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Saratoga Saturday: Five Burning Questions

by Dustin Fabian

August 5, 2017

Saturday is another banner day at Saratoga, with four stakes races headlined by the prestigious $1.2 Million Grade 1 Whitney Stakes.  The card also features a massive $1 Million Guaranteed Pick 4 (Races 6 – 9), a bet that will bolster lucky Xpressbet customers’ Rewards Points bankroll in our 1 Million Point Split.  First post Saturday at Saratoga is 1:00PM ET and the action will be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 5:00PM ET. 

Here are the answers to five burning questions that will help you bet Saturday’s card…

Will Gun Runner Fall Victim to the Graveyard of Favorites?

No.  This version of Gun Runner is for real.  Very for real.  I’m not sure what they served in the water during last year’s Breeders’ Cup, but whatever they had out there really woke Gun Runner up.  He went from lovable loser (3rd in the KY Derby, 5th in the Haskell, 3rd in the Travers, 2nd in the PA Derby) to bona fide superstar, with the lone blemish in his last four races coming at the hands of Arrogate in Dubai.  Other than that, he won the Stephen Foster by 7-lengths, the Razorback by 5 ¾-lengths and last year’s Clark Handicap by 2 ¾-lengths.  And with that in mind, I don’t see anyone here beating him.  Tu Brutus, War Story and Breaking Lucky are all nice horses.  No doubting that.  But they aren’t the type of horses that are going to win Grade 1 races at Saratoga.  And Keen Ice, well more on him later.  But as for Gun Runner on Saturday.  This is his distance (3-for-4 going 1 1/8 miles on a fast dirt track) and he drew the perfect post for his running style.  He’ll stalk Tu Brutus and go past him when Florent Geroux asks.  The finish shouldn’t be close.  But speaking of Keen Ice… 

Can Keen Ice Spring Another Saratoga Shocker?

Todd Pletcher’s Keen Ice certainly has a taste for the dramatic.  In August 2015, he swooped past American Pharoah in the Travers as a 16/1 longshot, giving the Triple Crown winner the only blemish on his Horse of the Year campaign.  And then last out, he shocked the heavily-favored Shaman Ghost in the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont.  Between those two races, though?  Ten straight defeats, including seven off-the-board finishes.  Not ideal.  And with a horse that’s 3-for-22 in his career, I just have a very hard time trusting him to compile back-to-back wins, especially against a horse like Gun Runner, who is 8-for-15.  So while it would be a great story for Keen Ice to shock the world for a third time, I’m betting against it.  No, another Keen Ice Saratoga Shocker isn’t in the equation Saturday. 

Will Baffert Turn his Luck Around in the Test?

Six weeks ago, Bob Baffert was the kind of the world.  And before you write that sentence off as hyperbole, I actually think he was.  At least the thoroughbred world.  His older horses were virtually unbeatable, with Mor Spirit (Met Mile), Cupid (Gold Cup at Santa Anita), Collected (Californian) and Danzing Candy (Lone Star Handicap & San Carlos Stakes) winning virtually everywhere they went and his three-year-olds, Abel Tasman, West Coast and American Anthem holding down the fort in their divisions.  All of this while his two stable stars, Arrogate and Drefong, started getting serious about races at Del Mar.  Baffert went 4-for-11 at Los Alamitos.  Del Mar was going to be a breeze.  Until it wasn’t.  Arrogate tanked in the San Diego.  A week later, Drefong tossed his jockey early in the Bing Crosby.  And Bob is just 2-for-10 to start Del Mar, significantly below his gaudy 33% win clip this year. 

Can a race at Saratoga turn his luck?  Yes.  Baffert’s Faypien is the right horse to bet in Race 8 at Saratoga, the Grade 1 Longines Test Stakes.  She’s won three straight races and I love that she brings ‘her’ jockey, Rafael Bejarano, cross-country to ride her.  She and ‘Raffie’ are 2-for-2 together and from her outside post, she should be able to drop back, sit in the clear and pounce on the tiring frontrunners. 

How am I Playing the $1 Million Guaranteed Pick 4 (Races 6 – 9)?

So we've got the 1 Million Point Split around the $1 Million Guaranteed Pick 4.  But how can you get paid?  Here's the ticket I'm playing.  Tweet @Xpressbet to let us know how you're betting it!  The sequence starts with Race 6, at 3:58PM ET. 

Race 6 (MSW): 2, 4, 9, 10, 11

Race 7 (Lure): 1, 3, 7, 8, 11, 12

Race 8 (Test): 2, 3, 8, 10

Race 9 (Whitney): 6

Total Ticket Cost ($0.50 Base): $60.00

Who Will Take Advantage of a Chad Brown-less Waya? 

Chad Brown without a starter in a Grade 3 turf race at Saratoga?  Sounds blasphemous.  After all, the guy has won 9-of-28 turf races at the Spa this year and 26 last year, including nine stakes wins.  His six graded stakes winners are more than the next five guys combined.  So imagine everyone’s surprise that Brown is starter-less in the Grade 3 Waya, which goes as Race 3 on Saturday.  And the real question…who benefits?  Is it 7/5 favorite, Suffused?  Forgive me, but I’m a little sour on her.  She got really good over the winter at Gulfstream, but has dropped three decisions since.  Is it Summersault, a two-time winner at Saratoga? Or maybe Graham Motion’s Guilty Twelve, a winner in four of her last six starts.  Honestly, no, no and no.  Shug McGaughey is going to take advantage of Brown’s absence when he sends out Apple Betty.  The old adage in horse race is ‘pace makes the race.’  And there’s simply no pace in the Waya.  From their inside post, Johnny Velazquez and Apple Betty should get out to an uncontested lead, carve out slow fractions and prove impossible to reel in late.