RACE 3: IRISH GIANT (#2)
Risk Profile is clearly the horse to beat as he returns from a short layoff while making his second start off the claim for George Weaver. If he repeats that 108 TimeformUS Speed Figure he earned two back when breaking his maiden he’s unlikely to lose this race. However, his prior form isn’t nearly up to that standard, and he benefited form a very favorable pace scenario when he turned in that performance. He didn’t run badly going a mile last time and should appreciate the slight turnback here. I’ve just never been a big fan and didn’t want him at a short price. I’m more skeptical of some others who could take money like Repo Rocks and Cousin Andrew. The former just doesn’t seem to get out of the gate anymore, and gelding him for his last start did little to wake him up. Cousin Andrew was once a promising sort for Chad Brown, but he had to be used to beat a weak field last time. I’m getting more creative with Irish Giant. I know this horse looks totally uncompetitive based on his form to date. However, this 5-year-old was clearly a work in progress when he made his debut at Aqueduct over the winter. He took a big step forward to be second in his next start at Belmont, closing well behind the dominant Charlie Five O. Since then Linda Rice has entered him in a few off the turf spots, all either at the allowance level or for this $40k tag. I find it interesting that the notoriously realistic Rice is so committed to running this horse at a higher level, and it appears that he has improved in his recent training.
RACE 8: PRINCE OF PHAROAHS (#3)
Gold Panda and Big Bobby figure to vie for favoritism in this New York-bred allowance event. The former showed ability in his debut when staying on well behind the promising duo for Water’s Edge and King Angelo. He then took a significant step forward in his second start, showing vastly improved early speed to wire a field in the slop. He earned a strong 106 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance and a repeat of that number will make him tough. However, he is coming back just 15 days after that maiden win. Big Bobby was no match for the impressive Judge N Jury at this level last time but he still ran a respectable speed figure to be second. I do wonder if this horse was just ready to fire on debut because he really hasn’t moved forward at all since that unveiling. He’s obviously a major player once again, but I thought Gold Panda had more upside between the two favorites. Anotehr 3-year-old to consider at a better price is Work Out. He never had a chance last time after dumping his rider and running off prior to the start, and probably should have been scratched. My top pick, who should also be a square price, is Prince of Pharoahs. This 4-year-old gelding returns for Linda Rice with prior form that makes him competitive here. He ran poorly as a heavy favorite when last seen in February at Aqueduct, but he was off for a long time after that so something may have gone wrong. He had previously run well going this distance on Jan. 8 and I love the way he’s training for his return. Furthermore, Linda Rice is a strong 5 for 13 (38%, $4.30 ROI) off layoffs of 120 to 240 days on dirt at Saratoga over the past 5 years.
RACE 9: BACKTOHISROOTS (#6)
Maven is arguably the horse to beat in this Lucky Coin as he returns from Royal Ascot for Wesley Ward. He wasn’t particularly competitive in that King’s Stand and now finds himself in a more realistic spot back on domestic soil. However, he’s going to take money off his victory at Keeneland back in April and I have some doubts about the quality of that race. Runner-up Boldor is an accomplished dirt horse who hasn’t run quite as well on the turf since that runner-up finish to Maven, and third-place finisher Joker On Jack is an inferior Wesley Ward stablemate who ran poorly up here earlier in the meet. Maven has thrown in his fair share of clunkers in his career, including as the favorite in the Mahony Stakes over this course and distance last year. He’s not for me. I actually think Pulsate might be the horse to beat as he gets back on turf. He just missed in this race last year, and it appears that he’s returned in top form as a 5-year-old. They took a shot on dirt last time, but now he’s back on his preferred surface and he has the tactical speed to work out the right trip. My top pick is Backtohisroots. We haven’t seen this 5-year-old for a long time, but he was in career form when he last completed a race at Saratoga just over a year ago. He was an impressive allowance winner at the 2020 meet and took money in the G3 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational off that score. He lost his rider at the start and never participated that day. However, now he returns for John Terranova, who is 6 for 19 (32%, $3.21 ROI) off 240+ day layoffs over the past 5 years.