The Jury: Bets and fades for Sept. 2
The TwinSpires Jury of James Scully, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson look ahead to an exciting weekend of racing at Del Mar, Saratoga, and Kentucky Downs.
What is your best bet?
James Scully: #3 Tom Collins (5-1) in the sixth race at Saratoga Saturday. Bred for turf, the two-year-old colt showed speed when his career debut came off the turf, throwing in the towel after the opening half-mile, and the race appeared to take little out of him. Tom Collins recorded a swift half-mile work a week later, and Shug McGaughey brings him right back off a two-week rest. He’s well-drawn inside for a favorable up-close trip on the inner turf.
Vance Hanson: #7 Miss Carol Ann (4-1), entered in the Violet S. at Monmouth Park, is seemingly best when she can show a turn of foot from off the pace. Thus, I'm willing to forgive her recent fourth in a Saratoga allowance in which she tried to lead all the way in a race where there was no other speed. Although she's never really run well in any prior stakes, this isn't the deepest of casts and certainly fits this spot on paper.
Ashley Anderson: #7 Secret Money (5-1) in the 6 1/2-furlong Music City S. (G3) on Kentucky Downs' turf. The three-year-old will cut back in distance after finishing a length third last out in the Lake George (G3) at Saratoga, where she set the early pace before she was collared a furlong from home. The Good Samaritan filly will pick up Tyler Gaffalione, a 17% winner on turf, and trainer Brendan Walsh is a 29% winner with horses going from a sprint to a route and back to a sprint. Secret Money also owns a 5-2-0-1 record on turf with a career-best 90 Brisnet Speed figure, which she earned in her second career start at Keeneland when beating today's morning line favorite L J’s Emma.
Who is the horse to fade?
JS: #1 Proxy (2-1) in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). The five-year-old runs his best races when up close to the pace, but the two rivals to his immediate outside are quicker, and more speed resides toward the outside in the starting gate. An off-the-pace trip from a tough rail draw may prove too much for Proxy to overcome.
VH: #10 Annapolis (8-5) has only ever run one clunker on the grass, in last fall's Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) after a troubled start, but the undulating nature of the Kentucky Downs course doesn't always favor the most talented horse on paper. Given the competitive nature of the Mint Millions (G3), and the fact he is wheeling back on three weeks' rest, I'm ready to take on Annapolis at a short price in this lucrative event.
AA: I will try to beat #4 Rattle N Roll (9-5) in the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Saratoga, a Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Win And You're In qualifying race. While the Connect colt won three straight at the Grade 3 level before getting beaten a half-length by West Will Power in the Stephen Foster (G1) last out, I think he's vulnerable coming off a more than two-month layoff. Trainer Kenny McPeek is just a 9% winner in his last 169 races with horses coming off 46 to 90 days of rest, and he's 2-for-27 at Saratoga this meet. I think #1 Proxy (2-1) has a better chance if he can stay close to the lead, and I'll also play #8 Bright Future (6-1), who moves up in class off a dominant victory in a 1 1/8-mile allowance optional claimer at the Spa for Todd Pletcher.
What else is worth noting?
JS: I respect the win chances of Geaux Rocket Ride and expected pacesetter Arabian Knight, but tabbing #11 Skinner (10-1) for an upset in the Pacific Classic (G1). The three-year-old Curlin colt was coming on this spring, but an illness forced him out of the Kentucky Derby (G1). John Shirreffs used the Los Alamitos Derby as a prep, and the winner had everything his own way on the lead, and Skinner finished well for second. He projects to receive a much better setup in the second start back. The added ground looks beneficial, and Skinner figures to be rolling late with Hector Berrios.
VH: Trainer Mike Maker doesn't often win with first-time starters, but #2 Buffoon (12-1) possesses an interesting pedigree as he makes his debut in the sixth race at Saratoga. The French-bred juvenile is by Lope de Vega and out of a dam who is a half-sister to Ectot, a Group 1 winner in both France and the U.S., and another top-level winner in Most Improved. Although it took a while for Buffoon's older half-sibling by Frankel to win, he was a competitive sort from the start. Buffoon has the potential to be better while encouragingly beginning his career on a stronger circuit.
AA: #9 Faiza (8-5) will look to rebound from a third to Taxed in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at Pimlico in late May, her first defeat in six career starts. The Bob Baffert pupil will return to Del Mar, where she broke her maiden on debut in November 2022 and has looked sharp in morning workouts, but I see upset potential with #4 Coffee In Bed (12-1), a Curlin filly who will stretch out to a route distance for the first time. The three-year-old won on debut at six furlongs, then finished second and third when racing in a pair of allowance optional claimers at seven and six furlongs, respectively. The longer distance will suit her here, and trainer Richard Mandella is a 28% winner with first-time route-runners. Coffee In Bed will also pick up hot jockey Juan Hernandez Jr. (24% winner at Del Mar), and the filly has recorded improving Brisnet Speed figures in each of her three starts.