by Johnny D
August 19, 2021
Let’s be frank. There’s nothing simple about picking winners. That’s especially true during ultra-competitive Saratoga and Del Mar meetings. Saturday cards at the Spa and Where the Turf Meets the Surf are great examples of how players can find solid horses with real chances to win at great odds. But it’s not easy. Putting 5 winners together in a Pick 5 is an uphill challenge. Anyone who’s tried knows how difficult that can be. And at Saratoga and Del Mar, the task is made even more difficult because the competition in each race runs so deep.
This is the next to last Saturday for Xpressbet’s Fun in the Sun competition and only 10 open seats at the Final Table remain. They will be awarded to the top 5 finishers this week and next. Those fortunate players will join 22 individuals who already own 25 opportunities to play for a $20,000 pot. Make sure to take your best shot to join them by playing Fun in the Sun Saturday. There’s a $25 registration fee and players are asked to make $10 Win wagers on one horse in each of 10 competition races.
Below is one man’s analysis of this week’s Fun in the Run races—the last 5 at Saratoga and the first 5 at Del Mar. Analysis and Selections are made before scratches and changes and are based on fast tracks and firm turf courses.
The ultimate goal of the analysis is to highlight handicapping angles that might help players in quests to conquer wagering challenges, whatever they might be—Win, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta or Fun in the Sun success. Price is important, so use the analysis to look for horses with positive comments and swollen odds.
SARATOGA // RACE 7 (4:29PM ET) // MAIDEN SPECIAL WEIGHT // 6 1/2 FURLONGS (DIRT)
#1 Southern Sense draws the rail in his third start. He’s been a longshot before and should be one again today.
#2 My Prankster is a first-time starter from the Todd Pletcher barn that was purchased for $600k as a yearling. The son of Into Mischief has worked steadily and progressively for this debut. Top jock Luis Saez rides and the colt has two nice four-furlong gate moves.
#3 Tiumphant Road cost $475k as a 2-year-old but has a bit of a sketchy work tab for low-profile connections.
#4 Skate to Heaven is a first-time starting son of Laoban with steady works every seven days for hot trainer Robertino Diodoro, who’s also good with debut runners (22%). David Cohen (3 for 43) rides.
#5 Bellinger is another Todd Pletcher first-time starter. This son of Super Saver has solid works and is ridden by Jose Ortiz—23% with Pletcher.
#6 Seal Beach adds blinkers off a decent first time out over a ‘good’ Spa track. Tyler Gaffalione replaces Javier Castellano and the former is 29% with hot trainer Maker this meeting. He closed ground going five and one-half furlongs and now tries six and one-half panels. Theoretically, that should play to his strengths but it doesn’t always work out that way.
#7 Fromanothamutha was well-beaten last out after bobbling at the start at 10-1 odds. Low-profile trainer Ray Handal adds blinkers for this.
#8 Reserve Currency is a $375k 2-year-old purchase from the Chad Brown stable. He’s been working every 6-8 days and Brown is 18% with first time starters. It should be noted that sire American Freedom has a $6k stud fee, so that 2-year-old price tag suggests this one has shown a lot on the track.
#9 Cogburn has worked every 7 or so days for trainer Steve Asmussen and has drawn a cozy outside post position for his debut. Ricardo Santana rides for his main outfit and they are 19% at the current meeting. This one sports some quick four-furlong moves.
BEST: #2, #5, #8
SARATOGA // RACE 8 (5:03PM ET) // CLAIMING // 7 FURLONGS (DIRT)
#1 Restoring Hope has had 5 different trainers in his 12-race career, all for owner-breeders Gary and Mary West. The 6-year-old has fast races in 2019 but hasn’t been that good recently.
#2 Golani Brigade drops in for a tag for the first time for trainer Chad Brown. That’s always a dangerous move. Add to that this 5-year-old gelding’s 2 for 2 mark at Saratoga and 2 for 3 resume at the distance and he’s the one to beat in here.
#3 Vulcan is a new face on the New York circuit, brought from Churchill Downs by high-percentage trainer Brad Cox. The 3-year-old colt has done his best work over an ‘off’ track at Prairie Meadows.
#4 Identity Politics is a second runner from the Chad Brown stable that drops in for a tag for the first time. Like #2 Golani Brigade, this one appears to handle Saratoga and the distance. He hasn’t won a race since May 2019 and that’s mostly because he’s been facing better and has a closing style that sometimes just misses.
#5 Charlie Five O was claimed for $16k last out while winning by more than 8 lengths in May. That was a non-winners of 2 and this is a big step up in class. Trainer Linda Rice plays the claiming game as well as anyone but this is a big ask.
#6 El Sobreviviente was claimed last out for $40k by trainer Mike Maker and he’s 16% with first claims. This colt has spent most of his time racing at Indiana, Turfway and Churchill. He races from off the pace and will need to step up his game to defeat this group.
#7 Striking Speed starts for hot trainer Rob Atras, has a win and a second in 3 Spa starts and comes off a troubled allowance race over a ‘good’ track. The 4-year-old gelding will be ridden by Santana and the barn has done well with him. This is just the second start under Atras and the drop in class should help his chances.
#8 American Rule seems overmatched in here for 1 for 37 trainer Peter Tournas and an 0 for 12 apprentice jockey.
#9 Thereisastormbrewin has speed and an outside draw for 0 for 22 trainer Michele Nevin. This 5-year-old gelding was claimed for $35k last time out. Just 2 wins in 17 starts with 5 seconds and 4 thirds suggests that an in-the-money finish is most likely.
#10 Respect for All cuts back from a one mile and one-eighth route to this six-furlong sprint. He hasn’t been fast enough in the past to win this.
CHAD ON THE DROP: #2, #5
SARATOGA // RACE 9 (5:39PM ET) // G2 LAKE PLACID S. // 1 1/16 MILES (TURF)
#1 Illiogame has two turf starts and has handled it well enough. He broke maiden three back at Keeneland and then won a first-level allowance race at Churchill. She was not a factor in the Gr. 2 Mother Goose. She would be a surprise in the winner’s circle.
#2 Technical Analysis is fit and sharp off a Gr. 3 Lake George going one mile on Spa grass. That upset win at 7-1 was his third win in five starts. He’s also 2 for 3 at the distance. Jose Ortiz returns in the saddle for Chad Brown and they’re a sparkling 23% out of 40 starters at the meeting.
#3 Ego Trip is a maiden that just missed first out in this country after a troubled start and a late flurry. Maidens aren’t usually great plays against winners in stakes, so we’ll pass on this one.
#4 Runaway Rumour closed to be fourth in the Gr. 3 Lake George last out. Before that she won the Wild Applause at Belmont, a state-bred allowance and a state-bred maiden race. Three wins in 4 starts is an excellent record for a hot trainer in Jorge Abreau (24%). She may be at the mercy of a slow pace in this short field.
#5 Lovestruck won the first two starts of her career before fading last out in the Wild Applause at Belmont. That was her first race since November, so she may have needed the outing. Johnny V. takes over for Junior Alvarado and will have this filly either on or near the early pace. There doesn’t seem to be much pace in this race and trainer Mott has had a solid meeting.
#6 Spanish Loveaffair is the most experienced filly in the field with 8 lifetime starts, mostly in graded stakes races, including the mile and one-quarter Gr. 1 Belmont Oaks last out and the Gr. 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf last November. She’s a Grade 3 stakes winner and was Grade 2 placed at 2. It’s a bit unusual that jockey Tyler Gaffalione moves from this filly, trained by solid client Mark Casse, to #3 Ego Trip conditioned by Brendan Walsh. Santana takes over in the saddle.
NEW YORK BRED STAR: #4
OTHERS TO FEAR MOST: #2, #5
SARATOGA // RACE 10 (6:13PM ET) // G1 ALABAMA S. // 1 1/4 MILES (DIRT)
#1 Crazy Beautiful is on a roll with two consecutive wins—Gr. 2 Summer Oaks at Santa Anita and Gr. 3 Delaware Oaks—and three triumphs in her last 4, including the Gr. 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks. She like to race just off the early pace and then launch her bid. She’s been first or second in 8 out of 10 starts and has earned $700k. While talented and sharp, this is a step up for her.
#2 Will’s Secret fits with these off a pair of third-place finishes behind favored Malathaat in the Gr. 1 Ashland and Gr. 1 Kentucky Oaks. A similar finish is about the best we can expect in here.
#3 Clairiere has been close to #6 Malathaat and #4 Maracuja and has been in the money in 6 out of 7 starts. Trainer Steve Asmussen rides Irad Ortiz for the third time and it could be the charm. She races just off the pace and is a Gr. 2 winner. She moved early against #6 Malathaat and then faded to third. A more patient ride can be expected.
#4 Maracuja upset the applecart in the Gr. 1 Coaching Club of America Oaks at nearly 15-1 odds. That race was over the Saratoga surface and, if she improved over the track, she could be a threat right back for trainer Rob Atras. On the other hand, she couldn’t keep pace with #6 Malathaat in the Gr. 1 Kentucky Oaks.
#5 Played Hard is razor sharp right now with back-to-back wire-to-wire wins at Churchill and Saratoga. She will use her speed again under jockey Luis Saez. A :59 2/5 bullet best of 35 on August 7 reinforces this filly’s sharpness. No doubt, this is a tougher group and this filly will need to go faster early than she has before. That pressure might cause her to crack.
#6 Malathaat clearly is the one to beat in here. She’s a multiple Gr. 1 winner and was a head loser to #4 Maracuja last out. That was her first loss in 6 starts for trainer Todd Pletcher. She’s got a style that keeps her within striking distance. It’s difficult to get around her in here but she’ll be an extremely short price off a loss to another filly in this race.
#7 Army Wife is another hot filly with two consecutive wins and three victories out of her last four starts. She won the Gr. 2 Black Eyed Susan and the Gr. 3 Iowa Oaks her last two times out. Tyler Gaffalione takes over for the west coast bound Joel Rosario. Trainer Maker and jockey Gaffalione are successful together at 29% this meeting.
SEARCHING FOR AN UPSET: #3, #5
SARATOGA // RACE 11 (6:47PM ET) // MAIDEN SPECIAL WEIGHT // 1 MILE (TURF)
#1 Gauff is a first-time starter by highly-rated European sire Siyouni and trained by Brad Cox. If he ran well, it wouldn’t surprise.
#2 Good Talk has started at huge odds twice and probably will be a longshot again.
#3 Epona Bay is a first time starter by American Pharoah for Ken McPeek. The trainer is not known for being strong with debut runners.
#4 Split Then Double is one of two Chad Brown runners in this race. He’s been second twice and third once in just four starts. He was favored last out in a race common to several runners in here. He’s got the highest last race Beyer Figure and has improved speed ratings in each start. He failed as favorite last out and will be strongly backed again.
#5 Gailhorsewind adds blinkers for Linda Rice. She’ll stretch out to one mile after four turf sprints. She’s a late-running sprinter.
#6 Ingress makes a second start for trainer Bill Mott and she’s liable to improve off an ‘even’ performance going one mile over the Spa lawn. That’s the common race to several in here, so she fits.
#7 Miss Bonnie T has had 7 tries around two turns on turf with 3 seconds and 1 third. Another minor award seems most likely.
#8 Rhombique adds Lasix for low-profile conditioner Robert Ribaudo and moves to turf around two turns off a ‘muddy’ sprint. Seems like a longshot in here.
#9 So Enchanting was second last out, her first around two turns for trainer Chad Brown. She hasn’t been off the board in 4 starts, with 3 seconds and 1 third. She deserves respect.
#10 Let’s Go Native makes a second start for trainer Shug McGaughey. She’s been off since June when sixth at this level going one mile on grass. She was 32-1 odds that day and probably will be a big price again.
#11 Mayhap is a first-time starter for low-profile connections breaking from the far outside post. Asking a lot.
CHAD HOLDS THE CARDS: #4, #9
MOTT MAY UPSET: #6
DEL MAR // RACE 1 (5:00PM ET) // MAIDEN SPECIAL WEIGHT // 5 1/2 FURLONGS (DIRT)
#1 Keychain Girl brought $208k as a yearling and has two nice gate works for 14% first out trainer Mark Glatt who is 1 for 1 with jockey Joe Bravo at the meeting. Not hopeless but prefer others.
#2 Ain’t Easy has worked every 7 to 8 days for 12% first out trainer Phil D’Amato and visiting top jock Joel Rosario. It should be noted that D’Amato is 31% with 2-year-olds. A sharp five-furlong gate drill highlights this $400k yearling purchase’s training. Lots to like.
#3 Mirasol is a second-time starter for trainer Bob Baffert, who is 21% in that department and is 30% with 2-year-olds in his last 77 runners. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith returns aboard this daughter of Arrogate. Has to be respected.
#4 Booze Runner invades from Arizona Downs where the $20k yearling purchase has registered fast works for 17% trainer Molly Pearson. This daughter of Gun Runner appears to have speed, but this is a deep field and trainer Pearson is not known to win first time out.
#5 Infinite Empire is a $360k yearling purchase with a steady series of works for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. This daughter of Empire Maker may need more distance for her best. Mandella is 18% with first timers and with 2-year-olds. Top Del Mar jock Prat rides. Another with credentials in a loaded race.
#6 Benedict Canyon was purchased for $215k as a 2-year-old and has worked roughly every 7 days, posting some fast five-furlong moves that suggest this one can motor. The daughter of Midnight Lute is the second Baffert runner in the race and the trainer is 29% with first timers and 30% with 2-year-olds. On paper, this looks like the one to beat in here.
#7 Belle Cherie has worked every 6 or 7 days for 13% first time out trainer Simon Callaghan who is 26% overall with 2-year-olds. A flashy four-furlong gate drill August 13 suggests this one has some early speed. A $350k 2-year-old price tag also suggests this one is stylish. Visiting jock Florent Geroux is up.
BEST IN A LOADED RACE: #6
NEXT BEST: #2, #3, #7
DEL MAR // RACE 2 (5:30PM ET) // CLAIMING // 6 1/2 FURLONGS (DIRT)
#1 Self Taught is a 4-year-old claimed for $20k last out by trainer Bob Hess, who is 13% first off the claim. The rail post isn’t the best, but this one has no early speed, so he’ll need to save ground and fire late. He’s zero for 3 at Del Mar and was claimed by Hess at Churchill Downs in June of last year before finishing second at the 20k non winners of 3 level. Probably not for us.
#2 Red Valor is a 5-year-old who was claimed out of the same race as the #1 Self Taught. This gelding won the race going this distance from just off the early pace. He moves up in class and from the outside to the inside. Before that last race, he won a $16k non-winners of 2 at Los Alamitos. He’s going for his fourth win in five starts overall but never has succeeded at this level. He’s just 1 for 9 at Del Mar.
#3 Speed Pass is a 5-year-old taking a substantial drop in class for trainer Bob Baffert, who’s hitting 28% at Del Mar. Owners Pegram, Watson & Weitman are not averse to a drop and win play. This quick runner has a solid five-furlong gate drill for this and hasn’t been out since June. In March he was shipped from California to Aqueduct for the Gr. 3 Tom Fool where he finished sixth. He’s the one to beat in here.
#4 P R Radio Star is a 6-year-old that has 2 wins and a second in 4 starts at Del Mar. His recent work has been done at Oaklawn Park and Churchill Downs for trainer Phil D’Amato. Jockey J J Hernandez knows the gelding well and has two wins with him, both at Del Mar last year. This guy deserves respect.
#5 Smileforme is a fit, 4-year-old with a winning spirit, having succeeded 5 out of 18 times. He just missed in his only Del Mar start. Last out, at Golden Gate, he was a well-beaten fifth for high percentage trainer Jonathan Wong who’s struggled at Del Mar this season (1 for 26). Notable that Rosario rides this winner of 3 of his last 5 starts on lesser circuits.
#6 Buttered Noodles is a fit 4-year-old that was claimed last out for $32k and is dropped by trainer Manny Ortiz. Five pound apprentice jockey Ortega seeks his first Del Mar triumph in 42 starts. This gelding was claimed for $40k by former trainer John Sadler at Churchill Downs. He’s got some early speed, but recent form leaves us empty.
#7 Major Cabbie attracts the meet’s leading rider Prat for trainer Peter Miller and drops from a second-place finish at $32k to $25k—his lowest level ever. He closed from off the pace last out and Prat got to know him. He should be very dangerous right back. He hasn’t won since October ’19 at Keeneland, but he’s faced lots of stakes competition since. Miller and Prat are 29% together.
#8 Mr. Dougie Fresh also is a Miller runner in here. He’s 7-years-old and comes off a troubled allowance effort. Before that he was claimed for $20k out of a Belmont sprint when he was a close third from just off the pace. He’s a former solid optional claimer but hasn’t fired a race at that level since March ’20.
DEL MAR // RACE 3 (6:02PM ET) // OPTIONAL CLAIMING // 1 1/16 MILES (TURF)
#1 Ottawa Fire is a 4-year-old making a second US start for trainer Phil D’Amato and jockey Prat. This team moves from the outside to the inside and should do better than a sixth placing last out when favored at this level July 24, a common race for five of these. Blinkers go ‘on’ and the trainer is 19% with the move. Prat and D’Amato are 29% together.
#2 One Fast Bro is a razor-sharp winner last out of a Cal-bred optional claimer at Del Mar. He likes this course—2 wins, 2 thirds in 4 starts and is 1 for 1 at the distance for low-profile trainer Shelbe Ruis. Jockey JJ Hernandez moves here over two others in this race he rode last out.
#3 Mohawk King just missed last out when second for the third consecutive time since coming to the US from Great Britain. Geroux replaces Hernandez in the saddle and this one can be expected to go to the front from the inside, part of the early pace with #5 Constitutionaffair.
#4 Memo Daddy is another that loses Hernandez in the saddle. He’s replaced by Rispoli and trainer Michael McCarthy and that jock are an excellent 27% together. This 5-year-old horse set the pace going one mile and one-eighth but couldn’t quite hold on two back. He had trouble last time out in the race common to many of these. He won’t be able to make an easy lead in here either and is just 1 for 14, overall.
#5 Constitutionaffair is a 4-year-old gelding with speed going one mile on turf. He’s been favored in his last 2 races, with 1 win and 1 second. He’s 3 for 8 overall with 3 seconds and 1 third, so you can count on him to show up. He should keep things lively up front with #3 Mohawk King and #7 Dominant Soul. If forced to battle early, the extra sixteenth of a mile may be his downfall.
#6 Uncle Addouma is a 4-year-old colt with less than attractive recent form. He had trouble in his last—the common race to many of these—and didn’t race poorly when fourth, less than 2 lengths behind #5 Constitutionaffair. He’s a reach in here.
#7 Dominant Soul has speed and needed his last race—the common effort to many in here. He was third last year in the Gr. 2 Del Mar Derby at 50-1 after setting the pace. Expect him to be close to the early pace in here and to fade in the final stages.
#8 Evening Sun is a 4-year-old gelding with just 1 win in 9 starts and that came in Great Britain a year ago. He did cross the finish first last out in the race common to many of these, but was disqualified for interference and placed 8th. He was nearly 22-1 that afternoon off a disappointing first US start for trainer Jeff Mullins. Jockey Van Dyke returns in the saddle seeking to right the last race wrong. This gelding races from off the pace and has to avoid losing ground from this outside post.
BEST IN A SCRAMBLE: #1
WORTH A LOOK: #2
DEL MAR // RACE 4 (6:34PM ET) // MAIDEN SPECIAL WEIGHT // 5 1/2 FURLONGS (DIRT)
#1 Rhetoric is one of 3 Bob Baffert-trained entries in the race and he’s a $600k yearling purchase that has a trio of quick five furlong works for his debut. Top jock Prat rides and he’s 33% with Baffert. Hard to ignore this one.
#2 Forbidden Kingdom is a $300k yearling purchase by American Pharoah going postward for trainer Richard Mandella. He’s got a 1:00 2/5 five-furlong work to accompany a six furlong 1:14 3/5 and a bullet three-eighths. Nice pattern for a first start but not as flashy as some of his foes.
#3 The Met goes second time for trainer Luis Mendez, a 26% move. This New York-bred was a well-beaten fourth first time out at 22-1.
#4 Kamui is another of the Baffert contingent in here and Joel Rosario rides and they are 43% together. A solid series of works every 7-8 days seems to have this $400k yearling purchase by Quality Road ready to fire.
#5 The Key is Unity is a $100k 2-year-old purchase with a nice five-furlong San Luis Rey bullet alongside a second-best of 98 four-furlong move at Santa Anita. Doug O’Neill trains and Frey rides. Compared to others in here the overall work tab is light.
#6 Portsmouth is the third of the Baffert crew. He was a $150k yearling purchase and has worked about every 7 to 8 days, including a swift :59 1/5 best-of-87 move July 24. Cedillo rides and he wins at 33% for Baffert. A total of 5 five furlong works ought to have this one well past fit for his debut. Adds to an already very deep race.
#7 Beef Winslow is a $125k 2-year-old purchase by Honor Code trained by Doug O’Neill. His best is a second best of 84 four furlong gate move August 7. Rispoli rides and the colt has worked every 7 days for his debut.
BAFFERT'S BEST: #1, #4, #6
DEL MAR // RACE 5 (7:04PM ET) // MAIDEN SPECIAL WEIGHT // 1 1/16 MILES (TURF)
#1 Lone Scout will attempt to improve on a close third last out in a one-mile maiden race. Joe Bravo returns in the saddle. Blinkers go on for trainer Bob Hess, but the colt has worn them in the past. He’s steady from off the pace but not spectacular.
#2 Hollywoodhellraisr is a 4-year-old with 6 failed maiden runs on his resume, three around two turns. He was a close second by a head at this level two back at Santa Anita and was a troubled sixth last out in a race common to a few of these. Trainer Phil D’Amato has two runners in this race and Jose Valdivia, winless with the trainer rides here.
#3 Tulsa Tornado makes the third start of his career for trainer Michael McCarthy. He was fourth after racing evenly last time out in a race common to several of these. Trevor McCarthy rides and he is winless at Del Mar for the trainer in 6 tries. This colt could improve off his last race.
#4 Reserve invades from Churchill for trainer Ron Moquett and returns to turf where he failed two races back. He’s never been fast enough to win this, according to Beyer Speed Figures.
#5 Hulk is a first-time starter for trainer Jeff Mullins who’s been working every seven days. Mullins is not known for firing first-out (8%) and jockey Gonzalez is 0-3 with the trainer at Del Mar this year.
#6 Prince Abama will make his second start, first in the US for trainer Phil D’Amato, who’s good with this type (41%) and with runners making their first starts for him (25%). He’s been gelded and will race with Lasix for the first time. Rispoli rides and he’s 40% at Del Mar with the trainer. Lots to like about this one, especially since the local runners haven’t been particularly impressive.
#7 Affable has speed and will try turf for the first time for trainer Mark Glatt. The son of Flatter may take to the surface and probably will make the lead and be stalked by #9 Subconscious. They ought to establish an honest pace. Jockey Cedillo moves from #9 and #10 Offlee Naughty to this colt. This colt was a notable $600k 2-year-old purchase.
#8 Shotgun Express races for trainer Dan Blacker for the first time and will need to turn the ship around in a hurry off a poor first out. Lasix will be added today.
#9 Subconscious has speed and makes his fourth career start. He’s been close twice in turf routes and has been gelded since his last for trainer Richard Mandella. He’s lost ground in the stretch of his last two and should have company up front in here.
#10 Offlee Naughty is one of two Michael McCarthy-trained runners in here and he gets the services of visiting top jock Joel Rosario. They win at 17% overall. This colt has no speed and comes out of the race common to others in here. Rosario will need to navigate a ground-saving trip from this tough post. The pace should help his cause. He has finished behind several others in this field.
#11 Barbwire’s first turf race was a good one when second to Dicey Mo Chara in the race common to many in here. Prat returns in the saddle for trainer Richard Baltas and they are 27% overall together. This son of Uncle Mo has enough speed to get over from this outside post and Prat is an expert at saving ground. He’s the best of those coming out of the common race.
#12 El Joy has failed in 8 starts, with 3 seconds and 1 third. He was second last out in a maiden turf race at Golden Gate. He’ll need to do better than he ever has to have a say in here.
TOP SPOT: #6
NEXT BEST: #11