Welcome to my second week of Saratoga spot plays!
For this summer’s Saratoga season, Emily White suggested a friendly contest. We all handicap Fridays at Saratoga, pick a horse in each race, and see who has the best ROI. It’s interesting because it’s different: I am quite familiar with the Chicago-area circuit, but far less so with New York racing. Hopefully this contest will give me a bit better insight into a few more horses.
As this contest goes on, I’m going to discuss a few interesting races from each Friday’s card here. It won’t be the whole card, just a couple of interesting spots. However, in true Blinkers Off style, these spot plays will include race analysis…after all, our teachers always told us to show our work! Today, it looks at a couple of N2L claiming races in which I have an opinion about a longer shot.
If there are any races I don’t cover in here that you’d like to ask about, feel free to leave a comment or send me a message on Twitter, and I would be happy to discuss my thoughts on other Friday races at Saratoga. Good luck!
Race 5: $16,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, six furlongs on the dirt
Selections: Herd Mentality (7), Stowe (4), Sir Newcastle (12)
Herd Mentality comes in here on a drop from $30,000 N2L company at Churchill, where he never quite got it done. He is winless since last August — but, his one career win was at seven furlongs over the Saratoga dirt last summer. He can handle the track. He is working back at Saratoga this year, and his moves have been more than respectable for this class level. Finally, trainer Steve Asmussen means business with his shippers, winning at 22% of the time. Herd Mentality wouldn’t be here if his trainer did not think he could clear this condition today. Stowe faltered last out in a starter allowance, but two back ran well enough in a $20,000 maiden claimer to show he can threaten this mostly weak N2L field. He switches back to jockey Taylor Rice, who got him home for his maiden win back in May. He also showed the ability to rate in that win, helpful since there is so much cheap, unratable speed in the field. Sir Newcastle is interesting not for the win, but for use in intra-race exotics. He is 1-21 lifetime, and may not exactly like to win. However, he has finished second eleven times and third four times. This field is a bit tougher than who he has faced most recently at Parx, but even at higher levels ($40,000 N2L, $25,000 starter allowance) there, he consistently fights his way to the money. If he handles the ship well, he has a good chance to do that again; with all the speed in the race, he does tend to come from a few lengths off and will not likely get embroiled in a duel. Especially if he looks good in the paddock, like he handled the ship to the Spa well, consider using or even keying him on the undersides of intra-race exotics.
Worth a mention here is Brendan G (11), the Todd Pletcher entry. Pletcher may own the Spa, but one of the ways to find value is in being able to toss a likely short-priced horse from a prominent or high-percentage trainer. Brendan G is worth taking a stand against in the win slot. He has run at six furlongs seven times. He has been on the board all seven times — but never won at the distance. The eleven hole does his speedy style no favours, and Get Busted has a good chance of snagging the front end inside of him. There are plenty of times to respect the Toddster, but this is a good time to set him aside.
Race 7: $40,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, five and a half furlongs on the turf
Selections: Distorted Dream (1), Shore Runner (8), Soul House (7)
There is a decent amount of early speed in this race, and Distorted Dream will be right up along the front. However, his early pace gives him a strong chance to be the speed of the speed, and the rail has been extremely good in turf sprints. He is dropping in class here from a starter allowance that had been washed off the turf, and he missed by less than two lengths back at this distance on the turf two back. Furthermore, it is his first start for a Chris Englehart barn that wins 22% of the time (and is in the money 60% of the time) for horses making their first start for the outfit. There are enough questions about this horse that chalk would not make sense to take, and it’s true that Englehart tends to do better up at Finger Lakes than at the Spa. For anything at or above his 8/1 morning line, though, that’s a perfectly good price at which to bet that his early pace will take him home along the rail. Shore Runner is another one coming in here on a class drop; he missed by just half a length in N1X allowance company last out. Two back, he missed by a neck at this level going seven furlongs. This class is just right for him, and his speed is strong given the field. Cornelio Velazquez rides, and he and trainer Linda Rice have won at a 26% clip over the last two months. If the speed along the front implodes somewhere along the five and a half furlongs, Soul House could be the beneficiary. He drops for a tag for the first time of his career. This is his first time running on turf at such a short distance, but he did break his maiden at five and a half furlongs over the Saratoga dirt. Last out he ran in a state-bred N1X allowance at six furlongs over the Belmont turf, and missed by just half a length. He comes into this race third off the layoff, and if he improves off of that race, he could be tough if he reverts to the closing style that won his maiden race.