The first Sunday is no exception, as the Sanford--the first 2yo colt's stakes race in Saratoga--is the headliner, and the field is fine but not particularly interesting. Let's instead turn to the race before, which is 1 1/16 mile optional claimer on the inner turf. To decipher that for the uninitiated:
- 8 1/2 furlongs is a middle distance for turf races; you'll see horses in the race who run it frequently, stretch out from a sprint, or shorten up from something longer.
- An optional claimer is just that--you have the option to run your horse for a tag if you'd like to. Why? Well, the race is for horses that haven't won more than two races other than a maiden or claiming race or for any horse that wants a $50,000 tag (meaning anyone can buy him before the race with a check for $50,000). This allows horses with better credentials to run against horses with lesser credentials if the owner is willing to risk losing the horse in the race. Not surprisingly, there's only 1 turf horses running for a tag.
- The "inner turf" is just that--the inside track of the two Saratoga turf courses. Lore has it that speed holds up better on the inner turf because the turns are tighter and the stretch is shorter. Experience has taught us that lore is wrong, they're both pretty fair.
1. The Overbet Mediocrities. Non-winners of 2 races often means you'll get horses that look okay on paper, but taking a step back, you see that they're 2-for-some large number, and have to question why they can't win a race. We have a few of them here: Uncle Indy is 2-for-18 (and 5-1 on the morning line), Conservative is 2-for-14, Slambino is 3-for-27 (including 12 losses in a row), Rock in Bage is 2-for-17, and favorite Mikoshi is 2-for-14, with 7 other finishes in the money. Can you say hanger?
2. The George Weaver Special. I actually think this guy's underrated everywhere, but at Saratoga, he's a live play every year with turf horses. Today he brings us Peace Wine, who's 10-1 on the morning line.
3. The Former Jumper. I have zero data to back this one up, just anecdotal memories. Every year we get a horse that was a former steeplechase runner, usually trainer by Tommy Voss or Jonathan Sheppard, who becomes a turf runner and wins at Saratoga. I remember this happening, without exaggeration, 10 times at Saratoga and never elsewhere. Here, we have a Voss former jumper in Followmyfootsteps, who now adds good jockey Ramon Dominguez and is 12-1, despite running a good 3rd to Nicanor (Barbaro's baby and not dead brother) in his last.
We'll go with those two horses for the exacta. For the 3 slot, let's try Austintacious, who at least is eligible to improve in his 6th career start.
2nd: Peace Wine
Mrs. Blog's Pick: Conservative. "For better or for worse, oh who am I kidding, always for worse, conservatives always win."
Yesterday's Results: We noted yesterday that our picks were to be taken with a grain of salt pending how the race was bet, and lo and behold, Wine Police was bet down to 5-2 and won easily over our choice Soldat. That's now two horses we've picked to win who have come in second.
Results to date: Still winless, but our picks haven't been that bad so far.