Picks & Plays for Monday, September 4
- by David Aragona
Visit TimeformUS to view this card’s Highlight Horse and get PPs.
Race 1: 7 - 5 - 2 - 9
Race 2: 8 - 6 - 3 - 7
Race 3: 5 - 2 - 4 - 3
Race 4: 3 - 2 - 1 - 6
Race 5: 3 - 6 - 4 - 10
Race 6: 1 - 6 - 9 - 3
Race 7: 2 - 10 - 6 - 5
Race 8: 10 - 8 - 9 - 4
Race 9: 3 - 8 - 4 - 5
Race 10: 10 - 6 - 9 - 5
Race 11: 8 - 12 - 11 - 7
FAIR VALUE PLAYS
(Fair Value: These are the odds at which I could reasonably bet each of the horses listed. Wagering decisions should be based on the actual odds. The best value option will not necessarily be the top pick.)
As connections try to get a final start in before the end of this Saratoga meet, it’s interesting to note that 3 of the runners in the main body of this field are actually fillies facing males. Among those are two who could take plenty of money. Marco T. (#5) ran well on debut in May, chasing home a couple of fillies with ability, including Sam’s Treasure, who won her next start on dirt. It helps that she’s moving into New York-bred company this time, but she’s been off for a while and figures to take plenty of money with that exposed turf form. Another filly, Red Burgundy (#2) also has some prior experience, though she’ll be getting on the grass for the first time. She showed good speed on debut before fading. Yet she is supposed to appreciate this surface switch, by Noble Mission and a half-sister to multiple turf winner Collaboration. Linda Rice sends out Wine Responsibly (#9), who might be most interesting of the first time starters. This one has been working pretty well, and the dam did win her debut sprinting on grass before turning out to be more of a dirt horse. My top pick at a big price is first time turfer Dixie Pharaoh (#7). I like the progeny of American Pharoah on the turf, and he’s a 12% turf sprint sire. There isn’t an abundance of grass pedigree on the dam’s side, but this one strikes me as one that might handle the surface. He has some good extension and float to his stride, and he seemed to move much better over that sealed track on debut than he did a harrowed track last time. That can sometimes be indicative of a horse with turf inclination, and he figures to be a price for sharp connections.
#7 DIXIE PHARAOH, at 8-1 or greater
If she repeats her last race, Just Katherine (#3) will be too strong for this group to handle. She went off as a price in that 4-horse Wilton, but was the only one within hailing distance of winner Randomized at the end. She was also the only horse to make up any ground in a race dominated on the front end through moderate fractions. The concern is that she was clearly geared up to run her best race that day, and now she’s coming back nearly two months later with just one workout showing. The connections have opted to forgo some tougher stakes assignments for this allowance race going 9 furlongs. The distance is also a real question mark for her, as a daughter of Justify. I want to go in a different direction and look to some fillies exiting the Aug. 9 race at this level. Coppa Girl (#6) narrowly lost a photo finish that day after being hard ridden to secure a brief lead in mid-stretch. She had been somewhat unlucky in the first two starts of her career, but put it all together to break her maiden two back before that solid allowance try. She makes sense, but I’m more interested in a horse who finished behind her last time. Raging Sea (#8) was overbet on that occasion, going off at even-money based primarily on her 2-year-old form. She didn’t show much progression in that first start off the layoff, but she also didn’t get the easiest trip. Without much pace signed on, she was forced to set the pace, which surely wasn’t the connections’ preference. This time she’s drawn outside all of her main rivals and can sit a better stalking trip. She gets Lasix for the first time, and she’s always been cut out to go these longer distances, so I like the stretch-out for her more than anyone else.
#8 RAGING SEA, at 5-2 or greater
The filly Voleuse (#4) takes on the boys here in this New York-bred maiden race, and she appears to fit pretty well. She had run deceptively well in the first two turf starts of her career before her connections focused on dirt for a series of races. She finally got back on grass off the layoff last time and showed her affinity for the surface. Yet she wasn’t facing the strongest field that day and seemingly had the run won in upper stretch before hanging in the late stages. She’s a little tough for me to endorse in this spot off that performance, though she does have a right to move forward second off the layoff. Among her main rivals is Scherzando (#6), who may get somewhat dismissed here due to his 0 for 18 lifetime record. However. He’s only made 5 of those starts on turf, and is clearly best on this surface. I think he has a chance to cause the upset, though he really needs the trip to workout, as he does have a tendency to hang. I’m also mildly intrigued by the unfortunately named first time starter Sondsliksomdiniddo (#10). This gelding is a full-brother to the ill-fated Butter Lou, who did win his only start sprinting on turf. He appears to be training decently and will be a price in here. My top pick is Okaloosa (#3) as he gets on turf for the first time. I thought this horse was training pretty well for his debut two weeks ago, but he was obviously more turf meant despite staying in that off the turf race. He actually ran a nice race, stalking the pace before making a menacing move up the rail, only to flatten out late. His dam was strictly a turf horse who won 3 times on this surface. Horacio De Paz has good numbers with second time starters, and I think this horse is going to take a step forward getting on grass.
#3 OKALOOSA, at 3-1 or greater
There are many ways to go in this competitive state-bred allowance affair. The one they all have to beat is Overacting (#7), who did win her debut in an unconventional fashion, running off on the front end before coming back to the field, only to kick on late. It’s hard for me to gauge the quality of that race, since most of the runbacks came in an off the turf race last week. She got very keyed up prior to the start that day, as the field was sent right to the gate with no warm-up as they tried to run the race around a rainstorm. She used that nervous energy to her advantage that day, but I wonder if she’ll be as effective using that same style here. She’s also drawn outside of her main pace rival Spooky Lady, who seems more likely to secure that coveted rail position. The main rival for the Chad Brown runner is Waterville (#10), who put in a strong effort to close for second at this level two back. She got a great tri that day, but still did well to close in a race dominated towards the front end. Her last start was a little disappointing, but she was always too far back and actually ran on well towards the end. I expect her to do better here with Flavien Prat taking over again. There are some others who participated in that July 15 event, including Sals Dream Girl (#5), who could never really mount a rally after trying to make up ground outside. My top pick is the last-place finisher in that July 15 affair. Sweetest Princess (#2). The trip didn’t work out for her, as she was forced to race wide every step of the way after breaking from an outside post position. She had run much better than that in all of her prior turf starts, yet had been similarly unlucky on both April 8 and May 29, sustaining wide trips on each of those occasions as well. She actually bounced back a bit on dirt last time, and now returns to her preferred surface after being claimed by a new barn. She’s finally drawn an advantageous inside post position and figures to fly under the radar.
#2 SWEETEST PRINCESS, at 8-1 or greater
Win for Gold (#8) has to be considered the horse to beat as he moves into this New York-bred allowance race after finally winning his starter allowance condition in his 6th consecutive attempt last time. He’s been in strong form for a while now, but just kept finding a superior rival in those races. He put it all together against the right field on Aug. 17, earning a career-best 115 TimeformUS Speed Figure. A repeat of that performance will make him tough to beat, but I do wonder if he might have a regression coming as he runs back in just 18 days. Be the Boss (#6) might also attract some support off a solid effort at this level last time. However, I’m a little concerned about the turnback to 6 furlongs for him. He’s never run quite this short on the dirt, and he prefers to be forwardly placed in a race that features plenty of other speed, including Win for Gold. Callaloo (#9) would be a strong option to com running late if not for the layoff. It’s just a little hard to trust him to come back into top form in his first race in over 5 months, but he’s certainly capable on his best day. My top pick is Always Charming (#10). This isn’t the type of horse I usually go for, since there’s a chance he could take some of that Irad Ortiz money. I think he’s just a very logical, likely winner of this race. He’s shown a propensity to break a step slowly in his last couple of starts, and I think that negative trait could be mitigated by the outside draw on this occasion. He ran very well behind a razor sharp Ocean’s Reserve two back, and then last time didn’t get an ideal trip when caught in behind horses for much of the stretch drive. He looks like the one to beat to me, and he might not go favored.
#10 ALWAYS CHARMING, at 3-1 or greater
This Hopeful is one of the strongest editions of this race that I can ever remember. Not only does there appear to be some serious talent in this field, but it’s a fascinating race to handicap, with many viable options. Muth is no longer one of those, as he was scratched this morning, leaving just one Bob Baffert trainee in this field. Mission Beach (#4) seems like he might have more developing to do, but he didn’t run that fast on debut, and I think others are more interesting. Timberlake (#5) will surely attract plenty of support as he makes his stakes debut for Brad Cox. This colt didn’t get the right trip on debut when hung out wide in a rail-dominated race, but he put it all together with the blinkers added last time. He spurted away early and never looked back, drawing off to a powerful score. His 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure is tied with Muth for the highest number in the field. Furthermore, he’s been working exceptionally well since that race, turning in one of the most impressive drills I’ve seen all summer on Aug. 20. That said, he figures to get bet off those workouts, and I think others may offer better value. Steve Asmussen has a strong pair of contenders. Valentine Candy (#9) won his debut in gritty fashion, as he rocketed out of the gate, set a contested pace, and turned away multiple challengers. That initially looked like a slow race, but the TimeformUS Speed Figure has since been revised to reflect how strong the runbacks have been. He showed stamina to survive that pace scenario on debut, so I’m not too concerned about the stretch-out. Gold Sweep (#6) also merits strong consideration. He was all the rage after winning the Tremont so impressively, but he metaphorically stubbed his toe when disappointing as a heavy favorite in the Sanford. He did have a legitimate excuse, stumbling at the start, which put him out of position throughout. I think we’re going to see a much better effort his time, and all the speed signed on here should suit him. My top pick is Be You (#10). He's the only maiden in this field, but still ran well enough on debut to win most of the maiden races at this met. The 106 TimeformUS Speed Figure he was assigned for that narrow loss to today’s rival Just Steel was arguably flattered earlier this week when Locked returned to win so impressively. Whereas Be You was drawn the rail in that first start, Just Steel had the 10 post position and took advantage of it. This time the post positions are reversed, and I think that’s going to help Be You settle into the race. He has worked well since that race, going slightly better than Sapling winner Noted in that Aug. 19 drill. He’s supposed to love the extra furlong of this race, and doesn’t need to progress much to beat this field.
#10 BE YOU, at 3-1 or greater
#9 VALENTINE CANDY, at 9-1 or greater
There isn’t that much turf form on which to base opinions in this state-bred maiden finale. Lt. Mitchell (#11) has clearly run the best turf races of anyone, having hit the board in his last couple of outings on grass. He encountered some minor traffic trouble in the stretch of that June 1 event at this level before running on for third. He participated in a couple off the turf races earlier in the meet, but got back on grass last time and put in another respectable showing. He got a good trip stalking a moderate pace but just couldn’t see it out. He makes sense here against what might be a softer field, but I didn’t want to settle for a short price on him. Chad Brown sends out one of the wild cards in here in first time starter Fake Celebrity (#5). There is some turf pedigree here, but it’s not as if he’s overwhelmingly bred for this surface. Practical Joke is just a 6% turf route sire, according to DRF Formulator’s sire stats. The dam did win on the turf and place in a stakes on grass, but her best foal Brooklyn Strong was a dirt router. He’s likely to take money by default and I want to look elsewhere. Among the first time turfers, Scaramanga (#12) might be most interesting. He’s by good all around sire Munnings, and the dam was a 6-time winner on turf who was strictly a grass horse, not running nearly as well on dirt. He’s faded in all of his dirt races, but he might have needed this switch to turf all along. My top pick is Chulligan (#8). He’s another who is fairly inexperienced on grass, with just one prior start over the surface. That came off a layoff last time at Belmont, and the trip just didn’t work out for him. He broke fine, but then got steadied back a few strides away from the gate, relegating him to the back of the pack early. He tried to advance around the turn, but got forced to move prematurely by a rival to his outside and then got squeezed back between horses while in the midst of his run. He probably needed that start off a long layoff, and now he’s coming back for the second race of his 3-year-old season against what appears to be a softer field. He’s certainly bred to move forward on turf.
#8 CHULLIGAN, at 3-1 or greater