Before we get into the terrific weekend of racing from Saratoga, I wanted to make mention of Michael Straight, the 23-year-old apprentice rider who was seriously injured on Wednesday at Arlington Park. As of Friday morning, Straight had undergone successful surgery on his spine but long-term prognosis will be unknown for a couple more days.
In our hectic everyday lives, we sometimes take health for granted, and it is only after hearing about devastating accidents like Michael Straight's do we appreciate how lucky we are to do simple things, like walk. Here's wishing that Straight, as well as injured rider, Rene Douglas, will make full recoveries from their terrible accidents and live a happy and productive life. They will be in my thoughts this weekend. I'm sure many of you feel the same way.
It seems kind of trivial to talk about handicapping at a time like this, but we all must go on. As it is, here are some quick thoughts about the weekend.
Still came up a very good race despite no Rachel or Mine That Bird. Obviously, Quality Road is the one to beat. He was going to be my Kentucky Derby selection before his quarter crack injuries and his record-setting Amsterdam performance off a four-month layoff proves he hasn't lost a step. Going from 6 1/2 furlongs to 10 is no small task, but he is one special horse and should be up to the challenge.
Despite all of the above, I'm inclined to try to beat Quality Road for a small win ticket since he will probably go off no better than odds of 8-5, although he will be included in all of my exotics. I've been a fan of Charitable Man ever since his Peter Pan win, and although his Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy efforts were semi-disappointing, I'll give him another chance.
Charitable Man must improve to beat Quality Road and Kensei, but I'm hoping a rider switch to Ramon Dominguez and a more suitable distance will put him over the top. He has two very solid works leading up to the race and seems to be kind of the forgotten horse in this race. Kiaran McLaughlin is still very high on this horse.
I also give Warrior's Reward a chance to run a big race. He seems to be improving at the right time. Kensei and Summer Bird are certainly capable, but you can't play ‘em all.
The Pick: Charitable Man for a small win ticket. Exacta box Charitable Man, Quality Road and Warrior's Reward.
One factor that should be mentioned is the weather at Saratoga. There is an 80% chance of rain on Saturday, which could play a big part in all of our handicapping. Many of our thoughts could change depending on the weather.
I also like Capt. Candyman Can in the King's Bishop. He is 3-for-3 at the distance and ran a very good race when finishing runner-up to Quality Road in the Amsterdam. He likes this track and has been in good form all year. He also has a win over an off track. I'll play Capt. Candyman Can to win and box him in an exacta with Big Drama.
Other quick picks: Selva in the Victory Ride, Informed Decision in the Ballerina, and Swift Temper is Sunday's Personal Ensign.
Good luck to everyone! Your thoughts?