Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:50 AM

Sunday's Picks from Saratoga and Del Mar

Essential Quality won a stirring stretch duel with Midnight Bourbon to win the $1.25 million Travers (G1) on Saturday at Saratoga, returning his backers a paltry $2.90 to win.

The colt won for the eighth time in nine career starts. His lone loss came in the Kentucky Derby (G1) where he was fourth.

Midnight Bourbon rebounded from the Haskell Invitational (G1) where he clipped heels and dumped Paco Lopez to the track. The colt was able to set moderate early fractions and battled on gamely to come up just a neck short in game effort.

It was a tough day for longshot players. There were 10 winners on the 13-race card that paid $7.40 or less. We had seven of them pay $5.10 or less on what was the chalkiest day of the meeting.

We did get to see Firenze Fire try to take a chunk out of Yaupon as the two battled in the stretch in the Forego (G1). Firenze Fire turned his head and tried to bite Yaupon and at one point appeared to have his foe’s reins in his mouth.

The savaging probably cost Firenze Fire the win as he had just gotten his head in front when he decided to take a bite out of his opponent.

Let’s hope Sunday’s card is not nearly as chalky. The feature today is the $120,000 Better Talk Now, a one-mile test on turf that drew a competitive field of eight.

My Best Plays Report for Sunday includes my eight strongest plays from Del Mar and Saratoga.

“Saratoga Live” is on today on FS2 from 1-6:30pm (and streaming on YouTube). 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 Sunday click here .

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


 SAR Race 1 Clm $12,500

  • #2 High Heater 3-1
  • #1 Moonachie 4-5
  • #7 The Great Dansky 10-1
  • #6 First Homestead 6-1

Analysis: High Heater tracked the early pace and could not get to the gate tow ire winner last out in the slop over a racing strip that was kind to inside speed. This guy was shipping up from Florida and we have been facing the Walder and Joseph GP shippers with great success at the meeting but this guy ran well last out and catches a soft spot. Saez sticks which is a plus and the colt looks headed in the right direction form wise.

Moonachie chased the early pace and weakened to finish sixth last out against state bred Alw-2 optional claimers and drops into an easier spot here tagged for $12,500. Two back he ran a good second at Finger Lakes against state bred allowance foe behind repeat winner Ninth Hour who came back to beat $20,000 claimers at Belmont Park in his next outing. He looks tough here but the price is going to be light and the barn is having a tough meeting here this summer.


SAR Race 7 Alw $50,000s

  • #7 Determined Fury 6-1
  • #12 Charlie Five O 9-2
  • #4 Stanhope 8-1
  • #5 Montauk Daddy 5-2

Analysis: Determined Fury was bumped coming out of the gate, stalked the early pace and finished evenly in a third-place finish at this level last out in his first start against winners. He broke his maiden two back against $40,000 maiden claimers back in May in his first trip on turf. The Clement trainee should get a good tracking trip behind what is going to be a lively pace. This race looks as if it is going to set up nicely for him and the 6-1 morning line looks fair enough.

Charlie Five O tracked the early pace, came with a three wide bid and got stuck in behind foes, had to steady and then finished evenly for third. He was a smart looking winner two back beating $16,000 non- winners of two back in May. This will be his first go on turf here for Maker who is 15% winners moving runners from dirt to turf and 16% winners first off the claim. He is by Cinco Charlie out of a E Dubai mare that has dropped one other dirt winner and no turf winners. Not a real strong turf pedigree but he has some ability and is going to be sitting in the garden spot behind the early pace.


DMR Race 4 Md $50,000

  • #1 Surely Spectacular 5-2
  • #6 Lilly Babe 6-1
  • #2 Smart Monique 7-2
  • #5 Maggie Fitzgerald 6-1

Analysis: Surely Spectacular draws the rail here after running a solid second at 29-1 in her first trip over the main track here. She tracked the early pace and could not catch a loose on the lead gate to wire winner but cut into the margin in the stretch. She made her debut on the Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields where she was fourth and then fourth two back at Los Al going five furlongs. She has shown improvement with each outing and another move forward here for a capable barn looks good enough to get the job done.

Lilly Babe debuts for the Mulhall barn that is 14% winners (with a +ROI) with first time starters. The filly is by Empire Way out of a Misbah mare that has dropped three winners including stakes winner Loving Lynda ($168,635). She has posted a couple of quick works and this is not exactly a tough looking spot. She should end up a fair price in this spot.


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. 


  • R1: #7 The Great Dansky 10-1
  • R2: #5 Uncle Mo’s Cat 8-1
  • R6: #5 Barrett 15-1
  • R7: #4 Stanhope 8-1
  • R8: #9 Cost Basis 8-1
  • R8: #1 Amundson 10-1

Good luck today!

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