by Dustin Fabian
July 21, 2017
One of North America’s most popular and anticipated meets, Saratoga, kicks off this weekend in a big way, with five graded stakes races including the CCA Oaks (G1) and Diana (G1). Friday’s Opening Day card, which starts at 1PM ET, includes the Lake George (G3) and Schuylerville (G3), as well as several other allowance races that could easily go as stakes events.
Bet Saratoga with Xpressbet on Friday and you can win a Split of 1 Million XB Rewards Points! To win your share, just hit Exacta bets ($2 minimum) on four different races. Register now to get started in that promotion. To help get your handicapping started, here are five horses I’m betting Friday at the Spa.
Race 2 - #6 Beaux Arts (4/1)
What you see on paper from the field assembled for Friday’s second race won’t knock your socks off. Of the nine maidens entered to race on the lawn, three started their careers with the dreaded ‘-0’ Beyer Speed Figure, meaning the effort wasn’t even on the scale. And none of the first-time-starters come from barns that are traditionally ‘win early.’ So what does that leave us? Not much. But I am very intrigued by second-time-starter, Beaux Arts (Cash/Arroyo). The daughter of Freud ran into a buzzsaw named Little Dipper (put her in your virtual stable) in her debut at Monmouth. Little Dipper blazed 4 ½-furlongs in :51.76 that day, just .83s off the track record. Beaux Arts held second that day and has the ability to come right back and win. If nothing else, she’s the best horse on paper.
Race 4 - #8 Takaful (7/2)
I jumped on this horse’s bandwagon following his debut last October at Belmont – a snappy 8-length score going 6 ½-furlongs at Belmont. I bet him back in the Remsen (G2) at 4/5 odds to no avail, and doubled down on him in the Jerome (G3) at even-money. No dice there, either. I was off the bandwagon by the time he was 8th, beaten 27-lengths, in the Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth, but everyone else was too. He was 14/1 that day. He’s been off since. So why am I jumping back on now? Distance. Despite being a son of Bernardini, out of a Distorted Humor mare, this horse simply had no interest routing. Now he cuts back to a sprint and draws an outside post. Both are winning angles for me. On top of that, Jose Ortiz is back aboard. That’s a big deal because he’d ridden the ML fave, Patternrecognition (Brown/Castellano), in that one’s two prior starts. If Takaful is as talented as his debut indicated, and I think he is, he should show up with a much improved performance on Friday.
Race 7 - #6 Red Rifle (5/1)
It’s generally not my preferred angle to bet horses who have gone winless for the last 700+ days, but that’s exactly what I’m doing Friday. Red Rifle (Pletcher/Velazquez) returns to the scene of his best career races – a victory in the 2015 Bowling Green Handicap (G2) and a runner-up effort behind Flintshire in the 2015 Sword Dancer (G1) – and finds a field void of standouts. Now a seven-year-old, Red Rifle has been unlucky twice this year, encountering traffic problems twice in three starts. Rewatching those races, he probably should have won at Gulfstream and could have won at Belmont. If you’re looking at his PPs, get a little creative and put a line through his wet turf tries – all of a sudden, his form looks a lot more desirable. If nothing else, he’s a more attractive bet than Highland Sky (Tagg/Castellano), who has failed in consecutive races at 3/5 odds.
Race 8 - #9 Stainless (5/1)
With nine horses shipping in from six different tracks, just about anything is possible in this year’s Schuylerville (G2). And with solid juvenile barns – Pletcher, Asmussen, Salzman, Casse and Clement – represented, this should be a good one. One thing I look for when betting races with recent maiden winners is whether the horses they’ve beat have come back to do anything. In your PPs, horses who won ‘next out’ are denoted in italics in the running lines. That’s the case with Go Astray, who was beaten 4-lengths by Stainless (Pletcher/Velazquez) in a maiden race on May 29 at Gulfstream. Since then, Go Astray has broken his maiden and was subsequently beaten just 1-length in a stakes race. As for Stainless herself, I like that Pletcher shipped this horse right up to Saratoga following her debut and think the outside draw is awfully advantageous. They can track the speed from several lengths back and launch their move on the outside, without fear of running into traffic. Pletcher and Velazquez have teamed to win the Schuylerville five times, and Stainless has what it takes to make it six.
Race 9 - #7 Party Boat (6/1)
This year’s Lake George (G3) attracted a very evenly-matched field of 10 (the other entrant will only run if the race comes off the lawn). And in races where the talent is so similar, it’s important to look for little clues to help find the winner. For example, Chubby Star (DePaz/Santana) is a huge overlay at 15/1 for me. It’s tough to knock a horse who broke from the far outside post (#12) in two straight starts. It’s impossible to win from out there. Or, take a look at Fifty Five (Brown/Ortiz), who was beaten just 2-lengths by New Money Honey (who went on to win the Belmont Oaks) on June 8 and beat La Coronel (who raced at Royal Ascot) in March. But if you like Fifty Five, I think you have to also like Party Boat (Motion/Rosario), who is twice the price. Party Boat beat Fifty Five in the Memories of Silver Stakes at Aqueduct and while she was second in the Penn Oaks, keep in mind that her rider that day, Feargal Lynch, claimed foul against the winner for interference. It was disallowed, but you should watch the replay and be the judge. And then ask yourself if you’d feel differently had Party Boat won that race.
Good luck with your wagers! Be sure to Tweet your best bets of the day to @Xpressbet.