Friday, August 5, 2011

Saratoga Special: Whitney Day Late Pick Four (Updated)

We haven't done anything on Saratoga in a while, and Saturday's the perfect excuse to take a look at the card and revel in the majesty that is August racing in upstate New York. Saturday's card presents a bunch of full fields early on, two Graded 1 stakes races, and a fascinating ungraded turf stakes. And a Pick Four bet with a 50-cent minimum that includes all three stakes races. What do you say we analyze the late Pick Four and put together some tickets?

De La Rose Stakes (Race 8)
Condition: 1 mile on the inner turf for fillies and mares that haven't won a graded stakes on the turf in 2011; $75,000 purse.

There are a slew of interesting horses in this race, but none are more intriguing than shipper Deluxe, who's owned by Juddmonte Farms, by Storm Cat out of the mare Hasili. For those of you not familiar with Hasili's other progeny, here's the list, excluding Raise the Flag, who could only get on the track once:
  • Dansili: won 5 of 14 starts, including a Grade 2 in Europe, and ran 3rd in the 2000 BC Mile. He's also become a good sire, siring, amongst others, 2006 Arc winner Rail Link.
  • Banks Hill: won 5 of 15 starts, including three Grade 1s, including the 2001 BC Filly & Mare Turf.
  • Heat Haze: 7 wins in 14 starts, including two Grade 1s, and finished 4th in the 2003 BC Filly & Mare Turf.
  • Intercontinental: 13 wins in 22 starts, including two Grade 1s, one of which was the 2005 BC Filly & Mare Turf.
  • Cacique: 7 wins in 18 starts, including two Grade 1s.
  • Champs Elysees: Arguably the least impressive looking of the sextet on the track, he won 6 of 29 starts, but still won 3 Grade 1s.
So to summarize, Hasili has produced 6 graded stakes winners, 5 of which won a total of 12 Grade 1s, and two Breeders Cup races. It's quite the lineage, and in the list of great dams, she's on the short list with Toussad, Urban Sea and Personal Ensign. And this, we think, makes Deluxe a must-use in this start--though she hasn't won a graded stakes yet, she's 3 for 6 lifetime and was a not-bad 2nd to champion Sarafina last spring.

We wouldn't recommend flying solo on Deluxe, though, because there are some other interesting horses in the race. Evading Tempete is well-bred and appears to have been pointed for this off a long layoff. Tapistfly has run well each time this year and has good tactical speed that should play well. And Prize Catch has run a series of sharp races without a win this year, and looks primed for a big effort. If you're looking for a total bomb, La Cloche should close well and had excuses in her last.

Primary horses: Deluxe (9), Evading Tempete (5), Prize Catch (3)
Backup horses
: Tapitsfly (8), La Cloche (11)

Test Stakes (Race 9)
Condition: 7 furlongs on the dirt for 3yo fillies, $250,000 purse, Grade I

The two favorites in this race look worth trying to beat. Turbulent Descent hasn't been out of the exacta in her lifetime and has a pair of Grade 1's to her name, but hasn't run particularly fast and may be better on synthetics. Her Smile won the Grade 1 Prioress last out, but looks like a 6 furlong horse, and there's no bigger difference in racing than that between 6 and 7 furlongs. We think both need to be used as backups, but are looking elsewhere for our picks.

First on our list is American Lady, who won't be a huge price (3-1?), but has ran beautifully in all three races and ships from California for Bob Baffert. The horse has tactical speed and appears to be on the improve, and may just be the best horse here. Next in line is Salty Strike, who's turning back after a blah effort in the Mother Goose, and seems well-suited to 1-turn sprints, as her Dogwood and allowance races earlier this year were fabulous. Also interesting is Pomeroy's Pistol, who sports a sharp workout on the heels of just missing in the Prioress. If she's going to be 10-1 and Her Smile will be 5-2, who would you prefer?

Primary horses: American Lady (2), Pomeroys Pistol (7), Salty Strike (9)
Backup horses
: Turbulent Descent (6), Her Smile (8)

The Whitney Handicap (Race 10)
Condition: 1 1/8 miles on the dirt for 3yo+ males, $750,000 purse, Grade I

One of the premier dirt races for older horses, everyone is looking at this 11-horse field as evenly matched with few tossouts. We see their point, but disagree, and like fewer horses than most. Tizway and Morning Line are going to get a lot of action, but neither strikes us as a router: Tizway's two best efforts were in 1-turn miles at Belmont, and Morning Line really only has one good race beyond 8 furlongs (the Pennsylvania Derby) to his credit. We're tossing both. We're also going to toss everyone who comes in straight out of the Stephen Foster, which was run painfully slow and won by a rank outsider at 35-1.

That knocks us down to 5 horses, and we're inclined to use them all one way or another. Flat Out ran in that horrible Stephen Foster but came back to win the Suburban and run the fastest Gowanus Speed Figure of the year (a 113). We're not sure we buy it, but can't make a strong argument for tossing him off that race either. Rail Trip is something of a forgotten horse in the handicap division: after starting off his career 8-2-1 in 11 starts, he lost the Hollywood Gold Cup to the forgettable Awesome Gem, then was transferred to Dicky Dutrow's barn, where he ran up the track in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, was put on the shelf for 8 months, then ran a forgettable second to Friend or Foe in an ungraded stakes race in June. While some will look at this and see a horse that's done, we see a horse with tactical speed that should like 9 furlongs and needed a start off the layoff and should move forward. At 12-1, he's quite intriguing.

We're also inclined to give Headache, Rodman and Friend or Foe a shot. Headache has a fairly neat story, having won the Claiming Crown for "the best claiming horses" a year ago and since then winning twice on fast dirt tracks. He's very interesting, especially as a closer in a race with plenty of speed. Friend or Foe strikes us as a little "cheap" (i.e., not enough experience at Grade I races), but is at least in good form. Rodman may not have the stamina for 9 furlongs, but at 20-1, is worth keeping in play. Go deep here, but think outside the box.

Primary horses: Flat Out (1), Rail Trip (7), Headache (8)
Backup horses
: Friend or Foe (2), Rodman (9)

A random State-Bred Allowance Crapfest
Condition: 7 furlongs on the dirt, for New York-bred colts 3yo+ who haven't won a race beyond a maiden claiming or starter, for $42,000

Ah, the usual garbage race to end the day at the track. We're not going to pretend that we've looked at this race as thoroughly as the others, but we have a couple of opinions. Bud White won his last by 17, and has to be used. So does Southbeachsandy, who's run a series of strong seconds and turns back a furlong. Wee Freudian hasn't run badly this year and adds blinkers for the not-bad Rick Schosberg. For backups, we'll include 4 useful horses that have a shot but we're less confident of.

Primary horses: Bud White (9), Southbeachsandy (11), Wee Freudian (12)
Backup horses
: Cooks Forest (2), Token Sacrifice (5), Green Monster (8), Crea's Law (10)

The Play

The economical way to play the race, we think, is to demand that three of your primary horses wins, allowing you to go to the backup well just once. And for your ticket with your primary horses only, play for a dollar, not 50 cents, to "press" your strongest opinions. That would leave 5 tickets:

$1 Pick Four: 3, 5, 9/2, 7, 9/1, 7, 8/9, 11, 12.
$0.50 Pick Four: 8, 11/2, 7, 9/1, 7, 8/9, 11, 12.
$0.50 Pick Four: 3, 5, 9/6, 8/1, 7, 8/9, 11, 12.
$0.50 Pick Four: 3, 5, 9/2, 7, 9/2, 9/9, 11, 12.
$0.50 Pick Four: 3, 5, 9/2, 7, 9/1, 7, 8/2, 5, 8, 10.

We realize this isn't a cheap play--the 5 tickets come to $216. Let's revisit how this goes on Monday. Good luck to all!

UPDATE: Deluxe, sadly has scratched. We say add Miss Keller, who we don't love but did win this race last year, as a saver horse, and move Tapitsfly up to a primary horse, which makes the tickets:

$1 Pick Four: 3, 5, 8/2, 7, 9/1, 7, 8/9, 11, 12.
$0.50 Pick Four: 10, 11/2, 7, 9/1, 7, 8/9, 11, 12.
$0.50 Pick Four: 3, 5, 8/6, 8/1, 7, 8/9, 11, 12.
$0.50 Pick Four: 3, 5, 8/2, 7, 9/2, 9/9, 11, 12.
$0.50 Pick Four: 3, 5, 8/2, 7, 9/1, 7, 8/2, 5, 8, 10.

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