Rather than take on the monumental (and rather futile due to the potential rain) task of handicapping the entire card, I thought I’d just take on the races that interest me most—the 2-year-old events.
Race 7—MSW (2yo fillies, 5.5f)
5 Roman Chestnut
13 The Underling
1 Salaam Alaykum
If she draws in, The Underling looks very good, considering last out she lost to Beautician who finished a distant second to Hot Dixie Chick in the G3 Schuylerville on opening day. The Underling is also a half-sister to Awesome Ashley (who finished fourth in the G1 Frizette at 2), out of the multiple-G1 winner Queen’s Court Queen (Lyphard), herself runner-up in the G2 Alcibiades at 2.
Hidden Value is the most experienced runner, with three races under her belt—including getting crushed by Hot Dixie Chick two back. She’s reunited with Jamie Theriot with whom she just missed in her first run. Freshman sire Value Plus already has six winners this year, but it’s her dam Raw Gold who’s precocious, winning the G2 Landaluce at 2, and producing Kadira, dual stakes winner at 2. Raw Gold is also a half-sister to G1 Del Mar Debutante victress and G1 Oak Leaf runner-up Point Ashley.
Kinsey ran behind Hidden Value last out for Steve Asmussen—as did Eddie Kenneally’s Go For Jan—but none of them was closing on the two in front of them, She’s a Pioneer and Yes It’s Valid, the latter who subsequently thrashed a large field of colts at Presque Isle in a maiden special weight. Kinsey’s a full-sister to G3 winning Electrify who was a stakes winner at 2. Go For Jan was favored in that race, but showed nothing in finishing seventh of ten. No jockey or equipment changes, and modest workouts—hard to back her here, especially with a bunch of fresh faces.
Bill Mott-trained Atrea enters off a Belmont race won by That’s How I Roll, who did nothing in the Schuylerville, and included Stormandaprayer who led but faded to fourth in yesterday’s stakes. She might do better here, especially with an off-track.
A $220k Keeneland yearling purchase, Celestial Sweep has been training since May at Saratoga, with a series of good works. However, her prolific G3-winning mare Gail’s Brush generally hasn’t produce 2-year-old winners—I’m on the fence about her. Another high-priced baby is Simply Spiteful, a full-sister to Hornung who broke his maiden at second-asking last year at Golden Gate—his third “real” dirt efforts were complete busts, including finishing way, way back in a $35k claimer taken off the turf at Saratoga on opening day for new trainer Michelle Nihei. A $200k Ocala two-year-old purchase, Hornung has made less than $40k in eight races—I hate to curse his sister, but even with the nice 5f gate works at Fair Hill for Mike Trombetta, I can’t recommend her here. Ditto Cape Cod Carrie ($110k OBS) and Snap Happy ($100k FTK), even though the latter’s dam Snappy Little Tune was a nice race mare, and with some experience should prove useful.
The highest priced horse in the field is $340k Keeneland purchase Ailalea, a Pulpit filly whose dam Wood Sprite has produced recent G2 First Flight runner-up Spritely, and G3-placed turfster Sea of Trees. Another half-brother Forest King went off favorite, but could only manage a very distant seventh in the same claiming race as Hornung. Good 5f gate work last time, but will let her beat me.
Kiaran McLaughlin won on opening day with Saratoga Russell, but failed with both his two-year-olds including well-regarded Trappe Shot. Here he sends out Edward Evans-homebred Salaam Alaykum (Saint Liam) who’s worked gangbusters this month. However, with a Kingmambo dam, she probably wants a lot longer than 5.5f.
One that does fascinate me is Leah Gyarmati-trained Roman Chestnut, who got no respect from the odds-maker, at 50-1—and was acquired for a measly $8k last October. She’s posted regular works since April, three straight respectable 5f works (two from the gate) in July. Everything indicates she is being brought along responsibly. Not crazy about Arroyo as jockey, but Roman Chestnut is a half-sister to this year’s G2 Carry Back winner Not For Silver, a sprinter who’s won four of seven lifetime and whose only out-of-the-money finish was in the 7f G3 Bay Shore. He won in his maiden effort—no reason why she can’t too! She's my longshot flyer pick.
Race 9—G2 Sanford Stakes (2yo, 6f)
There’s just no way I can root for anyone other than Backtalk here—Foolish Pleasure descendent through his sire Smarty Jones, and half-brother to my favorite Bsharpsonata. He won the G3 Bashford Manor despite traffic problems, and he won his maiden effort on an off-track, so he’s ready for whatever comes.
Edgar Prado won last year’s running with Desert Party—this year, he’s on Steve Asmussen’s Enumerate whose sire Proud Accolade won the 2004 G2 Champagne at 2, and whose damsire Grand Slam won the same race in 1997. Enumerate easily won at first asking, and should do well here.
The “other” Asmussen entry is Louisvilleluminary may be even more impressive. He is a full-brother to G1 Cigar Mile and G2 Jim Dandy victor Purge, as well as G3 Virginia Oaks runner-up Namaste’s Wish. With that pedigree, you’d think turf and/or artificial surfaces are in his future, but he’s already done well enough to win here.
The Todd Pletcher-John Velazquez combo has won four Sanfords, including back-to-back efforts with Scat Daddy and Ready’s Image. This year he sends Interactif, whose third dam is the great undefeated Personal Ensign. He won at first asking at Monmouth, but wasn’t that impressive, as he barely hung on going 5f. Still, you can’t ignore that potent trainer-jockey duo.
For a bit of a price, Bricklayer intrigues—nice maiden victory back in April at Aqueduct, then tried Victoria Stakes at Woodbine where he failed as the favorite to impressive (and tragic) Olredlgetcha. His dam Miss Brickyard is a half-sister to G1 Del Mar Debutante victress Miss Houdini, dam of G2 Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem. The only problem—this is probably way too short for him.