An excellent field of 11 three-year-olds will run 1 3/16 miles on the outer turf at Saratoga on Sunday in the inaugural $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational. The top-five finishers of the recent Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) will line up once again, and will face a few fresh faces in the super-competitive second leg of the Turf Trinity.
The pace could be honest and contested with A Thread of Blue (#3) (12-1) and Flying Scotsman (#11) (15-1) being the swiftest pair from the gate, and being followed closely by Henley’s Joy (#1) (4-1), Social Paranoia (#2) (6-1), Eons (#5) (15-1) and possibly Mohawk (#10) (10-1).
I think the winner comes from the second or third flight and holds off the bevy of high-class closers inside the final yards.
$10 Win and Place: #10 Mohawk = $20
$2 Exacta Key Box: 10 with 3,4,6,8 = $16
$.50-cent Trifecta: 10 with 3,4,6,8 with all = $18
Here is the field:
HENLEY’S JOY (#1) (4-1) – Kitten’s Joy colt was best in the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) and draws the rail for this difficult assignment. Kentucky-bred was no fluke last time and has the tactical speed to get the jump on the deeper closers under Jose Lezcano.
SOCIAL PARANOIA (#2) (6-1) – Belmont Derby runner-up has never missed the board on turf and could be right there late with even slight improvement. Street Boss colt was second in his turf bow on the course in 2018, and he will never be far back beneath Manny Franco.
A THREAD OF BLUE (#3) (12-1) – Grade 3 winner didn’t handle a yielding course at Penn National in his last appearance, but he has trained swiftly on both the dirt and lawn at Saratoga in the interim. Kiaran McLaughlin pupil has good early foot and might be the one to catch into the first turn at a generous price.
ROCKEMPEROR (#4) (7-2) – Import drew widest in his U.S. bow in the Belmont Derby and was last after the first call. Son of Holy Roman Emperor finished full of run to be a closing third and he draws in a much better spot on Sunday. Irish-bred looks to have as good of a chance as any in the field with Johnnie Velazquez returning to ride.
EONS (#5) (15-1) – Arnaud Delacour pupil has rolled home to win four turf races in succession, capped by a game tally in the Kent Stakes (G3) at Delaware Park in advance of this one. Giant’s Causeway colt will be facing a serious class test in this spot and will need a substantial step forward to contend for the top prize.
KADAR (#6) (30-1) – Interesting sort made a big late rally to be third in a local allowance try in what might have been a very good prep run for this lucrative test. Longshot will add blinkers for trainer Mike Maker, and the $836,000 purchase gets a rider change to Jose Ortiz. Scat Daddy colt is one to consider for the top-three at big odds.
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE (#7) (15-1) – One of two from the Aidan O’Brien barn ran evenly when eighth in the Belmont Derby and will need better in a second run in the states. Son of Galileo has faced some fine foes in 2019 and wouldn’t be a total shocker under Julien Leparoux.
DIGITAL AGE (#8) (9-2) – American Turf Stakes (G2) victor rallied to be fourth in the Belmont Derby in his first outing since May. Once-beaten Chad Brown pupil has improved with every start and will be roaring home if he gets clear sailing late. Red-hot pilot Irad Ortiz Jr. will be at the controls.
SEISMIC WAVE (#9) (6-1) – Bill Mott trainee made a decent stretch run to be fifth in the Belmont Derby as the lukewarm 9-2 favorite. Juddmonte homebred has shown excellent consistency and could be right there late if he improves in his Spa debut. Joel Rosario will guide the Tapit colt once again.
MOHAWK (#10) (10-1) – Galileo colt appreciated the class relief last time out when dominating the Meld Stakes (G3) at Leopardstown in Ireland. The high-class sophomore was second to the stout Circus Maximus in his 2019 debut, and he faced the best overseas in a pair of classic events prior to the Meld. Wayne Lordan could have a lot of horse under him as the colt turns for home in his U.S. debut.
FLYING SCOTSMAN (#11) (15-1) – Calumet homebred led in the stretch before fading to sixth in the American Derby (G3) in his seasonal bow. Son of English Channel faces an infinitely more difficult task here, and he also drew widest in the field.
PHOTO: Henley’s Joy and jockey Jose Lezcano capture the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) at Belmont Park on July 6, 2019 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography