It’s a ginormous weekend of horse racing at Saratoga Racecourse. The Saturday card consists of seven stakes races with a combined $4.5 million in prize money, including the $1.25 million Travers Stakes. Big money attracts big names. Star horses litter the past performance profiles, from GAMINE to LETRUSKA to ESSENTAIL QUALITY.
Aside from the Triple Crown races, the Breeders’ Cup and a few others, it’s one of the best weekends of horse racing.
Let’s get started with…
Saratoga Racing Picks
Personal Ensign Stakes
Nine fillies and mares will race 1 1/8 miles on Saratoga’s main track. Despite the length, speed wins at the distance and surface with nearly 77% considered early speed. Running style might be a difference maker, post positions aren’t much of an influence.
Picks to Win:
ROYAL FLAG (PP: 5 ML 10-1) has collected a first three check in 10 of 10 races. She’s run twice at Saratoga with a win and a second in two starts and has two wins and a second in three at the distance. She won her last, trainer Chad Brown wins at 28% following a win.
LETRUSKA (PP: 6 ML 6/5) might be one of the best mares on God’s green earth. She is just a head away from winning six consecutive starts versus some of the best names in the business, including MONOMOY GIRL.
DUNBAR ROAD (PP: 1 ML 20-1) reached the highest speed figure at the distance and surface, meaning he has the most upside in the field. Jockey Flavien Prat takes the mount and has won four of 10 with trainer Chad Brown.
SWISS SKYDIVER (PP: 4 ML 7/2) has won seven of 14 races on a fast track, including a win over last year’s Kentucky Derby champ AUTHENTIC. She’s struggled in three of her last four since winning the Preakness Stakes. A few good workouts hint that maybe, maybe she’ll be back in form here.
Win: #6 LETRUSKA
Exacta Box: #1 DUNBAR ROAD, #4 SWISS SKYDIVER, #5 ROYAL FLAG and #6 LETRUSKA
Sword Dancer Stakes
Wow, this is a long one. The Sword Dancer is 1 ½ miles on the inner turf. Unlike dirt where speed kills, jockey Trevor McCarthy tell us early speed can be a death sentence meet to date on Saratoga grass. It seems like it’s not an anomaly as seven of the last 10 Sword Dancer ran no closer than fifth after the first quarter mile.
Picks to Win:
JAPAN (PP: 6 ML 9/2) is making his first start in the US. The breeder for the horse is tops in the field and so was his price tag, more than $1.8 million. Many times, horses that ship in from England and Ireland like the fast and firm footing on this side of the Atlantic.
CROSS BORDER (PP: 7 ML 4-1) sure loves Saratoga Springs. He raced at the New York track seven times and won six of them and is just a neck from winning them all. Outside of the Spa, he has just four trips to the winners’ circle in 28 chances.
TRIBHUVAN (PP: 1 ML 2-1) has one of our favorite, developing angles. He won at Monmouth Park in his last race and Monmouth only allows jockeys to use their riding crops in times of emergency. We’ve seen many horses move from Monmouth to a track that allows whips, like Saratoga, improve sharply.
GUFO (PP: 2 ML 3-1) has produced nothing but high quality starts in race after race for his first 11 outings. He’s a nose, neck and head from winning nine of his last 10 starts. He should begin his move in the middle of the race and build momentum to the finish line.
Win: #7 CROSS BORDER
Exacta Box: #1 TRIBHUVAN, #2 GUFO, #6 JAPAN and #7 CROSS BORDER
Back to dirt they go for the headline and back to fast and furious to probably find your winner. Seven of the last 10 Travers’ Stakes champs were close to the front from start to finish. Once again, post position doesn’t appear to be much of a factor.
Picks to Win:
ESSENTIAL QUALITY (PP: 2 ML 4/5) has never run a bad race. He even had a chance to win the Kentucky Derby after all sorts of problems. If he doesn’t get bumped or some other unexpected trouble, then he should run like a heavy favorite.
DYNAMIC ONE (PP: 4 ML 6-1) also ran in the Kentucky Derby with much different results, 18th place, 32 lengths behind the winner MEDINA SPIRIT. He didn’t return to the track until July 30th, winning by 1 ¾ lengths with the highest, last race speed figure. His resume says he might be a little better in round two off the bench.
MIDNIGHT BOURBON (PP: 1 ML 9/2) also had a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby. He got wiped out in his last start, the Grade I Haskell when HOT ROD CHARLIE cut him off late. If he doesn’t have problems along the way, he’s usually prominent from start to finish.
KEEPMEINMIND (PP: 3 ML 6-1) will be rolling late, like a fully loaded 18-wheeler downhill without brakes. It’s not the style that usually wins the Travers. He’ll be hoping for a fast early pace where the top contenders wear one another out.
Win: #2 ESSENTIAL QUALITY
Exacta Box: #1 MIDNIGHT BOURBON, #2 ESSENTIAL QUALITY, #3 KEEPMEINMIND and #4 DYNAMIC ONE
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