Another week of no stakes on the calendar at Arlington is no problem for "Picks and Ponderings". This week, both halves of the team go their separate ways but converge on the Spa. It's a three-day-weekend of stakes action from Saratoga this week, with this piece looking at the Friday and Saturday features, set for August 8th and 9th. The Friday feature at Saratoga is the Hall of Fame Stakes, or more properly, the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes. It's set to dovetail with inductions earlier that day into the Hall of Fame. The Saturday feature at Saratoga is the Fourstardave, named for a Saratoga stalwart and a race that in the past two years was won by eventual Horse of the Year Wise Dan.
If you like baby races, Nicolle Neulist also of "Picks and Ponderings", will analyze a pair of them, the G2 Adirondack and G2 Saratoga Special.
As both races in this preview are slated for turf, we remind that selections are made "turf only".
Saratoga Race Course -- Race 9 - Friday August 8 -- Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes -- 1 1/16 miles on Inner Turf -- post time 5:15 pm ET
At publish time, the rail is set for zero. I think the ten furlongs of the G1 Belmont Derby Invitational were too far for Bobby's Kitten, who stalked and rated then kicked home to win the Penn Mile over G2 winner and G1 Secretariat possible Global View. The zippy time in the Penn National race proves that a race like this around a mile, not the ten furlongs of next week's Secretariat, is the way to go. This race could see BOBBY'S KITTEN, a logical and deserving favorite, taking the lead in the absence of a true need-the-lead type or sitting in the pocket like he did at Penn National. Aside from his Blue Grass (not applicable since it's polytrack) and Belmont Derby (too far), there's not a blemish this year and he was good enough at two to hit the board in the usually-European dominated Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Javier Castellano and Chad Brown hook up again, and they've been flammable in recent weeks. The price will likely be as chalky as a calculus lecture, but he looks the part in this event. Graham Motion has had a very nice Saratoga meet (seven wins, twenty-seven outs), and he brings in GIVE NO QUARTER. Closed off a moderate piece last time to win his first start at three downstate at Belmont, and makes start two off the layoff. The two year old form is fine, save for a disposable clunker in Canada. And GIVE NO QUARTER will get some pace to run at, likely from favorite BOBBY'S KITTEN. Still, it is a large leap from a first level allowance to a Grade Two and you wonder if he's trying to cross a bridge too far. Yet, he is live in here as he showed improvement from two to three and need not regress to be a factor. Horse-for-course BASHART won twice over the Saratoga last summer at two, getting the diploma and winning the G2 With Anticipation in consecutive starts. Like GIVE NO QUARTER he makes a second-off-layoff start, as he was second in one of the squillion overnight stakes they have at Belmont. A Rosario/Clement production, he takes the blinkers off here and may be the most tactical in the field: he was close to a hot pace downstate, yet, he walked the dog last summer at Saratoga on more reasonable fractions. With blinkers off I think he sits off the pace (amplifying BOBBY'S KITTEN), but has enough of a closing kick to hang around in the stretch.
#7 BOBBY'S KITTEN (7/5)
#1 GIVE NO QUARTER (3/1)
#6 BASHART (4/1)
Longshot: #5 LONG ON VALUE (5/1) needs help in this event. He'll need BOBBY'S KITTEN to go too fast or for someone to contest the pace. That's not what happened two back when trainer Bill Mott shipped to Chicago for the G3 Arlington Classic, when Istanford led the field on a loose lead. And he'll need a clear trip, as the chartcaller said he took a bad step last time downstate. But he will have pace targets in this event, for sure. And as long as things go his way, he has a puncher's chance in this event. The Velazquez/Mott team have three money finishes out of four recent outs, and at three he's run consistent figures. With a clear trip and pace help, he could surprise.
Saratoga Race Course -- Race 10 - Saturday August 9 -- Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap -- One mile on Inner Turf -- post time 6:10 pm ET
Morning line odds for this race were not available at publish time.
At publish time the rail will be set to eighteen feet. The presence of SAYAAD from the outside will likely soften up rail-drawn SILVER MAX, setting it up for one of the closers, JACK MILTON or SEEK AGAIN. Pulling apart these four-year-olds is no easy task. This space endorses JACK MILTON as he was forced out of his comfort zone last time in the G1 Shoemaker, where Obviously rated alone on the lead in a two-turn mile that's similar to today. Unlike in that event, there figures to be a contested pace from SILVER MAX (who's never been good at passing) and SAYAAD. That contested pace should help, and JACK MILTON even gained ground (despite losing a position) in the stretch. Javier Castellano climbs aboard, him winning a quarter of his Saratoga mounts. SEEK AGAIN was in the same zip code as Wise Dan (who is not in this race) two back on Derby Day going nine panels and was on the podium last out going ten panels on Belmont Day. Today he cuts back to eight furlongs, and perhaps the cutback works to his advantage. He's been in mothballs since the third at Belmont, and has been recorded regular workouts since July. Even though he gets the pace set-up, I'm still thinking everything for him went right in the Hollywood Derby last fall. That nagging feeling leads to JACK MILTON over SEEK AGAIN. If SAYAAD doesn't pressure the pace, that means SILVER MAX is gone on the lead, and he'll cruise on ahead. When he gets the lead he's tough to get around, but he is a poor rallier from the back of the pack. SILVER MAX does draw a cozy rail spot, but he's a leader not a follower and I don't think he'll be win if he's in the pocket. Still, he won a G2 on this course last summer and last time out won the G2 Firecracker. He's perhaps best known as the winner of the 2013 G1 Shadwell Turf Mile that was not on turf and not at a mile, so the class is there to grit out and hit the board.
#3 JACK MILTON (5/2)
#2 SEEK AGAIN (3/1)
#1 SILVER MAX (9/5)
Longshot: Three covered above, three left. Chicago-based players will remember DORSETT from last year's three-year-old turf races, but it's hard to endorse a horse whose last win was against a bad a-other-than group at Arlington. But he's now in the barn of Brian Lynch, going second off the layoff. Good luck. Yet I like the "other" and shorter-priced Lynch horse, #6 GRAND ARCH (8/1), who has shown success in the states at two-turn miles even though he won the G2 King Edward last time at a one-turn mile in Canada. GRAND ARCH retains rider David Moran, who rode him to that G2 win north of the border. Being put on the outside most-post with the rails out isn't a good idea on the Inner Turf at Saratoga, but he'll get pace to attack that wasn't there two back and the fact his post is poor will keep the odds up.
Updated on August 7th to include morning line odds and to revise the program's airtimes.
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