Saratoga: The GI, $1 million Travers at 1 ¼ miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 100-40-20-10)
by Brian Nadeau
Brian handicaps at Capital OTB and Horseplayer Now, and he’ll offer analysis and selections of Derby points races, hoping to make us all a little money as we head to the Belmont Stakes. Follow him on Twitter here.
#1 First Line (30-1): Game local MSW winner wheels back just a week and a half off that initial score, so this son of First Samurai is really up against it, albeit for a young Noda barn that is having a breakout meet; in way, way too deep.
#2 Country Grammer (6-1): Stalker was a neck to the good of fellow rival Caracaro in the local GIII Peter Pan last month and, off that breakthrough win, rates as one of the logical upsetters to the favorite, if even possible. Son of Tonalist gives the impression that the added distance should be to his benefit, which might not be the case for some of these, and that alone says he’s worth a look for Brown, who has long had this race atop his wish list. On the face of it he’s a player, but the chalk is rock solid, the guy next door has a world of upside, and even his vanquished rival last time has every reason to run better today, so, needless to say, the hurdles here are sizable; limiting his use to underneath only.
#3 Uncle Chuck (5-2): Dangerous California invader comes east with a purpose for Baffert, who pulled off a similar move a few years back with the lightly raced Arrogate, and this colt actually has better credentials, as he enters off a laugher in the GIII Los Alamitos Derby last month. Now, Arrogate cracked 2:00 minutes in this race and might be in the Hall of Fame one day, so we can’t get too carried away, but there’s obviously talent galore here, and this is a barn that ships and wins with scary ease (think Improbable in last weekend’s local GI Whitney), so you better darn well know that this Uncle Mo colt is here to fire a big, big shot. Whether he can down a seasoned and ultra-talented Tiz the Law is the question, especially off just two starts that came over only seven combined rivals, but there’s no reason to think they won’t know he’s in here off the far turn; plenty scary.
#4 Max Player (6-1): Stretch-runner was along in time to get a “someone had to be third” in the Belmont, and his running style is going to leave him at the mercy of the pace, which doesn’t look overly fast, over a track that isn’t playing to his running style, either. If nothing else, this son of Honor Code should get the distance, and Rice is having a stellar meet while shipping up from Belmont with all her runners, but it’s unlikely that this one adds to the ledger; minor award appears his ceiling.
#5 Shivaree (30-1): Huge longshot looks like the speed here, and that netted this son of Awesome of Course a distant second to ‘Tiz in the GI Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in April for Nicks, but he’s been very subpar since and enters off a no-show 11th in Keeneland’s G2 Blue Grass in June, which makes this an even bigger reach than it would have been three months ago; pop and stop time.
#6 Tiz the Law (1-1): New York-bred did something trainer Tagg and owners Sackatoga Stable wish their Funny Cide was able to do in 2002, and that’s win the Belmont, and this son of Constitution did it in style, too, as he blasted a field that was on the meek side, but sure did it the right way. Versatile sort can be placed anywhere, and this attack post will give Franco an abundance of options into the first turn, while spying the talent of ‘Chuck as well, and the fact that he’s drawn outside that rival is yet another feather in the cap. Fans looking to beat him will wonder if the distance is a bit too far, or if he’s fully cranked between the Belmont and this, especially with the Kentucky Derby looming next month, but the stark reality of it is that this superstar gives little indication that he’s interested in slowing down and figures he might as well add the Midsummer Derby to a resume that could very well have a Triple Crown on it in two months; keeps on keepin’ on.
#7 Caracaro (10-1): Very intriguing sort was asked to do a lot in the Peter Pan, as that was his first start in six months, first against winners, and first at two turns, yet there he was in deep stretch giving the much more seasoned ‘Grammer all he wanted and more. Well, the dust is off and the screws are a lot tighter today, so this son of Uncle Mo won’t be looking around and wondering what he got himself into, especially after showing last time what he’s made of. Delgado may be an unknown to most, but he’s run big in 3yo graded stakes in the past (think Bodexpress and Majesto down in Florida), kept this horse on the grounds instead of shipping him back to his home base at Gulfstream Park West, and will be leading over a runner who appears ready to fire the biggest shot of his life; price players have their hero.
#8 South Bend (15-1): Deep closer was second in the G3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown in his last start for Mott and certainly enters on the improve, for a Hall of Fame barn that rarely runs them where they don’t belong. Son of Algorithms has a running style that suggests the added ground will be within his scope, and that’s more than a few can say in here, but still, this seems like a mighty big ask for a horse that has yet to win a graded stakes; tough to tout.
#6 Tiz the Law
#3 Uncle Chuck
#2 Country Grammer