At the Gate - Saturday
August 3, 2013
By Mike Dempsey
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Saratoga celebrates their 150th anniversary this afternoon, and the connections of Fort Larned will be seeking to celebrate becoming just the second horse in the history of the $750,000 Whitney Handicap (G1) to win back-to-back runnings of the historic race.
Discovery won the race three years in a row from 1934-1936.
Fort Larned is the 7-5 morning line favorite as he takes on a field of seven. The Ian Wilkes trainee capped off an outstanding 2012 campaign by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), and we did a little celebrating as he was our top pick in the race and returned $20.80.
It has been an interesting 2013 campaign so far. His first start came in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) in March. Coming back off a four month break he stumbled and dumped jockey Brian Hernandez. He sure looked good without a jockey, drawing away to win by nearly the length of the stretch, but of course it did not count.
He came back in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) on April 13 and I thought he could not lose. So did just about everyone else as he was sent off at odds of 1-2, only he did not fire his best and struggled home in fifth, beaten 10 ½ lengths.
Next up was the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs. I did not lose faith and still made him my top pick, and he returned to his old self, taking the field gate to wire and winning by 6 ¼ lengths, returning $8.60.
The five-year-old earned a 115 Beyer Speed Figure, just two points below his career best which he earned in his Breeders’ Cup Classic win last fall.
He gets a real test today as the lightly races Cross Traffic will assure the early pace will be swift. At a light price I am going to try and beat him today as you can see below in today’s featured race of the day.
The Whitney will be nationally televised on NBC today at 5:00 pm eastern,
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 Saturday.
My Best Plays Report for Saturday includes my nine strongest plays from Saratoga and Del Mar.
Here is today’s opening race from Saratoga to get the day off to a good start:
SAR Race 1 Alw $82,000N2L (1:00 ET)
4 Slan Abhaile 7-2
6 Gombey Dancer 4-1
1 Googleado 2-1
7 Midnite Poppa 8-1
Analysis: Slan Abhaile is back on dirt after a failed attempt in his first go on turf, checking in a non-threatening seventh behind a repeat winner. Two back he was third in the mud and three back in his last go over a fast main track he ran a good second against Alw-1 optional claimers at Churchill Downs in his first start against winners. Rosario sticks for the Romans barn that is 20% winners moving runners from turf to dirt.
Gombey Dancer failed to threaten last out in the mud and now comes back here off a nearly a two month break. This guy earned a solid fig in his maiden win in his second career start, and that was good enough for the barn to toss him in the Swale (G3) where he tired to finish ninth. He makes his first start here for the Tony D. barn that is 23% winners with newcomers to the barn. He should be fit and ready to go off works at Fair Hill.
WIN: #4 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 4,6 / 1,4,6,7
TRI: 4,6 / 1,4,6,7 / 1,4,5,6,7
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Saratoga:
SAR Race 10 The Whitney Hcp G1 (5:45 ET)
5 Ron the Greek 6-1
3 Fort Larned 7-5
4 Cross Traffic 5-2
1 Successful Dan 12-1
Analysis: Ron the Greek was no match for Fort Larned last out in the Stephen Foster (G1), making a mild late run up the inside to finish third, beaten 10 1/4 lengths. The winner was able to control things early and had plenty left but might have his hands full today with Cross Traffic. If an early speed duel does develop our top pick likely is going to be the beneficiary, and he sure is going to offer more value for the top spot. Two back on the tight turns at Charles Town he was bumped and pinched back at the break and made a good late run to finish third behind Game On Dude, who came back to win the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) in his next start while the runner up Clubhouse Ride won the San Diego (G2) in his next start. He is getting four pounds from the favorite and this race may set up for him nicely.
Fort Larned looks back on track after losing his first two starts of 2013. He stumbled and dumped his jockey in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) and riderless won by a pole. It's tough to explain his sub-par effort in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) where he was a dull fifth, but he bounced back with an impressive victory in the Stephen Foster where he earned a near career top, just two points shy of his Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) win last fall. He is looking to become the first horse since Discovery in in the 1930's to win back-to-back runnings of this race. He beat our top pick in last year's race and won with a tracking trip, which he may need to revert to here. The only real knock is going to be the light price.
Cross Traffic set the early fractions and could not hold off Sahara Sky late in the Met Mile (G1), beaten just a nose in a game effort. The third place finisher Flat Out came out of the race to win the Suburban (G2) in his next outing on July 6 at Belmont Park. Two back Cross Traffic was beaten just a head in the Westchester (G3) in his stakes debut to Flat Out. This guy certainly has the most upside and the Todd Pletcher barn has been sending out live runners at the meeting, hitting at a 35% clip.
WIN: #5 to win at 4-1 or better.
EX: 3,5 / 1,3,4,5
TRI: 3,5 / 1,3,4,5 / 1,3,4,5,6
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Del Mar:
DMR Race 8 The Clement Hirsch G1 (5:40 PT)
6 More Chocolate 4-1
9 Include Me Out 9-5
2 Byrama 3-1
5 Via Villaggio 12-1
Analysis: More Chocolate was no match for Byrama last out in a runner up finish in the Vanity Handicap (G1) in her first trip over the fake stuff. She earned several solid figs earlier this year on conventional dirt including a 101 Beyer in a runner up finish in the Santa Margarita (G1) behind Joyful Victory. The John Sadler trainee has had a couple of good drills over the poly here and she looks capable of moving forward off her last effort. Most of the attention is going to land on the favorite here so this gal may end up a fair price.
Include Me Out is the defending champion in this race and looks primed for a top effort here second off a 7 1/2 month layoff. She came back off the bench last out with a sharp win in the Desert Stormer which looks as if it served as a good prep for today. She won four of seven last year including this race and has won two of her three trips over the polytrack here. She drilled a bullet work here on July 29 and while her 9-5 morning line looks fair I have a hunch we may be looking at even money by post time.
WIN: #6 to win at 7-2 or better.
EX: 6,9 / 2,5,6,9
TRI: 6,9 / 2,5,6,9 / 1,2,5,6,9
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.
R1: #7 Midnite Poppa 8-1
R5: #9 Carole Lee 15-1
R6: #2 Sunlover 8-1
R8: #2 Fan Base 8-1
R10: #1 Successful Dan 12-1
R11: #2 Nonnie Connie 12-1
R12: #4 Seriously Sharp 20-1
Good luck today!
HORSE RACING EXPERT
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.
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