Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:50 AM

Saturday's Picks from Saratoga and Del Mar

Speed rules on Saturday as both of my featured stakes in today’s column will likely produce contenders and possibly the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) this November at Del Mar.

The $300,000 Bing Crosby (G1) at Del Mar is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The race drew a solid group of nine that will go six furlongs on the main track.

The grizzled seven-year-old C Z Rocket is the 5-2 morning line favorite. The Peter Miller trainee was the runner up behind Whitmore in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He is cutting back from a mile in the slop where he ran second in the Steve Sexton Mile (G3) at Lone Star Park.

He faces a solid group that includes Malibu (G1) third place finisher Collusion Illusion (4-1) and the speedy Brickyard Ride (7-2) who wired the field in the state bred Thor’s Echo in his last start.

At Saratoga, a field of nine will go in the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1). The race is not an official Breeders’ Cup Challenge race but the winner most likely will end up in the Sprint which is now just over three months away.

Breeders’ Cup Sprint champ Whitmore is now eight years old and comes into the race having lost his three starts since capping off a championship season last year by winning the Sprint at 18-1.

It is a deep field that includes Mischievous Alex, Firenze Fire and Special Reserve.

Essential Quality is in action this afternoon at Saratoga. The Belmont Stakes (G1) winner is the 1-2 morning line favorite for the $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2), which serves as a prep race for the $1.25 million Travers (G1) coming up at the Spa on Aug. 28.

My Best Plays Report for Saturday includes my 11 strongest plays from Del Mar and Saratoga.

“Saratoga Live” is on FS2 (and streaming on YouTube) from 1:00 to 7:00 ET. Looking to play the ponies? TVG is offering new players  up to a $300 Risk Free wager.  In addition, AmWager is offering up to a $500 bonus for new horseplayers.

To purchase my Saratoga and Best Plays Reports for Saturday click here .

Here is the opener from Saratoga to get the day off to a good start:


 Race 1 Md Sp Wt

  • #3 Kevin's Folly 4-1
  • #6 Woodline 9-2
  • #2 Master Game 5-2
  • #7 H P Moon 5-1

Analysis: Kevin's Folly makes his debut for the Amoss barn that is 20% winners with first timers and picked up a win with a debut runners here on Microbiome on July 15. This colt was a $80,000 Keeneland purchase, by Distorted Humor out of a Vindication mare that has dropped six runners with five winners, top earner Jerome (G3) winner Flexibility ($288,500). The colt has three local drills since landing from Keeneland and looks ready to go.

Woodline dueled for the early lead and he was no match for the winner in the stretch in a runner up finish at Churchill Downs in his second career start. He checked in third in his debut two back in the slop. Asmussen is off to a good start at the meet here at 7 for 28 and this colt is the lone runner in here with experience as Life Is Great will scratch after running yesterday. The colt is by Gun Runner out of the stakes winner Blip n' Th Bye ($167,003), this her first foal to race.


Race 8 The Alfred G. Vanderbilt Hcp G1

  • #2 Mischievous Alex 2-1
  • #9 Special Reserve 9-2
  • #6 Whitmore 4-1
  • #3 Firenze Fire 3-1

Analysis: Mischievous Alex is cutting back from a mile where the colt prompted the early pace and battled on gamely in a third-place finish in the Met Mile (G1), beaten 1 3/4 lengths for the top spot. The colt earned career top two back winning the Carter 'Cap (G1) at Aqueduct going seven furlongs. He has run big in all four starts since landing with the Joseph barn, previously with John Servis where he was no slouch, winning the Swale (G3) and Gotham (G3) last year. He owns a solid pace profile throughout and does not need the lead, He is perfect in his two trips at six furlongs and he will appreciate the cut back here from a mile. The barn is 26% winners (with a +ROI) moving runners from route to sprint.

Special Reserve is coming in off back to back career tops for the hottest barn on the ground. The gelding won the Maryland Sprint (G3) two back at Pimlico and last out won the Iowa Sprint at Prairie Meadows. The third-place finisher in that race was Mojo Man came back to win a stake at Indian Grand in his next outing. Maker has transformed this guy since claiming him for $40,000 back in February. Rosario gets the call and he owns solid early and mid pace numbers and will be part of a lively early pace. He fits her with his best and may end up getting overlooked on the tote.


Race 10 The Bing Crosby G1

  • #6 Collusion Illusion 4-1
  • #3 C Z Rocket 5-2
  • #9 Brickyard Ride 7-2
  • #8 Dr. Schivel 7-2

Analysis: Collusion Illusion is the defending champ, winning this race last year as a three-year-old by a nose at 9-5 and it was his third win in a row since cutting back from a route and returning off a layoff. He was then placed second in the Saratoga Sprint Championship (G2) thanks to a DQ and then never got untracked in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) where he checked in 12th at 15-1. He bounced back with a better effort in a third-place finish in the Malibu (G1) to end his campaign. The runner up in that race was Express Train who has won a couple of G2 races since and ran second in the Big ‘Cap (G1). The Glatt barn is 19% winners with runners coming back off a +180-day layoff. Solid looking works on the morning tab and he is going to get an honest pace in front of him here.

C Z Rocket is cutting back from a mile where he pressed the early pace and was no match for Mo Mosa in the slop in a runner up finish in the Steve Sexton Mile (G3) at Lone Star. The winner came back to run fourth in the San Diego Handicap (G2) in his next start. The Miller barn claimed this old timer for just $40,000 last April and he has racked up 7 wins in 9 starts with three stakes and a runner up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). The cut back suits although today he will a race without lasix for the first time in his career. The gelding owns a solid pace profile throughout with good late pace numbers. The race sure looks as if it will set up for him. I just can’t get too excited about him if he dips below his 5-2 morning line.

Brickyard Ride earned the top last out speed fig with a gate to wire score in the state bred Thor’s Echo last out. It was his eighth win in 16 career starts. The colt owns solid early and mid pace numbers and his connections have made it known he is going to the lead. There is plenty of early speed in here to make things interesting. It is tough to explain his clunker two back and three back he regressed off his previous career top four back where he was a sharp winner of the San Carlos (G2). If he is able to get clear he could be tough but he just is not very reliable.


These are price plays for exotic players looking to find a couple of extra contenders to use in their Pick 4 and Pick 5 wagers. Or for those with smaller bankrolls, you might want to get in a small win wager. 


  • R2: #10 Vi’vinicris 10-1
  • R3: #6 Seeds of Time 10-1
  • R6: #2 Nyquest Nix 10-1
  • R11: #6 Bird’s Eye View 12-1

Good luck today!

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