One of the real treats at Saratoga is seeing all the new 2 year olds, as many of the best debut at the Spa every year. There are a lot of aspects to this: seeing the potential new star, seeing new sires with their first crops, seeing what trainers are armed for the fall and (potentially) the classics next year, and seeing who overpaid for a horrible horse.
Without further ado, let's turn to the 7th race on Saturday, a 2 year old maiden race for the boys at 5 1/2 furlongs. We like to look at a few things when analyzing a 2yo maiden: breeding (and an immediate tip of the cap to pedigreequery.com is due), trainer, workouts, and if applicable, prior race(s). A key aspect that we can't comment on in advance is how much a horse is being bet. If a first-time starter is bet down a lot at the Spa, give the horse an extra look, because tips on the backstretch are a thing of lore.
2. Santiva. You have to like sire Giant's Causeway, but the dam, Slide, is nothing special: he's her twelfth offspring, and the first 11 weren't any good.
3. Mythical Truth. Leah Gyramati is known for training New York breds in New York bred races. This horse and race don't fit the profile at all.
1. Biddy. Songandaprayer is a good sire for 2yos, but the dam was unraced and this is her first foal. This guy's first race was neither horrible nor great, but Pletcher wins about 25% of the time with second time starters, so he's clearly eligible to improve.
4. Goodtimehadbyall. I have no clue who trainer Merrill Scherer is. What I do know is that if a horse by Quiet American out of an AP Indy dam only cost $20,000, it must have some real conformation issues. His first two races weren't bad, but query whether he's really going to be a turf horse, which is why he did better on a synthetic surface last out.
5. Cherryzapper. Horses trained by Eric Guillot, the pride of Louisiana Downs, that can't break 50 on the GSF scale generally don't win at Saratoga.
1a. Joe Vann. The first runner out of momma Polish Flower who was unraced but well-bred, this horse sports the usual solid breeding, expensive price tag ($175k) and solid string of workouts you get with a Pletcher first timer at Saratoga. The difficulty is going to be that he's coupled with Biddy in the entries, so if the wagering is around 5-2, is that an endorsement or not?
6. Derivative. I'm disqualifying this guy based on name alone, as either he's named after the financial instruments that nearly wrecked capitalism or sadistic mathematics. Plus he's trained by Wayne Lukas, who never wins anymore with first timers.
7. Soldat. The probable favorite off an excellent debut where at 11-1 he dueled and lost in the mud at Belmont. Did the wet track move him up? Maybe. But McLaughlin horses generally improve second time out, this guy clearly has early speed, and has a race under him. I can't emphasize the importance of that enough: most maiden winners are not first time starters, they're horses that have raced and lost before.
8. Wine Police. First year sire (Speightstown) and first foal from the dam, who was a fair horse in Canada. This one's a clear Watch the Toteboard horse: if Asmussen's horses are bet, they're worth considering. If it's 6-1 or greater, pass.
9. Wascally Rabbit. This guy's got some fairly goofy breeding: a first time sire that nobody particularly cares about (Imperialism, who was 3rd in the 2004 Derby but really a 7f/mile specialist) and a dam with no prior foals out of an obscure sire (Linkage). You have to like the bullet workouts, but Contessa is not known for his success with 2yos or first time starters.
Selections: Soldat is a pretty good looking favorite, and we're not inclined to pick against him. But there may be some value in the slots underneath; neither of the Pletcher horses is jumping off the page with talent/breeding, Goodtimehadbyall is likely to be overbet, and it's tough to warm up to Derivative. For the underneath slot, we'll go with the two outside horses: Wascally Rabbit, who might be primed as a first time starter, and Wine Police, on the theory that Asmussen means business the first weekend of the meet.
1. Soldat 2. Wascally Rabbit 3. Wine Police
Mrs. Blog's Pick: "I like Mythical Truth. It's an oxymoron. Like the Penn Fighting Quakers."
Yesterday's picks: Our concerns about Vineyard Haven's layoff were for naught as he dueled with Flat Bold and held off our pick Half Metal Jacket to win by a length. Congrats to the missus for picking the winner, and not a bad start for us by picking the exacta in reverse, all in the search for a price.
Results to date: We're going to publish how we've done so far with the records of our 1st, 2nd and 3rd place selections, plus the return on investment (ROI) on our winners, to the extent we have any. For those who ask, the reason we're also putting how many picks we've had are for the dates we can't post and/or the pick scratches.
1st: 1/0-1-0, $0.00 ROI