Picks & Plays for Monday, September 6
by David Aragona
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Race 1: 4 - 1 - 6 - 3
Race 2: 6 - 7 - 4 - 1A
Race 3: 4 - 2 - 1 - 3
Race 4: 6 - 7 - 2 - 3
Race 5: 7 - 8 - 6 - 3
Race 6: 8 - 7 - 6 - 11
Race 7: 2 - 4 - 6 - 9
Race 8: 7 - 2 - 10 - 3
Race 9: 7 - 5 - 2 - 8
Race 10: 2 - 6 - 8 - 10
Race 11: 4 - 6 - 2 - 3
Race 12: 2 - 6 - 4 - 5
RACE 1: I’M PERFECT TOO (#4)
Equal Pay may go favored yet again after getting eased to the wire as the 6-5 choice last time. She was going to win her debut quite easily, as she was opening up past the quarter pole. Yet she appeared to stumble over herself in upper stretch and lost Irad Ortiz. It’s understandable that she took so much money off that race in her next start, but she never looked comfortable over the muddy track. She trains like a horse with a ton of speed, but she is extremely headstrong – to the point that may be detrimental. I won’t be surprised if she wires the field, but don’t want a short price on her. Looking beyond the Chad Brown trainee this is a pretty weak field. Mun Luv has had her chances and Big City Momma, despite selling for a large price tag as a yearling, has yet to show much in her races. I’m taking a shot against these with the New York-bred I’m Perfect Too. This might seem like an ambitious placement against open company at first glance, but she actually fits quite well here off her first race. She was absolutely clobbered at the start that day, as she got slammed from both sides. She dropped far out of contention immediately after that incident, but she launched a strong run around the far turn and nearly got up for the victory. She’s stepping up in class, but that effort indicates she has some ability. Tom Albertrani is 13 for 98 (13%, $2.52 ROI) with maiden second time starters over the past 5 years.
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 1,3,6
RACE 3: NO WORD (#4)
This Bernard Baruch has only drawn five entrants, but all of them are serious contenders. Tell Your Daddy may be the horse to beat and the one to catch as he figures to go to the lead from the rail. He got a good trip last time when just second best to gate-to-wire winner Flavius, who was allowed to set a slow pace on the front end. He’s been an excellent claim by Tom Morley, as he was run very well in three of his four starts for this new barn, and had a legitimate excuse for the Poker two back. He’s a major player, but there are some intriguing rivals to his outside, a few of which still have upside. En Wye Cee figures to attract plenty of support off his obvious trip last time when he should have beaten today’s rival L’Imperator, but was boxed in for much of the stretch drive. This Todd Pletcher trainee has never won on turf, but he’s run well in all of his starts on this surface and has the tactical speed to work out the right trip here. I prefer him to closers like L’Imperator and Dreams of Tomorrow, but I’m worried that he’ll be overbet. I’m actually most interested in Pletcher’s other horse No Word. He doesn’t have the speed figure credentials of some others in here, but he showed real talent last year. He was just a half-length behind division leader Domestic Spending in the Saratoga Derby before running a good second in the Belmont Derby. He’s been off the board twice since then, but I thought he ran better than it appears in his return last time. He got rank into the first turn behind a moderate pace and then was just hung out wide every step of the way. He’s better than that and could get somewhat overlooked even in this short field.
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 1,2,3
Trifecta: 2,4 with 2,4 with 1,3,5
RACE 5: ARUBA (#7)
Realm of Law and American Law figure to attract the most support after finishing second and third behind Big Everest in a similar race at this level earlier in the meet. Realm of Law finished a head behind American Law last time but arguably ran the better race after having to swing wide making his move. He definitely has the ability to win at this level but he’s been short prices in all four starts and has been a disappointment. He’s the one to beat, but I can’t take him as the favorite again. American Law arguably has more upside in just his second turf start. He got a great trip last time but he did do well to hold off Realm of Law in the late stages. I like the rider switch to Luis Saez, who figures to be a little more aggressive from the outside post position. They’re the two most likely winners but I don’t anticipate that either one will offer value. I’m most interested in a first time starter. Aruba was entered for a $75k claiming tag earlier in the week but scratched when that race was rained off the turf to participate here instead. I don’t mind that so much considering that he’s a homebred 4-year-old gelding. This runner used to be in Chad Brown’s barn and had trained well on turf down in Florida before getting put away. He’s now resurfaced in Jorge Abreu’s stable, which I don’t mind at all since he’s gotten some live runners that were transferred from Chad Brown. He’s bred to handle turf as a son of Kitten’s Joy and a half-brother to turf winner Robo Man. I like the way he’s been working on dirt, including a recent gate drill in company with Party Line Vote, who won impressively on Sunday.
Exacta Key Box: 7 with 3,6,8
RACE 7: COMMANDPERFORMANCE (#2)
Don’t Wait Up ran well enough to win many Spa maiden events in his debut. He was off about a length slowly and had to advance while racing 4-wide all the way around the far turn. He challenged the winner like he might go by in mid-stretch but lost the bob at the wire. This colt took plenty of money that day to go off at 7-1 for a barn that rarely wins on debut. Tony Dutrow is 3 for 18 (17%, $1.65 ROI) with 2-year-old maiden second time starters on dirt over 5 years, and this was once a key move for him. Power Agenda, who defeated him, runs in the Hopeful later in the day. However he may have to show up again to defeat a few well meant first time starters. The one that appears to have the most ability to me is Commandperformance. This $220k yearling purchase is by 9% juvenile debut sire Union Rags. The dam broke her maiden routing on dirt and was third in the Silverbulletday routing on dirt. She’s produced one winner, Under a Spell, who ran his best race in his career debut. The dam is also a half-sister to minor stakes winner Prodigy Doll. Todd Pletcher is 16 for 86 (19%, $1.60 ROI) with 2-year-old firsters in Saratoga dirt sprints over 5 years, and has had particular success this season. That Aug. 22 drill was in company with 4-year-old Chilean Group 1 winner First Constitution, and this guy was going slightly better. He also worked heads up with Misbehaved (4th on debut on Saturday) on Aug. 29. He appears to have talent.
Exacta Box: 2,4
RACE 10: DEFEND (#2)
This Hopeful is billed as the showdown between Sanford winner Wit and Saratoga Special winner High Oak. They’re clearly the two colts to beat in this race, but they each come in with something to prove. Wit has been visually impressive in his two starts, but he’s faced some weak fields and has yet to run particularly fast. His TimeformUS Speed Figure for the Sanford was just a 97, and that number has held up pretty well based on a few runbacks. He’s going to have to run significantly faster to beat this field, and he will also have to overcome his bad gate habits. He’s broken slowly in both starts to date and overcome it, but he could be compromised if he gives away ground at the start against this tougher competition. High Oak was a somewhat surprisingly dominant winner of the Saratoga Special and did earn a respectable 105 TimeformUS Speed Figure forth that triumph. However, that was not a strong field coming in. He obviously took a big step forward, but now he’s facing a better field and may have to improve again. I respect both of these favorites but I believe they could be underlays. My top pick is the likely speed Defend. This colt earned a strong 103 TimeformUS Speed Figure in his debut at Delaware Park. While he wasn’t facing much that day, he absolutely dominated that race on the front end and won geared down under minimal urging. He’s stepping way up in class but Cathal Lynch has good statistics with this move. Over the past 5 years he is 5 for 13 (38%, $3.80 ROI) with last-out debut winners making their second starts in dirt sprints. I don’t see many true front-runners signed on here, and Luis Saez figures to be aggressive from this inside draw over a track that has been speed-favoring this week.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 6,8,10
Trifecta: 2 with 6,8 with 3,6,8,10
RACE 11: GHOST GIANT (#4)
Early position figures to be of utmost importance in this one-mile allowance event over the inner course with the rails set at 0 feet. King Cause is the horse to beat as he returns from the layoff first off a trainer switch to Mike Maker. He’s drawn perfectly down towards the inside and obviously has prior form that is superior to his rivals. That said, you have to take a relatively short price off the layoff for Mike Maker, whose barn has been relatively cold over the last several weeks at Saratoga. A few runners are exiting a race at this level on Aug. 14. Cold Hard Cash arguably ran the best race that day as he was wide around both turns and only lost by a neck. That was a day when having inside position was an advantage during another period when the rails were down on the inner turf. Despite that wide journey he still finished ahead of today’s rivals Klickitat, who drew a terrible post here, and Atone, who was used to chase the pace that day. I’m using him prominently, but I went in a different direction. My top pick is Ghost Giant, who makes his first start off the claim for Rob Atras. I like the move up in class off the claim for a horse that finished just behind two of today’s rivals at a lower level last time. I also think he’ll appreciate the slight cutback in distance to a mile after tiring late going a more demanding 1 1/16 miles over yielding ground. Ricardo Santana should be able to work out a ground-saving trip from post four, and he has back races that will make him tough, as long as King Cause doesn’t show up with his best effort.
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 2,3,6,7
RACE 12: PATH LESS TAKEN (#2)
The final race of the Saratoga meet is a fascinating affair which features a few fillies coming off trips. The clear horse to beat from my perspective is New York Supreme, who was incredibly unlucky not to win last time out. That Aug. 15 race featured a couple of fillies who cornered very badly on the far turn and this Tom Bush trainee got floated out about 6-wide for much of the bend. According to Trakus she covered 52 more feet than the winner – obviously far greater than the margin of victory. She had run well before fading in her return from the layoff two back and showed much more versatility and stamina last time. She may just be catching the right field now, but you’re not going to get the 6-1 she was last time, as she figures to get bet off that trip. She is more appealing to me than Stella Mars, who moved a little wide last time but was ultimately just second best at this level, and that’s not the first time she’s settled for a minor award. I’m more interested in a different filly out of that July 22 affair. Path Less Taken was last across the wire that day, but she got a subtly poor trip. She actualy broke with the field and was showing good tactical speed early before she got shuffled back around the turn and coming to the quarter pole. She found herself behind a wall of horses in upper stretch, and Junior Alvarado had to steady her a bit and then just eased her to the wire in traffic. She definitely could have attained a higher placing with a clear run, but it is unclear how good she is. Now she gets a rider switch to Chantal Sutherland and can do better at a price.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 4,5,6,7
Trifecta: 2,6 with 2,6 with 4,5,7