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At the Gate - Thursday

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Entries were drawn yesterday for Saturday’s $750,000 Whitney Handicap (G1) at Saratoga, with a field of eight going to the gate including last year’s winner Fort Larned, who is the 7-5 morning line favorite.
 
The Ian Wilkes trainee is seeking to become just the second horse in the history of the race to win consecutive runnings of the marquee event for older runners at the Spa.
 
He won five of nine starts last year including taking the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) as my top pick at 9-1, but this year the five-year-old got off to an odd start.
 
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In his 2013 debut in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) on March 9 he stumbled coming out of the gate, dropping jockey Brian Hernandez. Riderless he went on to win by nearly a pole, and visually looked very impressive.
 
I was anxious to bet him back in his next start, which came in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) on April 13 and he went off as the heavy favorite. However, after stalking the early pace he came up empty in the stretch in a fifth place finish in a race won by Cyber Street.
 
Two months later Wilkes entered him in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs and he returned to his old self, taking the field gate to wire and earning a 115 Beyer Speed Figure, just two points below his career top which he earned in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last fall at Santa Anita.
 
The runner up in the Foster was Golden Ticket, who came back to win the Prairie Meadows Handicap in his next outing on July 27.
 
He will face seven foes on Saturday including Cross Traffic (5-2) who missed in the Met Mile (G1) by a nose, and Ron the Greek (6-1) who ran second in the Whitney last year.
 
I will have selections for the Whitney in Saturday’s column as well as analysis for the $300,000 Clement Hirsch (G1) from Del Mar.
 
Michael Dempsey’s Monthly Package is available for only $99.95. The package includes his full card reports for Saratoga six days a week and his weekend Best Plays Report, which will include his strongest plays from Del Mar and Saratoga.
 
Click here to purchase my full card report for Saratoga for Thursday.
 
Here is today’s third race (the first two are steeplechase races) from Saratoga to get the day off to a good start:
 
SAR Race 3 Md $50,000 (2:10 ET)
6 Political Farce    7-2
3 Let's Have Us One   5-1
1 Apex    2-1
5 Perfect Danger    3-1
 
Analysis: Political Forced tracked the early pace and finished evenly while no match for the winner in a runner up finish for a $60,000 tag in his first go off the claim by the RRod barn. The gelding dueled for the early lead and weakened to finish fourth two back for a $50,000 tag going a mile as the 4-5 chalk. He owns the top last out speed fig and looks headed in the right direction. The gelding has three sibs that are winners, top earner stakes winner Concord Point ($669,260).
 
Let's Have Us One drops back in for a tag here after checking in fifth last out at Oaklawn Park back in March. The winner of that race was Black Bear, who beat Alw-1 optional claimers in his next outing on April 12. He drops into a weaker spot here for the Asmussen barn that is 23% winners with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff.
 
Wagering
WIN: #6 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 3,6 / 1,3,5,6
TRI: 3,6 / 1,3,5,6 / 1,2,3,5,6
 
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Saratoga:
 
SAR Race 6 The John Morrissey (3:46 ET)
1 Night Maneuver    7-2
3 Saginaw   9-5
2 Saratoga Snacks    7-5
5 B Shanny   10-1
 
Analysis: Night Maneuver beat Alw-2 optional claimers last out in his firs to off the claim by the Contessa barn. The gelding earned a career top and has now won two of his three trips over the main track here. The gelding owns solid early and mid pace numbers and looks to be on the top of his game. The top three from the state bred Shy Groom won by Saratoga Snacks are entered here and all three of those earned career tops peed figs and that numbers looks as if it might have been on the generous side.
 
Saginaw overcame traffic troubles to get up and win the state bred Affirmed Success last out as the chalk. This guy has now run 16 times since Jacobson claimed him for $30,000 and he has won an amazing 13 times. he is always a chalk and we seem to try to bet him and he just rarely loses and can overcome trouble. He is a two time winner over the surface here but look for him to be a light price again today in this compact field.
 
Saratoga Snacks won the Shy Groom, drawing away late to win by 1 1/4 lengths in a good looking outing. He was making his first start off a six month layoff and he earned that career top six points higher than his previous top number. Does he regress off his big effort last out off the bench? His price will be short enough we will try to beat him for the top spot here.
 
Wagering
WIN: #1 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 1 / 2,3
TRI: no play
 
Live Longshots:
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.
 
Saratoga
R1: #9 Orebanks   10-1
R3: #6 Mr G Zee   12-1
R4: #7 Bernardo   10-1
R6: #5 B Shanny   10-1
R8: #10 Romancing the Gold   10-1
R11: #2 Valediction   8-1
 
Good luck today!

  
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  HORSE RACING EXPERT
  Mike Dempsey
Mike 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.
Last Year Mike had a solid Triple Crown, 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 has 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.

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