Saratoga spot plays for 8.8.14

Welcome to week three 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!

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 1: $20,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, six furlongs on the dirt

Selections: Bobby Jo (6), Wild Kay (4), Pura Vida Zen (1)

Bobby Jo was claimed for $25,000 last out, and drops here first off the claim.  Trainer Rudy Rodriguez has won 13 of 32 times he has dropped a horse first off the claim, showing that his horses are live when he does so.  Pacewise, this mare has run well from either a stalking or a closing pace.  In a race where there is only one dyed-in-the-wool early speed but several others who may attempt to challenge, this versatility will serve her well.  Bobby Jo is also a proven runner at Saratoga: in two starts at the Spa, she has a win and a third-place finish.  Wild Kay is the one known speed horse in this field.  If neither Pura Vida Zen nor Heir to Dare chooses to challenge her on the front end, she could go wire to wire.  Her speed is perfectly competitive here, and she has six wins and another six on-the-board finishes in nineteen starts at this distance.  She is taking a step up from last out, but she also did not get the pace setup she wanted in that race.  Wild Kay has a strong chance to get the setup she needs to win at a great price.  Pura Vida Zen breaks from the rail, a position from which she has run well in the past.  If she does not choose to challenge Wild Kay for the lead, she should still not be very far away in the early stages.  That will be fine for her, since she has won from a stalking place.  Her speed is strong for the field, and she ran well in her only start over the track.  She is taking a move up in class from her last start, but has enough speed and affinity for six furlongs to contend here.

Race 6: $35,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N3L, 1 1/8 miles on the dirt

Selections:  Piscesbymoonlight (4), Betweenhereandcool (1), Denzel (6)

Piscesbymoonlight is the only real frontrunning horse in this field.  Winter Games fell into the lead last out, but is not likely to do that again.  His early pace is not as good as Piscesbymoonlight’s is, he rises in class from his last start, and his last out was such a step up from his previous performances that he risks to bounce.  Distance-wise it is a stretch from his last, but he has hit the board at nine furlongs.  Piscesbymoonlight is dropping to the lowest level of his career, making his first run in straight claiming company.  He could wire this easier company, and do so at a price.  Betweenhereandcool should stay within a few lengths of the pace, and not be too compromised by the likely lack of early zip.  His speed is very good for the field, and even though he raced at this same level last out, he has some back class: he missed last year’s Iowa Derby (GIII) by just a neck.  He has only tried nine furlongs once, a distant fourth behind Departing in last year’s West Virginia Derby (GIII).  This company is easier.  He is third off the lay with Rosie Napravnik aboard, and stands a good chance here.  Denzel (6) rises in class here, and is stretching out to the longest race of his career.  However, his pedigree suggests the distance is worth trying, as he is out of an A. P. Indy mare.  His trainer Steve Klesaris wins at 21% first off the claim, and his speed is consistently good for this higher level.  With respect to the pace, he has shown some success either closing or stalking, so if he tries a stalking run again, he stands a chance.  The biggest negative to him is his tendency to come in second: he has two wins in nineteen starts, but eight second-place finishes.  I will give Klesaris a chance to try to shake this up, though, with the radical change in distance.

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