Saratoga Saturday Picks & Analysis for July 24: CCA Oaks Day

Nothing better than a Saratoga Saturday ... The Coaching Club American Oaks (G2) takes center stage, but there are an impressive array of races on this card that are sure to excite. Have a read ...
Nothing better than a Saratoga Saturday ... The Coaching Club American Oaks (G2) takes center stage, but there are an impressive array of races on this card that are sure to excite. Have a read ...

Is there anything better than a summer at Saratoga? It is a complex question, but it has nothing short of the easiest of answers. Once again, NYRA will host one of the most celebrated meets in all of Thoroughbred racing. will be with you every step of the way, as we offer a full slate of selections, and put forth some specific analysis on a select set of races. This time of year, brings the threat of pop-up showers, so be sure to monitor the forecasts each day because it could impact the conditions on the Mellon and Inner Turf Courses. Stay tuned …

If you're looking for picks elsewhere around the country on Saturday, be sure to check out our free Horse Racing Picks via the gold button below.

Horse Racing Picks

Race 5: Dirt, 1 1/8th, Coaching Club American Oaks (G2), $500k, 3F  

There is going to be little doubt that Todd Pletcher’s Malathaat #1 deserves to be the favorite in the Coaching Club (G2). She is currently the best 3-yr-old filly in America, and that title is well-deserved after her jockey John Velazquez fended off Search Results in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). After a break, she returns to the track in this much anticipated return. Pletcher teased everyone with the prospect that she might run in the Belmont Stakes (G1), but it was never to be. Bettors were probably hoping for a bigger field, but it was not to be. Instead, we got 3 others who are looking to take on the champ. Rob Atras’ Maracuja #2, Rudy Brisset’s Rockpaperscissors #3, and Steve Asmussen’s Clairiere #4 will all vie to try and upset the applecart. All I can say from a wagering standpoint is good luck. If you want to play an Exacta Wheel, and roll Pletcher’s queen underneath, then I can support that. Being a card-carrying contrarian makes me want to root for the underdogs here. Really and truly, only Asmussen’s charge has much of a chance in my opinion. Her duels with Brad Cox’s Travel Column in the Louisiana Series were fun to watch. If she can dig deep, maybe she can turn the tables and win this thing. Or not … and the daughter of Curlin, who is owned by Shadwell Stables, continues her march. Breeders’ Cup … here we come.

Wagering Recommendation: $2 Exacta Wheel, 2/3/4 w 1


Race 7: Turf, 1 1/16th, AOC80k, 3   

Another tough set of turf races is on the docket this Saturday, and it looks like the Churchill “invaders” are out to scoop up another win (that is becoming a “thing” …). In opposition to Christophe Clement’s Space Launch #11, who is being ridden by Joel Rosario, I like Brian Lynch’s Performing Arts #1. Being caught down on the rail will not be the “kiss of death” because he should have time to make up ground. Last time @CD, jockey Drayden Van Dyke got him home with a late surge. That MSW100k came up as a pretty tough race, and running up @SPA will be an interesting gamble. Lynch has already tried 4 during the Meet, but he is still waiting for his 1st score. Perhaps it will come today? The rider change to Luis Saez is a shrewd move, as his turf skills are high … very high. I am looking for him to rival Irad Ortiz for the riding title … that might be sacrilege, to some. As for Clement’s entry, I wouldn’t necessarily talk anyone off betting him, and the same could be said for Barclay Tagg’s Hombre #4. That colt, out of Tourist, won nicely at Belmont in a MSW90k last time, and if you want to take as a sign of things to come, then bet‘em … but I am sticking with Lynch-Saez. For the win …

Wagering Recommendation: $25/$50 Win #1


Race 8: Turf, 1 Mile, MSW100k, F&M 3+

 This Inner Turf battle is going to be a slugfest to see who can get to the lead. Maybe no one will want it … we shall see. Of course, Chad Brown has a pair of runners entered here (Split Then Double #1, Rastafara #3). Each gets one of the Ortiz Bros., and frankly, they both look like they can win. The former is a Dubb-Madaket-owned filly, who is well-bred for the turf. She just missed last time out at Belmont on turf with some give in it. The horse that won that race already came back and won, so Jose could be literally sitting on a winner. His brother Irad will have something to say about that, as his mount looks to improve on a 3rd last out in Elmont. Though he only lost by a length, his position did not improve from the top of the lane to the wire. Hmm … what to do with that tidbit?

I am fine with spurning these “Browns,” because I cannot abide these low odds. Instead, looking for a little more value, considering Shug McGaughey’s entry appears plausible. Baby Blythe #2 is a “Pharoah,” and those have a nice record on the turf, according to some. This filly debuted at Aqueduct before their turf course was shuddered for the winter back in December, and then Shug sent him to the bench. Owned by Courtlandt Farms, she is a 3-yr-old with some good works under her saddle, and Joel Rosario makes this one to include for sure, even with the 90+ days away. Trust in Shug …

One other entrant that is more than worth a look is Jonathan Thomas’ Midnight Choir #5. Out of accomplished sire Maclean’s Music, this filly ran against Honey Pants in her debut at Belmont back in October. She is another one of those layoff runners whose maturity could win her the day. She gets “blinkers,” Manny Franco, and 1st time Lasix … that is a trifecta. Thomas knows how to get them ready, especially when it comes to transitioning from 2 to 3-yrs-old.

I am bullish on Thomas, after some contemplation. The price will be superb, as most will gravitate towards the typical favorites. Time for a big score!

Wagering Recommendation: $100 Bankroll, Graduated Wager, WPS #5 ($10-W, $15-P, $75-S)


Race 10: Turf, 5½F, Caress Stakes (G3), F&M 4+    

What amounts to a “co-feature,” what with the CCA (G2) being Race 5 in the lineup, this one is going to a tough portion of any sequence. Sprinting on the grass makes some think … give me one that likes to go to the lead … while, others like the thrill of those that can navigate traffic, weaving for a win. In this 6-horse field, it looks as though Bruce Bowen’s Robin Sparkles #2, out of Elusive Quality, will shine the most. Getting Jose Ortiz provides a measure of stability, and the fact that this filly has won 6/8, makes her pretty impressive. The one detracting feature is that she is headed into tougher company. This is decidedly not a 100 or 150k … this is a G3!

Keeping that in mind, almost everyone drawn in here is making the climb. That happens in lower “Graded” races. Liz Merryman’s entry (whom she also bred, and co-owns with celebrity chef, Bobby Flay) is another one making the leap. Caravel #1 is talented; these sons and daughters of Mizzen Mast have proved over the years that they can handle the short grass races. After running in 100k-type races at Belmont, Pimlico, and Monmouth, she is looking to make it 3 in-a-row. Irad Ortiz answers the NYRA call, and even on the rail, he can be dangerous. I have a rule to never bet this post position in turf sprints, so this is an easy toss for me. Most will issue a quizzical brow at that assertion …

My plays are going to come from the outside, which is the place to be breaking from the gate because you can avoid the fray. Shug McGaughey’s Flower Point #5 and Mike Maker’s Jakarta #6 definitely have their plusses and minuses. The former is a John Sadler runner who came over to Shug at the first of the year won an OC80k 7F sprint at Belmont last time out. That was a game effort by Joel Rosario, and he is back again to guide her in this spot. I don’t know if she has the ability to move up further, but her conditioner certainly thinks so. As for Maker’s charge, this daughter of Bustin Stones has failed me on a number of occasions, but I still like her ability, and the fact that she is owned by Three Diamonds. This is the perfect spot to bet her because most will look at her recency and scoff. They shouldn’t … she has a mix of speeds that can be utilized by Luis Saez, and I trust him to make the right calls. I am predicting that this mare’s price will drift towards 8/1, or maybe, if we are lucky, even higher. Stick with her … she can deliver the goods!

Wagering Recommendation: $2 Exacta Wheel, 5/6 w 1/2/5/6


Race 11: Turf, 1 1/16th, ALLW90k, F&M 3+

Spinning on the “Inner” is coming our way in the finale, and I am pretty excited about this one. Nothing like a high-level ALLW Co. to finish this Saturday off. In a field of 12 like this one, you will notice that the M/L gives us a clue that George Weaver’s entry is well-regarded. At 7/5, that is a pretty short price to accept, so if you think My Lips Are Sealed #7 is your play, you had better be sure. This 4-yr-old filly appears steady after some Belmont action. I don’t think that her last race was that promising. She lost the lead heading into the stretch, though she finished ½ length off of it, in the end (3rd). Backing up towards the end of a race for what could end up being a favorite makes me cringe.

My top pick comes from the Todd Pletcher turf racing engine, and Just Ok Is Not Ok #6 is my kind of class elevator. The filly out of English Channel (who Pletcher also trained) is looking to notch another win, after she scored at Belmont in a MSW75k back on 11 June. If the Barry Schwartz-owned runner can keep close, then Luis Saez might be celebrating in the winner’s circle. At 6/1, she is an overlay, as far as I am concerned. I just got my Luis Saez official “fan club” membership card in the mail, so I am ready to go in this turf spot!

As for one more sneaky good runner, what about the horse drawn wide in stall #12? Tyler Gaffalione rides Mike Maker and Three Diamonds Farm’s Jamaica Joy #12. She is a filly with some upside who did not flash very much interest when she stepped up from a MSW75k to an ALLW80k race last time. Both of those races were on the dirt, but the switch to the grass here might be just what the doctor ordered. Into Mischiefs are versatile, and can handle the lawn just as well as the dirt. I would trust Maker’s plan implicitly because he can spot superbly. At 12/1, or maybe even higher … this is one to use for sure. What a Saturday!

Wagering Recommendation: $2 Trifecta Box, 6/7/12


Enjoy some action from the SPA! The tradition at Saratoga Race Course marches on …

Horse Racing Results