by Dustin Fabian
July 25, 2019
The ‘Road to the Travers’ continues this weekend at Saratoga as a pair of races – Friday’s Curlin and Saturday’s G2 Jim Dandy – figure to continue to help us lock in on a field for the Midsummer Derby.
The Jim Dandy is a particularly intriguing event, as a handful of Triple Crown horses, headlined by Preakness winner War of Will and Belmont-runner up Tacitus, look to continue to build strong resumes. On the other hand, upstarts like Laughing Fox, Tax and Global Campaign seek to make a name for themselves in the division while simultaneously punching a ticket to the Travers.
Friday’s Curlin lacks some of the top-end star power, but Intrepid Heart (8th, Belmont Stakes), and Rowayton (3rd, Dwyer Stakes) have solid credentials, while less experienced horses like Endorsed (2-for-3 career), Highest Honors (1-for-2) and Looking at Bikinis (2-for-2) appear poised for an upset. It isn’t a G1 race but it should be entertaining and good for betting.
My primary focus this week is on Saratoga’s Late Pick 4, which includes three graded stakes races. Xpressbet customers who hit the Late Pick 4 are eligible to Split 1 Million XB Rewards Points. Give it a go, it’s fun and only takes a second to register for free.
By the way, I also recommend playing in our $120,000 Fun in the Sun Handicapping Tournament. We’re giving away $8,500 cash every week through the end of August and it’s free to register. To play, simply make $10 Win bets on our 10 competition races each Saturday.
But enough commercials…let’s get to the picks. Here’s my Late Pick 4 ticket.
Race 9 (5:44PM ET) – Alfred Vanderbilt Handicap (Gr I, 350k)
One of the most dangerous things in horse racing is an animal that is atop its game. And that’s the case with MITOLE (1/1), who has won 4-of-4 races this year including the Met Mile and Churchill Downs Handicap. In fact, he brings a seven-race unbeaten strike to Saratoga and just one of those races was separated by less than a length. His inside post is a bit of a problem, especially with the equally fast STRIKE POWER to his outside and defending champion IMPERIAL HINT (3/1) lurking, but I’ll trust the classiest and most talented horse in the field to get the job done.
Race 10 (6:18PM ET) – Bowling Green Stakes (Gr II, 250k)
We’ll go light in the first leg to hopefully spread out a little more here. ARKLOW (9/2) has become a very nice turf horse – but he’s still winless since last September. Neck defeats in his last two races put him on the radar, but he’s hardly a sure thing. Chad Brown’s YA PRIMO (8/1) is up from his native Chile and you have to respect – and include – any horse that Brown sends out. That Jose Ortiz gets off FOCUS GROUP (8/1) to ride only sweetens the pot. CHANNEL MAKER (7/2) won this race last year at nearly 6/1 and we may get a similar price this year.
Race 11 (6:51 PM ET) – Jim Dandy Stakes (Gr II, 600k)
Over a three year span, 2005 to 2007, Jim Dandy favorites went 3-for-3 as Flower Alley, Bernardini and Street Sense all won Saratoga’s top Travers prep at odds of pennies on the dollar. Since ’07, however, the race hasn’t been nearly as formful. The fave has won just 2-of-11 editions of the ‘Dandy since then, with horses like Always Dreaming, Frosted, Mohaymen, Tonalist and Pyro among those that met their demise at the ‘Graveyard of Favorites.’ In fact, despite short fields, two of the last three editions of the Jim Dandy went to horses at odds of 8/1 or higher – Laoban (27/1) in 2016 and Good Samaritan (8/1) in 2017. That’s why I’m going to spread my ticket here this year.
It’s not a stretch to include horses like TACITUS (7/5) and WAR OF WILL (5/2) on our ticket here, simply based on their accolades. Of the two, I like TACITUS more. I thought he was far and away the ‘best’ horse in the Belmont and he was simply the victim of a bad post and wide trip. While Sir Winston saved ground, TACITUS was taking the scenic route. If he’s ready to roll, he’s the likeliest winner. WAR OF WILL, on the other hand, was a disappointing ninth in the Belmont but that was his sixth race of the year and, like TACITUS, he also drew wide. Whether we see his best is anyone’s guess.
That brings me to GLOBAL CAMPAIGN (2/1). I expect Luis Saez to take him to the front early and I expect the son of Curlin to lead this field a long, long way. He beat Sir Winston in the Peter Pan at Belmont in May and there’s no reason to think he won’t be cranked for a race like this. The same could be said of the scrappy TAX (8/1). While TACITUS and WAR OF WILL are prepping for the Travers, he’s a horse that could easily jump up and win this. Despite questions of whether or not he was ready for the Belmont, he still managed to finish fourth that day, beaten less than 3-lengths.
Race 12 (7:23 PM ET) – Claiming ($30,000)
The nightcap is a $30K N2L Claiming race going a mile on the turf. For the sake of this analysis, let’s assume the Also Eligible horses and Main-Track Only entrant don’t draw in. LETTERMAN (6/1) tried to steal a tougher starter allowance race on May 23 but came up flat, but this is probably a better level for him. The outside post (#12) doesn’t help, though, and he’s far from a cinch. HIJACKER (4/1) is probably the ‘safest’ pick. He ran well in a pair of Delaware allowance races and, like LETTERMAN, this is a better level for him. MY MACHO (5/1) is a ‘must use’ and I’ll include SURGE PRICING (2/1) as well, even if he’s going to be overbet based on the Chad Brown/Javier Castellano angle.
Here’s my ticket:
Race 9 - #1 Mitole
Race 10 - #1 Arklow, #3 Ya Primo, #5 Channel Maker
Race 11 - #2 Tax, #4 Global Campaign, #5 Tacitus
Race 12 - #4 My Macho, #5 Surge Pricing, #7 Hijacker, #9 No Mo Promises #12 Letterman
Ticket Cost - $22.50 for 50-cents