The Jury: Bets and fades for Aug. 26-27

August 25th, 2023

A scaled-down Jury assembly this week concentrates on the big Travers Day program at Saratoga, with thoughts on some of the graded stakes as well as opportunities on the undercard.

What is your best bet?

Vance Hanson: In Race 8 at Saratoga, #4 Talkin Pharoah (6-1) deserves a long look trying turf for the second time. The three-year-old has turned out to be an excellent claim for Linda Rice, who haltered him for $50,000 from Wesley Ward at Keeneland in April. Talkin Pharoah has since won impressively on two occasions, albeit against lesser, but showed a versatility in running style winning once on the front end and next from off the pace. A troubled last of eight in his only prior turf try last summer at Saratoga, he deserves another chance to show what he can do on the surface. He's by American Pharoah and out of a full sister to turf sprint star Lady Shipman, who in turn was the dam of globetrotting Grade/Group 1 star Golden Pal.

Ashley Anderson: In the H. Allen Jerkens (G1), Race 9 at Saratoga, I expect plenty of money to come in on both Bob Baffert runners — #6 Arabian Lion (2-1) and #4 Fort Bragg (5-2), which may give me a better price on #5 New York Thunder (5-2), an early pacesetter type breaking between the Baffert contingent from post 5. The Nyquist colt is 4-for-4 for his career, winning on dirt, turf, and Tapeta. In his last two, he won by a combined 15 lengths, including a 7 1/2-length triumph in the Amsterdam (G2), and posted a 108 Brisnet Speed figure, the highest last race speed rating among the field. Trainer Jorge Delgado is a 25% winner with horses that won their last race, and Tyler Gaffalione is a 21% winner this meet, plus a 22% winner in sprints. I'll back the three-year-old in his second start off the layoff, a winning move for Delgado 21% of the time.

Who is the horse to fade?

VH: In Race 13, the maiden finale at Saratoga, I'm going to stand against the Chad Brown entry of #1 Right to Win and #1A Growth Capital, the morning line favorites at 7-5. Growth Capital has a maturity and form edge over this group, but is making his first start in nearly a year and has shown a case of seconditis so far, settling for silver in four of his five outings to date. Right to Win adds blinkers after finishing a distant third last time at Belmont, in which he encountered trouble, but unfortunately will offer no value being linked with Growth Capital. There are a few others in here that offer more appeal at a price, including #3 Conversing (6-1).

AA: #7 Stone Age (6-5) in the 1 1/2-mile Sword Dancer (G1) in Race 11 at Saratoga. The Galileo four-year-old was last seen finishing last of 12 in the The Amir Trophy (G1) on Feb. 18 and will ship to the U.S. to make his fourth North American start, and first start with trainer Chad Brown. Thus far, Stone Age is 0-for-3 on U.S. soil, and he's a troubling 0-for-4 at today's distance, finishing in the money just once, when second to Rebel's Romance by 2 1/4 lengths in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) three back. I'll look elsewhere and play #5 Pioneering Spirit (8-1), who's 4-for-4 since picking up Irad Ortiz Jr. The American Pharoah four-year-old moves up in class off a dominant win in a 1 3/8-mile allowance optional claimer, and he looked sharp in his recent work for Linda Rice (22% winner this meet).

What else is worth noting?

VH: #2 Catch That Party (4-1) is a horse to keep an eye on in Race 5 at Saratoga, an open N2X allowance/optional claimer. Claimed by Mike Maker for $35,000 a year and a half ago, the gray had been in stellar form since then until a recent no-show in an off-the-turf allowance at the Spa. That race looks like a toss, Catch That Party has a strong record over this course, and Irad Ortiz Jr. has fit this horse like a glove winning three of the last four times he's ridden him. The main concern is that Catch That Party has done his best work against New York-bred foes, but I think he can make his presence felt against open company, too.

AA: The seven-furlong Ballerina H. (G1) will feature two candidates for the Eclipse Award for older dirt female in #6 Echo Zulu (7-5) and #7 Goodnight Olive (9-5) among the eight-horse field. While Echo Zulu comes in off a 7 1/4-length win in the Honorable Miss (G2) at the Spa last out and flashed a 112 BRIS figure, I still give Goodnight Olive the advantage, even if her recent BRIS figures have dipped. Were it not for a troubled trip in the Derby City Distaff (G1) two back, in which the five-year-old Ghostzapper mare got boxed in on the rail and finished third, the Chad Brown pupil may be riding into this race on a nine-win streak. The dark bay rebounded last out with a neck victory over today's rival Wicked Halo in the Bed O' Roses (G2) at Belmont and will come in fresh off a two-month break. I expect her to add her second consecutive score on the way to another lengthy win streak with regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard.