The Jury: Bets and fades for Aug. 6

August 5th, 2022

Two seven-figure Grade 1s at Saratoga, and a Breeders' Cup Challenge prep at Del Mar for fillies and mares pointing to the Distaff (G1), highlight the weekend stakes action. The TwinSpires Jury of James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson have opinions on these and other races this weekend.

What is your best bet?

James Scully: #3 Home Brew in the West Virginia Derby (G3). A smashing allowance winner when stretching out to two turns in his juvenile finale, Home Brew looked like a promising Kentucky Derby (G1) prospect entering the season, but something went wrong in his stakes debut, the Smarty Jones S. in early January, weakening early to finish 10th as the favorite. Easily forgotten over the next 3 1/2 months, the Brad Cox-trained colt returned with a convincing win over suspect group in the 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn S. Home Brew continued to progress against better rivals in the June 18 Pegasus S. at Monmouth, offering a dynamic turn of foot to win going away, and the well-bred son of Street Sense earned outstanding Brisnet Speed (105) and Late Pace (124) numbers. His rapidly advancing form is appealing, and Home Brew should be the third choice in the wagering behind Simplification and We the People.

Kellie Reilly: Saturday's Cowboy Jones S. at Ellis Park looks like a good comeback spot for #5 West Will Power (8-1). The Gary and Mary West homebred was on an upward curve last season before flopping behind Mind Control and Silver State in the Parx Dirt Mile. West Will Power now returns for new trainer Brad Cox, who wins at a 24% clip with his transfers as well as in the long layoff category. If the lightly-raced son of Bernardini is anywhere near his form from the summer of 2021 — when runner-up to Code of Honor in the Philip H. Iselin (G3), and to Forza di Oro in a Saratoga allowance — he'll be a prime threat here with Reylu Gutierrez. Another potential price play Saturday is in Gulfstream Park's Desert Vixen S., where the Antonio Sano-trained #9 Major Pryce (12-1) steps up after an eye-catching rally in her career debut.

Vance Hanson: #7 Blue Stripe (4-1) didn't fare so well the first time she tried the Del Mar strip, in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, but that was after a six-month layoff. The additional acclimatization time the Argentinean has had since has begun to pay dividends. She won the Santa Margarita (G2) and finished second in the Santa Maria (G2) during the spring, and thus enters Saturday's Clement L. Hirsch (G1) in the kind of form that will make a dangerous threat, despite the race perhaps being a touch shorter than she might prefer. She looks the value in a speed-laden race.

Who is the horse to fade?

JS: After defeating eventual champion Letruska early last season, #5 Shedaresthedevil (8-5) shipped to Del Mar in top form for the 2021 Clement L. Hirsch and easily defeated a suspect group of four rivals. She's taken a step back since, losing three of her last four starts in advance of Saturday's title defense, and Shedaresthedevil looks vulnerable at short odds against a deeper field this year.

KR: Although #4 Private Mission (5-2) is a logical win candidate in Saturday's Clement L. Hirsch (G1) at Del Mar, she'll need to up her game to beat defending champion Shedaresthedevil. And she's not the only realistic alternative to the favorite, either. Indeed, this "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Distaff is pretty deep for this circuit. It's fascinating that Richard Mandella throws Soothsay in here off the 13-month layoff. The well-bred daughter of Distorted Humor has lost only once, to the classy Crazy Beautiful, and overcame significant trouble to get up in the 2021 Indiana Oaks (G3) when last seen. Soothsay brings plenty of upside, and a strong series of works. Add in Kentucky Oaks (G1) third Desert Dawn, who earlier toppled hotpot Adare Manor in the Santa Anita Oaks (G2). Desert Dawn can be forgiven her latest loss, after an awful stumble at the start. The sophomore gets four pounds from co-highweights Shedaresthedevil, Private Mission, and Blue Stripe, the stout Argentinean who might get a better set-up than last time.

VH: #2 Title Ready (3-1) is a lukewarm early favorite in the Cowboy Jones S. at Ellis Park on Saturday, but is typically not the kind horseplayers can back with confidence. Although a good third in the Alysheba (G2) behind Olympiad and Happy Saver two back, the class relief here might not be enough for the veteran seven-year-old. Especially concerning is his 1-for-7 record over a flat mile, the distance of the Cowboy Jones.

What else is worth noting?

JS: Saturday's $1 million Saratoga Derby (G1) has plenty of pace signed on, and European-based runners Nations Pride and Stone Age will appeal to bettors following unfavorable trips in which they finished second and third in the Belmont Derby (G1). It will be no surprise to see either win at short odds, but #8 Sy Dog is a horse I want on all tickets at a price (12-1 morning line). Trained by Graham Motion, the Slumber colt offered a dynamic late kick to win his first two stakes attempts at a less-than-ideal 1 1/16-mile distance, and he exits a sneaky performance in the Belmont Derby in which he was beaten only 1 1/2 lengths. Launching a big move from off the pace on the far turn, Sy Dog went to go inside at the top of the stretch before being blocked. After trying to negotiate out, Manny Franco angled his mount inward again and found a seam, advancing to be second between calls in deep stretch before coming up a little short. Sy Dog is a candidate to move forward off the encouraging showing, and I'll key the late runner in vertical exotics.

KR: Pool 1 of the Breeders' Cup Classic Future Wager opens with short prices on the brilliant duo of Flightline (3-1) and Life Is Good (7-2), both with question marks at the 1 1/4-mile trip. Life Is Good can help himself if airing in Saturday's 1 1/8-mile Whitney (G1), but so can fellow Future Wager interests, most notably Olympiad (9-2) and Hot Rod Charlie (20-1). Double-digit morning lines are available on a slew of realistic contenders, and the "All Others" option is pegged at 30-1. Value is sure to be found, and we'll see how the market settles by Sunday. Pool 1 is scheduled to close at 6:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday evening, and there will be one more opportunity with Pool 2 over Labor Day Weekend.

VH: The Whitney, the feature at Saratoga on Saturday, is no longer run under handicap conditions, where weights are assigned by a racing secretary. That's seemingly unfortunate for the chances of Americanrevolution, who was decisively handled by Olympiad in last month's Stephen Foster (G2) at Churchill Downs by 2 1/4 lengths while getting five pounds from the winner. Under the convoluted conditions of the Whitney, Americanrevolution must now concede the very same Olympiad two pounds on Saturday. Americanrevolution is going to have to run the race of his life to turn the tables on that formidable rival with a seven-pound swing against him. The allowance system of assigning weights that replaced all but a few handicaps in this country is failing, but few complaints are being voiced.