Nice card of graded stakes at Saratoga on Saturday, although it is 50-50 chance of rain according to the National Weather Service. With that in mind, I have to qualify some of my picks for the possibility of an off-track.
In the G1 Diana Stakes (on turf), I am going to go against a mare I like very much, My Typhoon, who has been in the money 3 of 4 times running at Saratoga, but this is not her optimum distance. On a yielding turf last summer, she failed to hold the lead and finished a narrowly beaten fourth, just ¾ lengths behind Angara, Sweet Talker, and Argentina (who reappears here for the first time since October last). Lots of talk about Makderah, who certainly looks tough here, especially after her last workout over the Saratoga main track. However, for some value, I’m looking at Magnificent Song who is running in her third race since a layoff (improved in each subsequent race), has strong late speed, and won over a yielding Saratoga turf last year in the G3 Lake George. She’s also a Grade 1 winner (2006 Garden City Breeders’ Cup at Belmont), who has posted the second fastest Bris speed figure (105) at this distance, behind only Danzon. I like her 8-1 morning line too. The other longshot I like here is Meribel, who also has monstrous late speed. Ignore her last race. Jockey Pablo Fragoso misjudged the finish line and pulled her up way too soon, thus her third place finish (by ½ length) to High Moment and J’ray. She gets Garrett Gomez back, and she’s 2 wins in 2 tries over Saratoga turf. She could surprise.
In the G2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes, I like Diabolical’s form coming into this race, even with the layoff, and particularly his four impressive workouts since his last outing. If it does rain, an off track is just to Diabolical’s liking. So too for Commentator, who is 3 wins in 3 tries on off tracks, plus he owns 3 wins in 4 tries over the Saratoga dirt, including winning the 2005 G1 Whitney. For a longshot winner, I like Attila’s Storm who worked sharp over the Saratoga dirt on Wednesday, and has excellent early speed. I also might be tempted to place some money on Benny The Bull, who tries stakes company for the first time (a daunting task here) after switching to the barn of Richard Dutrow. He’s 30% with first time runners, but what a spot here!
The G1 Go For Wand features Ermine and Ginger Punch who look to be the two top picks, and rightly so. However, I will be rooting for the rough-and-tumble Plaid. You go girl! The G1 Whitney is probably the toughest race of all to handicapping today, what with 12 solid entries, all of which I find difficult to throw out entirely. I like Brass Hat and Papi Chullo (that Contessa-Coa combo is lethal!), but I’m going out on a limb and root for Student Council, who just missed behind Brass Hat last out and has two monster workouts at Saratoga since. I am also keen on Dry Martini, who ran a very smart race winning the G2 Cornhusker in his first race under Barclay Tagg, a trainer I admire.
ABC will be televising the Saratoga races beginning at 4:00 p.m. EST.
My current infatuation, Southwestern Heat, will be running in the Oh Say Stakes at Delaware today. Steve Asmussen’s two-year-old Posse colt, Lantana Mob, is the odds-on favorite to win the Tyro Stakes at Monmouth, but I prefer Todd Pletcher’s Hook And Ladder colt Spanky Fischbein. What a goofy name, though! If anyone knows the source, please enlighten me :)