Saratoga Weekend Best Bets: Jim Dandy Weekend
After a 2-2 opening weekend, we try to move above the .500 mark with a look at couple of maiden races and a pair of 100K stakes.
Quality Bets: An early Friday maiden sets the stage for our first quality bet. This mile and an eighth dirt race will go off as the third of nine races on this weekend opening card, and I'm taking a two for one shot with the 1 and 1A. They're listed on the morning line at 4/5, perhaps a tad short, but their favorite status is certainly just. Boasting the race's best speed figures, Centring and Closing Move have both run at distance and both hovered near the win. Centring is the reason for the odds-on status, so if there is a scratch, you may want to reconsider, but as a pair, I'd expect them to be a force. Keeping them from best bet status is the inclusion of Joya Real. Given some quality performances in similar races, the Ramon Dominguez mount should take some money from the favorites, but it won't be much. The 1/1A are safe bets, but Joya Real should be played in any exotics.
Lion Prince, an inclusion in Friday's ninth and final race, is another to point toward. The gelding has finished in the money each of his last three races, and takes to the turf dropping in class looking to score a win in this mile long maiden claimer. The fact that we're again looking at a maiden race - where things can be so wide open - is all that gives me pause, but I'm not in love with any of his foes. The second option on the morning line is not only coming off a layoff, but has never run on the turf and never stretched beyond seven furlongs. With Ramon Dominguez - the hottest jockey in the game - aboard, Lion Prince seems a good bet.
Continuing a trend I'm so very much not in love with, Saturday's third has me looking to another maiden race. The favorite, Gulfport, will look to improve on the 97 speed figure he posted in his first start, and claim a win he missed by only a length and a half one month ago at Churchill downs. The performance is enough to have me overlooking the four first time starters in the field - from whom you have no idea what to expect - and pegging him as a horse you should include in your wagering.
Sunday's ninth race finally brings us outside of the world of maiden races to the 100K Nani Rose stakes. Ramon Dominguez will get a leg up aboard the seven, Karlovy Vary. In six races off dirt, the filly has finished out of the money only once. She's a grade one winner and should have the opportunity to set the tempo that she wants. As with all Sunday races mentioned in "Best Bet" articles, check back before the race - selections could change as more information becomes available.
Best Bet: In an effort to find the ever elusive "Best Bet," we back up to Friday's sixth race, where we find another Ramon Dominguez mount, Hessonite. This filly, the two horse in the 100K Irish Linnet Stakes, failed as the favorite in her last race - though I think we can forgive her that effort, as she lost by no more then half a length and drops in class to face foes whom have yet to run the type of races she has. Her closest competition on the morning line is coming off a three month layoff and hasn't raced on turf since an eight length loss in December. There should be some pace to run at for this filly who has finished outside of the money only twice in her last ten starts, and I see no reason why she can't be the one to hit the wire first.
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**The above advice is not provided by a professional handicapper - just a dude who knows some stuff doing his best. If all goes wrong: Please be gentle.**