Picks & Plays for Saturday, August 19
by TimeformUS Analyst David Aragona
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Race 1: 1 - 6 - 8 - 4
Race 2: 12 - 11 - 3 - 8
Race 3: 4 - 5 - 2 - 7
Race 4: 6 - 1 - 3 - 2
Race 5: 9 - 7 - 6 - 4
Race 6: 5 - 8 - 4 - 7
Race 7: 6 - 4 - 9 - 1
Race 8: 6 - 4 - 3 - 1
Race 9: 5 - 7 - 2 - 6
Race 10: 3 - 8 - 2 - 4
RACE 1: MILLS (#1)
Now that this race has been moved to the main track, River Date becomes the likely favorite. The scratch of fellow speed Tashreeh greatly enhances his chances of winning, since he will be able to control the pace on the front end. That said, he was able to set a pretty slow pace in his last start, and still got run down in the late stages. I think this nine-furlong distance is a bit farther than he really wants to go, so I’m taking a shot against him with Mills. He’s been racing on turf most recently, but this horse is certainly capable of winning races at this level on dirt. I know that his recent dirt form looks subpar, but he actually ran better than it appears in a few of those races. He proved that he handles this nine-furlong distance when he was competitive in a tough optional claiming race up here last year. If Angel Arroyo can keep him relatively close to River Date early, I think he can wear that foe down.
RACE 5: BOURBON CURRENCY (#9)
There are some potentially well-meant first-time starters in this race, but the horse that interests me most is second-time starter Bourbon Currency. This horse faced a strong field in his debut and actually put forth a solid effort despite some greenness. He was in the midst of making a decent run into contention coming off the far turn that day, but lost momentum as he ducked inside of a tiring runner at the top of the stretch. His dam was Grade 1 stakes-placed on dirt, and I think he’s the kind of runner that could take a big step forward in his second start. I would use him with the Chad Brown duo of Variant Perception and Allured. The former runner is bred to improve with more distance since his dam is a half-sister to A. P. Indy and Summer Squall, so I slightly prefer Allured, who has more of a sprint pedigree and looked strong breezing a furlong at the two-year-old sale in early March. Kiaran McLaughlin’s First Warrior is also bred to be quick. I supposed you also have to use Todd Pletcher’s firster, Super Sermon, but he’s a homebred that is better bred for turf on the dam’s side.
RACE 6: HOOKUP (#5)
The horse to beat is Meantime, who is dropping out of the Belmont Stakes and returning to a more appropriate distance. If he can run back to his second-place performance in the Peter Pan, he will be awfully tough for this field to beat. However, he faces some additional challenges in this race, as he draws an outside post position going 1 1/8 miles, and must deal with other speed. The Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, which could set things up for a closer. The runner that interests me most is Hookup, who makes his first start off a lengthy layoff for Dave Cannizzo. This colt was extremely impressive when breaking his maiden in his debut at Aqueduct last fall. After getting outrun early, he made a wide, sweeping move to the lead and galloped out strongly once clear in the stretch. I don't know why he didn't show up next time in the Remsen, but he was off for a long time after that so something may have happened. He seems like a horse that should appreciate the distance, and he figures to be fit for this since he's been consistently on the work tab since late April.
RACE 7: ELLERY LANE (#6)
Of the runners with recency, Mom’s On Strike is clearly the horse to beat. I know Vagabond and La Sola Ranger encountered varying degrees of traffic issues in that same race, but I don’t think there’s much doubt that Mom’s On Strike put in the strongest effort after the winner. She was given the impossible task of overcoming a three- to five-wide trip. According to Trakus, she traveled 24 feet farther than winner Ack Naughty, and 63 feet farther than Vagabond, who saved ground despite her trouble. She is very much part of my plays, but I’m taking a shot against her with Chad Brown’s latest import, Ellery Lane. He just has fantastic numbers with runners like this – over the past five years, he is 6 for 10 (60%, $4.90 ROI) with foreign shippers in turf routes at Saratoga. This filly will try stretching out for the first time off the layoff, but she showed her class as a 2-year-old in Ireland, finishing a close fourth to eventual Group 1 winner Roly Poly.
RACE 8: UNI (#6)
The Lake Placid drew a compact but deep and competitive field of fillies. The horse to beat is La Coronel, who returns from a trip to England and looks to reassert her dominance over this division after a pair of early-season victories. However, she may find that some of her rivals have improved in her absence. That includes Proctor's Ledge, who was a dominant winner of the Lake George earlier in the meet. I'll use both of them, but my top pick is Uni, who makes her second start in this country. This filly got a fantastic ride from Irad Ortiz in the Belmont Oaks, but was dealt a bad hand when she broke slowly. This time, I think she can be more forwardly placed in a smaller field, and may even find herself on the lead. After all, she employed front-running tactics successfully in Europe. Furthermore, she handles a softer turf course, and there is some rain in the forecast.
RACE 9: UNCHAINED MELODY (#5)
I know she's not going to offer much value in this race as the morning-line favorite, but I just think that Unchained Melody is poised to assert herself at the top of this division. She has been perfect since stretching out in distance two back, gamely turning away the talented Jamyson 'n Ginger in an allowance race before dominating the Mother Goose last time. In that race, she set a strong early pace before running away from Lockdown in the late stages. She needs to stretch out to two turns for the first time, but I think she finds herself in a favorable situation. The Pace Projector is predicting that she will be the controlling speed, and she's the kind of filly that is perfectly content to settle down on the lead and save energy for the stretch drive. Furthermore, Brian Lynch has great numbers with horses coming off a win in a graded stakes race. Over the past five years, he is 15 for 55 (27%, $2.64 ROI) in such situations.
RACE 10: MISERICORDIA (#3)
This is a pretty competitive race, and I think Misericordia is set to take a step forward and can offer some value. She ran well despite racing a bit greenly at Monmouth in her debut, and then ran better than it seems at Belmont in her next start. She was sent aggressively from the start on the inner turf course, and Mike Luzzi had some trouble reining her in after that, as she expended too much energy in the opening furlongs. That race came apart a bit in the late stages, so I'm not that concerned she was losing ground through the stretch. Now she gets a positive rider switch to Jose Lezcano and can use her tactical speed to take advantage of this inside draw.