Hoping for a fast track, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, considering that the rain up in Saratoga stopped early in the evening and the forecast calls for glorious sunshine throughout the morning and afternoon. In the second, Expression (3-1) drops into allowance company after a couple of fine tries in restricted stakes. Consistent four-year old daughter of Invasor - in the money her last six tries - was a close second in her last, but was likely best while earning a career high TFUS figure of 100. She was hung three wide under a confident Irad Ortiz Jr. for the entire length of the big sweeping turn at Belmont, looked home free midstretch before getting run down by favored Villanesca. That one is a blue-blooded Darley filly who seems to be coming into her own as a sprinter this year, and who saved a lot of ground relative to Expression around that turn. Trainer Charlton Baker is looking for his first winner of the meet in his 4th starter; but his prior runners have all run pretty well at generous prices. One concern I have is her slow workout on Aug 3; not that I necessarily care if a horse works slow, but this filly had been working well of late. We'll hope she just had a bad morning and insist on a price at or very close to her morning line.
Greed and Fear (5-2) whistled wire to wire (101 TFUS) in her first start with blinkers on and goes first off the claim for Michael Maker, always extremely dangerous in that situation. However, don't know that she can replicate that trip here, as Pace Projector shows the four horse, Jan's Perfect Star (6-1), as the early leader. So perhaps Expression (#5), who I think has better tactical speed than she's being given credit for below, can work out a nice trip.
In the 7th, here's our buddy George Weaver, five for 13 at the meet, with the 7-5 morning line favorite Soul House. Type of horse who figures to get pounded at the windows, stretching out to seven furlongs after closing from 12th to finish second at 6 1/2. This horse was really aided though by a pace that completely fell apart; a somnific quarter of 26.57 after they went to the half in 45.31. Pace Projector predicts a tougher pace scenario for him here. So let's try Ambassador Bridge (5-1), for trainer Leah Gyarmati, who got off the Saratoga schneid with a winner and a third with two first-timers on Friday. Six-year old son of Best of Luck (Broad Brush) has learned to love the game this year, employing a strong closing kick to fashion a string of excellent efforts; two wins and two fine seconds from his last five starts - earning competitive speed figures along the way - including a game second to prohibitive favorite Escapefromreality in his last. His one dull recent effort, a fifth place finish two races back, might well be explained by a mere 14 days off before the race. He gets 37 before this one, as well as the services of Joel Rosario, with a rare ride for this barn. Like the probable favorite, he'll have to overcome a predicted slow pace, but the seven furlong distance figures to work in his favor against questionable speed horses like Do I Amuse You and Street Swagg. Sharp gelding seems solid value at his morning line here.
Defending Horse of the Year Wise Dan is 3-5 to win the Grade 2 Fourstardave. Doug Salvatore, our East Coast handicapper at TimeformUS, takes a shot against him.
- Have to mention the DQ of my pick Orino on Wednesday. Had gotten back from a grueling session of root canal not long before that, so it wasn't a particularly great afternoon! Had him to win at 12-1, as well as the exacta with him on top of the declared winner, the 3-5 West Hills Giant. Ugh. The resulting exacta with the favorite on top was a small consolation. I'm not going to get into bitching about the call; Serling said it was the right one and that's good enough for me. Guess I just don't quite understand the rules though. Kinda like in baseball - another sport that I've been watching all my life, yet I don't know for the life of me what constitutes a checked swing, or not. Is it breaking the wrists? Bat out over the plate? Or just the judgment of the umpires? Serling tweeted: "Orino clearly took West Hills Giant's path away and should come down." That's fine. But I thought that a dq-able incident is one that is supposed to have changed the order of finish? Personally, I don't think there was any way that West Hills Giant was going to otherwise win. And it seems our favorite overly verbose chart caller agreed, noting that the favorite appeared "to have been successfully shaken off." But I guess the race was close enough to make the change, even if that's the case. Of course, one always wonders if the stewards would have made the same decision if the odds were reversed.
Speaking of chart callers, you really must, if you have not already done so, read Ryan Goldberg's article about them in the Daily Racing Form. Not going to quote from it here, because I'd want to just copy and paste the entire article. Please just check it out, you won't be sorry; and you very well may be surprised, as I was at the methodology. I didn't know that chart "calling" was still a literal term. The only complaint I had was that the article, which focused on the pair that ply their trade at Monmouth, didn't mention our guy at the NYRA tracks who we've been quoting with delight here the last few years. When I asked about that on Twitter, Ryan replied: That was left on the cutting-room floor unfortunately; as one veteran chart caller described his work, War and Peace. Apparently, the editors at the Form felt that the article was becoming War and Peace too and decided to cut it down.