoughtful decision on Monday feature

Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown are locked in a close duel to win the Saratoga training title. That is not exactly eye-popping news, but it is an important consideration for bettors looking at Monday’s feature. Pletcher has two colts – Hieroglyphics (3-1) and Blind Ambition (7-2) – in the $100,000 Better Talk Now Stakes. This one excludes any horse that has a stakes win covering at least a mile, which happens to be how far this race goes on the inner turf. The Pletcher pair comes in from opposite directions. Hieroglyphics cut back to a mile to win an allowance race on the same course last month. Blind Ambition is 2-for-2 on turf, but those were sprints on either side of a graded-stakes, dirt failure July 1 at Gulfstream Park. There are reasons to look elsewhere. Blind Ambition starts on the hedge, which has been a bad place to be this summer at Saratoga. And while Hall of Famer John Velázquez is better than a consolation prize, Hieroglyphics lost the meet’s leading jockey. José Ortiz will instead be on board morning-line favorite Snap Decision (5-2), the only true closer in a race lacking raw, front-end speed. There is a lot to like about this colt, but he may be better suited to the longer distances he has been racing. Maybe. Holiday Stone (9-2) has crossed the line first only once in nine races. Long shot Small Bear (6-1) switches to a better trainer and jockey, but he was no threat in his only turf start. Which brings us to Adonis Creed (5-1). Despite hopping to start last month’s Grade 3 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park, he still hit the board third for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin against much tougher competition than he will see at the Spa. José Lezcano has ridden him to two wins, so he has to figure in today’s betting. The value play is Adonis Creed across the board in the Better Talk Now. And for those who do not believe Snap Decision will be defeated, at least put a little something to get a little something on Adonis Creed to show.

Play of the Day for Monday, Aug. 28: Adonis Creed across the board.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Play it safe in Sunday feature

Two mares foaled 11 days apart in the Kentucky winter of 2012 have been inseparable. Miss Ella (3-1) and Fair Point (4-1) are expected to be the top two betting choices for Sunday’s feature at Saratoga – the $100,000 Smart N Fancy Stakes. And why not? Trained by Shug McGaughey and ridden by José Ortiz, Fair Point defeated Miss Ella by the bob of a head in last year’s running of this 5½-furlong turf sprint. Seven weeks later Miss Ella won by a neck for trainer Graham Motion and jockey Joel Rosario after Fair Point hopped at the start of a Grade 3 sprint at Keeneland. Fast forward to last month. The two of them finished a length apart with Miss Ella winning the $200,000 Caress over good going on the very same course as Sunday’s. Not only do Miss Ella and Fair Point bring out the best in each other, but they also have the best speed ratings of the dozen older females in this race. The easy play is to box them in an exacta, but any bettor doing that will not be alone, and the payoff will not be much. The challenge is to identify candidates for the bottom of a trifecta play. Pace chasers Ginger N Rye (8-1) and Ava’s Kitten (9-2) delivered speed figures just shy of Miss Ella’s and Fair Point’s over the same course last month. Ginger N Rye is the better of the two since she looked comfortable cutting back from two turns, and Ava’s Kitten has the disadvantage of drawing wide in gate 10. If not for an even worse draw in post 12, Carolina Shag (8-1) might be worth more than a glance after finishing third in the Caress. Racing for the second time in a row with blinkers, Chanteline (12-1) is likely to be on the early lead, but far will she fade late? The 6-year-old closer Rumble Doll (20-1) curiously gets blinkers again after finishing third in the claiming race that Ginger N Rye won last month, and she has never failed to hit the board in six races at Saratoga. Digesting all that, the play is to box Miss Ella and Fair Point safely in an exacta box with Ginger N Rye, Chanteline and Rumble Doll filling out the trifecta.

Play of the Day for Sunday, Aug. 27: Box Miss Ella and Fair Point safely in an exacta box with Ginger N Rye, Chanteline and Rumble Doll filling out the trifecta

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Look for Good Samaritan in Travers

It is that rare meeting of three different horses that won all three Triple Crown races. But in a 3-year-old season full of one-trick ponies, it will come as no surprise if Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing and Tapwrit all fail to win the 148th Travers Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga. Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit (7-2) is a precarious, morning-line favorite in the $1.25 million Grade 1 race. But his big win came at 1½ miles. This race is 1¼ miles without any real front-end speed, so this does not set up well for him. Always Dreaming (6-1) has not looked the same since his Kentucky Derby win on a sloppy (yes, Equibase – sloppy) track, losing his last two races by an average of 9½ lengths. Cloud Computing (8-1) does not appear to like Saratoga; the evidence being his fifth-place disappointment in the Jim Dandy and underwhelming morning workouts this summer. Five other horses appear to be better fits. West Coast (4-1) ships in for trainer Bob Baffert off three consecutive wins, including a run through homestretch traffic to win the Easy Goer on the Belmont Stakes card. Good Samaritan (5-1) closed strong to win his turf debut last month in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. Irap (8-1) has won his last three graded stakes on fast tracks. Girvin (10-1) and McCraken (12-1) overcame the perception that Monmouth Park is a speed-favoring track, closing to finish one-two in last month’s Grade 1 Haskell. The lack of true pacesetter opens the door for a colt that is used to winning off slower fractions – like the ones set in the Jim Dandy. Good Samaritan should again validate Bill Mott’s decision to take him off the turf, and he is worth an across-the-board bet in the Travers.

Play of the Day for Saturday, Aug. 26: Good Samaritan across the board.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Double your fun as Travers weekend starts

Travers weekend at Saratoga starts early with six stakes races Friday for New York-bred horses. But finding a price might be easier said than done. Twisted Tom (8-5) is a meritorious morning-line favorite for the $250,000 Albany Stakes for 3-year-olds. His primary challengers in this nine-furlong race are coming out of the New York Derby at Finger Lakes, which Twisted Tom won last month. Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Javier Castellano, the 3-year-old gelding sired by Creative Cause has won four of his last five races; the one exception came when he clipped heels early in the Belmont Stakes and finished a distant sixth. Yes, Twisted Tom is an easy call to get the win bet in the Albany, but the quest for value means at least putting him a daily-double bet with the preceding race – the $150,000 West Point Stakes over 1 1/16 miles of the inner-turf course. The question here is can King Kreesa (8-1) do it one more time? The front-running, 8-year-old gelding won this race in 2014 and 2016 and finished second in 2015. Last year’s second- and third-place finishers – Kharafa (4-1) and Offering Plan (2-1) – are also back. Kharafa (4-1) comes in from a third-place finish in last month’s Grade 2 Monmouth, and morning-line favorite Offering Plan is two races removed from a victory over King Kreesa on a yielding course at Belmont Park. Since switching to turf last fall, 4-year-old closer Get Jets (3-1) has finished first or second in all four of his races, including last month’s Forbidden Apple at Belmont. The play here is a daily double: King Kreesa and Get Jets in the West Point with Twisted Tom in the Albany.

Play of the Day for Friday, Aug. 25: Play the daily double: King Kreesa and Get Jets in the West Point with Twisted Tom in the Albany.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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No Cherry on top for this one

Cherry Lodge is one of those horses that causes bettors to shake their heads. After breaking her maiden in her debut last summer, trainer Todd Pletcher sent the $450,000 filly sired by Bernardini into a pair of graded stakes. Bad starts kept her from taking an early lead, and even though she hit the board, she was a beaten, short-priced favorite both times. So Pletcher gave her a long break and moved her to turf this year. At 9-2 odds in her return last month, she responded with a 1¼-length win over seven furlongs at Saratoga. That is where Cherry Lodge (7-2) looks for her first stakes victory, starting as the morning-line favorite in Thursday’s $100,000 Riskaverse Stakes. The one mile on the inner turf will be Cherry Lodge’s first time racing around two turns, and since she represents the only true speed in the race, jockey John Velázquez will be challenged to get her to the early lead from her outside post. Among the other 11 fillies, Chubby Star (9-2) will be just off the pace from gate 9. She should welcome a class drop and a cutback in distance, but losing her last three races by an average of 4½ lengths make it hard to get excited about her. Fizzy Friday (6-1) also drops and cuts back, but she has not been a factor in the three races she has run since she arrived in America last winter from Ireland. Two other closers – Danceland (6-1) and Lido (8-1) – bear longer looks. Danceland won an $85,000 allowance race three weeks ago on the Spa’s inner turf. She appears to be a good fit in this field that is limited to 3-year-old fillies that have never won stakes at a mile or longer. Lido’s only loss in her last three starts was to a pair of 4-year-olds, and she responded well in traffic winning a $77,000 allowance race last month at Belmont Park. The pick here is Lido across the board with Danceland and Cherry Lodge figuring underneath in exotics.

Play of the Day for Thursday, Aug. 24: Lido across the board.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Two-horse race? Maybe not

If the morning line is any clue, the $100,000 John’s Call Stakes on Wednesday at Saratoga will be a two-horse race. Skeptical bettors, however, will be wary simply because of the distance of this 1 5/8-mile turf feature. The 7-year-old gelding Red Rifle (9-5) should be just off the early pace set by Infinite Wisdom (2-1). With three graded-stakes victories to his name, Red Rifle’s only time racing this far resulted in a next-to-last-place finish two years ago in the two-mile Belmont Gold Cup. He also raced just 17 days ago, finishing a distant second on the Saratoga dirt in the Alydar Stakes. Infinite Wisdom is a 6-year-old gelding that has never gone this far, and he has spent most of his career coming up short in allowance and claiming races. Looking elsewhere, Renown (10-1) finished third in this feature last year. The 6-year-old gelding trained by Elizabeth Voss then won three in a row at 1½ miles each, including a Grade 3 at Keeneland. Although he lost his last two races by an average of 11 lengths, Renown may be worth a look coming back from a 1½-month break. His stable mate – 5-year-old gelding Mr Singh (15-1) – won a Group 3 race at this distance two years ago in England, but that was when he was a pace-setter. Since coming to America he has turned into a closer without any success for Voss on firm courses. Another closer – Montclair (8-1) – looks like the most viable play. Formerly trained by French legend André Fabre, the 7-year-old gelding has won only once since he was transferred to the U.S. early last year. Five trainers later he was claimed this summer by Randy Hill for $62,500 after another loss in a shorter race. He was bought specifically with this race in mind and sent to trainer George Weaver. With the encouragement of a second-place finish last winter in a two-mile stakes race at Gulfstream Park, Montclair is the value play to win the John’s Call – with a little something extra on Renown in an exacta bet.

Play of the Day for Wednesday, Aug. 23: Montclair to win with Renown in an exacta.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Two-horse race? Maybe not

If the morning line is any clue, the $100,000 John’s Call Stakes on Wednesday at Saratoga will be a two-horse race. Skeptical bettors, however, will be wary simply because of the distance of this 1 5/8-mile turf feature. The 7-year-old gelding Red Rifle (9-5) should be just off the early pace set by Infinite Wisdom (2-1). With three graded-stakes victories to his name, Red Rifle’s only time racing this far resulted in a next-to-last-place finish two years ago in the two-mile Belmont Gold Cup. He also raced just 17 days ago, finishing a distant second on the Saratoga dirt in the Alydar Stakes. Infinite Wisdom is a 6-year-old gelding that has never gone this far, and he has spent most of his career coming up short in allowance and claiming races. Looking elsewhere, Renown (10-1) finished third in this feature last year. The 6-year-old gelding trained by Elizabeth Voss then won three in a row at 1½ miles each, including a Grade 3 at Keeneland. Although he lost his last two races by an average of 11 lengths, Renown may be worth a look coming back from a 1½-month break. His stable mate – 5-year-old gelding Mr Singh (15-1) – won a Group 3 race at this distance two years ago in England, but that was when he was a pace-setter. Since coming to America he has turned into a closer without any success for Voss on firm courses. Another closer – Montclair (8-1) – looks like the most viable play. Formerly trained by French legend André Fabre, the 7-year-old gelding has won only once since he was transferred to the U.S. early last year. Five trainers later he was claimed this summer by Randy Hill for $62,500 after another loss in a shorter race. He was bought specifically with this race in mind and sent to trainer George Weaver. With the encouragement of a second-place finish last winter in a two-mile stakes race at Gulfstream Park, Montclair is the value play to win the John’s Call – with a little something extra on Renown in an exacta bet.

Play of the Day for Wednesday, Aug. 23: Montclair to win with Renown in an exacta.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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An exotic play for Monday

Everything looks in order for Diversity (7-5) to lead from gate to wire and win Monday’s $100,000 Evan Shipman Stakes at Saratoga. The morning-line favorite has been competitive at this level of New York-breds his last two races, including a win in last month’s Saginaw at Belmont Park. If his bullet work last week was any sign, the 4-year-old gelding trained by Rick Violette is comfortable at Saratoga. The question is which of the other five older horses hits the board with him? Papa Shot (5-2) was second to Diversify in the Saginaw, and he should feel more at home going two turns. But José Ortiz is his sixth jockey in as many races. Governor Malibu (7-2) cuts back in distance and class from a fourth-place finish in the 1½-mile Brooklyn, but his two-month break leaves doubts. Ostrolenka (5-1) has been competitive in sprints lately, but he has not gone this far since he was third in this race last year – and that was for a different trainer. Royal Posse (8-1) will be closing late and looking for the same form that brought him four straight wins around this time last year. Another closer, Good Luck Gus (12-1), looks outclassed. In this race a course horse is attractive; Royal Posse has won 5 of 8 at Saratoga. And considering his competition lately, this one ought to look easier for Governor Malibu, especially from a favorable, rail draw. The plays here, then, are exacta and trifecta boxes with Diversity, Royal Posse and Governor Malibu.

Play of the Day for Monday, Aug. 21: Exacta and trifecta boxes with Diversity, Royal Posse and Governor Malibu.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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A vote for the long-shot closer

Going For Broke appears to be a ’tweener. Not good enough for graded company, but too good for Sunday’s feature at Saratoga. Then again, that could be said about all seven horses in the $100,000 Summer Colony Stakes, a nine-furlong race for fillies and mares that have not won a graded stakes this year. After an eight-month layoff that followed three misses in graded stakes, Going For Broke (8-5) was an impressive second in her 2017 debut, coming up just a neck short of last year’s Acorn winner Carina Mia in the Shine Again. Even though that was only three weeks ago, trainer Chad Brown appears confident bringing her back to this longer distance that ought to be more up her alley. Among her challengers is Verve’s Tale (3-1), an off-the-pace mare that beat her last fall at odds of 20-1 in the Grade 3 Comely at Aqueduct. But in a race lacking for real pace, a long-shot closer like 6-year-old Rachel’s Temper (12-1) could come through. She won this race last year just a month after she lost a claiming race to Going For Broke by the bob of a head. She could not keep up with the leaders in two graded stakes last October, and then she bounced back to trainer David Cannizzo. Yes, she finished last seven weeks ago at Belmont Park in a sprint that was her first race in eight months. The thought here is the familiarity of jockey Joel Rosario and a return to a route race at Saratoga could make a difference. With visions of a dawdling pace, the play is across the board on Rachel’s Temper.

Play of the Day for Sunday, Aug. 20: Rachel's Temper across the board.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com
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Elate is the pick for Grade 1 race for fillies

It feels a lot like a distaff telling of the Kentucky Derby story. Nine 3-year-old fillies are lined up to race Saturday at Saratoga in the $600,000 Grade 1 Alabama Stakes. Like the Derby, most of the field has never raced 1¼ miles before. There are, however, two noteworthy exceptions. Holy Helena (4-1) widened her lead all the way to the wire in winning last month’s $1 million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine. And New Money Honey (6-1) was the winner by a neck at 10 furlongs in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational. But Holy Helena raced on Tapeta, and New Money Honey won on turf. Moving to dirt, both are expected to be just off the pace established by morning-line favorite Unchained Melody (3-1). Early last month she led from gate to wire, overcoming a wide turn into the stretch to pull away from Lockdown (5-1) and win the Grade 2 Mother Goose. More influential than all this, though, is last month’s Coaching Club American Oaks at the Spa. Elate (6-1) barely missed catching Abel Tasman at the wire with Salty (9-2) finishing a troubled third. Abel Tasman is one of the top five female horses in the U.S., and Elate was gaining on her at the end. Yes, hot trainer Chad Brown is showing faith in New Money Honey’s move to dirt, but Bill Mott may have the filly that is ready to make her first graded-stakes score. Elate is the across-the-board, value choice in the Alabama – with New Money Honey and Unchained Melody boxed with her on exacta and trifecta tickets.

Play of the Day for Saturday, Aug. 19: Elate across the board with New Money Honey and Unchained Melody boxed with her on exacta and trifecta tickets.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com
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Forecast: Wet and on dirt instead of grass

Stormy weather has turned Friday’s card at Saratoga into a run-for-cover day for bettors. Not only have 32 horses been scratched, but the four races that were supposed to be on the turf were moved to the main track. That includes the early-running feature, the $100,000 Skidmore Stakes – a 5½-furlong race for 2-year-olds that has a post time of 2:40 p.m. EDT. The half-dozen left in the race are all full of early speed, a style that should suit the slop that they will be racing on for the first time. None of them has a spectacular Tomlinson figure. Only two of them have won on dirt at all, including main-track-only starter Nuclear Option (4-1) and Joopster (6-1), but they appear overmatched. With trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velázquez, morning-line favorite El Dulce (5-2) took the early lead and won his debut race – an $83,000 maiden sprint last month on the Saratoga turf. Yes, he had to go all out to win by a neck, but he brings in the field’s best speed rating. Presuming he duplicates that and gets out front, El Dulce should have the advantage of kicking mud in the inexperienced eyes of his rivals. His stable mate Dial One (7-2) is a maiden winner that finished third in a $100,000 dirt sprint at Gulfstream Park early last month, and he gets jockey José Ortiz for the first time. It is a chalky play in what is left of the Skidmore, but the bet here is a small one on El Dulce over Dial One in an exacta. Oh, and save the rest to get out from under a rainy day.

Play of the Day for Friday, Aug. 18: El Dulce over Dial One in an exacta.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

Mentality and Nauti Buoy have scratched and the race has been moved to the dirt.

This race not what it seems

The morning line says that the $100,000 Union Avenue Stakes at Saratoga may be a one-horse race Thursday. Yes, Quezon (9-5) finished second to Hot City Girl (6-1) in last year’s running, and they are drawn inside next to each other for their rematch. Since that loss owner Marc Keller and trainer Robert Ribaudo have taken Quezon to three graded stakes, finishing second in one and third in another. If not for a stumble out of the gate in June at Belmont Park, she might have done better than sixth in the Bed of Roses. As for Hot City Girl, trainer Linda Rice sent the 2015 Charles Town Oaks winner to Aqueduct early this year. Hot City Girl won a $100,000 stakes before she failed as an odds-on favorite in a muddy allowance race in April. Now after a four-month break Hot City Girl comes back for this 6½-furlong renewal with José Ortiz reclaiming the ride. She will not be alone on the early lead in this race for New York-bred fillies and mares. Court Dancer (5-1) will be there, too, but she is 0-for-4 this year, and Joel Rosario will be her fifth jockey in as many races. She is one of two Jason Servis runners in this field. Picco Uno (8-1) is the other. Not only is her off-the-pace style worth watching against the front-runners, but she is cutting back from her mile failure in the slop at Belmont Park in late May. With an excellent record coming back from breaks, and with the hot combination of Servis and jockey Írad Ortiz Jr., Picco Uno is the across-the-board play in the Union Avenue.

Play of the Day for Thursday, Aug. 17: Picco Uno across the board.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

A bet against Pletcher this time

Chad Brown may be the tycoon of turf, but when it comes to his duel for Saratoga supremacy with Todd Pletcher, he is taking a pass on Wednesday’s feature. It is Pletcher who trains two contenders trying to win the $100,000 Bolton Landing Stakes, a 5½-furlong turf sprint for 2-year-old fillies. In a race full of front-end speed, Sugar Queen (4-1) will try to win from just off the pace, and March X Press (8-1) figures to be a closer. But the Pletcher pair is flawed. Although her bottom-side breeding suggests she may take well to turf, Sugar Queen has collected her two wins on the sandy dirt of Belmont Park and the slop of Saratoga. And March X Press comes back only two weeks after breaking her maiden on debut against New York-breds. Browsing elsewhere, morning-line favorite Sly Beauty (3-1) got her first win with a 4½-length win over yielding turf at Woodbine, but that was two months ago, and she has not raced since for Mark Casse. Since the Spa weather looks good Wednesday, the browsing continues. Two Wesley Ward fillies full of early speed and starting from the inside are worth a look. Mentality (7-2) has not raced since mid-June, when she earned a strong speed rating winning her debut at Belmont. But it is hard to avoid zeroing in on Keeneland maiden winner Fairyland (5-1). She is back from a middle-of-the-pack finish over six furlongs in the fast company of the Group 3 Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot. Now she gets back the blinkers, the Lasix and, for the first time, hot jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. That combination and the drop in class make Fairyland the across-the-board choice in the Bolton Landing. 

Play of the Day for Wednesday, Aug. 16: Fairyland across the board.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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No hunch bet for this handicapper

Midway through the Saratoga summer, bettors have seen the pace trend swing back and forth. It seemed as if there was no speed the first week or so of the meet. Then there was no shortage of it. In Monday’s $100,000 Saratoga Dew Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares, the pendulum goes back the other way. Only Flattermefabulous (9-2) may be comfortable on the early lead. Then again, this will be her first race for new owner Matthew Schera, who bought the 5-year-old sired by Flatter (no relation) with a $35,000 claim two weeks ago. Flattermefabulous led the whole way that day for trainer Barclay Tagg and won that claiming race. Now she runs for trainer Carlos Martin, and for the first time since last summer she does not have to welcome a new rider. José Ortiz will be on board to try and lead all six rivals for all nine furlongs. Three of the other horses figure to stalk the pace, including morning-line favorite Literata (2-1), a 6-year-old that has been in the money in 20 of her 32 races. Although she shares the best speed figures coming in, Literata has lost to some of the weaker horses in Monday’s field. Five-year-old Jc’s Shooting Star (5-2) seems to have the best case to win. She will also be just off the pace, and her rail draw has been an advantage on Saratoga’s main track this summer. It also does not hurt that trainer David Donk and jockey Manny Franco are a hot tandem. So Jc’s Shooting Star gets the win bet – with a little something extra on closer Mecke’s Madalyn (15-1) to take her first dose of Lasix and hit the board.

 

Play of the Day for Monday, Aug. 14: Jc's Shooting Star to win, but keep an eye on Mecke's Madalyn.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Race for 2-year-olds serves as Kentucky Derby preview

Can Copper Bullet (5-2) take a significant step toward contending for next year’s Kentucky Derby? As the morning-line favorite in Sunday’s $200,000 Grade 2 Saratoga Special for 2-year-olds, it is a logical question. He broke his maiden winning by eight lengths in a Churchill Downs sprint in late May, and if he had not steadied coming into the stretch there in June, he might have won the Grade 3 Bashford Manor. This weekend’s 6½-furlong test has him breaking from the outside post in a field of nine, not the best place for his front-end speed. Coming off a victory in a $100,000 stakes race, Diamond Oops (7-2) arrives from Gulfstream Park with a 2-for-2 record and should be sitting just off the pace. But the most eye-popping numbers may belong to Barry Lee (4-1). In his debut  last month at Laurel Park he pulled away to a 6½-length victory in a $40,000 maiden race, earning him the biggest speed figures coming into this appearance at the Spa. With bloodlines to Medaglia d’Oro and with José Ortiz taking over the ride, the across-the-board play here is on Barry Lee to stoke the rose-colored dreams of his Sagamore Farm owners.

Play of the Day for Sunday, Aug. 13: Bet Barry Lee across the board.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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'Seconditis' is a ailment with only one cure

Beware of seconditis – that epidemic that afflicts heavy favorites that take a bettor’s money and waste it away. Time Test has done just that in his two U.S. races for trainer Chad Brown, losing by a nose as a 1-2 favorite in the Fort Marcy and then finishing second at even money in the Manhattan on Belmont Stakes day. Now the four-time U.K. group winner gets a change of scenery. But on to the turf at Saratoga he keeps his familiar role as a morning-line favorite. Facing five rivals, Time Test (8-5) also cuts back to a mile in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap for older horses. The shorter distance may not suit this 5-year-old sired by Dubawi; Javier Castellano should have him in mid-pack, chasing the pace set by 4-year-old filly Sweet Little Lila (6-1). Disco Partner (2-1) figures to racing from just off the pace in tandem with World Approval (9-2). The difference is that Disco Partner drew clear at a mile last month to win a $150,000 stakes race at Belmont; World Approval seems to need a little more distance. Two closers – American Patriot (6-1) and Ballagh Rocks (10-1) – will try to pick up the pieces late, but the thinking here is that Disco Partner will be too good for them. The play then is across the board on Disco Partner  – with a little something extra in an exacta box with American Patriot.

Play of the Day for Saturday, Aug. 12: Disco Partner across the board and an exacta box with American Patriot.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Candip can do

There is every reason to like Stallwalkin’ Dude (7-5) in Friday’s feature at Saratoga. The morning-line favorite in the $100,000 Tale of the Cat sprint for 3-year-olds and up has been competitive in bigger races, including a second-place finish to Roy H in the Grade 2 True North on Belmont Stakes day. Yes, the 7-year-old gelding was a distant fourth in his last race – last month’s seven-furlong Grade 2 Belmont Sprint. But the cutback to six furlongs Friday should suit him here as should his stalking style in a race full of pace. Another 7-year-old – Weekend Hideaway (5-2) – figures to be in closer pursuit of the early leaders, but even though he cuts back from a mile victory in the Belmont slop in late May, he has lost his last five sprints. Instead, the gaze for value locks in on 6-year-old gelding Candip (6-1). He ships in from a last-place disappointment at Indiana Downs. But that was his first race in six months, and he has a history of being strong in his second race back from a layoff, including a runner-up finish in a New Year’s Day Grade 3 at Gulfstream Park. Coming in a week after a bullet work at Churchill Downs, Candip is worth a shot with an across-the-board bet in the Tale of the Cat.

Play of the Day for Friday, Aug. 11: Candip across the board.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Time to hit The Bourbon

They faced one another nearly seven weeks ago at Belmont Park. Now they have a rematch as the top three betting choices in Thursday’s $100,000 New York Stallion Series Stakes on the turf at Saratoga. Lady Joan (2-1) is the morning-line favorite this time after finishing three-quarters of a length ahead of Lover’s Key (5-2) and Paz The Bourbon (3-1) in June. The first two set a dawdling pace early in that seven-furlong race around one turn. Although they are likely again to be out front of the other 3-year-old fillies, they will make two turns and go one mile this time. Making the rash assumption the fractions will be faster, the first thought is that the closer – Paz The Bourbon – will have a chance to pick up the pieces late at the longer distance. Yes, this will be the fourth consecutive race that trainer Mark Hennig is making a jockey switch – this time from John Velázquez to Javier Castellano. Still, Paz The Bourbon is the primary choice to win. One other closer with value, though, is worth a look underneath. She’s Dreamin (6-1) broke her maiden by four lengths last month in a seven-furlong, $62,000 race at Belmont Park, so trainer Tom Bush is moving her up in class. The play here then is Paz The Bourbon to win – and in an exacta box with She’s Dreamin.

Play of the Day for Thursday, Aug. 10: Paz The Bourbon to win and in an exacta box with She’s Dreamin.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Vision for this race: Class jump works

The class jump certainly makes a bettor wary, doesn’t it? That is precisely what Expedited Vision (5-1) must overcome in the $100,000 Quick Call Stakes – the 5½-furlong turf feature Wednesday at Saratoga. But like Expedited Vision, each of the six 3-year-olds has a cross to bear in this race. Morning-line favorite Malraux (2-1) makes a huge leap from his last win in an $18,000 claiming race, not to mention the fact that his last two races were taken off the turf at Arlington Park. Blind Ambition (5-2) drops down from a graded-stakes failure over seven furlongs the dirt his last time out for Todd Pletcher, but the inside draw is not helpful on the Saratoga turf. Mongo Nation (7-2) had a couple turf wins during the Gulfstream Park winter, but he has not fared well against weaker competition lately. After finishing last in the Woody Stephens on Belmont Stakes day The Money Monster (5-1) could bring the goods if he avoids trouble – a big “if” – but this is his first time on turf for trainer Bill Mott. And Indy Hill (12-1) just seems outclassed in this field. Sired by Hansen, trained by Phil Schoenthal and ridden by Sheldon Russell, Expedited Vision is the across-the-board choice to run his record to 3-for-3. The value is there. Now we will see about the class.

Play of the Day for Wednesday, Aug. 9: Expedited Vision across the board.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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2 5-horse races fill stakes void

It is a rarity at Saratoga – a day without a stakes race. The $100,000 Cab Calloway division of the New York Stallion Stakes did not fill, so a pair of $90,000 allowance races – the third and the seventh – will serve as Monday’s co-features. Instead of 3-year-old colts, it will be fillies and mares sharing the subdued spotlight with only five in each race. For Irish-bred 4-year-old Queen Blossom (2-1), being the morning-line favorite in the third is a far cry from 17 months ago, when she won a Group 3 stakes at the Curragh. Barry Irwin’s Team Valor bought her right after that, and she has yet to win in America for trainer Graham Motion, although she finished second in a $62,500 June claiming race over 1¼ miles at Belmont Park. Another closer – Achnaha (9-5) – finished third in that same race, 2¼ lengths behind Queen Blossom. Monday’s rematch is 1½ miles on the inner turf, which ought to suit Achnaha just fine, so she is worth a win-ticket bet. There ought to be just a little more value in the seventh – a seven-furlong dash on the main track. Racing for the first time in eight weeks Annie Rocks (8-5) is the morning-line favorite, but this seems a little over her head. If lightly raced 4-year-old Tejana (5-2) goes to the early lead, she should not have a repeat of the traffic trouble she ran into 7½ weeks ago at Belmont Park. That was her first race in 10 months. If she can return to the form that had her racing within a neck of Unbridled Mo in Grade 3 company as a 3-year-old, Tejana should handle the small field in the late co-feature – and is deserving of an on-the-nose bet.

Play of the Day for Monday, Aug. 7: Achnaha to win in the 3rd; Tejana to win in the 7th.

Saratoga features in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Looking for Value in turf feature

The old boys’ network gets back together in Sunday’s turf-sprint feature at Saratoga. The $250,000 Troy Handicap could boil down to the latest rematch of 6-year-olds Green Mask (8-5) and Pure Sensation (9-5). The top two morning-line choices have split their first six meetings with Green Mask coming out ahead both times this year, and the 5½-furlong distance seems more to Green Mask’s liking. Holding Gold (9-2) is also a familiar presence, winning once this spring against Green Mask at Keeneland. So while it is apparent that Green Mask, Pure Sensation and Holding Gold are in the same league, they may not measure up to the appropriately named Long On Value (5-1) when he is at his best. The 6-year-old closer trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Joel Rosario barely missed winning the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night. Long On Value was fourth in this race last year when Green Mask finished second, but he lost by only a neck after Rosario shook his reins a little late in the stretch. The thought here is that the cutback to 5½ furlongs, the return to America from a flat run at Royal Ascot and the drop in class should suit him better than his lead-up to this race last summer. Long On Value gets the win-place-show bet here – with a little bit on the side on Wes Welker’s well-traveled Undrafted (10-1) to hit the board.

Play of the Day for Sunday, Aug. 6: Long On Value across the board.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

Weather will play role in Whitney Stakes

It seems certain that it is going to rain Saturday morning at Saratoga. It is supposed to be taper off before Saturday’s first race – and certainly before the $1.2 million Grade 1 Whitney Stakes. How fast the track dries will be an important consideration for bettors, because the morning-line favorite Gun Runner (4-5) has underperformed in his two runs on sloppy tracks. But even if the dirt turns fast by race time at 5:46 p.m. EDT, the Stephen Foster winner will find himself competing for the early lead with Tu Brutus (8-1) and Discreet Lover (5-1). Just how much Florent Geroux can do to control the pace will say a lot about the outcome of the Whitney. If he cannot keep the fractions moderate, the door will be open for Keen Ice (3-1). In winning the Suburban last month he showed that he does not have to be too far off the pace to deliver a victory. And as anyone who followed American Pharoah will attest, Keen Ice showed nearly two years ago that he can win at Saratoga. If the track is not fast by post time, then War Story (6-1) would seem to be the obvious play. His two wins on wet tracks include a $125,000 stakes race last winter at Aqueduct. But the big question with both Keen Ice and War Story is trust. Keen Ice lost 10 in a row before last month, including three times as a favorite. War Story has perhaps racing’s most capricious owner in Ron Paolucci, who in 22 races has had nine trainers, 13 jockeys and five blinker changes for the 5-year-old gelding. Casting aside the leeriness, the across-the-board play is Keen Ice if it is dry – and War Story if it is not.

Play of the Day for Saturday, Aug. 5: Keen Ice to win if track is dry; War Story if not.

Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Look beyond undefeated horse to Yoshida

There is nothing more eye-catching in past performances than an undefeated horse. But in the case of Bricks And Mortar (5-2), is he a worthy morning-line favorite for Friday’s feature at Saratoga? With meet-leading trainer Chad Brown, he brings a 3-for-3 record into the $200,000 Grade 2 National Racing Museum Hall of Fame Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds. It is the first graded stakes for this lightly raced colt sired by Giant’s Causeway, and he will be chasing familiar company. Despite drawing gate 8 in the field of 9, John Velázquez and Secretary At War (8-1) ought to be in front early, and Javier Castellano should have Big Handsome (3-1) right behind him. That is exactly how it went down when they raced against one another on July 4 in the $100,000 Manila Stakes at Belmont Park, where Joel Rosario and Bricks And Mortar came from last place to beat Big Handsome and Secretary At War by a neck. Just as eye-catching as an undefeated record, though, are middling speed figures, the likes of which were left behind from the Manila Stakes. That is why the bettor’s gaze wanders to Yoshida (7-2). In his first time trying 1¼ miles, the WinStar colt weakened to fifth last month as the favorite in a tough Grade 1 Belmont Derby. Trainer Bill Mott cuts him back to a more comfortable distance, so presuming Irad Ortiz Jr. lets him sit off the pace, Yoshida is the across-the-board choice in the Hall of Fame. Oh, one more thing. If Parlor (15-1) can actually keep his act together for a change, Julien Leparoux might also deliver a strong closing burst and pick up some of the money.

Play of the Day for Friday, Aug. 4: Yoshida across the board.

Friday's Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Study hard and perhaps you will win

Anyone who thinks the Belmont Stakes is a grind at 1½ miles may want to have a look at Thursday’s feature at Saratoga. The $100,000 Birdstone Stakes is that rare animal – a 1¾-mile race on dirt. The seven stayers racing include last year’s winner Turco Bravo (12-1). This 8-year-old gelding will be starting his 60th race, but the weather promises to be better and drier than it was for last year’s sloppy renewal, so he may not be worth a second look. Trainer Gary Contessa indicated that morning-line favorite Tu Brutus (7-5) would be scratched after being cross-entered for Saturday’s $1.2 million Grade 1 Whitney, leaving a void at pacesetter. Scuba (9-2), last year’s Grade 2 Marathon winner at Santa Anita during Breeders’ Cup weekend, gets the blinkers put back on by trainer Brendan Walsh. Munjaz (6-1), a seemingly outclassed Shadwell 6-year-old, gets blinkers added by Kiaran McLaughlin. If Scuba and Munjaz work the front end into a suicidal speed duel, then John Velázquez could swoop in riding 4-year-old Hard Study (5-2) from just off the pace for Todd Pletcher. Although the price will turn chalky after the scratching of the pre-race favorite, Hard Study still seems like the play for the Birdstone, perhaps boxed in an exacta with Scuba and Munjaz.

Play of the Day for Thursday, Aug. 3: Hard Study to win, boxed in an exacta with Scuba and Munjaz if you are so inclined.

Thursday's Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Value play? Clipthecouponannie (of course)

This one required a double take. Carina Mia is in a race for older fillies and mares that have not won a graded stakes in 2017. Really? It is hard to believe that she is 0-for-6 since last year’s Grade 1 Acorn on Belmont Stakes day. Carina Mia has since raced in Songbird’s shadow, finishing a distant second to her twice and then fourth in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on this year’s Belmont day. A change of scenery was apparently in order, so Carina Mia was moved from Bill Mott’s barn to trainer Chad Brown, who seems to do no wrong at Saratoga. With 12 wins this summer he is well on his way to a second straight training title. Brown saddles Carina Mia (2-1) for the first time as the morning-line favorite for Wednesday’s seven-furlong $100,000 Shine Again Stakes. Forecast to be the second betting choice, Going For Broke (7-2) has a lot in common with Carina Mia. She is also in Brown’s barn, also cutting back from over a mile, and also finished a distant second to Songbird – as a 12-1 long shot in last summer’s Alabama. Clipthecouponannie (5-1) has had seven weeks off since she failed as a favorite in the slop her last time out at Belmont, where she blew the start. The last time trainer Todd Pletcher gave her a break this long was last December, and after that 10-month layoff she responded with a victory. With John Velázquez riding her again, Clipthecouponannie is the value play across the board in the Shine Again.

Play of the Day for Wednesday, Aug. 2: Clipthecouponannie to win.

Wednesday's Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Look to hedge bet on favorite in Monday feature

After seeing how well Good Samaritan looked moving from dirt to turf in Saturday’s Jim Dandy, the old switcheroo could come back to bite form players in Monday’s Saratoga feature – the $100,000 Coronation Cup turf sprint. No fewer than four of the nine fillies in this 5½-furlong dash for 3-year-olds has been a dirt specialist. But they don’t look to be in the class of morning-line favorite Morticia (2-1). After finishing second in the Grade 3 Appalachian three months ago at Keeneland, this filly sired by Twirling Candy cut back from that mile for $100,000 victories at seven and then 5½ furlongs. José Lezcano is back to ride her for trainer George Arnold. The question is whether gate 8 in the field of 9 may compromise her going forward early. The same goes for Lady Alexandra (6-1), which drew the outside post and makes her first start for trainer Tom Proctor. She was transferred from hot turf trainer Chad Brown, who instead saddles India Montuana (4-1), idle the past seven weeks and still without a win since Brown got her this past winter from Antonio Sano. Javier Castellano will be her third jockey in as many races. Epping Forest (6-1) will try to win this from behind and is cutting back from a mile to her sprint strength while making her stakes debut for Christophe Clement – another trainer with turf success. If she had drawn a better post the play here would be all in on the nose of Morticia. But the hedge is to bet her with a little something extra on Epping Forest. By the way, if No More Babies (6-1) wires this thing in her dirt debut, then Tuesday’s day off at Saratoga will not come a moment too soon.

Play of the Day for Monday, July 31: Morticia to win, in combinations with Epping Fores.

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Monday's Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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Early-bird special on Sunday

A late-arriving crowd will miss the $200,000 feature Sunday at Saratoga. That is because it is the very first race of the day. Truth be told, the old Shuvee Handicap just ain’t what she used to be. A springtime Grade 1 in the ’80s and ’90s at Belmont Park, it was moved to the Saratoga summer four years ago, lengthened to nine furlongs and dropped to a Grade 3. Last year it attracted only four fillies and mares; others were probably scared off by the domination of Curalina. This weekend there are only three entries. Paid Up Subscriber (1-1) does not have Curalina’s résumé, but trainer Chad Brown’s 5-year-old mare gave Songbird a big push before losing by a length last month in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on Belmont Stakes day. With Javier Castellano riding Sunday at Monmouth Park, John Velázquez takes over for the first time on Paid Up Subscriber. The 4-year-old Terra Promessa (6-5) has been off since she won a Grade 3 at Pimlico more than two months ago. Lightly raced 6-year-old Apologynotaccepted (3-1) finished second in her graded-stakes debut in May at Churchill Downs. All three horses are comfortable being on or near the lead, but based just on class this one is all about Paid Up Subscriber. She may well be odds-on at the start, so rolling her into a daily double with Frozen Hannah (3-1) and Five Hearts (10-1) in the second – a $67,000 inner-turf claiming race – would not be a bad idea.

Play of the Day for Sunday, July 30: Paid Up Subscriber to win and play daily double.

Ron Flatter's Saratoga Play of the Day is sponsored by NYRA Bets. Get details on a $200 new membership sign-up bonus. (Void where prohibited.)

Sunday's Saratoga stakes race in handicap order from e-ponies.com

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