Saratoga Scouting Report: Kentucky Horses for Sunday, August 25

With Churchill Downs coming off perhaps their strongest spring meet in history, the horses based in Kentucky should perform even better than they have in years past.

Chances are, in many cases, they won’t get the respect they deserve. There is value to be had, but on the flipside, some of the Kentucky invaders might not be as good as they look on paper.

That’s what I’m here for.

For the entirety of the Saratoga meet, I will provide “scouting reports” for the Kentucky-based horses – good, bad and indifferent.

Horses are listed in order of preference, with a short comment playability notation in the wrap.

Race 2 – TENCH (#5) (5-1)

On June 23 over a sloppy Churchill racetrack that favored speed, he made the lead through moderate fractions and got away off the turn. He dug in gamely, only to get nailed right on the finish line.

Comment: Trainer Tim Hamm doesn’t run many horses at Saratoga, but this one certainly fits. He’s run second in all three starts on dirt and has worked extremely well locally on turf in recent weeks. Real Money and Ahead of Plan are the horses to beat, but the potential price on this guy makes him inviting. He’s a sneaky use in the multi-race wagers. Take a look at him in the paddock and post parade before making any intra-race decisions, but he’s certainly worth a look.

Race 7 – YELLEN (#9) (5-1)

Not often do you see a Wesley Ward-trained two-year-old debuter sent off at 9-1 in a grass sprint, but this daughter of Fed Biz was. She got a perfect pressing trip through moderate fractions, but gave way at the top of the stretch.

Comment: She only shows three short and easy published in the last two months. Takes a logical drop in class and this doesn’t appear to be a very strong race for the level. She won’t offer any value and I would bank that one of the first timers is better. Fade.

Race 8 – BULLETIN (#7) (5-2)

Off three consecutive wins to begin his career, including the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, he was the 1/9 favorite in the William L. Walker Stakes on April 27. Instead of clearing, he was forced to battle the lead through honest fractions, and you knew he was in trouble from the start. He gave way in the deep stretch in what was a very average field for the level and we haven’t seen him since.

Comment: Based on the totality of his resume and the connections, he’s likely to be an underlay in what will be his two-turn debut. He has route influences on the dam’s side of the pedigree, but there’s a chance that he peaked as a two-year-old. He fits well under the conditions, but I’m willing to take a stand against him.

Race 9 – AND SEEK (#3) (6-1)

On May 4 at Churchill, this three-year-old colt was close up over a sloppy track through moderate fractions and was steadied a bit late while evening out. The track did favor off the pace types that day, so the effort was likely better than it looks. Very live on the toteboard on May 30 over a good track that was severely inside speed bias, he lost three lengths at the start, sat in the catbird’s seat, grinding along late and was beaten less than a length.  He enjoyed a perfect, pressing trip through moderate fractions in the Iowa Derby, was all in on the turn, steadied briefly while tiring and faded off the scene thereafter.

Comment: Tries nine furlongs for the first time, and based on the way he ran in Iowa last time, I’m not sure he wants to go that far. There are some talented horses in this field that do. An underneath type here (at best) and willing to fade in the multi-race wagers.

PHOTO: Saratoga starting gate (c) Harold Roth/

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Ellis Park Spot Plays for Sunday, August 25

Race 4 – BLAME RO (#7) (7-2)

Compromised by an extreme outside post and a very wide run on the turn for home, this three-year-old son of Blame ran deceivingly well in the debut. Adding blinkers for the follow-up start, he set the pace before evening out at the top of the stretch. He quickly tosses the blinkers aside, but is remains likely to be forwardly placed in a race that lacks speed.

Single in multi-race wagers. Play with #3, #4 and #1 in gimmicks.

Race 5 – ONE FOR RICHIE (#5) (9-2)

It took him some time to find his niche and break his maiden, but he’s been in good form virtually the entire time. Compromised by the trip in a recent turf sprint, he stretches out to a 1 1/2-turn mile on dirt for this one. He meets a very average field for the level and should find himself in a perfect, stalking position throughout.

Use in multi-race wagers. Win & triple place. Play with #2 and #6 in gimmicks.

Race 6 – AMAZIMA (#8) (7-5)

Rank early fresh off the bench in just her second career start two starts back over a yielding Churchill Downs turf, she ran on willingly to the wire behind a 21-1 overlay winner. Live on the tote in her follow-up start on the Ellis Park green, she ran a big race, only to finish third behind a talented winner. She fired a bullet work since and looms squarely as the one to beat.

Single in multi-race wagers. Play with #6, #7 and #3 in gimmicks.

Race 8 – CAPTURE THE GLORY (#3) (20-1)

Massively improved in recent starts, he seems to have found his niche sprinting on turf. The game winner of a grassy dash two back at Indiana Grand, he ran better than it looks in a recent stakes caliber allowance at Churchill Downs. Off slowly losing four lengths, he also ran into some traffic trouble nearing the turn. He fired a bullet work in preparation for this and should offer a fair enough price.

Use in multi-race wagers. Win, place & show ladder. Play with all in gimmicks.

Race 9 – MERLIN’S SONG (#3) (3-1)

Ran a winning race two back on turf, but finished clearly second best behind a solid winner. Finished willingly last out, but he was forced to close into a pedestrian pace. With a similar effort and a fair trip, he should graduate in this one.

Single in multi-race wagers. Play with #9, #10, #6 and #7 in gimmicks.

PHOTO: Ellis Park (c) Coady Photography/Ellis Park

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Dick Powell’s Top Picks for the 2019 Travers Stakes at Saratoga

The $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) will be run for the 150th time on Saturday at historic Saratoga Race Course. Amazingly, it will be run going 1 1/4 miles on the main track under sunny skies since the volatile weather that has been pelting the area will be gone in time for the highlight of the Saratoga meet.

OWENDALE (#1) (6-1) is a one-dimensional closer who won the Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland then came back with a good third in the Preakness Stakes (G1). His connections decided to skip some of the top races for three-year-olds so he showed up last out in the Ohio Derby (G3) which he won going away. He is going to have to improve some to run with the big boys but I like how trainer Brad Cox has spaced his races.

CODE OF HONOR (#2) (4-1) looked like he was going to be a turf horse since he is sired by a full-brother to Frankel but did enough to stay on the dirt against top company. He was third in the Florida Derby (G1) behind a runaway winner then came back and ran great in the Kentucky Derby (G1) over a sea of slop when he weakened in the final furlong after looming boldly at the top of the stretch. Shug McGaughey brought him back in the Dwyer Stakes (G1) going a one-turn mile at Belmont Park which he won easily and has trained extremely well up here for this.

HIGHEST HONORS (#3) (10-1) has done little wrong in three career starts and went from a maiden win to a win here in the Curlin Stakes over a muddy track. Locally-raised trainer Chad Brown has been yearning for a win in this race and considering he is winning every other stakes race up here, why not? Son of Tapit is a half-brother to two other stakes winners and he should get a midpack trip with Luis Saez.

LAUGHING FOX (#4) (30-1) won an ungraded stakes race at Oaklawn Park then made up some ground from post 11 in the Preakness Stakes (G1). Last out here, he was an even fourth in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) to prep for this and he is certainly bred for the distance being sired by Union Rags.

EVERFAST (#5) (30-1) is always suspicious in these big races since his owner likes to enter no matter the competition. He did upset a lot of tickets when he ran second in the Preakness Stakes (G1) at long odds but he did little in the his next two starts. He will drop far back and try to pass tired horses and will need a pace meltdown to get a piece.

TACITUS (#6) (5-2) has been the hard-luck horse of this crop but he seems to create his own problems. He overcame a brutal trip to win the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct but was too far back in the Kentucky Derby (G1) to be any real threat. In the Belmont Stakes (G1), he was far back early and closed relentlessly but could not overcome the ground loss. Last out in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2), he broke poorly and rallied hard to get second. Bill Mott adds blinkers for the first time and he gets leading rider Jose Ortiz back aboard.

MUCHO GUSTO (#7) (6-1) was a last-minute addition to the field when Bob Baffert put him on a plane on Tuesday. He used to be pretty headstrong but has learned his lessons well and relaxes early now. He could not run down Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Maximum Security in the Haskell Invitational (G1) last out and has trained well since then at Del Mar. The gate speed is always there if Joe Talamo wants to use it.

CHESS CHIEF (#8) (30-1) is still eligible for first-level allowance foes. He merits some attention due to Dallas Stewart’s record in big races with longshots but I can’t see this one under any circumstances.

LOOKING AT BIKINIS (#9) (10-1) won his first two career starts as the odds-on favorite for Chad Brown then held on for third in the Curlin Stakes over a tiring, muddy track. He gets Javier Castellano back aboard and could pull off the upset as the “other Chad.”

SCARS ARE COOL (#10) (30-1) broke his maiden here in his third career start going nine furlongs in decent time. His mid-pack running style is not going to be helped by post 10 and if he drops back, he will be farther back than he has ever been.

ENDORSED (#11) (15-1) broke his maiden here last year going six furlongs in his career debut in faster time than Code of Honor broke his maiden in his career debut two starts later. He ran poorly in the Champagne Stakes (G1) next out and was off until June when he returned with a win going six furlongs against allowance foes. Last out, he was a good second in the Curlin Stakes here going two turns for the first time and the son of Medaglia d’Oro has a lot of things to like except for the wide draw.

TAX (#12) (6-1) had a much better chance of taking these down the road until Baffert decided to add Mucho Gusto at the last minute. Still, he has a good run to the first turn and even from post 12, he should be first or second in the run down the backstretch. Danny Gargan worked him a best-of-64 half-mile breeze eight days ago and shows up here fast and dangerous.


Code of Honor (#2)
Mucho Gusto (#7)
Highest Honors (#3)
Owendale (#1)
Tax (#12)

$40 Win

$10 Exacta Key Box
#2 with #1, #3, #7

PHOTO: Code of Honor winning the Fountain of Youth (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

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Saratoga Scouting Report: Kentucky Horses & Travers Day Stakes Selections for Saturday, August 24

With Churchill Downs coming off perhaps their strongest spring meet in history, the horses based in Kentucky should perform even better than they have in years past.

Chances are, in many cases, they won’t get the respect they deserve. There is value to be had, but on the flipside, some of the Kentucky invaders might not be as good as they look on paper.

That’s what I’m here for.

For the entirety of the Saratoga meet, I will provide “scouting reports” for the Kentucky-based horses – good, bad and indifferent.

Horses are listed in order of preference, with a short comment playability notation in the wrap.

I’ll also provide brief analysis and selections for the seven graded stakes.

Race 3 – LADY ROSALIE (Ire) (#11) (15-1)

Hustled away from the gate from the rail off a 10-week layoff at Ellis Park, she enjoyed an advantageous, pocket trip through even splits. She was blocked behind a wall of horses turning for home, allowing others to seize the momentum away from her. She split horses late and finished fairly well.

Comment: Needs to take a step forward here and she might. Looks more like an underneath type and only useable in the multi-race wagers if you’re spreading deep.

Race 4 – TIGHT TEN (#3) (15-1)

One of more precocious Steve Asmussen-trained two-year-olds of 2018, he flourished in a pair of sprint efforts in advance of a trio of route failures. He set a slow pace and just missed when finishing on the wrong lead in the Iroquois at Churchill Downs, and then finished up the track in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Lecomte (G3). He should have run better, but there were excuses for both of those clunkers.

Comment: Off seven months, he returns in a sprint off a series of forward drills. He’s going to need to run faster than he did as a two-year-old in order to be competitive here. Looks more like an underneath type and only useable in the multi-race wagers if you’re spreading deep.

Race 7 – TWELFTH LABOR (#3) (50-1)

Hung three-wide stalking a fast pace over a wet fast track at Churchill on May 12, he rallied five-wide off the turn, took full command and drew off. On May 31 over a bone-dry track, he stalked a hot pace while three-wide, but inexplicably failed to fire. Stretched out to a one-turn mile last out, he broke alertly, raced four-wide behind a contested pace, drew even on the turn and grinded out the win.

Comment: Shancelot will be a single on many tickets and for good reason. Even if you have an alternative opinion and want to take a stand against him, it’s tough to envision this guy pulling off the massive upset.


Race 5 – Forego (G1)

On paper, this looks like a match race between Promises Fulfilled and Mitole. The former is perfect from two starts at Saratoga, while the latter was third last out in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) in his only previous appearance over the track. Mitole has won both hoof to hoof match-ups, but which horse is better right now?

Top Pick: Promises Fulfilled (#1) (5-2)
Main threat: Mitole (#3) (4-5)
Best Longshot: Air Strike (#2) (15-1)

Race 6 – Ballerina (G1)

Prior to her second in the Ogden Phipps (G1) behind Midnight Bisou over a one-turn 1 1/16 mile distance, Come Dancing could have been pegged as an Aqueduct specialist. Seven furlongs should suit her to a tee, and she appears on edge to fire a fresh shot off a sharp work tab. Separationofpowers is a big threat, but she’s likely to be over bet. Minit to Stardom wasn’t respected in her front running Honorable Miss (G2) upset. If allowed to set reasonable fractions, she might forget to stop once again.

Top Pick: Come Dancing (#2) (6-5)
Main threats: Separationofpowers (#4) (9-5), Minit to Stardom (#6) (8-1), Mia Mischief (#5) (5-1)
Best Longshot: None

Race 7 – H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1)

Just how good is Shancelot? Undefeated from three starts while taking massive steps forward each time, he most recently overcame post 12 to win the Amsterdam (G2) by more than a dozen lengths. Alert breaks have been part of his game, so the potentially detrimental rail post position shouldn’t pose a problem. The main threat could come from Rowayton. Excuse the two-turn run in the mud in the Curlin, and he did have a troubled trip in Dwyer before that.

Top Pick: Shancelot (#1) (1-2)
Main threat: Rowayton (#8) (6-1)
Best Longshot: Mind Control (#6) (15-1)

Race 8 – Ballston Spa (G2)

This isn’t a very strong race for the level and the lack of early pace makes it an even tougher puzzle to piece together. Indian Blessing ran extremely well in all three of her U.S. starts last year, and if not for excuses in all of them, she may have actually finished better. Despite not having the cleanest trip, Secret Message actually held her own in a super-tough edition of the Diana (G1) and she might be on edge to run the best race of her life in this one. Mascha did what she needed to do first off the boat to win a first-level allowance, but chances are she has even more to give.

Top Pick and Best Longshot: Indian Blessing (#5) (8-1)
Main threats: Secret Message (#3) (3-1) and Mascha (#9) (9-2)

Race 9 – Personal Ensign (G1)

Midnight Bisou defeated Elate twice this past spring at Oaklawn, but the latter was ridiculously impressive in her two starts since and I like her chances to turn the tables here. Off since her runner-up performance in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), Wow Cat finished second as the favorite in her return run. She should take a step forward here.

Top Pick: Elate (#4) (7-5)
Main threat: Midnight Bisou (#1) (6-5)
Best Longshot: Wow Cat (#5) (5-1)

Race 10 – Sword Dancer (G1)

Channel Cat upset many of these in the Bowling Green (G2) and he might be able to win right back. He’s really taken solid steps forward since taking the blinkers off in June, and his recent effort is even better than it looks on paper. He fended off several challenges and really dug in late. Channel Maker got shuffled back just a bit in the Bowling Green and a wide run off the turn may have hindered his chances just enough. On the Chad Brown front, Ya Primo got a dream run at the hedge in the Bowling Green and actually led late before being out-gamed to the wire and I’m not sure Annals of Time wants 12 furlongs against this level of competition.

Top Pick: Channel Cat (#4) (5-1)
Main threat: Channel Maker (#8) (3-1)
Slightly against: Ya Primo (#6) (7-2) and Annals of Time (#7) (5-2)
Best Longshot: Pillar Mountain (#5) (10-1)

Race 11 – Travers (G1)

The Travers might lack star power, but it’s a fascinating betting race. Off less-than-advantageous trips in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and Jim Dandy (G2), Tacitus will be the favorite, but he’s no slam dunk to even hit the board. Focus doesn’t really seem like an issue for him, so the blinkers could actually have an adverse effect on his performance. Game Winner didn’t make the Travers, but Bob Baffert’s replacement could win the race anyway. Mucho Gusto gave Maximum Security all he could handle in the Haskell (G1), his arrow is pointing up, and he should be in line for a sweet trip in a race that lacks speed. I don’t trust Tax, especially from the extreme outside post, and I’m not sure Code of Honor wants 10 furlongs. Owendale may have been best in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and his Ohio Derby (G3) win was better than it looks.

Top Pick: Mucho Gusto (#7) (6-1)
Main threats: Owendale (#1) (6-1), Tacitus (#6) (5-2) and Code of Honor (#2) (4-1)
Slightly against: Tax (#12) (6-1)
Best Longshots: Highest Honors (#3) (10-1) and Endorsed (#11) (15-1)

PHOTO: Saratoga Race Course (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

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Ellis Park Spot Plays for Saturday, August 24

Race 3 – SEVEN NATION ARMY (#5) (5-2)

First or second in five of his last six starts and the one time he wasn’t, he has an excuse. Off slowly losing four lengths at the start of his June 23 allowance start at Churchill Downs, he rushed up in the two-path to contest a fast pace and then faded behind the runaway winner. He aired last out in the mud at Indiana Grand and is well drawn on the outside of a short field here.

Single in multi-race wagers. Play with #4 and #2 in gimmicks.

Race 6 – FREE COVER (#2) (2-1)

Wired the field over a sloppy track and against an off the pace bias at Churchill Downs on May 26 and was run down by the talented Istan Council in her follow-up start over seven panels of goo. Allied Racing’s Chester Thomas loves winning races at his home track, so rest assured, this filly is on edge to run a big one.

Single in multi-race wagers. Play with #7, #6, #3 and #4 in gimmicks.

Race 7 – GOLD STREET (#3) (6-1)

By the $20,000 stallion Street Boss, this Steve Asmussen debuter cost $150,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The pedigree is precocious, he’s bred to sprint, and there are some turf influences built in as well. The workouts are sneaky good.

Use in multi-race wagers. Win, place and show ladder at odds of 4-1 or better. Play with #10, #9, #7, #4 and #1 in gimmicks.

Race 8 – FOLLY (#6) (3-1)

Showed her versatility by winning on dirt then turf at Gulfstream Park, and she was probably best in her May 10 grass start at Churchill Downs. Steadied into the first turn, she was forced to stalk a pedestrian pace thereafter. Off heels late, she rallied stoutly and just missed behind Tula, who returned to win again. Three weeks later, she raced from a little farther back in the pack while covered up at the rail. She split foes gamely in the stretch and was getting to the 3-5 chalky winner late. She finished a better than it looks fifth in a tough first-level allowance over the Ellis Park turf last out and fits like a glove under starter allowance conditions today.

Potential single in multi-race wagers. Win and triple place at odds of 5-2 or better. Play with #2, #5 and #3 in gimmicks.

Race 9 – STILL HERE (#7) (6-1)

A late closing third in her career debut as a two-year-old, she had a troubled trip in her follow-up run behind eventual Kentucky Oaks (G1) runner-up Liora. Off 8 1/2 months, she failed to menace in her return run, but if her recent workouts are any indication, she’s ready to take a big step forward with the addition of blinkers.

Use in multi-race wagers. Win, place and show ladder at odds of 4-1 or better. Play with #8, #3, #1a and #4.

PHOTO: Ellis Park (c) Coady Photography/Ellis Park

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How to Bet the 2019 Sword Dancer at Saratoga

Nine will travel 1 1/2 miles on the Saratoga inner turf course in Saturday’s $850,000 Sword Dancer Stakes (G1). The lucrative grassy endeavor is a “Win & You’re In” contest that offers a berth in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita on November 2.


The speed of the field is likely to come from the inside. Longshots Proven Reserves (#1) (30-1) and Tiz Morning (#2) (50-1) have shown speed in the past, and I envision both of them to be involved from the break.

Channel Cat (#4) (5-1), Ya Primo (#6) (7-2) and Channel Maker (#8) (3-1) will be in close attendance in the next flight, with the other four in the cast relaxed and well off the pace early on.


$1 Superfecta 4,8 with 4,8 with 4,5,6,7,8,9 with all = $48

Here is the cast:

PROVEN RESERVES (#1) (30-1) – Flatter colt draws the rail for his turf debut for the always dangerous Chad Brown. Kentucky-bred has been unplaced from two assignments on the dirt in 2019, and the four-year-old lands in a tough spot to earn a first turf tally. Manny Franco will ride the likely pacesetter.

TIZ MORNING (#2) (50-1) – Morning Line gelding was a game third with claiming foes on this lawn but faces a massive class hike in this spot. The dark bay looks to be outclassed in the field.

NOBLE THOUGHT (#3) (30-1) – Former claimer was an even third on the green with starter allowance company most recently. Mike Maker trainee will need a big step forward to be a factor in his second Saratoga experience.

CHANNEL CAT (#4) (5-1) – Bowling Green (G2) victor kept finding more in securing a brave initial graded stakes tally for Todd Pletcher. Chestnut colt is in excellent current form and shows a pair of solid morning breezes on the green in anticipation of this event. Prime win contender will be forwardly placed throughout under Luis Saez.

PILLAR MOUNTAIN (#5) (10-1) – Improving colt shows a pair of wins in succession, including a facile allowance victory at Saratoga most recently. Irish import is one of two logical contenders in the field for Todd Pletcher, and he gets his class test today in making his stakes debut. John Velazquez picks up the mount atop the streaking four-year-old.

YA PRIMO (#6) (7-2) – Multiple Group 1 victor was a gritty second in the Bowling Green in his U.S. bow. Mastercraftsman colt has put in a pair of bullet morning moves in advance of the Sword Dancer, and any improvement makes him a menacing figure in his second run on U.S. ground.

ANNALS OF TIME (#7) (5-2) – Grade 1 hero is consistently very good and comes in off of an easy allowance victory in preparation of this assignment. One of three in the field for Chad Brown, the Temple City six-year-old has battled injuries throughout his career but continues to be a high-class performer. Morning-line choice stretches out to 12 furlongs for the initial time with Javier Castellano in the stirrups.

CHANNEL MAKER (#8) (3-1) – Multiple Grade 1 winner was a clear second in this race in 2018, and he had an excellent prep for this one when a close fourth in the Bowling Green last out. Bill Mott-trained gelding thrives at marathon trips on the turf and rarely runs a bad race. English Channel five-year-old is a must use with Joel Rosario retaining the mount.

SADLER’S JOY (#9) (9-2) – Kitten’s Joy chestnut draws widest in the field as a tough read in the cast. Tom Albertrani pupil has not been a factor in four straight dating back to 2018, but his closing sixth-place finish while in traffic in the Bowling Green was a smart start to his campaign. Old class horse is an interesting contender if he improves second off the bench, especially if the pace is swift and contested. Kentucky-bred gets a rider change to Jose Lezcano.

PHOTO: Channel Cat (c) Adam Coglianese Photography/Susie Raisher

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Exacta Bet of the Day for Saturday, August 24 at Saratoga

Exacta Box of the day for Saratoga

This Saturday at Saratoga is the biggest day of the biggest race meet of the summer season – Travers Day.

Saratoga’s Saturday program features a 13-race card headlined by “The Mid-Summer Derby,” the Travers Stakes (G1) for three-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles. While this year’s Travers is an unsatisfying race in the context of the overall three-year-old division due to the absence of Maximum Security, War of Will, Mr. Money, Game Winner, Omaha Beach and others, it nonetheless will have a full field of 12 horses and should be a good betting race for horseplayers as the centerpiece of one of the year’s best days of racing and wagering.

Will morning-line favorite Tacitus (#6) (5-2) emerge with the major Grade 1 win that has eluded him so far? Or will another sophomore, such as Code of Honor (#2) (4-1), step up to the plate on horse racing’s biggest summer stage and put themselves into the mix in the hunt to be 2019’s top three-year-old?  Will Chad Brown pull another rabbit out of his hat with one of his entrants, Highest Honors (#3) (10-1) or Looking at Bikinis (#9) (10-1)? Or can Bob Baffert ship in his West Coast-based Mucho Gusto (#7) (6-1) and make off with the top honors? Or could the winner be a longshot like Preakness Stakes (G1) runner-up Everfast (#5) (30-1), or Steve Asmussen’s Laughing Fox (#4) (30-1)?

Here are four horses to use in all of your Travers exotics plays:


CODE OF HONOR (#2) (4-1) has been hanging around the upper echelons of the three-year-old division with a win in Belmont’s Dwyer (G3) coming on the heels of his Fountain of Youth (G2) victory, and his third-place finish (2nd vis DQ) in the Kentucky Derby (G1). In this field, those credentials are enough to make Code of Honor the most likely exacta partner along with Tacitus with regular rider Johnny Velazquez riding for Shug McGaughey.

EVERFAST (#5) (30-1) is worth a flyer in this field as a 30-1 longshot who realistically could land in your exactas, just like he did at 29-1 odds in the Preakness behind War of Will at a distance just a tad shorter than this 1 1/4 miles. He was coming late in the Preakness, indicating this distance will be in his wheelhouse. No dice in the Travers, and then could not close last time in the Haskell on a Monmouth track unfriendly to come-from-behind horses. It’s too early to give up on this horse versus this kind of competition (a race lacking all of the stars of the division). Dale Romans’ son is the agent for jockey Martin Chuan, and that choice of rider is likely to ensure big odds.

TACITUS (#6) (5-2) owns by far the best credentials in the Travers field and is the horse to beat in the Travers based on his late-running second-place finish in the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga in a paceless race that was not well-suited for his running style. Trained by Bill Mott, Tacitus is perhaps the only horse in the Travers who is by no means a second-rung player in the three-year-old division this season based on his wins in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Wood Memorial (G2) and runner-up finish in the Belmont Stakes (G1). His three-quarter length loss in the Jim Dandy was a good effort in defeat in a shorter race with insufficient pace, but he Travers will offer him a longer distance to work with and a better pace to chase. Plus, the Jim Dandy was essentially a prep, because the goal for Bill Mott and Tacitus was never the Jim Dandy – it was the Travers all along. Blinkers on.

MUCHO GUSTO (#7) (6-1) makes a ton of sense in this race if you, like me, subscribe to the idea that Maximum Security is the best horse in this year’s three-year-old division. Finished second behind Maximum Security in the Haskell last time for trainer Bob Baffert, and has quietly pieced together a fantastic under-the-radar season this year with graded victories in the Robert Lewis (G3), the Laz Barrera (G3) and the Affirmed (G3) stakes all at Santa Anita. The Haskell effort proved he could run big outside of California, and the BRIS Speed figure he earned there is the best last-race figure earned by any of the horses in the Travers field. The big question he’ll need to answer here is the 1 1/4-mile distance, which may be too far for him but perhaps not too far to keep him out of the exotics.

Boxing these four top horses in the exotics gives you both the legitimate favorite in the race, Tacitus, as well as the horses in the field with the best chances of posting the upset, or at last rounding out the exactas and trifectas. Even though these bets include both the favorite and the second favorite, they should offer some value because the exclude two Chad Brown-trained horses, as well as the winner of the local Travers prep, the Jim Dandy.

Bet Code of Honor (#2), Everfast (#5), Tacitus (#6) and Mucho Gusto (#7) in the exotics, and you will have the potential for some solid returns. Best of luck!


$2 Exacta Box 2, 5, 6, 7 = $24
$1 Trifecta box 2, 4, 5, 6 = $24

PHOTO: Everfast running second in the Preakness Stakes (G1) (c) O’Leary

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How to Bet the 2019 Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga

A spectacular field showcasing some of the top fillies and mares in training will vie in Saturday’s $700,000 Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. The nine-furlong affair attracted four Grade 1 heroines in what is the top race of the Distaff division to this point of the 2019 season.


The pace could be lively with Coach Rocks (#2) (20-1), She’s a Julie (#3) (12-1) and Golden Award (#6) (8-1) all likely to show a good measure of pace. Midnight Bisou (#1) (6-5) will track in behind along the rail, with the other duo a few lengths behind the filly.


$10 Exacta 1 with 4,6 = $20
$5 Trifecta Key 1 with 4,5,6 = $30

MIDNIGHT BISOU (#1) (6-5) – Division leader is perfect from five starts in 2019 leading up to the Personal Ensign. Steve Asmussen trainee was super impressive in a handy Molly Pitcher (G3) score in preparation of this one, and she draws well on the rail. Midnight Lute four-year-old is twice Grade 1-placed at Saratoga and the Kentucky-bred figures to sit the garden trip in the affair under Mike Smith.

COACH ROCKS (#2) (20-1)Longshot in the cast was game in defeat in the Molly Pitcher but will need a huge step forward here to make a top-three case for trainer Dale Romans. Oxbow filly was unplaced in her pair of prior attempts at The Spa.

SHE’S A JULIE (#3) (12-1) – La Troienne Stakes (G1) vixen dueled on the lead before checking in third in the Shuvee (G3) on the course and distance most recently. Steve Asmussen pupil has run well in both local attempts, but she will need a forward move in this stern test. Ricardo Santana Jr. has the assignment.

ELATE (#4) (7-5) – Standout mare missed by a neck in a thriller here in 2018 and rates a major chance with her best effort. Bill Mott trainee comes off a smashing victory in the Delaware Handicap (G2), and she put in a strong half-mile move on the Oklahoma training track most recently. Medaglia d’Oro mare looms large beneath Jose Ortiz.

WOW CAT (#5) (5-1)Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) runner-up was a huge second in the Shuvee in her seasonal bow for Chad Brown. Five-year-old daughter of Lookin at Lucky has a lot of back class and will surely be closer here than she was in 2018 when 10 lengths back in this affair. John Velazquez inherits the mount.

GOLDEN AWARD (#6) (8-1) – Rapidly improving daughter of Medaglia d’Oro gives Bill Mott a pair of fine threats in the field. Four-year-old was much the best in a recent Shuvee tally, and she could be the horse with the highest ceiling in the cast. Half-sister to Kentucky Derby (G1) hero I’ll Have Another gets a nice draw outside and will be tracking the pace throughout beneath Tyler Gaffalione.

PHOTO: Midnight Bisou (c) Coady Photography/Sam Houston

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Spot Plays for 2019 Travers Day at Saratoga

Spot Plays for Saratoga’s Travers Day card will begin in the 5TH Race on Saturday. Where else are you going to get three straight Grade 1s going seven furlongs?

Race 5 is the Forego Stakes (G1) for older horses going seven furlongs on a main track that should be listed as fast. There is a very good chance that MITOLE (#3) (4-5) might be going the wrong way. His third here in the Vanderbilt Stakes (G1) was his lowest BRIS Speed rating in eight starts and maybe that brilliant effort winning the Met Mile (G1) has set him back.

If he is vulnerable, I think FIRENZE FIRE (#6) (7-2) can step into the breach. He has been inconsistent lately but on his best effort, he fits with these. I like his win in the $150,000 Runhappy Stakes where he came from off the pace to win going away in 1:08. Last two starts were even and seven furlongs should hit him right between the eyes.

PROMISES FULFILLED (#1) (5-2) won the Amsterdam Stakes (G3) and H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) here last year. He comes in off a win going seven furlongs and will be gunned to the front from post one by Luis Saez.

Win: #6
Exacta: #1, #3 with #6
Pick 3: #1, #3, #6 with #4, #5, #6 with #1, #2, #8
Pick 3: #6 with #5 with #1, #2, #8

Race 6 is the Ballerina Stakes (G1) for fillies and mares going seven furlongs on the main track. MIA MISCHIEF (#5) (5-1) can sit just off the pace and take advantage of an expected speed duel. She missed winning the Test Stakes (G1) here last year going this distance then won the Distaff Stakes (G1) going seven at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. Her last two six-furlong sprints should have her sharp for this.

SEPARATIONOFPOWERS (#4) (9-5) won the Test Stakes (G1) last year coming from just off the pace. She was winless in her next two starts but won a Grade 3 at Belmont Park in good time for Chad Brown who could be sitting on an historic day.

MINIT TO STARDOM (#6) (8-1) has won three straight starts since switching to Jose Camejo’s barn including a gate-to-wire win last out here in the Honorable Miss Stakes (G2) going six furlongs. Seven furlongs might be an adventure but she rates a chance if the main track is groomed for speed like it usually is on big Saturdays.

Win: #5
Exacta Box: #4, #5

Race 7 is the H. Allen Jerkens (G1) for three-year-olds going seven furlongs on the main track. SHANCEALOT (#1) (1-2) looks too good to be true. He romped by over six lengths two starts back going six furlongs in blazing-fast time at Monmouth Park then shipped here and won the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) by 12 lengths. He came out of that effort with a six-furlong breeze in 1:11 flat back at Monmouth for Jorge Navarro who wins 35% first start after a win. If he gets away cleanly with Emisael Jaramillo who is 8 for 16 tiding for Jorge Navarro.

Of the rest, ROWAYTON (#8) (6-1) intrigues me as he turns back in distance. He was an even third in the Dwyer Stakes (G3) going a one-turn mile then weakened last out in the Curlin Stakes going nine furlongs. His prior record in sprints is solid and he should be a big stretch factor here with Joel Rosario.

CALL PAUL (#2) (15-1) has won five races in his brief career including a Grade 2 win here last year going 6 1/2 furlongs. He woke up with blinkers added to win a stakes race by six lengths at Penn National then failed miserably in his turf debut over a yielding course. Son of Friesen Fire can chase the pace with Irad Ortiz Jr.

Exacta: #1 with #2, #8

PHOTO: Mitole (c) Gustavsson

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How to Bet the 2019 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga

Seven fillies and mares will travel seven-eighths on the Saratoga main surface in Saturday’s $500,000 Ballerina Stakes (G1). The field is led by Grade 1 winners Separationofpowers and Mia Mischief, the one-two finishers of the 2018 Test Stakes (G1).


Come Dancing (#2) (6-5) and Minit to Stardom (#6) (8-1) are both extremely swift from the gate and could knock heads from the start. Mia Mischief (#5) (5-1) will be tracking that pair, with Special Relativity (#1) (12-1) and Separationofpowers (#4) (9-5) in close attendance while stalking in the next flight.


$10 Win #1 Special Relativity = $10
$5 Exacta Box 1-5 = $10
$2 Trifecta Box 1,4,5 = $12

Here is the cast:

SPECIAL RELATIVITY (#1) (12-1) – Course specialist moved her mark to four-for-four with a Shine Again Stakes triumph most recently. Cowboy Cal filly smoked a bullet half-mile on the Oklahoma training track Saturday and gets a fine post draw on the rail for her Grade 1 debut. Robertino Diodoro pupil has never been better and retains the services of David Cohen.

COME DANCING (#2) (6-5) – Grade 2 starlet finished a strong second in the Ogden Phipps (G1) in her latest venture behind Midnight Bisou. Carlos Martin charge was a daylight winner in her latest Saratoga venture, and the daughter of Malibu Moon brings serious early zip to the affair. Javier Castellano will ride the speedster.

PACIFIC GALE (#3) (20-1) – John Kimmel trainee is winless from six outings in 2019 and finished sixth in the Honorable Miss Handicap (G3) on this strip last time out. Flat Out filly could get a robust pace to rally into, but she will need a substantial step forward to challenge for the top prize.

SEPARATIONOFPOWERS (#4) (9-5) – Two-time Grade 1 queen had a fine prep for the Ballerina with a wire-to-wire tally in the Bed o’ Roses (G3) at Belmont Park. Candy Ride filly is two-for-three at Saratoga and has trained in fine fashion in advance of her local return. Kentucky-bred will track the pace under Jose Ortiz.

MIA MISCHIEF (#5) (5-1) – Humana Distaff (G1) vixen chased lone speed before tiring to fourth in the Honorable Miss Handicap (G2) last out. Into Mischief filly will improve in this affair making her third start off the shelf. Ricardo Santana Jr. will guide the classy bay and have her within range from the start.

MINIT TO STARDOM (#6) (8-1) – Crack sprinter has not been headed in three races in succession capped by a 1 1/2-length score in the Honorable Miss. Jose Camejo trainee draws outside of the other pace in the field and continues her good form run with a bullet morning drill in the interim. Alex Cintron will be in the silks atop the fleet filly.

DAWN THE DESTROYER (#7) (15-1) – One-run closer draws outside in the field and will be doing her best work inside the final furlong. Kiaran McLaughlin pupil has yet to win a graded stakes race and will need a lifetime-best to make the frame in this fine cast. John Velazquez will be in the stirrups once again.

PHOTO: Special Relativity (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

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