Saratoga Saturday Analysis: Essential Quality Returns

Chris Adams

Belmont Stakes champion Essential Quality returns in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga. The race is one of three graded stakes on the Saturday card.

Saratoga Leading Connections

Saratoga is often dominated by top tier jockeys and trainers. With a couple of weeks of racing in the books, the cream is starting to rise to the top. After almost 100 races here the top connections that players should be be aware of. Results reflect races run before July 29.

Saratoga Jockey Standings

  1. Jose Ortiz (18 wins-77 starts)
  2. Luis Saez (18 wins-87 starts)
  3. Irad Ortiz Jr. (16 wins)
  4. Tyler Gafflione (9 wins)
  5. Joel Rosario (8 wins)

Saratoga Trainer Standings

  1. Mike Maker (7 wins)
  2. Brad Cox (6 wins-12 starts)
  3. Todd Pletcher (6 wins-34 starts)
  4. Chad Brown (6 wins-43 starts)
  5. Steve Asmussen & Christophe Clement (5 wins-24 starts)
  6. Bill Mott (5 wins-26 starts)

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) keeps extremely detailed records on their website about how these connections do in more specific circumstances. This is a great tool for players looking to go deeper with jockey and trainer stats.

Saturday’s Saratoga Card

The weather report for Saratoga shows a high probability of rain on Thursday evening. However, at this point both Friday and Saturday appear to be clear. Hopefully this allows for the track conditions to be fast and firm for the stakes-laden card on Saturday.

Race 1

Post: 1:05 PM ET; Purse: 100k Maiden Special Weight, 5 1/2 Furlongs on Dirt; Entries: 8

#6 Woodline kicks off the card as my best bet of the day. He is one of only 2 that enter the race with any experience. The #2 Master Game was installed as the favorite with no experience which suggests there is plenty of buzz.

Deeper down the ticket I will use the other with a race under his belt in #1 Life is Great and another first time starter in the #3 Kevin’s Folly who boasts strong connections.

  • Selections: 6-2-3-1 (Best Bet: #6)

Race 2

Post: 1:41 PM ET; Purse: 50k Maiden Claiming, 1 1/16 Miles on Turf; Entries: 12

#1 Fast Gordon is a tepid favorite on the morning line, but comes in with a pace and form advantage on his foes here. Bookending the field with my top choice is #12 Majestic Sky who will be close early and may just get the stalk and pounce trip that gives him the leg up on the deep closers.

Just to his inside is #11 Out of the Breech who will need things to go right in front of him, but is competitive in a lot of key handicapping factors.

  • Selections: 1-12-11-10

Race 3

Post: 2:15 PM ET; Purse: 48k Claiming, 7 Furlongs on Dirt; Entries: 8

The third race has a couple entry which looks solid. The #1a Flat Awesome Jenny looks like the stronger of the pair. With stablemate #1 Miss Liana having a contrasting run style, the entry should be covered regardless of how the Saratoga track is playing.

Challenging for the lead will also be #2 Cartwheel who should benefit from being toward the front. At a price the #3 Cathy Naz will be sitting in the second flight and could get the first jump if the front runners are coming back late.

  • Selections: 1a-2-1-3

Race 4

Post: 2:47 PM ET; Purse: 50k Maiden Claiming, 1 1/16 Miles on Inner Turf; Entries: 11

This race seems wide open on paper. While the favorite #7 High Tone has the speed that has been helpful on the inner turf in the past, she is far from a sure thing. In races that are wide open I like to look for prices and ultimately landed on #8 Brennan’s War just to her outside. She seems to be cycling up in form and is always closing late.

#2 Pivotal Run has the advantage of inside speed and maybe that will be enough here.

  • Selections: 8-7-2-6 (Wide Open Race; Live Long Shot #8)

Race 5

Post: 3:23 PM ET; Purse: 90k Allowance, 6 Furlongs on Dirt; Entries: 9

There is very little that separate the top of this group. #3 Beautiful Karen, #4 Behind the Couch, and #5 Honey Money all seem to have about equal shots to win and this may be a race to shop for the best price close to post.

As an outsider #6 Ok Honey will be near the front and gets a slightly easier test than what she’s been facing recently.

  • Selections: 4-5-6-3 (Live Long Shot: #6)

Race 6

Post: 3:55 PM ET; Purse: 100k Maiden Special Weight, 1 1/16 Miles on Turf; Entries: 14

The favorite in the race is #7 Ohtwoohthreefive. While the horse seems to be head and shoulders above the group based on past performance, they are still two year olds and the connections leave something to be desired. Instead I will take a stab with #6 Dowagiac Chief at 12-1.

#5 Stellar Tap, #12 Accretive, and #13 Causin’ Mayhem are entered for main track only and will find their way on to my tickets if the race comes off the turf. With these high priced maiden allowance races at Saratoga, the tote board will play a huge role in determining final ticket construction.

  • Selections: 6-7-12-5-13 (Wide Open Race, Live Long Shot :#6)

Race 7

Post: 4:29 PM ET; Purse: 103k Allowance, 1 Mile on Inner Turf; Entries: 11

This race features a couple of horses at very close odds. With a number of likely winners I look for #7 High Opinion to be a major player with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard. Another one that will be coming late is morning line favorite #8 Love and Thunder.

#9 Pecatonica has one chance to win this and that is to get out to the lead. It won’t be easy to get from the outside post, but maybe she can get out, clear, and wire the field. Sitting in the middle flight of horses turning for home will be #5 Halo City. If the pace is hot and horses aren’t making up ground on the turf perhaps this one can sit the garden trip and cash in.

  • Selections: 7-8-9-5

Race 8

Post: 5:03 PM ET; Purse: 350k Alfred G. Vanderbilt H., 6 Furlongs on Dirt; Entries: 9

This race appears to go through the top 3 on the morning line. #2 Mischievous Alex, #3 Firenze Fire, and #6 Whitmore are proven commodities at this level that will be tough to beat. #7 Miles Ahead is my long shot play here and while I think he has little to no chance to win, Luis Saez has been on fire and may be able to get this horse in just the right spot to cash a check.

  • Selections: 2-3-6-7

Race 9

Post: 5:39 PM ET; Purse: 600k Jim Dandy S., 1 1/8 Miles on Dirt; Entries: 6

#5 Essential Quality is the class of the three year old division. What makes him tough is his versatility. The short field should give him little traffic to contend with. If an upset comes, it will likely come from #2 Masqueparade who is coming in hot and could be in front which has been advantageous at Saratoga thus far.

#3 Weyburn is another in with a chance and will likely be close in the late stages of the race. On the outside is #6 Risk Taking and if there’s going to be a major upset maybe it could come from this horse that was once a prominent player in the division. If he returns to form here, maybe he has a chance to beef up the exotics.

  • Selections: 5-2-3-6 (Best Bet: #5)

Race 10

Post: 6:13 PM ET; Purse: 250k Bowling Green S., 1 3/8 Miles on Inner Turf; Entries: 8

The inside of the inner turf has been a great place to be and that is favorable to #1 Channel Cat and #2 Cross Border who will be able to control the rail and find a tactical trip to their liking. #5 Channel Maker found a new level of success running turf fields off their feet. He will be looking to wire this group.

New York turf racing is often extremely close and if #8 Shamrocket can work out the right trip he has an outsider’s chance of getting up into the number.

  • Selections: 2-1-8-5

Race 11

Post: 6:47 PM ET; Purse: 55k Claiming, 1 1/16 Miles on Turf; Entries: 13

There is little that separates a vast majority of this field. With such a competitive race, I am drawn once again to prices. The #5 The Last Zip makes sense based on a number of key handicapping factors and is 10-1. #1 Vettori Kin will get to save all the ground around the course which could leave plenty in the tank for a late closing kick.

#10 Sharp Prospect is the 2nd choice on the morning line and looks to sit mid pack and accelerate through the lane. When races are genuinely this competitive I love including a shot at a ridiculous price in case everything falls apart. With that in mind #4 Acker is 30-1 with David Cohen aboard. The horse has been showing a ton of heart against better so maybe he gets up for a least a piece in this spot.

  • Selections: 5-1-10-4 (Wide Open Race; Live Long Shot #5)

As always all races can be viewed throughout the weekend on the Fox family of networks. Check local listings for further details on when and where to watch the races.

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