Maybe it’s just giddiness from studying Saturday’s races too long, but I noticed some pretty weird things happening. Okay, I admit, sometimes I chuck the standard analysis of speed figures, form and other logical angles, in favor of the much-feared (albeit scarily-successful) hunch bet. And today it’s happening in spades.
For example, is it just a coincidence that, on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, one of the entrants in Monmouth’s Continental Mile is Wesley Ward-trained Mississippi Hippie, and it’s a race on grass? Okay, maybe that’s taking it a bit far, but how about the hockey angle? Yes, in race 4 at Saratoga (a race that also features an Allen Jerkens-trained colt named Clean Shot), Mike Hushion sends out Sean Avery, while on the other coast, the G2 La Jolla Handicap includes a 3-year-old Toccet gelding named Gretsky. Now that’s just weird.
Anyone else got football on the brain? Not only do we have U S C Fight Song in Woodbine’s race 7, and in race 2 at Saratoga, Bulldogger, but at Arlington in race 3, there’s a 12-1 morning line longshot named Terryhowieandjimmy, at Calder in race 4 Coaching, and in race 3 at Delaware someone Called an Audible.
And what’s with the foreign language phrases? At Del Mar in race 5, say hello to Buenos Dias, while at Canterbury race 3, it’s Gesundheit to you.
Whether it’s Devilin in race 1 at Emerald, or Mephistopheles in Ellis race 10, or Sent by the Devil in race 1 at Thistledown, they all sound like trouble. I’m so Discombobulated (Suffolk, race 4).
Enough! How about some real old-fashioned handicapping?
At Saratoga, race 2 features 2-year-old first-time-starters going six furlongs—always a tough race to handicap. Do you base analysis on workouts, jockey-trainer pairings, or breeding? The winner on all three accounts is Liston, by Storm Cat out of G1 Ashland winner (and G1 Kentucky Oaks runner-up) Rings a Chime. He’s a half-brother to G1 Alcibiades and G1 Hollywood Starlet victress Country Star so precocious he should be, and with leading jockey Alan Garcia up for Kiaran McLaughlin, he’s sure to be the post-time favorite. Or is he?
Brother Bird is a half-brother to G1 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, a big-time ($485k) Fasig-Tipton purchase in May, who goes out here for Todd Pletcher. Interestingly, it’s not John Velazquez up, but Ramon Dominguez, so I’m not quite sure what to make of that, as Velazquez is up on the Bob Baffert-trained Bulldogger, a Dixie Union colt that has been training very well at Del Mar, but ships in for this start. Shug McGaughey-trained World Record is another classy possibility. His dam Finder’s Fee won the G1 Matron at 2 (as well as the G1 Acorn at 3, and a host of other graded stakes), but she hasn’t had much success as a broodmare, and unfortunately died last month of colic. If you want a hot combo, how about Bill Mott and Kent Desormeaux teaming up with Chief Counsel?
The feature race at Saratoga is the G1 Sword Dancer, where I would love to see Foolish Pleasure descendent Grand Couturier make it a three-peat of this race. He obviously loves the Saratoga turf, and Alan Garcia does a good job with him. That said, I’ve got a sneaky feeling that today we’ll see magic, as 10-year-old Better Talk Now wins under Ramon Dominguez. The key will be a strong early pace, with Lauro, Musketier and possibly Americain prominent, and Quijano close up. With that pace scenario and a clean run, Better Talk Now can do it.
In the G3 Monmouth Oaks, I’d love to see Larry Jones-trained Just Jenda win, and off her smashing eight length win last out, it wouldn’t be a surprise. However, three others to consider for the exotics with red-hot angles: Medaglia d’Oro daughter Renda (hey...Jenda, Renda...), and Sweet Relish who’s been on a tear after losing to Rachel Alexandra back in October, as well as Malibu Prayer who was sandwiched in between Rachel and recent G1 Test winner Flashing in the G1 Mother Goose two back.
Finally, considering he’s unbeaten this year against Louisiana-bred company, Star Guitar looks a sure winner in the Evangeline Mile, and this speedy Quiet American 4-year-old should venture out of the bayou more often considering his third-place finish back in May in the G3 Alysheba at Churchill was less than two lengths back of recent-G1 Whitney victor Bullsbay and runaway Albert the Great Stakes winner Coal Coal Man.
Oh, and I can't resist...