TimeformUS Sunday Stakes Plays: The Spinaway and the Del Mar Derby

The Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes, Sunday, Saratoga, Two-Year Olds, Main Track, Seven Furlongs
Scheduled Post Time: 5:45 PM EDT

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Five different horses in today's Spinaway have scored wire-to-wire victories at sprint distances shorter than today's seven furlong distance. The "speed of the speed" is unquestionably Brazen Persuasion (5-1 morning line) from her rail post. She also shares, with Sweet Reason (8-1), the best last-out speed figure in the field: a 94.

Sweet Reason ran her speed figure of 94 in her career debut, 23 days ago, an effort in which she fell 18 lengths behind the honest early pace, appeared to be languishing, and then blew the field away to win by six and a half lengths. From a visual standpoint, the performance was jaw-dropping, the sort of performance that flabbergasts all who see it. Indeed, Sweet Reason's veteran jockey, Alex Solis, was continuously giving her pats on the shoulders through the gallop-out, the kind of emotion one rarely sees from a battle-hardened rider who has just won a maiden race that was rained off of the turf.

When one is handicapping a field of nine horses who have made only 16 combined starts in their careers, predicting how the race will unfold is no small task. There's simply not that much established form to work with. But the hope here is that Sweet Reason will get a good pace set-up today and show her explosive stretch kick as she tackles better competition over a longer distance.

Betting strategy:

Win bet on Sweet Reason. Use both Sweet Reason and Brazen Persuasion in multi-win wagers such as Daily Doubles or Pick 3s.


The Grade 2 Del Mar Derby, 2nd Division, Del Mar, Sunday, Turf, One Mile and One Eighth, Three-Year Olds
Scheduled Post Time: 9:00 PM EDT

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Horse races don't get much more contentious than the second division of today's Del Mar Derby. There is not one horse in here whom we could toss with anything resembling certitude. Let's frame this wild and crazy race by looking at the TFUS Pace Projector:


The Pace Projector indicates that this race will have a fast pace, as is so often the case in big races with big fields. Play It Loud (#2) is projected to be on the early lead, with Ethnic Dance (#1) a close second and Den's Legacy (#4) a close third.
Given the morning line odds, we find our interest going to three horses above the others:
Ethnic Dance (12-1): We have practically bent ourselves into a pretzel in an attempt to justify selecting this colt. We love his pattern of speed figures (gradual improvement). We love the commanding nature of his August victory. We think it was the type of performance that often leads to better performances in the near future. We love the way he has trained since that race. We love the promise on the female side of his pedigree. We like his trainer. We like his post (though we'd like it even more if it were one spot off the rail, since the race starts in a chute). We like his morning line odds of 12-1. But we don't think we'll get 12-1 here, and the projected fast pace concerns us. So, against all of our instincts, we are going to stamp him as a must-use but restrain ourselves from selecting him on top.


Dorsett (6-1): Although his speed figures are a cut below the best this field has to offer, his last race, at Canterbury, impressed us so much visually that we (like Bejarano's agent, it seems) find it hard to resist this colt. He has a top trainer and a superb rider who can work out a trip from the outside of the gate. He has run well in Grade 3s in the midwest. He figures to be flattered by the projected fast pace. We feel he is a very serious contender in here.
Den's Legacy (6-1): This Bob Baffert colt is fresh off a Grade 2 performance that was simply terrific. He stalked very fast fractions, made a possibly premature move into them, ran against the flow of the race, and fought gamely to the wire. For his effort he received a speed figure of 105, the type of number that can win this race today. Our hope is that Nakatani will have Den's Legacy farther back off the pace today. But in any case, at morning line odds of 6-1, he is our selection.



The Grade 1 Woodward Stakes, Saratoga, Saturday, One Mile and One Eighth, Main Track, Three-Year Olds And Up.
Scheduled Post Time: 5:45 PM EDT
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The absence of Cross Traffic and the scratch of Fort Larned significantly alter the pace complexion of this race. Mucho Macho Man and Paynter are the biggest beneficiaries of those two key defections.

Of the two, Mucho Macho Man (9-2 morning line) has the more appealing look from a value standpoint. He was a sensational second in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic, behind loose-lead Fort Larned. Indeed, there was a huge margin of 6.5 lengths back to the third-place finisher in last year's Classic.

In his first two starts this season, Mucho Macho Man barely showed signs of a pulse. He was pulled up in the slop as the 2/5 favorite in the Sunshine Millions Classic. Then he returned to Belmont Park in the Criminal Type Stakes and was a soundly beaten third as the 3/5 favorite over a good track.

Mucho Macho Man returned to form, over a fast track and quite impressively, with his very good third to Cross Traffic in the Whitney last time out. He has run speed figures of 121, 127, and 121 in his last three starts over a fast track. If the main track is fast Saturday, Mucho Macho Man is the horse we want to bet.

However, we are concerned about the weather forecasts, which are speaking of the possibility of rain. Mucho Macho Man flopped in his two starts over a wet track this year, and his only other career start over a wet track resulted in a 24-length loss to Ruler On Ice in the Belmont Stakes.

If the track is wet, we would prefer Flat Out (3-1) as the top selection. Flat Out is a two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, and he won both editions over a wet Belmont Park racetrack, beating next-out Breeders' Cup Classic winners Drosselmeyer and Fort Larned. Although Flat Out has a deserved reputation as a Belmont Park specialist, he has run three excellent races in his only three career tries over the dirt at Saratoga.

Get TimeformUS Past Performances for the Woodward card here.


The Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante, Del Mar, Saturday, Seven Furlongs, Main Track, Two-Year Old Fillies
Scheduled Post Time: 9:00 PM EDT
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The Del Mar Debutante is almost always one of our favorite races of the Del Mar meet. This year we have eight talented two-year-old fillies running seven furlongs for the first time, and five of them are not trained by Bob Baffert. Let's take a look at the fillies who interest us most in this race:
Awesome Baby (5-2):  She seems certain to go off as the clear favorite. She won her debut wire to wire in impressive fashion at 5.5 furlongs, recording fast fractions along the way, and received a speed figure of 91, which is the fastest figure any filly in this field has ever run.


Her trainer, Bob Baffert, is outstanding with horses making their second starts (rating of 97) and outstanding in two-year-old stakes races (rating of 100). With that in mind, it is no surprise that he is also outstanding when his horses enter stakes races in their second starts.

There is obviously a lot to like about Awesome Baby today. But we feel that the extra 1.5 furlongs of today's race, when coupled with the legitimate chance that a quality horse will hound her early, makes her worth playing against at the expected short price.
Concave (7-2): Won the Grade 2 Sorrento in her most recent start after stalking a fast pace and receiving a nice inside-out ride from Mario Gutierrez. She's a contender, to be sure, and her speed figure of 84 is third-fastest in here, but we don't love her chances of getting that trip again. We'll be playing against her in the top spot.
Fascinating (10-1): Also trained by Bob Baffert, after two starts, she is still a maiden. So why not enter her in a Grade 1? Indeed, why not? In her most-recent race, she was choked down behind a slow pace and still finished up with a frenzied surge that gave the leaders a scare. She's a Smart Strike (and a half sister to Bodemeister) who cost a fortune and figures to appreciate the added distance today. Plus she should benefit if a speed duel develops. Yes, her speed figures are slow. That's why her odds will be high. But we're looking for improvement from her today. We think she has a chance to spring an upset or, failing that, to get into the bottom of the exacta or the trifecta at a nice price.
She's a Tiger (4-1): Won the Landaluce at Hollywood Park, and then improved her speed figure by nine points, to an 87, while losing the Sorrento to Concave by half a length. Our speed figures are adjusted for pace, and She's a Tiger received a healthy upgrade for running near and then on the hot early fractions (designated in red) in the Sorrento.


Having proven that she can take early heat (while racing a bit wide) at 6.5 furlongs and still deliver a strong performance, she is our top choice in the Debutante.   

Get Timeform US Past Performances for Saturday's Del Mar card here.

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