I’m happy to say that Brian will continue handicapping the Saturday Pick 4, now guaranteed at $500,000 for Saratoga. At least, he’ll be doing it as long as his primary responsibilities at the Saratoga Special permit…if you’re in Saratoga, make sure to pick up your free daily copy of the Special for an in-depth look at all things racing at the Spa; if you’re out of town, you can check it out online.
I had hoped to post here the link to my first article for the Saratogian, which appeared online and in yesterday’s print edition; unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to appear on the website any longer. You can check Saturday’s edition for information on Jim Dandy, the horse whose eponymous race will be run tomorrow; those with a Twitter account will also find links to the articles by following BklynBackstretch.
And now that all the shameless plugs are complete, onward to the Pick 4… –Teresa
Finally we’ve made it to Saratoga. The best racing in the country and an ultra-tough 500k-guaranteed Pk4 greet us on the first Saturday in the meet. I’ll caution that while I was driving up to the Spa on Friday morning, I almost had to pull over and wait for the rain to subside, so there’s a good chance that we’re in for an off-track and a yielding turf course. So you need to be prepared for some last minute adjustments to your wagers. Good luck to everyone! –Brian Nadeau
Race 8: The $70,000 Lake Luzerne for state-bred filly/mares on the inner turf at 1 1/16 miles.
1. Vivi’s Book: Trainer Ubillo has quietly had a very successful year but this miss seems in a bit over her head when you consider that she was just sixth against starter-allowance foes.
2. Here Comes Rita: Morrison had a big Spa meet last year and starts a filly that may be ready to deliver a career run. Encountered trouble in her last, yet was beaten less than 2 lengths. Figures to be a nice price to boot so she’s worth including.
3. Offhand Remark: The good news is she does own a win over the inner here; the bad is that she’s yet to progress since that score last summer. Winless in four starts against second-level allowance/optional claimers, so not expecting the breakthrough today.
4. Yet Again: Filly has run some big races over the course of her career and she’s enjoyed a nice campaign so far but will need to run a career best in start number 28 if she wants to be in the mix in this tough stakes.
5. Love Cove: Talented performer has made a nice niche in the state-bred grass ranks and warrants a look for Albertrani, who has enjoyed tremendous stakes success in 2009. Course and distance winner here in 2007 should be respected once again.
6. Chestoria: Classy mare has faced some tough open stakes foes in her last pair and was far from embarrassed. We’ll discuss Carribean Sunset, who beat this mare in her last start, a bit later in the Diana, so right away you know she hits hard here. Yet to break through this year but clearly rates as the one to deny.
7. Cagey Girl: Know her early, that’s for sure. Brings some serious speed to the party and should be taking this group as far as she can on the lead. If they let her go she can be dangerous, but there are more than a few in here that will keep her in their sights.
8. Sonic Sound: Yet another who has done her best work against lesser foes, so it’s hard to envision her cracking the top slots in here.
9. Top Lass: Figures as the longest shot on the board should she meet the starter and would be a major surprise.
10. One In A Romp: Ran well in the Sabellina behind Nehantic Kat, who would be a big player in here. That run was over a yielding course, so if the rains come and soften it up a bit, just maybe she can be a player.
11. Stormy Relations: There’s some tricky form here; in her last she ran well against some top sprinters and in her first start of the year she looked awesome winning over open allowance foes. The two runs in between weren’t too hot, but if Donk has her going again this could be your price play.
12. Pastel Girl: Major contender got no favors from this draw, so you have to be a tad careful if she’s your girl. Like a few mentioned earlier, she’s done some serious damage in the open ranks so this “drop” in class should suit her. Those keying her on top will be hoping for some heated splits to aid her deep closing style.
13. Raffie’s Treasure (MTO): She won a NY-bred stakes here last year after it was rained off the grass, so her connections are probably hoping for some more rain.
14. Dean Henry: Looked good at Belmont in her last and if she gets to play, she might be the one on the upswing while catching some girls playing her game.
Race 9: The Grade I, $500,000 Diana for filly/mares at 1 1/8 miles on the Mellon turf.
1. Mushka: Still trying to live up to that $1.6 million price tag and while she’s got a ways to go, she has taken her game up a notch this year. Still, there’s an Eclipse award winner lining up against her and it’s highly unlikely she’ll be impressed by that big purchase price.
2. Quiet Meadow: Well-bred miss has enjoyed a fine season making waves in a few minor stakes and now Brown shoots for the moon. She’s going to be part of the fray early but doubt she’s still involved when the real running begins.
3. Rutherienne: So she can still remember how to win races. After running third for seemingly her last 20 starts, this classy homebred finally broke through and got back on the beam up north. There was a time when she’d be a major player in a race like this, but I’m willing to make her prove that that last was more than a good filly beating up on some suspect competition.
4. Indescribable: Was somehow sent off at 7-5 in the Grade III All Along at CNL only to finish a disappointing eighth. She ran a few big ones on the Poly earlier in the year but has just two turf wins to her ledger. Respect her connections but I’m just not seeing it.
5. Criticism: Confirmed front-runner has cleaned up in the marathon division this year by basically just running everyone into the ground. Looks to be on a loose lead again in here, but the cutback to 9 furlongs is the main concern. The believers will get a big price on a mare that has done nothing wrong this year, but let’s just say Forever Together is a bit more formidable in the lane than Caprice, Icon Project and Dress Rehearsal.
6. Carribean Sunset: She came to the states with a big reputation and after a few runs, she might finally be getting the hang of things. Looked good winning the Penny in her last and figures to enjoy this slightly longer trip today. Has the class, connections and running style to be the main danger to the champ.
7. My Princess Jess: Took the Grade II Lake George over the inner last summer, but on the whole she comes up wanting against the big girls. Still looking for that elusive Grade I win after three tries and while she’s come close, she hasn’t exactly given anyone frets through the lane, has she?
8. Colina Verde: Group I-winner in her native Brazil has struggled with American racing. Winless in three starts since coming to McLaughlin and that streak figures to hit four after today.
9. Tejida: Lost a heartbreaker in the All Along but that was a very suspect group of middle-tier turf distaffers that day, which is nothing like the crew she meets here.
10. Forever Together: Those thinking the Just A Game loss threw her for a loop need only to see her 57 3/5 work over the Oklahoma turf course on Wednesday. You know too many grass mares that can do that? Looked great winning the Wiley in her seasonal bow and it took a streaking Diamondrella and a yielding course to get the best of her at Belmont. Her win in this race last year was her coming out party and it looks like only the soft ground could be her undoing. Imposing, to say the least.
Race 10: The Grade II, $400,000 Jim Dandy for 3-year-old at 1 1/8 miles.
1. Saratoga Sinner: Turned into a different horse when he was sent long at Gulfstream this winter, and though he hasn’t run since taking the Grade III Holy Bull, the fact that Kenneally enters speaks volumes. His Holy Bull win was aided by an intense speed bias that day, but he finds a spot here with little early speed signed on, so expect him to make the running and take them as far as he can.
2. Flat Bold: The Beyer boys didn’t agree but he was visually impressive streaking home at Belmont last time in a restricted allowance. Obviously he doesn’t meet the same group today, but at least you know he’s going in the right direction. It’s probably asking a bit too much for him to jump up and win a race like this, but thinking he’ll be heard from before the year is out.
3. Kensei: His Dwyer score was simply awesome; he sat back and inhaled the early leaders and drew off with a powerful win. And while that stamps him as the horse to beat today, don’t forget those Belmont routes are just one-turn and this guy has never done the two-turn thing. So point being, winning an 8.5-furlong race at Belmont is night and day to winning a 9-furlong affair at the Spa. He’ll be favored, and rightfully so, but with the anticipated short price I’ll keep looking.
4. Warrior’s Reward: Had no chance after completely blowing the start in the Dwyer, but to his credit he rallied late and salvaged the place. Talented and versatile colt is still looking for that initial two-turn score, but he has run well going long against some toughies. I’ve been stubborn to come around to this guy and I’m still not sold that he’s good enough going long to win a race like this, so I’ll make him beat me once again.
5. Charitable Man: Looked great running off with the Peter Pan but then found the Belmont a bit too far and a bit too tough. His rocky trip didn’t help either, but let’s face it: he never looked like a winner at any point in the race. McLaughlin regrouped and all indications are that this colt has thrived since arriving at Saratoga. The neat thing is that you might finally get him at a reasonable price with Kensei and ‘Warrior’s signed on. Expecting a huge run from right off the pace and I’ll admit to drinking Team McLaughlin’s Kool-Aid and tab him as my top selection.
6. Miner’s Escape: Big score in the Tesio but he was then thrown to the wolves in the Belmont. Nice to see Velazquez take the mount and this colt figures to show some early foot, but he’s up against it.
7. Convocation: He kind of sucked up for the second in the Dwyer and certainly benefited when ‘Warrior’s blew the break. That said, it was his first start versus winners and he certainly didn’t have to run as big as he did. Another who will look for his first two-turn win in here and he got no favors from this outside draw either. Siding against for win honors.
Race 11: $30,000 claimer for 3-year-olds and up on the inner turf at 1 1/16 miles.
2. Carry The Day: He should appreciate the drop in class but even his best race to date probably wouldn’t be good enough to threaten this group, which came up pretty tough for 35k.
3. Classic Impact: His 1-for-33 record pretty much says all you need to know, and considering that win came in 2007, we’ll keep looking.
4. Cardiff Road: Disanto has struggled this year but he knows what he’s doing and is capable of pulling off a surprise up here. Freshened since a pair of Belmont runs and now drops into a spot he should be comfortable with. Those shopping for a price could do worse than landing here.
5. Actor’s Grove: DiPrima is one of the most astute trainers at playing the claiming game, so it’s quite possible this guy is ready to run a big one today. Nice to see him reach off for a name rider in Albarado, too, and though he does step up in class this son of Johar could surprise.
6. Liscarroll: He’s got a few solid turf efforts to his credit but they came prior to a recent 13-month layoff. His comeback at Belmont wasn’t any great shakes, but he’s is eligible to improve. Weaver takes the hood off, a big move for the barn (29%), and if he can remember back to his ’08 form, he’ll be a player in here.
7. Key Victory: He’s 1-for-20 and his desire can be questioned a bit, but he did run a few decent races at Belmont. Stretches back out to two turns and has the speed to be in the mix from the opening bell. Worth a look if you’re spreading deep in the finale.
1. Hype: Every year Pletcher essentially gives away a horse or two in these cheap claimers and you go in knowing you shouldn’t play him yet can’t resist it. And that’s exactly what you have here with this stakes-placed 3yo. He’s going to be about 2-1 in a big field and might run off and win for fun, but you have to remember he’s in for 35k for a reason, so I’ll respect him but look to beat him on the win end.
8. Stevil: He’ll get a lot of attention because he was a fine third to Barbaro’s full brother Nicanor at Del Park in his lone turf try. But looking a bit deeper, you see Zito is 0-for-28 on turf the past three years and 0-for-18 on a dirt-to-turf move. So yeah, this guy hits hard, but are you interested in taking 2-1 on this 1-for-17 runner? A must-use in the Pk4 but worth trying to beat on the win end.
9. Chinese Whisper: Another who seems allergic to the winner’s circle but will be well-backed at the windows. His three tries in the claiming ranks this year have resulted in three runner-up finishes, albeit versus solid foes. He’s in the mix, but I wouldn’t want to take too short of a number.
10. White Holiday: Deep closer takes a steep drop in class and invades the Spa for a trainer who has struggled this season. Runners like this often leave themselves at the mercy of the pace, but there might be enough speed signed on to flatter his late run. Adds to the list of contenders.
11. Lt.jg Ramsey: Enters after breaking his maiden against claimers in his second lifetime start and that’s significant because he’s yet to show he hates to win, which some others in here have gone out of their way to prove. Steps up and drew poorly, but with only two lifetime starts it’s very possible he’s still got a lot of room for improvement. Adds to the list of contenders in a real toughie to round out the sequence.
12. Good Question (MTO): Ran OK in the slop in his last, but even if he starts on the main, there are a few others who seem to have more talent.
1a. Pluto (MTO): Speaking of Pletcher giving one away; they paid a cool $1 million for this guy and now you can have him for 35k, so right away the caution flag is raised. I saw him in person for his last at Del Park and was hardly impressed, so I wouldn’t take a short number even if he gets to face some turf runners playing his game.
13. Budget: The last time he raced on the main track was in the slop at Fair Grounds and it resulted in a quick maiden score from off the pace. A repeat of that performance, should he meet the starter, would make him tough to deny.
Brian’s Pk4 play: I’ll throw out two of them because I have a feeling the nightcap will be rained off.
If on turf ($48): 2,5,6—6,10—5—1,4,5,6,8,9,10,11
If on dirt ($30): 2,5,6,11,12—6,10—5—8,11,13