TimeformUS Weekend Plays: Saratoga and Del Mar Graded Stakes Races

Sunday, Saratoga, Race 10, 5:45 PM EDT
The Grade 2 Saratoga Special, Six and a Half Furlongs, Two-Year Olds And Up, Main Track

Foal crop sizes have gotten smaller since the mid 1980s, and as a consequence, trainers have become much more patient in their handling of juveniles. When City Zip won the 2000 edition of the Saratoga Special, he did it while making the seventh start of his career. Fast-forward thirteen years to today's edition of this storied race for two-year-olds and we have a field of just seven horses, none of whom has made more than two starts in his career.

Indeed, looking over the entries, it is understandable how a racetrack as legendary as this one can put on a race as legendary as this one and see it given only Grade 2 status. Such are the times.

Coming into the Saratoga meet, Corfu (5-2 morning line) had a world of buzz to him. By Orb's sire, Malibu Moon, out of a mare that was a half sibling to multiple Grade 1 winner Peace Rules, he's beautifully bred. Originally a $185,000 July yearling, he blitzed a quarter mile in a sale-best 20.80 seconds at the Barretts March 2-year-old in training under-tack show, and re-sold for $675,000 after that scorching workout.  Since 2000, only nine other babies have worked a sub-21 quarter mile at Barretts. Included among them were two Grade 1 winning two-year-olds (Officer and Brother Derek) and two Grade 2 winning two-year-olds (Arabian Light and the brilliant What A Song).

In his racing debut, Corfu was gunned to the lead right into the teeth of a three-way speed duel. He held on to win the race, earning an excellent 92 TimeformUS speed figure. We think this is a very exciting horse, but since he's on just 17 days rest and is stretching out a furlong and a half in distance, we must oppose him today.

Our selection will be fellow second-time starter Candy Dandy (3-1). There are two important distinctions to be made between Candy Dandy and Corfu today. One, Candy Dandy was able to relax and rate in his career debut, and two, Candy Dandy has 42 days rest coming into this race. Trainer Steve Asmussen has a slew of good trainer ratings, and we like the way his two-year-olds have run at this meet. We are hardly excited about his 3/1 morning line price in a race that has little established form to work with, but look for Candy Dandy to get the job done in the stretch of the 108th Saratoga Special.

 Free Past Performances for the Saratoga Special at TimeformUS


Sunday, Del Mar, Race 8, 8:40 PM EDT
The Grade 2 John C. Mabee, One Mile and 1/8, Fillies and Mares, Three-Year-Olds and Up, Turf

Let's start by refusing to deny the obvious. With only five horses signed up, and one of them entered as a rabbit to ensure a decent pace for her stablemate, this is a rather bland edition of the Mabee. However, important horses can exit bland races, and that could well prove to be the case here.

The TFUS Pace Projector indicates that the rabbit, Journaliste (10-1 morning line), will have the early lead today, and that seems to be a fairly safe prediction. Customer Base is projected to be a close second early, with likely favorite Tiz Flirtatious (7-5) and My Gi Gi (5-1) in mid-pack, and likely second-choice Lady of Shamrock (8-5) in the rear.

Lady of Shamrock is a deep-closer who is adding blinkers today. She wore blinkers early in her career (see the TFUS lifetime past performances), and they did not do a lot to help her early speed. She is a talented filly who has won two Grade 1s and is fresh off a strong speed figure of 110. Unfortunately, rabbit or no rabbit, she would seem to be at a tactical disadvantage today because she seems certain to be giving first-run away to Tiz Flirtatious.
The Marty Jones-trained Tiz Flirtatious comes in off of back-to-back speed figures of 109 and figures to receive a pleasing trip today. An underrated, terrific trainer, Jones gets a TFUS trainer rating of 94 when he enters races off of spacing similar to today's. He also receives strong ratings in stakes races. Tiz Flirtatious has reportedly been training extraordinarily well for this race. She is the deserving favorite.

 Free Past Performances for the Mabee at TimeformUS



Saturday, Saratoga, Race 10, 5:45 PM EDT
The Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap, One Mile, Three-Year Olds And Up, Inner Turf

If this race were not being run under handicap conditions, we'd concede it to Wise Dan (3-5 morning line). He's simply open-lengths better than the rest of this group. However, 129 pounds is a lofty impost, and he must concede double-digit weight spreads all around. Devotees of weight adjustments will tell you that he's giving away a three-to-four-length handicap to his competition in the Fourstardave.

Wise Dan pp

We believe two horses who project for ground-saving, covered-up trips have a chance to upset Wise Dan if the weight concession is really as big a factor as we hope. Za Approval (8-1) exploded to a career-best 118 TimeformUS speed figure when he was second in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park.

 Za Approval pp

The other horse who might present a challenge to Wise Dan is Mr. Commons (10-1). For a short time, Mr. Commons was regarded as the best miler in Southern California. He hasn't been disgraced in two recent outings against Wise Dan, being defeated by three lengths on both occasions. Mr. Commons was the victim of a wide trip and ran a "better than looked" performance in his most recent race. He gets a 12-pound break in weights and projects for a covered-up trip.

Mr. Commons pp

The speed horses will target Wise Dan, and they will try to race-ride him just as they did last time. Look for John Velazquez to maneuver Wise Dan off the rail and possibly use up a little energy to get an outside stalking position. If Wise Dan gets beat, it will probably be by a rival that gets a perfect trip in behind him and makes good of the handicap. Still, it's hard to imagine Wise Dan finishing any worse than second.

Betting strategy:  Exacta Key: Za Approval and Mr. Commons on top of Wise Dan.

Free Fourstardave Handicap Past Performances at TimeformUS.com


Saturday, Del Mar, Race 8, 8:40 PM EDT
The G2 La Jolla Handicap, 1 1/16 Miles, Three-Year Olds
, Polytrack

The La Jolla has nine horses this year and five of them are exiting one of the two divisions of the Oceanside, the opening-day Del Mar stake that is often split because it attracts so many entrants. The final times of the two divisions were so close this year that the oft-heard "Faster division of the Oceanside" business becomes mere trivia. However, the earlier division was run at a significantly faster pace, a fact that is far from trivial.
The TimeformUS Pace Projector for the La Jolla shows Rosengold (5-1 morning line) in the early lead, with Freakin Rocket (7-2) dropping in right behind him, Si Sage, Uno Dos Adios, and Dry Summer a fair distance behind the two of them, and the others farther back. We like the chances that one of the two horses projected to be in front early will still be in front when this race ends.

TimeformUS Pace Projector
Rosengold raced on the lead in the slower-paced division of the Oceanside and tired to finish fourth, earning a speed figure of 94, a respectable number, to be sure, but not a number that would be likely to win today's race. We think he can improve on that race today for ace trainer Julio Canani, who has strong TFUS trainer ratings across the board. Despite running only moderate fractions in the Oceanside, Rosenwald had a deceptively difficult trip. He broke from post eight, entered the first turn wide, and was used up a bit in grinding his way to the rail. We expect him to have an easier time getting to the rail today, and we think he has a good chance to get back to the speed figure of 102 that he ran two starts back. That is a number that can play well in here.

Rosengold pp

Freakin Rocket pp
Freakin Rocket exits the fast-paced division of the Oceanside, where he earned a speed figure of 98 and did so in visually impressive fashion. He raced close to the fast pace, and then made an eye-catching run around the far turn before flattening out. It was an auspicious performance from a horse making both his turf debut and his route debut, and we think it stamps him as the horse to beat today. Freakin Rocket is our selection.

Free La Jolla Handicap Past Performances at TimeformUS.com 


Check back on Sunday for previews of Saratoga and Del Mar graded stakes.

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