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Monday's Picks from Saratoga

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And so we have reached the end of the line for the Saratoga meeting, with closing day on Monday afternoon but we are going out with a bang.

The New York Racing Association has carded 14 races this today, a seven-hour marathon of a card. We have to wait until Friday, Sept. 18 for opening day of the Belmont Park meeting.

During the 10 dark days it looks as if I am going to take a once in a decade vacation. I don’t recall there ever being such a big gap between meets in New York. I probably will have a column or two over the next week and likely a Best Plays Report on Saturday.

A degenerate gambler can’t just spend 10 days at the beach drinking, can I?


Todd Pletcher has opened up a lead over Chad Brown in the training title, a bit of a surprise after Brown won the last two meetings at the Spa. Pletcher has saddled 31 winners to Brown’s 26.

Pletcher has runners in 10 races today and Brown will send out horses in eight races, so it appears the lead is probably safe.

The final Grade 1 race of the meeting is today’s $250,000 Hopeful (G1) for two-year-olds going seven furlongs on the main track. 

The Hopeful has produced some produced a few really good horses including Regret (1914), Man o' War (1919), Whirlaway (1940), Native Dancer (1952), Nashua (1954), Needles (1955), Buckpasser (1965), Secretariat (1972), Foolish Pleasure (1974) and Affirmed (1978).

This year’s edition may not exactly live up to the billing. There is only one stakes winner in the field, the Steve Asmussen trained Jackie’s Wonder, who won the Saratoga Special (G2) on Aug. 7.

The 8-5 morning line favorite is the Chad Brown trained Reinvestment Risk at 7-5. The colt broke his maiden in his debut at the Spa on Aug. 1 by a widening 7 ¾ lengths.

You can catch the action from Saratoga today from 12:00 to 6:30 ET on FS2. In addition, you can stream the action on YouTube or by using the TVG App. The horse betting company based in the U.S. is offering a risk free bet up to $300 for new players. 

To purchase my Saratoga Report for Monday click here.

Now is the perfect time to purchase my Monthly Package. It gives you a month of Saratoga & Belmont Park Reports daily and my Best Plays Report each Saturday and Sunday as well as my Preakness Day Report.

Here is the second race (the opener is a steeplechase race) from Saratoga to get the day off to a good start:


  • SAR Race 2 OClm $40,000N2X
  • #3 Fort Worth   8-5
  • #2 Build to Suit   6-5
  • #1 Joe's Smokin Gun / 1a The Caretaker   4-1
  • #4 Celtic Chaos   5-1

Analysis: Fort Worth came off the bench with a good looking win versus state bred Alw-1 company at six furlongs. He tracked the early pace, took over heading for home and was eased under the wire to win by 2 1/4 lengths. The runner up and third place finished came back to run one-two at the state bred Alw-1 level in their next starts on Aug. 30 here. The Pletcher trainee showed some real promise before hitting the bench. he was third in his debut behind Shancealot in a race that produced four next out winners. Shancealot ran second in the breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) last fall. This guy looks as if he still has plenty of upside and should be able to handle the extra furlong.
Build to Suit makes his first start since June where he weakened to finish fifth in the state bred Commentator at a mile. The winner Funny Guy won the state bred John Morrissey and then was fourth in the Forego (G1) in his next two starts. The Brown trainee has won 6 of his 11 starts, passing his two state bred condition and also his first two open allowance conditions. He is back at this level by being tagged. The barn is 25% winners with runner coming back off a 61-180-day layoff.


  • SAR Race 8 The Lure
  • #6 Olympico   4-1
  • #4 Ballagh Rocks   8-1
  • #5 Breaking the Rules   3-2
  • #2 Largent   5-2

Analysis: Olympico gets the call in a small but competitive running of the Lure. The gelding stalked the early pace while saving ground, angled out four wide and finished evenly in a fifth-place finish in the Bernard Baruch 'Cap (G2), beaten 1 3/4 lengths. The trip was his first off a nine-month layoff for the Brown barn. This guy ran second in the Knickerbocker (G2) last October before hitting the bench and won the Ft. Marcy (G3) last May. He finds a great spot here taking on restricted company and adds blinkers. The barn is 27% winners with runners making their second start off a +180-day layoff.
Ballagh Rocks return off a two month break here for Mott. Last out the seven-year-old chased the early pace and battled on gamely in the stretch to miss by just a nose against Alw-2 optional claimers. The fourth and fifth place finishers both came out of that race to beat Alw-2 optional claimers in their next starts. His win in February was his first since '17 where he won the Poker (G3). He made just one start last year, a third in the Opening Verse at Churchill Downs. Looks like he has lost a step or two from his younger days but is coming in here in pretty good form and the 8-1 morning line looks fair.


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.


  • R3: #2 Serene   10-1
  • R4: #8 Liam’s Fire   8-1
  • R4: #6 Kabob   8-1
  • R8: #4 Ballagh Rocks   8-1
  • R9: #7 Ten for Ten   10-1
  • R11: #9 Elusive Ruler   10-1
  • R11: #8 Alley Oop Johnny   8-1
  • R13: #2 Papetu   10-1
  • R14: #3 Vicarage   8-1

Good luck today!

Mike Dempsey Mike covers the New York racing circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) year-round as well as covering the biggest events including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup.
A professional handicapper and horseplayers for more than three decades, no handicapper in the industry works harder and been more successful in bringing horseplayers analysis that produces profits at the track!

Mike has owned racehorses and knows the racetrack from the backstretch to the finish line.

Mike is in his second decade of producing great results for the readers of Vegas Insider. Among his scores in the Kentucky Derby include winning with his top pick Animal Kingdom who paid $43.80 in 2011 and Super Saver at $18.00 in 2010.

While favorites have dominated the Run for the Roses in recent years, Mike’s full card analysis for every race on each card is always looking for value for horseplayers looking to pad their wagering bankroll.

Mike's Reports include his selections, detailed analysis, a fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for the entire card each day.

Check out Mike’s daily column At the Gate where he offers up free selections and live longshots.

Join Mike daily with top picks from Churchill Downs or grab winners in the Weekend Best Plays Report in the horse racing Multi-Track package. Want more action? Sit at the track with him for 30 Days with his Monthly Horse Package!
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