By Sean Morris
Another Best Bet column, another Saturday Pick 4 at Saratoga – and alas, it’s the last of the newly extended meet, featuring the Grade 1 Woodward and Grade 2 Glens Falls. I was again tempted to focus on the Pick 5, but I’ll sacrifice the reduced takeout of that wager to avoid the 2-year-old maiden turf event that serves as its first leg. In these situations I’m always inclined to shorten up to play races that figure to be more formful rather than invite unneeded chaos. Takeout is always 100 percent if you don’t win.
Race 9 – Allowance (4:54 p.m. ET)
This is not an easy race to kick things off with. I’m not enamored with any of the runners who are likely to take the most money, though it was also tough to find any viable long shot to latch onto. I give Hallawallah the tepid nod for the red hot Asmussen barn. There isn’t much speed signed on and with a cleaner break than she got in that June 20 race at Churchill, which despite coming against straight 3-year-old fillies was a much better field than this one, she should be able to work out a comfortable trip from the rail. Just to her outside, Proximity Bias is also a major player, though she’s hardly formidable. I thought she ran fine last time chasing a pretty fast pace while wide throughout. It was an encouraging effort off a long layoff but she’s likely to be overbet. Like Proximity Bias, Take Charge Aubrey has a right to step forward in her second start off a long layoff, but I thought she got the better trip of the pair when they met last out and she was clearly second best. Given my lack of enthusiasm for the aforementioned runners, I also want to include My Roxy Girl as a main play. She’s taking a significant step up in class after beating New York-bred claimers with a great trip, but I thought she showed noticeable improvement once claimed away from Mitch Friedman, and I consider Danny Gargan to Linda Rice to be more of a lateral move. One horse I’m mildly intrigued by at a price is Brucia La Terra. Her career has taken a bit of a nosedive since a runner-up finish in the G1 Frizette, but I don’t think she’s actually a turf horse so her last race could be a sign she’s rounding back into form. My sincere hope is that Arrifana takes a lot of money, as I want absolutely no part of her. Ordinarily, she might be a type I’d gravitate to in a race like this but I thought the field she beat last time was dreadful, and despite the margin of victory she wasn’t even particularly impressive visually.
MAIN: 1,2,7 BACKUP: 8,10,11
Race 10 – Grade 2 Glens Falls (5:27 p.m. ET)
Santa Monica is definitely the horse to beat as she was up against it from a pace and trip perspective in the Waya. However, I’m not willing to concede this race to her. Perhaps I’m being too hard on her given the circumstances of the Waya. It just felt like she still had a chance to win in the stretch but couldn’t even get by the runner-up. She clearly possesses the most imposing resume of this group and will be a ‘main’ play, but her running style always leaves her somewhat vulnerable. Her stablemate Fools Gold was the beneficiary of a perfect trip in the Waya, but she has the tactical speed to work out a similar trip in this spot and can’t be discounted, even though it is tempting to try to beat her. I’ll also be using the other, other Chad, Night of England, who lost her best chance in her 2019 debut when she had trouble at the start from a wide post. I actually thought she ran quite well in the G3 Long Island last year and could benefit greatly from a cleaner break and more aggressive ride. Making her first start in North America, Mrs. Sippy is a complete wildcard. Her 2018 form would make her very dangerous against this bunch but she’s yet to show up with a competitive effort in 2019 and will likely be trying to close into a soft pace. She’s obviously capable of winning but is a tough one to have much conviction in. I’d love to give last year’s winner Lady Montdore another try given the dearth of early speed in here but her recent form is too bad to feel comfortable using her prominently. This is another perplexing race.
MAIN: 2,4,5,8 BACKUP: 1,7,9
Race 11 – Grade 1 Woodward (6 p.m. ET)
I’ve never been a big fan of Yoshida but I think I’ve finally seen the light after his eye-opening runner-up finish in the G1 Whitney. After spending most of the race down inside over a track that was favoring outer paths and lagging well behind a moderate pace, he unleashed a powerful rally around the far turn and finished with a flourish in the stretch to give McKinzie a run for his money. There’s an argument to be made that he was the best horse in the race, and if he’s able to deliver a similar performance on Saturday, he’s going to win this race. Contrary to Yoshida, I thought Vino Rosso was very disappointing in the Whitney. I had high hopes for him after he vanquished Gift Box on that one’s home soil in the G1 Gold Cup, but he worked out a decent trip in the Whitney and just wasn’t good enough. It’s possible he reverts back to his best form with blinkers removed, but I’m just not sure he’s on the level of Yoshida even if he does. Tom’s d’Etat was an impressive winner of the Alydar last out but I’m wary of his chances in this spot. He seems to be the type of horse who looks like a world-beater when everything goes his way but fizzles under any kind of adversity. He’ll be hard-pressed to beat this field from his wide post. Preservationist looked set to reach even greater heights after exploding to a dominant score over Catholic Boy and Pavel in the G2 Suburban, but in retrospect that race appears to be more the product of a perfect trip on a rail-biased track than a true reflection of his own ability. With questions looming over his chief rivals, this is Yoshida’s race to lose.
MAIN: 7 BACKUP: 3,5
Race 12 – Maiden Special Weight (6:33 p.m. ET)
It’s taken two special firsters to get Free Enterprise beat in his first two starts, and that’s probably what it will take again to prevent him from breaking his maiden in his third start. Performer, who has since come back to win an allowance race at the Spa with a 96 Beyer, got the better of Free Enterprise in his debut, and last out En Wye Cee came with a furious rally to deny him what looked to be a certain victory. The chances one of Free Enterprise’s competitors on Saturday is capable of turning in a similar performance is doubtful. The brightest glimmer of hope might come from Tolerant, who makes his debut for Kiaran McLaughlin. He’s out of a graded stakes winner and has been working sharply for his debut, but it feels like six furlongs might be a bit too short as his dam was best going a route of ground. Airtouch turned in an imposing speed figure in his first start for Todd Pletcher, but that was two years ago and the winner of that race, Oskar Blues, hasn’t run a number that even approaches it in 14 subsequent tries. Those with proven recent form would have to improve by leaps and bounds to have any say in the outcome.
MAIN: 8 BACKUP: 4,5
Sean fell in love with horse racing making annual trips to Saratoga with his father. He has worked for the New York Racing Association in the Communications Department and as an on-air Racing Analyst. He currently serves as a bloodstock agent, scouring the country for horses to claim, as well as those to bet.