by Brian Nadeau
July 18, 2018
Opening Day at Saratoga—Christmas in July for handicappers. The Spa opens for 40 days of world-class racing filled with deep and competitive fields and wagering pools that will be huge. So, with that in mind, I’m going to expand the bankroll a bit and take some bigger stabs than I have in this space at Belmont (only where it warrants it, of course). Whereas in the past I’ve put together one caveman ticket on a small-scale budget, I’m now going to try and present a bit more of an in-depth play that will utilize backup horses and tickets, while painting a broader picture of a suggested play.
*** Please take note that this analysis is done upwards of 36 hours in advance, so obviously weather, track conditions and especially late scratches can and will have an effect. Please check back around 12pm Friday for an update. ***
Race 1: 3up 25k claimer at 1 1/8 miles
The meet opener is the typical two-turn dirt route, and more often than not we see gapped out fields where it’s tough to close, which is why I think #2 NOBODY MOVE (3-1) is in a good spot on a stretchout from a one-turn wire-to-wire route win at Belmont last time. Kentucky invaders often struggle at the Spa, but #7 HARDLY A SECRET (4-1) was a solid 2nd off the Amoss claim, has two-turn experience and should be close up under Jose Ortiz.
Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 2,7
Rice has a knack of moving horses up first-time in her barn, but the lack of speed with #5 BELIEVE IN LUCK (7-2) is my main worry, as it’s tough to come from too far off the pace in these two-turn routes. Take note of the wide posts at this distance too, which is why #8 ITALIAN CHARM (7-2) is a bit dicey, even though that dirt run at Indiana Grand two-back was solid.
Pk5 B horses (listed in order of preference): 5,8
Race 2: 2yof NYB MSW at 5 ½ furlongs on the Mellon turf
These 2yo dashes that are filled with firsters can be very problematic, but this heat seems like it can be relatively contained, especially since Brown has #4 DRYNACHAN (5-2), a City Zip firster that has some snappy works and doesn’t meet much, at least on paper. You don’t see too many daughters of Scat Daddy in the NYB ranks, so you need to take note of #9 MIKE’S GIRL (9-2), especially if the money shows for Asmussen, and that 6/6 drill at CD says she can run some.
Pk5 A horses: 4,9
Check out the DD will pays here, as there are several other firsters who, while they are uninspiring on paper, could be used if the money shows. With that being said, the best of the only two proven runners is #1 TOO FOOFOO FOR YOU (4-1), who flashed high speed in her second start at Belmont and held well to be 2nd, though she needs to improve to win this. As for the firsters, I’ll use #10 BANK EXAMINER (5-1), who has picked it up in her last two AM drills and lures Irad, as well as #5 SHADY SHADY SHADY (8-1), who has some big drills, even though it must be noted Nevin is very weak in all relevant statistics with these types.
Pk5 B horses: 1,10,5
Race 3: 3up 40k N2L at 6 furlongs
This is a bit of a tricky spot, as it seems like you’re either singling (or really narrowing down) with #2 STRONG SIDE (2-1), or you’re going to spread and try to beat him. I’ll take the former approach, as is last dirt run was too tough for these, and he should like getting back to the main track after running twice on turf against much better than he meets here.
Pk5 A horses: 2
The obvious main danger is #6 MONTELEONE (5-2), who drops in class, runs second-time blinkers and has several sharp runs showing, though it must be noted he did regress in a big way last time. It seems pretty slim pickings after the top-2, but, if nothing else, #3 COMEONCOMEONCAT (6-1) could be loose on the lead and showed two-back that he can get brave when he clears.
Pk5 B horses: 6,3
Race 4: 3up 75k MCL at 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf
It’s tough to oppose the two MSW droppers in here, as they look best as it is and will relish the drop too, though I’ll reverse them off their ML odds and go with #9 TERYN IT UP (3-1) on top of #6 AZZEDINE (5-2). The former has better form against better horses in NY, while the latter couldn’t get it done at Monmouth last time and really struggled two-back at Belmont. My price play is #5 CLYDE’S RUNNER (8-1), who was a closing 2nd on debut going 6Fs, is bred to love the added ground and may handle the rise.
Pk5 A horses: 9,6,5
It’s tough to completely toss a Brown MSW dropper, even though #4 DOMINANT STRATEGY (4-1) didn’t do any running in two dirt starts and is now in for a tag, but he could wake up on the turf, and that 7/16 bullet says he does like the grass.
Pk5 B horses: 4
Race 5: 2yof MSW at 5 ½ furlongs
The final leg looks like the typical solid Spa 2yo MSW dash and experience is never a bad thing, which is why I think #3 WILD TYPE (6-1) can improve off an eventful 3rd on debut at CD, in a race where she was heavily favored but never really had a clean go of it after getting roughed up at the start. It would be no surprise to see #6 LYRICAL LADY (4-1) go favored, as she cost 625k as a 2yo in training and drew a perfect attack post for what figures to be a speedy style. The last of the must-use gals is #1 BLAHNIK (2-1), a Pletcher-Repole 575k 2yo in training purchase with some solid drills, but it's worth noting that she's by Bernardini and kin to several turf routers, so she may want a bit more ground, at the very least, before firing her best.
Pk5 A horses: 3,1,6
I’m a bit torn on #9 MERTZ (8-1), as her debut 2nd was solid but she regressed last time on figures when 2nd, though it could be due to the slop, and also on #4 WINANDYOURINGIN (9-2), who cost 290k as a 2yo in training and worked sharply several times but has really slowed up badly in her last two AM drills. However, both will offer value and appear to have talent, and it’s also probably no surprise they show up Opening Day at the Spa, so they make the cut.
Pk5 B horses: 9,4
The main A ticket is 2x2x1x3x3 for $18, and that’s our starting point. But by adding in our B horses in with the A’s in the other legs, we can get more coverage and allow for some margin for error too. As you’ll see below, the backups tickets are a more cost conducive way of getting added coverage, without breaking the bank; if we played both the A’s and the B’s together, the ticket (4x5x3x4x5) would cost an absurd $600, which essentially makes the stronger opinions the same as the weaker ones, whereas this is a much more reasonable $117. I’m also an advocate of playing you’re A ticket for $1 (or more), so you capitalize if you handicap it out of the park.
Main Ticket: 2,7 with 4,9 with 2 with 9,6,5 with 3,1,6 = $18
R1 B Backup: 5,8 with 4,9 with 2 with 9,6,5 with 3,1,6 = $18
R2 B Backup: 2,7 with 1,10,5 with 2 with 9,6,5 with 3,1,6 = $27
R3 B Backup: 2,7 with 4,9 with 6,3 with 9,6,5 with 3,1,6 = $36
R4 B Backup: 2,7 with 4,9 with 2 with 4 with 3,1,6 = $6
R5 B Backup: 2,7 with 4,9 with 2 with 9,6,5 with 9,4 = $12