It’s Closing Day at historic Saratoga Race Course, and the track that has not missed much of a beat since the American Civil War has once again put on a fabulous exhibition of Thoroughbred talent. As you handicap this final day of racing, join us as we offer our selections.
Today, we find ourselves in the midst of a 12-race card that is sure to bring some major value at the betting windows. Have a look at our resident turf-man, J.N. Campbell’s selections, as he tries to assist you with as many winners as possible on this Labor Day!
If you're looking for picks elsewhere around the country this Monday, be sure to check out our free Horse Racing Picks via the gold button below.
Kicking off the last of the Late Pick 4s of the season, we find a nice group of New York breds which will be contesting this dirt sprint. There have been a number of these races over the course of The SPA Meet, and the payouts continue to be pretty generous. I want a price horse, instead of just playing a “chalk” like Betsy Blue #7 is sure to be for Linda Rice. Granted, I liked this one last time in a race that was intended for the grass. The filly out of Tonalist finished 2nd, but it was a pretty lackluster performance as the favorite. I am not going to back her again.
Instead, I like the look of Robert Falcone’s Ifihadachance #4. The mare out of Courageous Cat was excellent last time in an ALLW Co. spot, and she really showed some effort down the lane. Here is a chance to showcase her versatility, and I think Ricardo Santana can get the best out of her. It may seem odd bringing her back in distance, but Falcone’s numbers doing this are not horrendous. It is a small sample, but it does happen.
Just a side note … I am not sure what the reasoning is behind Bruce Bowen’s Awesome Debate #6. Here is a runner who won the Union Avenue100k last time. What is she doing dropping back into this spot? Very odd indeed … I will be staying away from this suspicious one.
The last of the Graded Stakes at Saratoga is upon us, and this G1, the Hopeful S., showcases the very best 2-yr-old talent that money can buy. Historically, this race is an important stop along the NYRA prep trail, and you never know … could we be looking at a KYD148 entry in here?
A survey of the field tells us that Todd Pletcher’s Wit #6 and Bill Mott’s High Oak #8, will tussle for favoritism on the tote board. I am sure Pletcher’s pal will end up winning the numbers game because most bettors heard about his exploits last out in the Sanford (G3). There is no doubt that the Repole runner has talent, and a massive amount of late speed. Out of Practical Joke (Into Mischief), he won that race with ease … by a whopping 8-lengths. If Irad Ortiz can keep him out of trouble, and master a clean trip, then there is no one that can touch him in this spot.
As for Mott’s entry, I wouldn’t just write him off. After all, he did win the Saratoga Special (G2) ahead of Steve Asmussen’s excellent Gunite #3. That was a major accomplishment considering the Winchell-owned colt out of Gun Runner was stellar in his prior try. The best news for this son of Gormley is he is 2/2 so far in his career. Junior Alvarado, who gets the call as Mott’s regular rider, is going to need every ounce of power to drive down the lane against Pletcher’s prize.
Speaking of the newest training member of the Hall of Fame, he has another 2-yr-old colt in here that deserves respect, and he is owned by … surprise … Repole! Power Agenda #10 broke his maiden on debut at Saratoga back in mid-August, and he has the breeding to keep going. With Nyquist and Uncle Mo in your background, you are sure to be able to make strides in your career. At 10/1 and with Manny Franco aboard, he could be a really nice overlay to consider. Do not ever count Pletcher out, especially when he has an uncoupled entry.
You absolutely cannot be afraid to go with a price horse in these types of turf routes on the Inner @The SPA. The value is just too great, and I am not the hunt for one that is going to fill my pocketbook.
Over the past week or so, it appears that trainer Mike Maker has cooled off from that torrid pace he set at the beginning of the Meet. Of course, when he goes shopping for claims, you had better be watching. At the beginning of August in 2020, he scored a member of Tom Amoss’ barn for his outfit. Now, after time-off and a number of “get to know you” works, he is sending King Cause #2 back to the grass course for another go. The Nice Guys Stable is hoping it was as good as his last run because that was a win at the OC62.5k level. I am not so sure I want to take a short price on a turf mower that has not seen competition in over a year.
I would rather spend my money and time investing in an entry like the Jerkens Barn’s own Klickitat #12. Here is an inviting price at 6/1 on the M/L, but looking closer, the gelding out of First Samurai has some nice form. Certainly, the ALLW Co. race he contested last time was not a positive result; but it also wasn’t a negative one either. Finishing 4th, just a length off the lead, was not terrible. On the contrary, it showed some real heart, considering it was a step-up in class. Now, with Eric Cancel back in the irons, he is looking to take this one to the house. It could be an excellent victory, if a trip can be organized around the green oval properly. Staying clear of traffic troubles will be the order of the day …
Wagering Recommendation: $25/$50 WP #12
Race 12: Turf, 5½F, MC40k, F&M 3+ NY Breds
It is fitting, don’t you think, that we will end our time at The SPA with a tough little turf sprint going the customary 5½F. These are not for the faint of heart, so buckle up everyone. With these older females who happen to all be New Yorkers, they could run this race 50x, and probably get that many different results. That’s horse racing …
In here, I am looking for a frontrunner that can get clear, and set some reasonable fractions. Controlling the pace up front … modulating the fractions will be very important. When it comes to conditioners who teach gatework, and teach it well, then I would have to say that Wesley Ward has no equal. Some come close, but they are just not quite where he is when it comes to this important skill. For that reason alone, I want to back his 1st time starter in this spot, Norman Queen #5.
The filly out of Normandy Invasion does not have a strong grass pedigree on that side, but the dam (Unbridled’s Song in the background) is well-versed in these matters. Getting John Velazquez to ride, a HOF-er that Ward has used more frequently of late (since Keeneland), is a major plus. If Johnny V can get her to break like she should, this contest may well be over before it really begins. I like her chances, and if her odds could hover around 3/1, then that is a pretty square price. The New York betting public sometimes overlook Ward … and that would be a mistake.
Wagering Recommendation: $2 Exacta Wheel, 5 w 1/2/3/4/6/7/8/9/10/11/12
It’s Closing Day at The SPA! Another fabulous NYRA Meet is coming to an end! Until next year …