Saturday, August 23, 2008

The 139th Traver's Day!

I don't often write about my handicapping choices but today with the $1 million dollar guaranteed Pick 4 at Saratoga I decided this would be a good time to have one of those entries. But before I start I just want to very briefly talk about class... GINGER PUNCH! -enough said. Now on to the picks.

I don't ever play very large tickets so I set the limit I set for my P4 at a cost that is probably very low for hardcore handicappers but scraping the ceiling for the average or fair weather player, $36. Today I'll play a $24 dollar ticket.

Race 8 Victory Ride -G3 6F.

My top choice is the Greg Gilchrist trained Indyanne. I'm sure she is almost every one's top choice. More than any other reason is her last race, the Azalea (gr.III) at Calder. That performance on that track was phenomenal. Also looking at her last three works, following the Azalea it is obvious she came out of the race perfectly and has perhaps even gotten stronger. She has experience shipping and she, like all horses, will relish this cool wonderful weather. Gilchrist is an absolutely top notch trainer and if he sees fit to ship her here one better take notice. Yes, she is going to be odds-on but you have to take what is given. Also it's never smart to get beat by an unbeaten horse. Unless I have a very strong feeling against I will always include an unbeaten. However, having said that this is racing and they do have to run and so as a second choice here I'll select, aptly enough, Informed Decision. She seems the likeliest candidate to come from off the pace and they will all be going fast. Though she only shows two works since her last outing on April 11, one's a bullet and the other's a very fast tightener that illustrates she fit as a fiddle. Also she's trained by Jonathan Shepard so I wouldn't worry about her fitness even if I saw only one or no works. Johnny V. stays and that is always a positive.

Race 9 Bernard Baruch Handicap -G2

I don't think the morning line favorite, Thorn Song, will go off the favorite, but perhaps he should as he is going to be the controlling speed and we all no the adages. However, I rarely go with speed on the turf and I won't here. My top pick in this race is Operation Red Dawn. Why? First and foremost I have to say my instincts tell me so. Sometimes when you look at The Form there's is something on the paper that's not in print and you feel it more than see it. That's how I feel about Operation Red Dawn. But to give the choice some more validity I'll add these considerations: he's running for the fourth time in this cycle, more than any other cycle of his, so I'm thinking that physically he is doing better than ever. He often has a nice late turn of foot. He's a hard trying horse, having finished out of the money only twice and one of those was as a maiden. His only other off the board performance was when he tired in the Red Smith (1-3/8T)on yielding turf. Today he'll have have firm turf on a course he's done well over and a distance he's well suited for. He's trained by turf specialist Clement, ridden by the very patient and talented Dominguez (Clement/Dominguez 29% in '07-'08) and he's obviously bred for the turf. He does only show one work since his last race but Clement is another of those trainers that I would never question his horses fitness. It is a good work and for a turf horse that's all I look for to be satisfied they're ready. And too me it just feels like he's sitting on his biggest race. I will cover myself here with the horse I think will be the post-time favorite, Proudinsky (Ger). Another very talented but ouchy horse. There is a break in his training that does concern me, however, his last two works, spaced at six days were very quick and the last only 4 days ago. That says 'all systems go' to me. He'll probably be running in the garden spot about 2-3 lengths behind Thorn Song so if that horse can make his speed carry Proudinsky should still have the best shot. Prado takes the mount and Frankel trains. There's not much to not like here.
Certainly the back class of Shakis (Ire) is a concern and he's training 'lights out' but at eight I think he's lost a step or two, probably the exact distance he'll lose by. Of course he won this race last year...

Race 10 The Kings Bishop -G1

One of my very favorite races of the year and a very tough edition! I've been vacillating on this race since I first looked at it. I'm going to go with Asmussen's J Be K to win simply because I think that of them all he is most likely to be able to carry his speed to the 7 furlong distance. If there is a horse that is most likely to pick up the pieces it's probably Kodiak Kowboy and no one knows that horse better than Asmussen so I don't think he'll get beat by him. But instead of going with Kodiak Kowboy as a saver I'm going to stretch a little here and opt for Gentleman James. Yeah I know he's yet to get past Golden Spikes in a race but Golden Spikes has run two very big races in a row and although he continues to train well, racing is a different animal. I really like how Gentleman James has been training. I also like, very much, that he shipped in within the last week from Florida. I love horses that come north in the summer as much as I dislike horses that ship south in the winter. He's probably had enough time here to get used to the track and the change in weather probably has him feeling so good he's kicking down the barn doors. I feel he's ready to run his best race. Mora and Aguilar are also 25% together in '07-'08. If I was to go three deep here and stretch the ticket to $36 I would go with I'm So Lucky. He's done absolutely nothing wrong, he's continually getting better and training perfectly and I really respect John Ward. He wouldn't put a horse in a position that would ruin them. When I put in my ticket I'll probably stick to the $24, but this horse may be a spoiler today.

Race 11 - 139th The Travers -G1

This is the largest field that I've seen as a fan. This is as it ought to be. In a DRF piece earlier in the week about Mambo In Seattle, Neil Howard said it is one of those races you always dream about winning. I know it would be right up there for me! I guess it doesn't move team IEAH or Dutrow. Oh well! As with the King's Bishop I wouldn't be surprised by anyone colt that wins. I also go three deep here for the final leg of the pick 4. Choice numero uno - no not Macho Again or Harlem Rocker - Colonel John. Of all the horses in any of the pick 4 races his workout line is the most beautiful! He's perfectly tuned, well rested and I think that it's his race to lose. Of course dirt is the only question mark. The Derby was his only race on dirt and by far, his worst. But that was the "Derby" and there could have been a hundred reasons for that dismal performance. Today Colonel John will show he belongs with the elite class.
As for my savers, the first is Harlem Rocker. He's only stubbed his toe once and on a synthetic track. He is the most unknown quantity here as far as I'm concerned. He has the ability to stay close to the pace (and a quick pace at that) and still close and this race is likely to be fast. That's a dimension that Pyro has only shown on a few occasions in The Northern Dancer(gr. III) and Louisiana Derby (gr.II) and to be accurate the pace of those races were not fast. Harlem Rocker's workout line is also impeccable and it's been at Saratoga so it's obvious he likes the track. It's strange to see Coa on one of Pletcher's big horses but as good as Johnny V. is I don't think you lose anything with Eibar Coa. Pyro will be my final choice here. As mentioned I expect this to be a fast race, especially early. Pyro, more than any other colt running, has been able to maintain his class through time and his game is finishing. So if it goes as quick, as it looks to, and if he gets a bit of racing luck I think he can go back to the barn with $600,000!

So if you're playing numbers here they are: 4,5 / 3,7 / 3,8 (10) / 2,8, 11

As an aside, I imagine I'm not the only one that laments seeing a DRF for a big race without a Peb cover. It's a bit like Thanksgiving without Turkey!

Hope you all have a great Traver's day and win some money too!

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