The Jury: Bets and fades for Aug. 12-13
Arlington Million Day at Colonial Downs, Saratoga, Del Mar, and lots in between will give horseplayers a smorgasbord of viable betting options this weekend. The TwinSpires Jury reconvenes with their top thoughts on all the action.
What is your best bet?
James Scully: #5 Northern Invader in Secretariat (G2). A belated debuter on the Kentucky Derby undercard, Northern Invader offered a fine turn of foot to finish second in his first two starts on dirt. The well-bred Collected colt took his turn of foot to a new level when switching to turf in a one-mile maiden special weight at Belmont Park on July 1, rallying spectacularly to win going away by eight lengths, and he finished fast to register a 94 Brisnet Speed rating. I’m bullish on Northern Invader in his first stakes attempt.
Vance Hanson: I was a bit mystified at how poorly some of my top selections fared at Royal Ascot in June, one example being #4 Jabaara (8-1) in the Albany (G3) on Day 4 of the meeting. The reasons I liked her there remain valid for her reappearance Saturday in the Sweet Solera (G3) at Newmarket, which has a post time of 10:40 a.m. ET. She's presumably better than what she showed at Ascot and, based on the overseas market as of Friday afternoon, figures to offer enough value to give her another chance.
Ashley Anderson: #5 Blue Light (6-1) is 2-for-4 for his career, racing between 6 and 6 1/2 furlongs, and will stretch out to a mile for the first time for trainer Steve Asmussen in the Ellis Park Derby on Sunday. The City of Light three-year-old flashed a career-best 91 Brisnet Speed figure last out in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance optional claimer at Ellis, where he beat a next-out stakes winner, and Asmussen is an 18% winner with horses trying a route for the first time. With Florent Geroux (35% winner this meet) retaining the mount, Blue Light has a chance to pull off an upset of morning line favorite and stablemate #8 How Did He Do That (5-2), who surprised as a 48-1 winner in the 1 1/16-mile Iowa Derby last out but may come back down to earth while cutting back in distance.
Who is the horse to fade?
JS: #4 Atone (7-2) in the Arlington Million (G1). The six-year-old gelding got into form over the winter and when the favorite failed to fire in a less-than-stellar edition of the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), Atone parlayed a favorable trip into his only stakes victory. He no longer appears in top form, failing to carry his form forward when ninth in the Muniz Memorial (G2) and fifth in the Dinner Party (G3) at short odds, and the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Million looks like a poor fit for Atone.
VH: Despite earning a hefty 93 Brisnet Speed rating in breaking his maiden at Ellis, and the fact trainer Norm Casse has won with three of his first five starters at the meet, I don't find #6 Rhyme Schemes (4-5) a near cinch in the Saratoga Special (G2). If he can take that kind of step forward second time out, then rivals like Haul (Todd Pletcher) and Edified (Steve Asmussen), both of whom actually won impressively at first asking, could conceivably take similar steps forward here at presumably better prices.
AA: #5 Interstatedaydream (9-5) in the Groupie Doll, the final race at Ellis on Sunday. The Brad Cox pupil will have hot jockey Florent Geroux in the saddle for the one-mile event, but she's unproven at today's distance and has been inconsistent during her four-year-old campaign, going 1-for-4. The Classic Empire filly earned her last four victories while either setting the early pace or sitting back in second before making her move, and with a ton of speed signed on for this 11-horse field, she may not get the most favorable trip. I instead like #3 Falconet (5-2) off the layoff and on the cutback in distance for Todd Pletcher. Two back, the Uncle Mo filly flashed a 104 BRIS figure when winning the 1 1/8-mile Top Flight S. and owns a 2-1-1-0 record at a mile.
What else is worth noting?
JS: A plug for #3 Romagna Mia (4-1) in the Beverly D (G1). Didia showed up with front wraps and lacked the necessary late punch when stretching out in distance for the New York (G1) last time, and Fev Rover has failed to hit the board in a pair of starts beyond nine furlongs. The 1 3/16-mile distance is a perfect fit for Romagna Mia, an Italian Group 2 winner at 10 furlongs last season, and the English-bred four-year-old has kept outstanding company in France this spring/summer. Two back, she squared off against Group 1 winner Above the Curve, a close second most recently in the Nassau (G1), and Romagna Mia exits a fourth in a stakes that had the runner-up come right back to win the Rothschild (G1) at Deauville. The gray filly shows a five-furlong work at Fair Hill in preparation for Graham Motion, and I will go with Romagna Mia in her U.S. debut.
VH: Can trainer Rick Dutrow do for #6 Master Piece (12-1) in the Arlington Million (G1) what he did with White Abarrio in last week's Whitney (G1)? The Chilean, who convincingly captured the Eddie Read (G2) last summer, doesn't have that much form to find on his best day against this group, and he exits a useful second in an allowance prep at Belmont contested over a turf softer than he probably preferred. The morning line for the Million is a bit of a mess, so it's hard to know exactly what his true price figures to be, but he'll likely be one of the longer shots in a wide-open race in which holding a contrarian view might be the way to go.
AA: As my colleague Vance highlighted above, the Saratoga Special drew a light but competitive field of six, including 4-5 morning line favorite #6 Rhyme Schemes, who romped to a 9 1/2-length win in a $120K maiden special weight at Ellis and recorded a 93 BRIS figure, the highest last race speed rating of the field. However, I'm most intrigued by #5 Edified (7-2), especially considering his longer price compared to Rhyme Schemes and Todd Pletcher runner #4 Haul (3-1). The Tapit colt recorded an 80 BRIS figure when breaking his maiden on debut in another $120K maiden special weight at Ellis, and for his second career start he'll retain rider Joel Rosario, who guided Edified to a 3 1/2-length victory against eight rivals on debut. Trainer Steve Asmussen is also a four-time winner of the Saratoga Special and most recently won in 2020 with Jackie's Warrior, under Rosario.