Last year, I handicapped Saratoga every Friday, and periodically posted my favourite spot plays throughout the summer. This year I plan to do something similar, though it will not be restricted to Fridays. Since I am playing Huddie, and that requires picking spots all through the weekend, descriptions of my favourite spots will be peppered throughout the weekends.
This evening, my fannish tendencies and my handicapping logic did not quite see eye-to-eye:
Friday, July 24
Race 7: Allowance ($85,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $10,000 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state bred OR N2L, one and three sixteenths miles over the turf
I mentioned this race earlier in the week due to the presence of Bishop’s Pond (5). I stand by what I said about her being live in the race. She has a win going slightly longer, and trainer Chad Brown tends to mean well at the Spa. Though she loses rider Junior Alvarado to Trophee, new rider Javier Castellano is no slouch.
Still, in a card full of interesting and contentious fields, no one on the Saratoga opening day card screams “bet me!” louder than Asperites (8).
This race has very little speed. J. Quirk (6) has shown a bit in a “front end by default” situation, but she is by no means a speed horse, and looks a bit over her head here. Dating Lady Luck (13) also drew in off the also-eligible list, so she could be near the front end as well. The pace hardly stands to be hot, so a runner who will not have too much to do late appeals.
Asperites, an Irish-bred who clunked around in French handicap company before shipping here for this spring, disappointed in her first start on Amrerican shores. She finished a well-beaten fifth in a turf mile at Gulfstream first off the ship. However, second off it, she found her stride. She stalked relatively close to an honest but not blazing pace, and kicked clear to beat a twelve-horse field by three lengths. That style should help her here, and figure-wise that last start puts her competitive against this set. It has been long since she has tried a distance near this long, but she has not tried it against American foes yet, and her breeding (Danehill Dancer out of a Darshaan mare suggests that she should be able to find that stamina. After all, her Rock of Gibraltar half-brother, Mandore, won going longer than this.
Class is the question. That last start was against easier — $30,000 beaten claimers at Churchill. However, she was claimed out of that race by Mike Maker. Maker wins at 24% first off the claim, and 24% with shippers. Last year, he tended to be live at Saratoga, as well. Out of 59 starters at the Spa last summer, he had 12 winners, and another 16 runners in the money. The best of that came on grass: in 39 turf starts, he won 11 times with another 12 runners on the board.
Asperites looks well placed first off the claim by Maker. The field will be the toughest she has seen in the States, but the mid-range price (6/1 on the morning line) and the relative pace advantage should provide the necessary value.