This race goes through a couple of runners that are making their first starts off the claim for Mike Maker, a 95-rated first-off-the-claim trainer that really excels with his turf runners in these situations. St. Louie (#3) was previously in the capable hands of Alan Goldberg, and was actually rounding into some decent form when picked up for $35,000 earlier this month. The same can be said of Elusive Neko (#7), who made a strong late run at Churchill last time, but meets a much tougher field today. Among the New York horses, I would also consider using Verger (#5), who actually ran better than his third-place finish would suggest last time after a wide trip.
There are plenty of intriguing players in this race, but the one that interests me most is SECRET BID (#2).
I acknowledge that he’s stepping up to face a tougher field today, but I think he’s prepared to handle this rise in class. Last time, at Suffolk Downs, he probably would have won if his rider had not gotten him caught in behind a tiring runner on the far turn. He lost his momentum and was shuffled back about two lengths before having to swing wide and re-rally. This is a horse who had actually shown some ability when previously in the barn of Shug McGaughey. It’s been a long time since then, but his current trainer, Jack Fisher, certainly knows how to win races at Saratoga. He gets an 83 trainer rating here and has connected with some prices over the years. The Pace Projector is predicting that he’ll be placed close to the pace in a situation favoring horses on or near the lead from this rail post position, and the unexpected presence of Jose Ortiz certainly piques the interest.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 3,5,7