As far as the weather forecast for the weekend goes, what can one say.
I knew this damn storm was going to be a problem when first read about a possible tropical depression in the Gulf a couple of days ago, and I hate when I'm right about stuff like that (as I usually am, wish I could handicap the horses as well as I do the weather). So, I'm thinking of Harvey Pack, who used to start rainy days on the in-house feed at Saratoga by declaring "You're not going to have fun today!" That's not necessarily true of course, but the reality is that the rain puts quite a damper on the proceedings, both in terms of the quality of the races and of the ambiance, so the point was surely well-taken. (And, in this case, the security crap doesn't help either; no umbrellas allowed, among other things. ) Well, the "good" news is that this thing is supposed to clear out of here sometime during the day on Saturday, so the day may not be a total washout, though, with up to two to four inches of rain expected, the track is sure to be sloppy, and all of the non-stakes turf races (and maybe those too) will be off the grass. And I kind of expect that Friday's races will be cancelled altogether.
Anyway and despite the dire forecast, it's Belmont week so even the mundane races on Wednesday took on a little bit of buzz. Winners for both Kiaran McLaughlin and David Jacobson, both of whom we identified as HOT the other day. McLaughlin and Darley dropped Rugged ($3.90) in for a tag; don't know if Darley bothers to try and pull anything over, but if they did then they didn't succeed here as he was taken for 60K by trainer William Badgett for owner Louis Roussel III. Jacobson won the 4th with Nifty Shindig ($3.70); he'd claimed this horse for 35K two races back, picked up $30,600 winning his next out in a Starter Optional Claimer, dropped him to a conditional 15K race here (even after the 4th place finisher in his last race came back to win an open 25K), got the $18,000 purse money and got him claimed (by Maker/Ramsey). So a nifty shindig indeed, a tidy gross profit of $28,600. You can say what you want about Jacobson, and I know people have their suspicions, but he knows how and when to spot his horses, that's for sure.
In the 8th, Teen Pauline was .45-to-1 for the Toddster off a 276 day layoff (a loss at 3-5) and faded in the stretch to 4th, yikes. At least the bridgejumpers exercised good judgment here and laid off. Bliss ($17.40) won her 4th in a row; she'd been claimed three races back for 25K from Chad Brown by owner/trainer Danny Gargan out of a maiden claimer, took advantage of that placing to be eligible to win a couple of Starter Allowance affairs before taking this entry-level allowance. Nice spotting there by the connections, who had been knocking at the door at the meet before getting its first win with this daughter of Flashy Bull out of a Thunder Gulch mare.
Post positions and morning line for the Belmont here. The posts aren't generally considered a big deal given the distance; but it does mean that Freedom Child, whose connections must be thrilled about the prospect of a wet track, has the opportunity to get a jump on Oxbow on the inside if that's the way they intend to play it. Assuming that Palace Malice is under control with the blinkers off, there really ain't much speed in here other than those two. If Freedom Child has an awkward start as he did in the Peter Pan and can't quickly recover, or if jockey Luis Saez chooses not to challenge for the lead, or if he's just not up to the task, I don't know who else is gonna try and run with Oxbow. Giant Finish perhaps? [UPDATE: Our buddy El Angelo points out in the comments that Ken McPeek says that Frac Daddy is gonna be sent from the rail. I point out that I'm rather skeptical as to how much he will be factor regardless given the horse's lack of early speed, but we'll see.]
Orb is the morning line favorite at 3-1 (and remember, he seemed to like the slop just fine in the Derby), a price which would not excite me at all. Revolutionary (9-2) is the second choice, and I'm not really getting that; besides, we're not supposed to bet dead closers in this race, right? And especially on a wet track (though if it becomes a drying-out track by 6:36 post time, it could be a different story).
Pletcher was talking the other day about how Unlimited Budget prefers to run outside of horses, so he must be pleased with the 13 post that she drew. And, as I mentioned the other day, her broodmare sire is Valid Appeal, who adored the off-going and has proven to be a major wet track influence at stud. So I like her a bit more with that prospect; and, additionally, her Oaks effort produced a big speed figure with my numbers, as opposed to the five point backward move on the Beyers. Not to mention that Midnight Lucky and Close Hatches, both of whom finished behind the Toddster's filly in the Oaks, came back to run 1-2 in the Acorn; 9th place finisher Seaneed Girl ran second in an allowance at Fair Grounds. Unlimited Budget was however made the co-4th choice in the morning line at 8-1. Wondering if the oddsmaker is considering what he believes to be her true chances, or is accounting for the casual money she is likely to attract given the publicity about her and her jockey Rosie Napravnik. Either way, that would be a disappointment to me in terms of her value.