Picks & Plays for Monday, September 3
by David Aragona
Race 1: 7 - 5 - 2 - 8
Race 2: 12 - 5 - 8 -
Race 3: 2 - 3 - 7 - 1
Race 4: 7 - 5 - 3 - 1
Race 5: 4 - 10 - 7 - 9
Race 6: 8 - 5 - 4 - 6
Race 7: 10 - 7 - 1 - 6
Race 8: 9 - 6 - 1 - 5
Race 9: 1 - 2 - 5 - 3
Race 10: 7 - 8 - 5 - 2
Race 11: 9 - 10 - 5 - 2
RACE 2: WEGOTOLDYOUGOTSOLD (#12)
McErin is a very likely winner of this race as he drops in class out of much tougher N1X allowance races. My only knock against this horse is that he’s gotten very good trips in his last two starts and hasn’t been able to capitalize on them. He was supposed to win two back at Monmouth and just came up empty in the final furlong. Then last time, he saved ground around the turn, got into the clear at the eighth pole, and just hung. If he runs back to either of those efforts, he’s still likely to beat this field, but I’m not thrilled with him at a short price. There are some other runners with decent turf form in this race, but I want to take a shot with a new face. Wegotoldyougotsold is the type of Mike Maker claim that greatly interests me. Maker has a fantastic record with his turf claims in general, and he does especially well claiming horses with the intention of trying them on turf for the first time. Over the past five years, he is 9 for 29 (31 percent, $4.12 ROI) first off the claim with horses making their turf debuts. This gelding actually has plenty of turf pedigree since he’s a son of The Factor and his dam’s only win came on grass. Digging deeper into his dam’s female family, it’s clear that this is primarily a turf pedigree. While he’s yet to run a particularly fast race, he also has a right to take a big step forward in his second start off the layoff and while getting on the right surface.
RACE 4: WIN WITH PRIDE (#7)
The scratch of favorite Deep Sea makes this race a bit more wide-open. While I don’t think the pace will be fast, I could envision a scenario where Rockford, Joy Drive, and Full Salute all show speed, and that would allow closers like Bitumen and Win With Pride to have fair chances. Bitumen has been in good form recently, and he never had a chance last time when trying to close into a moderate pace over a track that was favoring inside speed. I think he’ll run better this time. I’m using him, but my top pick is Win With Pride. This horse was facing tougher company in many of his recent starts for Ian Wilkes before dropping in for a tag last time. While he disappointed as the favorite that day and was beaten by today’s rival Rockford, I thought he ran much better than it looks. The rail was dead on Aug. 5, and this horse was glued to the inside path for his entire trip. We saw another runner that was inside in the same race, Scarf It Down, come back to win earlier this week, so it’s likely that we’ll see improvement out of this horse today. I like this claim by Chris Englehart, who usually starts the right horses at Saratoga, and I think this distance is perfect for him.
RACE 5: DOMINANT STRATEGY (#4)
I found this race to be very tricky. Kulin Rock probably deserves to be the favorite as he drops in for a tag for the first time in his career. He is getting significant class relief and this race is projected to feature a fast pace, which should help set up his late kick. However, Barclay Tag is just 1 for 13 over the past five years with horses dropping in for a tag for the first time, and this gelding’s recent form does not inspire confidence. Gosilently ran well when defeated by next-out winner Prognostication last time in what was arguably a tougher spot than this. In some ways, he brings the best recent form to this affair, but he appears to be a horse that has an aversion to winning races. Conscripted is an intriguing new face, especially given his running style. Linda Rice does not have very strong numbers off trainer switches on the turf, but this colt has shown some ability. My main problem with him is the series of layoffs after each start, indicating that he probably has some physical issues. Dominant Strategy is not the kind of horse that I would usually land on in this situation, but I think he may just be meeting the right field once again. This horse really took the turf last time when he wired a field of $75,000 maiden claimers on opening day of the meet. He will probably have to run a bit better to win this time, but Chad Brown has an outstanding record in these situations. Over the past 5 years, he is 7 for 12 (58 percent, $3.30 ROI) with last-out maiden winners in N2L claiming races on the turf. This horse doesn’t strike me as one that necessarily needs the lead to win. He drew a good post position for this distance, and he figures to work out an inside stalking trip.
RACE 7: WILD COLONIAL BOY (#10)
Barely Impazible is going to take plenty of money as he returns from a lengthy layoff for Chad Brown. This colt was one of the more exciting New York-bred 2-year-olds last year before heading to the sidelines, as he won his debut in fast time, beating a pair of solid runners in Ultimateenticement and Collective Effort. If he returns in top form, he’s likely to win this race, but Brown doesn’t have the strongest numbers in this situation. Over the past five years, he is 9 for 45 ($1.42 ROI) with horses coming off layoffs of 180 days or more in dirt sprints. His main rival may be Discreet Mission, who ran a legitimately fast race when destroying a field of cheap claimers last time. I’m not sure where that effort came from since I hadn’t loved any of this horse’s prior starts since returning from a two-year layoff this past spring. However, based on that last performance, he’s certainly a player. I’m using him, but the runner who intrigues me most is Wild Colonial Boy. This was a good claim by Linda Rice, who shows a ton of confidence as she steps this runner up in class directly into a protected spot. The ambitious placing is not a total shock given the strength of his performance when he won his maiden last time out. Despite the low claiming tag, he actually was pitted against a decent foe in Giant Boo Boo last time, and he powerfully ran by that one in the final eighth. This horse had shown hints of ability in his first two career starts down at Gulfstream, and I felt that he put it all together last time in his first start with blinkers. I was also encouraged to see that he showed a lot more speed that day. Another outside post is ideal.
RACE 8: FOUR KNIGHTS (#9)
This race is particularly confusing since none of the main contenders brings particularly strong credentials to the table. I suppose Saratoga Colonel is the horse to beat after having run reasonably well at the New York-bred N1X allowance level in two recent starts. His July 11 performance would clearly beat this field, but I didn’t love his most recent start, in which he got a good trip and had no answer in the late stages. Pocket Player comes out of the same race, and I actually prefer him despite the fact that he finished farther back in that Aug. 1 race. I thought that Florent Geroux put him on the rail at the back of the pack, and he could just never get into a position to be competitive. He has prior races that would make him a player here, so I’m definitely using him. Ultimately, I decided to go back to Four Knights, who is fresh off a maiden win at this meet. I had been very interested in him that day off his last start in Kentucky, where he ran much better than his fourth-place finish would indicate. He was stuck behind tiring runners on the turn that day and made up a ton of ground in the lane once Julien Leparoux finally got him into the clear. I liked the tactics that Luis Saez employed in that most recent start, as he sent him to the front in a race without much speed. The horses who finished directly behind him came from off the pace, so it’s not as if he was walking on the lead. He’s going to have to run better to win this race, but I think he might appreciate getting back onto a firmer turf course. Furthermore, there is not a ton of early speed in this spot either, so similar tactics could make him dangerous.
RACE 11: FOREVER RISING (#9)
Since neither Spring Drama nor Super Mama drew into this race, it becomes a wide-open affair where a couple of professional maidens are likely to vie for favoritism. Grand Banks has obviously run well enough to win at this level, but she has shown a real aversion to winning races. That was especially true two back when she didn’t get the best ride, but still had every chance to go by the winner while coming up the rail. Sardonyx has had fewer chances, and she probably deserves a few more chances before she’s written off as another Grand Banks. In her defense, she didn’t have the best of trips two back when she could never get clear when attempting to rally in the stretch. She’s certainly found the right field today. I’m using both, but this race feels like one that could produce a wacky result, so I want to look for a wacky horse. Forever Rising is a longshot that intrigues me. She’s clearly meant for turf, since that’s the surface on which she began her career and her dam was a turf horse. She made a couple of starts for Rudy Rodriguez on the lawn last fall and she didn’t run that badly either time – certainly well enough to make her a player in this race. Since then, she’s been campaigned in cheaper dirt races, primarily due to the fact that there weren’t any turf opportunities during the winter while she was racing. It’s possible that she just can’t run anymore for these current connections, but she’s now coming into this race off a layoff and they take the blinkers off. This is the kind of horse that could wake up in a spot like this, and she’s going to be an inviting price.