The Jury: Bets and fades for July 22
Haskell Day at Monmouth Park, Saratoga, and Del Mar are the highlights of the racing weekend, and the Jury is back with their top plays for what should be an exciting Saturday of action.
What is your best bet?
James Scully: #3 Salute the Stars (8-1) in Saturday’s $1 million Haskell (G1). Initially pegged as a turf type, the Brad Cox-trained colt has captured two straight on the main track since opening his three-year-old season in mid-May. And the up-and-coming son of Candy Ride ran fast in both races despite showing signs of immaturity, registering 96 and 97 Brisnet Speed ratings. In his stakes debut, the June 17 Pegasus S. at Monmouth Park, Salute the Stars proved rank through the opening half-mile after being steadied at the break, and he appeared empty in upper stretch before leveling off, surging determinedly to overhaul Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Kingsbarns. Salute the Stars will only benefit from the experience, and the stalker figures to receive a favorable set-up in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell.
Vance Hanson: #5 Limited Liability (5-1) turned out to be an underlaid favorite when stretching out for the May 20 Louisville (G3) at Churchill Downs, but his price figures to better in the United Nations (G1) at Monmouth. Limited Liability didn't fare badly at all in the Louisville, finishing second best to returning rival Foreign Relations, and I believe there is more to come from this four-year-old in these longer-distance grass tests. Early favorite Red Knight looks imposing on recent form and Limited Liability's trainer, Shug McGaughey, has had a frustrating meet at Monmouth with 14 seconds and thirds from 19 starters through last week, but Limited Liability nonetheless offers appeal.
Ashley Anderson: While her morning line price is shorter than I anticipated in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), I expect money to come off of #4 Gambling Girl (5-2) and flow toward Kentucky Oaks (G1) post-time favorite #2 Wet Paint (2-1), who finished fourth in that race, as well as #5 Hoosier Philly (5-2), who beat Wet Paint by 3 1/2 lengths last out in the Monomoy Girl S. at Ellis Park. Although the Todd Pletcher trainee finished a neck second to Pretty Mischievous in the Oaks at 15-1, Gambling Girl is 0-for-4 at today's distance of 1 1/8 miles, but she was less than a length shy of a win in her last two at nine furlongs and posted back-to-back 98 Brisnet Speed figures.
Pletcher has also won four of the last 10 editions of the CCA Oaks, and he triumphed last season with Nest, who was guided by Irad Ortiz Jr., the rider for Gambling Girl. Coming off a two-month layoff, I think the Dialed In filly can finally get over the hump at 1 1/8 miles while also earning her first Grade 1 victory.
Who is the horse to fade?
JS: #9 Red Knight (5-2) will make his first start at Monmouth Park in the United Nations (G1), and I don’t trust the nine-year-old gelding at short odds. The inconsistent veteran hasn’t been favored in a race since 2020, but Red Knight figures to take plenty of betting action following a pair of commendable efforts over his favorite course, winning the Man o’ War (G1) and finishing fourth in the Manhattan (G1). Five of his 12 career wins have come at Belmont Park, it’s no surprise to see him run well at his longtime home base, but the one-run closer may leave himself too much to do in the stretch Saturday.
VH: The pace scenario and distance figure to be in her favor more than in her most recent start, but I'm still not entirely sold on morning line favorite #2 Wet Paint (2-1) in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga. Returning rival Gambling Girl ran a better race than Wet Paint in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), despite having a tougher trip, while Kentucky Oaks also-ran Southlawn at least has a win over Pretty Mischievous to her credit and is likely to offer more value in her attempt to bounce back from a sub-par effort. Wet Paint's relative vulnerability since leaving Oaklawn has been evident, so another short price on offer will be unattractive.
AA: Last year's Molly Pitcher champ #4 Search Results was named the 8-5 morning line favorite in her title defense, but she has failed to win in three other career tries at 1 1/16 miles and faces a competitive field littered with upset candidates. The Chad Brown filly hasn't reached the winner's circle since her Molly Pitcher triumph last July; granted, she's been facing Grade 1 company and has lost to the likes of Malathaat, Played Hard, and Clairiere. Still, I think the Flatter mare is beatable, and I'll stand against her in this spot.
Brown's other runner, #3 Distinctlypossible (9-2), is 3-for-4 at 1 1/16 miles and last won the Serena's Song, beating today's race rival Shotgun Hottie by more than six lengths. The Curlin filly will move back up in class and will pick up hot jockey Luis Saez, who's 6-3-2-0 to start the Monmouth meet. I'm also intrigued by Godolphin runner #6 Loved (5-1), who has won three straight by a combined 27 1/2 lengths and posted a pair of sharp five-furlong workouts in July. #7 First to Act (6-1) could also surprise with the cutback in distance off a long layoff for Shug McGaughey.
What else is worth noting?
JS: #1 Southlawn (9-2) in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga. The Pioneerof the Nile filly turned her form around when easily capturing an allowance in mid-February, and Southlawn ran big when recording a convincing win over Pretty Mischievous and The Alys Look in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). But things came too easy and she experienced a rough journey when stepping up in the Kentucky Oaks last time. Shuffled back to seventh after breaking alertly, Southlawn had to be checked hard midway on the first turn when nearly running into a rival, causing a chain reaction, and she effectively was through at that point. Florent Geroux picks up the mount on the speedy filly, Southlawn appears to be training superbly in preparation for Norm Casse, and I like her chances in the CCA Oaks.
VH: I'm hoping the connections of #5 Eamonn (30-1) choose to partake in the Van Clief S. at Colonial Downs on Saturday, rather than the Wolf Hill S. at Monmouth Park. Although a more difficult race on paper, the Van Clief looks like a spot in which the late closer can grab a significant share or more at big odds. Eamonn has spent much of his career running two turns, but displayed sprinting prowess in taking a late-May overnight handicap at Gulfstream in the last jump with the benefit of a scorching pace. The fractions could be similarly quick in the Van Clief, he gets an extra sixteenth to work with, and has won over the course before.
AA: In the Jeff Hall Memorial S., the eighth race at Ellis Saturday, #2 O Besos (5-2), the fifth-place finisher from the 2021 Kentucky Derby (G1), will make his first start since finishing a good fifth to Elite Power in the six-furlong Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) last November.
The son of Orb cut back to a sprint distance for the Commonwealth (G3) in April 2022, finishing third to Prevalence, then won a six-furlong allowance optional claimer at Churchill in October 2022.
O Besos will pick up high-percentage jockey Corey Lanerie and will look to close late against eight rivals, including morning line favorite #9 Here Mi Song (2-1), who last finished a distant fourth to Cody's Wish in the Churchill Downs (G1), in which Here Mi Song was vanned off but appeared clear of injuries. The 2023 Commonwealth upsetter will retain Alex Archard and will break from the outside, but he's 1-for-5 at Ellis for his career.
I'll give O Besos the edge between the two, but I'm going to back #1 Chasing Time (8-1), who moves up in class off a three-length win at Ellis in an allowance optional claimer on June 30. Trained by Steve Asmussen, third in the trainer rankings at Ellis, the Not This Time colt will cut back slightly in distance and will get Cristian Torres aboard, who's 6-for-15 paired with Asmussen over the last 60 days. Asmussen is also a 20% winner with horses that won their last race and a 17% winner in non-graded stakes.