TIMEFORMUS HIGHLIGHT HORSE (coverage below)
Race 6: Pretty Boy Flash (#2)
Race 3: The G3 Sanford at 6 furlongs
Random Walk (#2) earned the highest speed figure in his debut (103), a number that would win many editions of this race. However, Rick Violette, who does so well with his first-time starters, does not have the same success second time out (48 trainer rating) or with runners coming off maiden wins (61 rating). Therefore, I prefer BITUMEN (#5). I realize that this horse benefitted from a slow pace (color-coded in blue) in his debut, but he really finished strongly through the lane that day and ran like a horse that should be totally comfortable sitting off the other speeds.
I don’t think this is a race to get too involved in from a wagering perspective, but we’ll at least try to launch a double heading into our first strong opinion on this card in the following race.
Double: 5 with 3,7,8
Race 4: Maiden Claiming $40,000 at 6 furlongs
This has to be one of the deepest maiden claiming fields I’ve ever encountered. Among that vast group of runners dropping out of maiden special weight races, the one that intrigues me most is WHITEGATE (#6). This is really the first time that he’s running in a spot where he can be competitive. He was off slowly and simply overmatched in his debut last year, and then he acted up before his second start in a race that he may have needed off the layoff. Last time, he was again away awkwardly from the gate, but recovered nicely to attain a tracking position. Coming towards the stretch, he got caught in behind a tiring runner and lost all of his momentum while steadying. He has some talent and should get a quick pace to close into this time with so much speed signed on.
The other horses that I have to use are all dropping out of maiden special weight races as well. Onlytheshadowknows (#7) actually ran quite well when last seen at Aqueduct, finishing third behind the talented All On Red. However, given his strong performances, it’s somewhat suspect that he winds up in a maiden claiming race off the layoff. Come as You Are (#8) has yet to run a bad race on dirt. He probably should have won his most recent start last November at Churchill when he was rushed up into making a premature move leaving the backstretch. Even 14-start maiden Chomsky (#3) deserves a look as he finally gets some class relief. This turnback may suit him.
[Update, 7/23 at 10:47 AM] The top pick, Whitegate (#6), was scratched.
Pick-3: 3,7,8 with 3,10,11 with 2,8
Race 6: Maiden Special Weight at 5.5 furlongs
You’ll have to watch the board to see which first-time starters may be live, but of those that have run already, I strongly prefer PRETTY BOY FLASH (#2).
He sold for a large sum at the two-year-old sales after working a furlong in a blazing 9 4/5 seconds. However, he showed none of that speed in his debut—at least not out of the gate. Once into the stretch, he started to pick it up, and erased about half of an 11-length deficit before flying across the line and into the gallop out. While Steve Asmussen is a capable debut trainer, he really excels with his second-time starters (97 trainer rating), and especially in 2YO maiden races at Saratoga (100 rating). I’ll use him with One Liner (#8), whose trainer Todd Pletcher is always dangerous in these situations. Watch the board to see if any of the other first-time starters are worth throwing into the mix.
Exacta Box: 2,8
Race 8: Optional Claiming $80,000/N1X at 8 furlongs on turf
Catapult (#1A) is likely to go favored here, and he’s certainly a runner to be feared. He showed real potential when breaking his maiden last fall, beating subsequent stakes winner Giant Run. However, he’s been plagued by layoffs since then and his lone start at three, in the Transylvania, was disappointing. Not only did he finish off the board as the favorite, but he was very green through the stretch. Perhaps Chad Brown has corrected those bad habits, but I have questions and want to use others. I’ll throw in both horses coming out of the strong allowance race won by Strike Midnight, Our Way (#2) and Hockey School (#9). The former always seems to show up with a solid effort and drew a great post position. The latter was wide throughout last time and should give a better account of himself here.
However, I’m going in a slightly different direction for my top pick. RAPPEL (#7) has been a frustrating horse to watch. He had to endure three consecutive terrible trips to start his 2016 campaign (traffic issues at Gulfstream, wide trip at Aqueduct, and a slow pace at Belmont). Nevertheless, his connections persevered, and he finally rewarded them with a strong third place finish at 24/1 last time. Some may regard that race as a fluke, but it was anything but that—he just finally got a reasonable trip. He was finished right behind two graded stakes quality individuals that day and the 110 speed figure he earned is the highest number in the race.
Exacta Key Box: 7 with 1,2,9
Pick-4: 1,2,7,9 with 2,4 with 2,3,6,7 with 2,4,9,11
Race 9: Allowance N1X at 9 furlongs
My Man Sam (#4) will be a heavy favorite and rightly so. This horse proved that he could be competitive with some of the best three-year-olds in the country when finishing second in the Grade 1 Blue Grass in April. I don’t want to be too hard on him for his Kentucky Derby, since he did take a hard bump at the top of the stretch. I’m glad to see his connections are doing the right thing and dropping him back down into a N1X allowance race, but I think he meets a serious foe in CADEYRN (#2). There is not much speed in this short field, which makes My Man Sam’s task more difficult and helps the front-running Cadeyrn. Last time, Cadeyrn faced early pressure from another rival, getting involved in a race-long duel, which saw him setting fast fractions (color-coded in red). All things considered, he was extremely game to hold on for third and ran a much better race than today’s rival Conviction, despite losing to him. The 118 speed figure that he earned for that effort is the highest number in the race, and the Pace Projector is predicting he’ll be in front in a situation favoring horses on or near the lead.
Exacta Box: 2,4
Double: 2 with 2,3,5,6,7
Race 10: The G1 Diana at 9 furlongs on turf
This is a remarkably deep Diana field with no clear standout. Miss Temple City (#2) is a deserving morning line favorite based on her breakthrough win against males in the Makers 46 Mile in April. That is her best distance and she must stretch out to the 9 furlongs today. She also must prove that she can quickly bounce back from a roundtrip to England, which resulted in a decent fourth in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot. I have to use her, but this is no easy task.
Chad Brown has four runners in this race. Wekeela is the shortest price on the morning line, but I prefer Dacita (#6), who ran better than it appears when beaten by that foe in the Jenny Wiley in the spring and then put it all together in the New York last time. She returns to the site of her win over Tepin last summer. I also have to use Recepta (#7), who finally got a perfect trip in the Just a Game and responded with a good runner-up finish behind the freaky performance of Celestine. Nine furlongs is a question for her as well, but I can’t ignore her recent form. Mrs McDougal (#5) didn’t quite work out Recepta’s trip, but she didn’t exactly have serious trouble either. She may have finished second with a bit more luck, and is a player again today.
Since I’m always searching for the value, I want to point out a horse that may be ignored on the tote board but actually has a legitimate chance to win. STRIKE CHARMER (#3) finished right with Mrs McDougal and Recepta two and three back, just barely losing to the former before defeating the latter. They all met up in the Just a Game last time, and, while those two had great trips, Strike Charmer found traffic trouble at two key points in the stretch drive and was prevented from attaining a higher placing. If Isabella Sings ensures an honest pace up front, Strike Charmer, who possesses as potent a late kick as anyone in this race, is a threat.
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 2,5,6,7
Race 11: Claiming $25,000 at 8.5 furlongs on turf
If you’re playing multi-race wagers, you definitely want to try to get alive to as many as possible in this final leg, because it is a head-scratcher. That said, I have to take a shot with my old friend DENDRITE (#9), who won at a huge price over this course last year, and has actually stepped up his game since then. He’s a horse that can take a few races to get fit, so I like that he’s now making his third start off the layoff (Carlos Martin gets an 89 trainer rating with that move). His last effort is better than it looks, since he was blocked in traffic for much of the stretch drive and galloped out past the field after the wire. Apprentice Jomar Torres should have him placed closer to the pace today. Other to throw into the mix include the trio of class droppers Winter Springs (#2), Procurement (#4), and Amen Kitten (#11).