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Another Huge Saturday: Whitney, Hambletonian, WV Derby Picks & Bets

by Dustin Fabian

August 1, 2019

Every Saturday is a big one in horse racing, especially over the summer.  But it seems the August calendar takes it to another level.  Need proof?  Check it out:

  • Saturday, August 3: Whitney, Test, West Virginia Derby, Hambletonian
  • Saturday, August 10: Arlington Million, Beverly D, Fourstardave
  • Saturday, August 17: Pacific Classic, Alabama, Del Mar Oaks
  • Saturday, August 24: Travers, Sword Dancer, Personal Ensign, Forego, Ballerina
  • Saturday, August 31: Woodward, Tourist Mile, Del Mar Debutante, Virginia Derby

This weekend, the starts are out in full force as McKinzie, Thunder Snow and Vino Rosso do battle in the Whitney and the best trotters in North America compete for Hambletonian glory.  Below you’ll find my analysis and bets for each of those races.  I’m putting up $200 – let’s hope we get lucky.

By the way, it’s another great week of promotions in the Xpressbet world.  Here are the highlights:

And here’s how I’m betting $200 on the weekend’s top five races. 

Whitney Stakes (Gr 1; $1 Million)
Saratoga, Race 9 (5:46PM ET)
3YO+ - 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt)

As expected, the field for this year’s Whitney is deep and competitive, with McKinzie and Thunder Snow headlining a race that also attracted Vino Rosso, Yoshida, Preservationist and Monongahela.  Not bad for an eight-horse field!  The public will attach its allegiance to McKinzie (as it always does) and it’s hard to argue the notion that he probably wins the G1 Met Mile without running into an extreme amount of traffic.  But hey, that’s the battle that closers face in races like that.  In his route races, he generally sits closer to the pace.  Preservationist was nearly 4/1 when he upset Catholic Boy in the G2 Suburban, but that was a huge performance and this field is better.  He’ll still be controlling speed if he wants to be, but this is a big step up.  Vino Rosso is my biggest wildcard.  He upset Gift Box in the G1 Santa Anita Gold Cup and he just seems to be the type of horse that always gives a decent showing.  Thunder Snow is a horse I admire, but I’m betting against him here.  He’s 0-for-4 in the USA (three Trifecta finishes) so he doesn’t get my win money.

My Bet: $5 Exacta #6 McKinzie and #8 Preservationist over #5 Vino Rosso, #6 McKinzie and #8 Preservationist ($20) … $4 Trifecta #6 McKinzie and #8 Preservationist over #5 Vino Rosso, #6 McKinzie and #8 Preservationist over #5 Thunder Snow, #5 Vino Rosso, #6 McKinzie and #8 Preservationist ($32)

West Virginia Derby (Gr 3; $500K)
Mountaineer Park, Race 8 (5:35PM ET)
3YO – 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt)

Mr. Money has developed into the best ‘second tier’ three-year-old in North America, as evidenced by his victories in the G3 Pat Day Mile, G3 Matt Winn and G3 Indiana Derby.  No, this probably isn’t the type of horse you’d bet to win the Travers in three weeks, but he’s absolutely the type of horse you’ll bet to clean up in a race like this.  Unfortunately, that’s also why he’s 6/5 ML.  He should get a nice trip from his outside post and it’s just hard to envision him losing with every angle pointing his way.  The best way to maximize returns will be keying him in vertical exotics (Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta) or singling him in horizontal ones (Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5). 

My Bet:  $4 Trifecta Key #9 Mr. Money / #4 Plus Que Parfait, #6 Fluminense, #7 Top Line Growth, #8 Math Wizard ($48)

Test Stakes (G1, $500K)
Saratoga, Race 8 (5:06PM ET)
3YO Fillies – 7 Furlongs (Dirt)

With Serengeti Empress drawn with speedsters like Bellafina and Covfefe starting next to her, I’m envisioning a fast early pace to this year’s Test Stakes.   That would set up nicely for a mid-pack horse and I’ve got my eye on Chad Brown’s Royal Charlotte.  She’s undefeated in four career starts and won the G3 Victory Ride last out at Belmont.  She has never faced horses this good, but with significant question marks surrounding the need-the-lead types, she has the potential to receive a perfect trip from a few lengths out of it.  This feels like a breakout party for her. 

My Bet: $20 Win #5 Royal Charlotte ($20) … $2 Exacta #5 Royal Charlotte over All ($12)  

Troy Stakes (G3, $200K)
Saratoga, Race 5 (3:21PM ET)
3YO+ - 5.5 Furlongs (Turf)

In last weekend’s Vanderbilt at Saratoga, Mitole showed us what happens when a ‘need the lead’ sprinter is drawn inside of other quality sprinters.  Sometimes they just get pinned in and have nothing left for the stretch.  That could happen to World of Trouble here, as Pure Sensation appears as quick early and can pin him right to the rail, and the same can be said for Rocket Heat, who breaks from post 4.  The last time Chris Landeros was aboard, he went :20 3/5, :43 in the Claiming Crown at Gulfstreams, he should be keyed up.  That would set things up for a closer, and my favorite is the incredibly sharp Wet Your Whistle.  He legitimized a pair of wins at Laurel and Monmouth with a closing victory in the G1 Highlander at Woodbine.  If he gets a similar setup, look out. 

My Bet: $20 Win #5 Wet Your Whistle ($20)

Hambletonian Stakes ($1 Million)
The Meadowlands
Eliminations (Race 8, 3:03PM ET, Race 9, 3:33PM ET)
Final (Race 12, 5:14PM ET)
3YO Trotters – 1 Mile (Dirt)

The Hambletonian is always a tough race to handicap because the Eliminations (Races 8 and 9) have to sort themselves out before we even know which horses will line up in the Final (Race 12).  Greenshoe (Elimination Race 9) is the expected Hambletonian favorite, assuming he gets there.  He’s 4-for-5 this year with his only defeat coming in the Beal Final at Pocono Downs on June 29.  He seems better suited for The Meadowlands, where he’s unbeaten in his last five tries (qualifiers and actual races).  He drew well in his Elimination leg (#5).  In the other Elimination, favorites Gimpanzee and Green Manalishi are in posts #7 and #8, but that isn’t as big of a deal at this track.  Not sure how they’ll line up in the final but I’m going to bet the favorites in the Elims.

My Bet: $33 Win #5 Greenshoe in Race 9 and $30 Win #7 Gimpanzee in Race 8 then parlay any winnings onto Greenshoe in the Final ($66)