The track surface at Saratoga was wet and we were off the turf again on Friday, but the weather looks promising for Travers Day, with a 14-race card on tap on Saturday with an early post time of 11:35 a.m. ET.
The marquee event is the Grade 1 $1.25 million Travers Stakes which drew a competitive field of 10 including Haskell Invitational (G1) winner Bayern and Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tonalist.
There are a couple of supporting Grade 1 races, the $500,000 King’s Bishop for three-year-olds and the $500,000 Ballerina for fillies and mares. The Ballerina is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
The stakes action starts in the seventh race with the Grade 2, $250,000 Ballston Spa for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf, which figures to be less than firm after we received rain the last couple of days.
The Ballerina and Travers will be part of NBC Sports Network’s national telecast from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The Travers has a scheduled post time of 5:46 p.m.
There is also a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race at Del Mar on Saturday afternoon. A field of nine will go to the post in the Grade 2, $200,000 Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf. The winner earns an automatic starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
We have another big day on Sunday, which is Pacific Classic Day at Del Mar. The Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic features an intriguing matchup between the undefeated three-year-old Shared Belief and defending champion Game On Dude.
In addition, on Sunday it is Saratoga Showcase Day for New York breds. We have 11 races for state breds including six stakes with over $1 million in purses up for grabs.
My Best Plays for Saturday includes my 10 strongest plays from Del Mar and Saratoga including all of the stakes action.
To purchase my full card reports for Saratoga and Best Plays for Saturday click here.
Here is today’s opening race from Saratoga to get the day off to a good start:
SAR Race 1 Md Sp Wt (11:35 ET) 7 Liam's Map 5-2 5 Three Alarm Fire 3-1 8 Cosmic Gold 7-2 1 Prince Bernardini / 1a Hard to Handle 10-1
Analysis: Liam's Map debuts for the Pletcher barn that is 22% winners with first timers. The $800,000 Keeneland purchase is by Unbridled's Song (13% winners with debut runners) out of the stakes winner Miss Macy Sue ($880,915), who has dropped one foal to race, 0 for 1 Minnie Macy. The colt debuts with lasix and has a series of sharp works on the morning tab including a near bullet drill out of the gate on Aug. 16. The barn is 5 for 27 (19%) with first timers at the meeting.
Three Alarm Fire pressed the early ape and finished gamely for the runner up spot in his debut, beaten 2 1/2 lengths while nearly six lengths clear of the rest of the field. The $140,000 Keeneland purchase has come back with five solid works since his debut for a barn that does not win a lot first time out. The winner of the race has to run back while the third place finisher came back to lose by a nose in his next start on July 31. The Albertrani trainee does not need to move forward much off his debut effort to win in this spot.
WIN: #7 to win at 9-5 or better.
EX: 5,7 / 1,5,7,8
TRI: 5,7 / 1,5,7,8 / 1,2,5,7,8
Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Saratoga:
SAR Race 10 The King's Bishop G1 (4:33 ET) 7 The Big Beast 5-2 6 Fast Anna 6-1 2 Wildcat Red 4-1 8 Coup de Grace 2-1
Analysis: The Big Beast ran huge to beat Alw-1 foes in his first trip over the Spa main track, earning a 102 Beyer and drawing away to win by 6 1/4lengths. The colt looked just as impressive two back breaking his maiden in gate to wire fashion at Belmont Park in his third career start and second for the Tony D. barn. The colt has come back with a couple of quick works since his last outing and the trainer is really high on this colt. He owns a solid pace profile throughout and looks pried for his stakes debut.
Fast Anna set sharp early fractions and went gate to wire last out at Gulfstream Park over a wet track to beat Alw-2L foes in his first go against winners. The runner up in the race was Ponotos, who came back to beat $50,000 starter optional claimers in his next outing at Gulfstream Park by 10 1/4 lengths. The colt owns the edge in early and mid pace numbers and popped a bullet drill over the Spa main track here on Aug. 16. Johnny V. takes over from the seven-pound bug and this guy still appears to have a ton of upside.
Wildcat Red cuts back to seven furlongs after checking in third in the Haskell Invitational (G1) last out. He stumbled coming out of the gate and was in chase mode the entire trip behind Bayern. The cut back to one turn should suit this guy, who won the Hutcheson (G3) at seven furlongs back in February with a tracking trip and he should get a similar trip here. The colt always seems to fire, landing in the exacta in 8 of 10 trips with one of those misses coming in the Kentucky Derby (G1) where he had a terrible trip.
WIN: #7 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 6,7 / 2,6,7,8
TRI: 6,7 / 2,6,7,8 / 1,2,6,7,8
Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Del Mar:
DMR Race 8 The Del Mar Handicap G2 (5:42 PT) 5 Bright Thought 6-1 10 Unbridled Command 12-1 11 Fire With Fire 7-2 4 Big John B 9-2
Analysis: Bright Thought came off a two month break last out in the restricted Wicker going a mile and the five-year-old made a mild late run to finish third in a decent effort. The extra ground here should suit as this guy is a Grade 2 winner at 1 1/2 miles. He has lost six in a row since taking that race at Santa Anita in March of '13 but I like the barn switch here to former Mike Mitchell assistant D'Amato who is 24% winners (with a +ROI) with newcomers to the barn. He fits here with his best and his 6-1 morning line looks fair enough to give him a good look here.
Unbridled Command adds blinkers after finishing evenly last out in a fifth place finish in the Eddie Read (G1) going nine furlongs. The five-year-old makes his third start off the layoff and has won half of his 12 career starts on turf including winning the Saranac (G3) at the Spa and the 1 1/4 mile Hollywood Derby (G1). The distance is the question mark but worth tossing in the mix here if he goes off near his 12-1 morning line.
WIN: #5 to win at 4-1 or better.
EX: 5,10 / 4,5,10,11
TRI: 5,10 / 4,5,10,11 / 4,5,9,10,11
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: #1 Prince Bernardini / 1a Hard to Handle 10-1
R2: #3 Imperia 8-1
R5: #6 Luna Time 8-1
R6: #4 Shank 8-1
R8: #3 Brickyard Kitten 10-1
R12: #10 Mr Speaker 10-1
R13: #9 Weave 8-1
R13: #2 Can’t Explain 15-1
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 each day with daily picks from Belmont and Churchill Downs or capture the 2nd jewel in the Triple Crown with Mike's Preakness Stakes package. 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.
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