Usually I enjoy the four day break between the end of the Belmont Park spring/summer meet and opening day at Saratoga, as it gives me a short break and a couple of extra days to prepare for the upcoming Spa meeting.
However, ever since Monday I have been chomping at the bit (no pun intended) to get this Spa meeting underway, even though it means seven day work weeks while I handicap and wager for the next six weeks. I can take a day off in September.
We get underway on Friday with a solid opening day card that features three stakes and this is just a taste of what is ahead between now and Labor Day. There are 53 graded stakes with purses of nearly $15 million up for grabs this summer at the Spa.
Todd Pletcher is going for his fourth consecutive training title and 10th overall at the Spa after setting an all-time record last summer with 36 winners, 23 of them coming in juvenile races.
With the retirement of Ramon Dominguez, the jockey title is completely up for grabs with Javier Castellano, John Velazquez and Joel Rosario the likely trio of jockeys that will battle it out for the title.
Velazquez got off to a tardy start last year after missing the first week of the meet recovering from an injury, finishing fourth with 30 wins. He said he will not be taking as many calls this summer, but when you are Pletcher’s go-to guy that means he figures to be right in the hunt.
The first Grade 1 race of the meeting comes up on Saturday when a field of five three-year-old fillies will line up in the $300,000 Coaching Club of America Oaks (G1) at nine furlongs on the main track. Pletcher will send out to the favorites in Princess of Sylmar (9-5) and Unlimited Budget (2-1).
Princess of Sylmar is making her first start since winning the Kentucky Oaks (G1) 11 weeks ago. Her stablemate Unlimited Budget makes her first start since running sixth against the boys in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
If the Pletcher duo gets beat it likely would be by My Happy Face, who came off a 4 1/2 month layoff with a sharp win in the Lotka Stakes in the mud going a mile at Belmont Park.
I will have my selections for the race in tomorrow’s column.
Here is today’s opening race from Saratoga to get the day off to a good start:
SAR Race 1 OClm $35,000N1X (1:00 ET) 1 I'll Call 6-1 6 Royal Blessing 4-1 9 Which Market 8-1 12 Hardest Core 9-2
Analysis: I'll Call just missed last out at Philly against state bred Alw-1 foes over ground labeled as good going nine furlongs, beaten just a neck for the top spot. The gelding broke his maiden in his debut in April at Keeneland and then was third at Churchill Downs in his first go at this level. The Graham Motion trainee still appears to have plenty of upside in just his fourth career start. This guy has a nice pedigree, out of the stakes winner Recording ($134,224) who has dropped four other turf winners and three of his sibs are stakes winners led by $1 million Smart Bid. The Motion barn had a tough meeting here last year going just 2 for 40 but was 8 for 33 (24%) in 2011.
Royal Blessing steps outside of the state bred ranks for the first time here after beating Alw-2 optional claimers last out at Belmont Park in his second start off a 10 month layoff. The runner up in the race was Adirondack Dancer came back to beat state bred Alw-2 foes in his next start by 8 1/2 lengths and earned a 101 Beyer. The colt looks primed for a top effort here in his third start off the bench for the Albertrani barn that also had a tough meet here last summer (2 for 54).
WIN: #1 to win at 7-2 or better.
EX: 1,6 / 1,6,9,12
TRI: 1,6 / 1,6,9,12 / 1,5,6,9,12
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Saratoga:
SAR Race 9 The Schuylerville (5:20 ET) 5 Bahnah 7-5 4 Brazen Persuasion 3-1 1 Elena Strikes / 1a Yes Liz 5-2 2 Jonesin for Jerry 12-1
Analysis: Bahnah ships in from Churchill Downs for the Bret Calhoun barn where the petite filly was a good looking debut winner, drawing off to win by six lengths as the 9-5 favorite. The third place finisher Lady Red Di came back to graduate in her next outing on July 2 at Indiana Downs and the fifth place finisher Street Story was a next out winner against maiden special weight foes at Churchill Downs on June 27. Our top pick owns the top last out speed fig and is in good hands with a solid two year old barn. The $62,000 Keeneland purchase has a nice pedigree as well, by Elusive Quality out of the stakes winner Flying Glitter ($597,433). She has come back with a couple of quick works and looks tough.
Brazen Persuasion drifted outward and was bumped at the break, was straightened out and chased a sharp early pace, took over the lead and finished up well to break her maiden in her second career start. She showed good early speed in her debut but could not hold off the winner late in a runner up finish. With an alert start this gal will probably be on the lead. She has a couple of sibs that are winners including stakes winner Behold de Buy, ($158,285). The Asmussen barn has won this race twice.
Yes Liz and her stablemate Elena Strikes are both coming off impressive looking maiden wins. Yes Liz broke her maiden as the chalk at Belmont Park over a wet track and looks the strongest of the pair. Elena Strikes was shipped to Monmouth Park to break her maiden. She is out of the stakes winner Ticket to Houston ($147,450) who has dropped seven other winners including a pair of stakes winners, top earner Runway Model ($725,598). Pletcher has won this race four times.
WIN: #5 to win at 8-5 or better.
EX: 4,5 / 1,4,5
TRI: no play
These are price plays for exotic players looking to find a couple of extra contenders to use in their trifecta and superfecta wagers. Or for those with smaller bankrolls, you might want to get in a small win-place wager.
Mike DempseyMike covers the New York racing circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) year round as well as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders' Cup. The 2015 Triple Crown saw Mike correctly predict American Pharoah to win both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Mike nailed the Exacta and Trifecta in the Belmont Stakes. Mike had a solid 2014 Triple Crown race season, correctly picking the winning horse in 2 of 3 races. He selected I'll Have another to win The Preakness, and nailed Union Rags to win the Belmont Stakes as his top pick. Mike also had past succes in the Kentucky Derby, winning with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and rode his top picks, Super Saver and Street Sense, to the finish line in 2010 and 2007 respectively. No handicapper in the industry works harder to bring you analysis that produces profits at the track! Mike's Reports include his selections, detailed analysis, a fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for the entire card. Join Mike daily with top picks from Belmont. You can also get his Weekend Best Plays Report in his Multi-Track package or sit at the track with him for 30 Days with his Monthly Horse Package!
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Jerry SessaJerry "Shots" Sessa has been involved in horse racing for over 30 years. He now brings his meticulous handicapping style to VegasInsider.com. When Jerry posts picks you are getting his best bets...when you win, he wins. Jerry opened the 2016 Triple Crown season by hitting his Derby Day best bet, Nyquist. He also nailed the Derby exacta for a $30.60 payout. On 4/16/16 at Keeneland, Jerry hit an $819 exacta that led to a $38k Trifecta & a $300k Super.
In the 2015 Belmont Stakes Jerry dominated races 8-11 by hitting a $4,400 Pick 4, 3 Daily Doubles, 2 Pick 3's and calling American Pharoah as the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years. Jerry is always looking to repeat his 2012 Triple Crown success, when he selected the winning horses for The Preakness and The Belmont Stakes. Jerry looks forward to working with everyone and making money for anyone who invests in his picks on a daily basis. Join Jerry daily with picks from
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