TimeformUS Weekend Stakes Plays - The Woodward and Del Mar Debutante

The Grade 1 Woodward
Saratoga / August 30 / Race 11 / 6:46 EDT

by TimeformUS Analyst Mike Beer


The Grade 1 Woodward has long been one of the premier races for the handicap division in this country.  This year's running didn't draw the deepest field of handicap horses ever seen around these parts, but it does bring back the top two finishers from the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap run here earlier in the meet, and it will be interesting to see if one, or both, of those horses can continue his climb up the division ranks.

Moreno came away with the top prize in the Whitney after using his speed to get control in the early stages of the race.  While many will chalk his win up to the fact that odds-on favorite Palace Malice was a no-show at crunch time, let's not be so quick to dismiss this horse as a player in the remaining big races this year.  Moreno was not that far off the top colts of his generation last year as a 3yo.  After winning the Grade 2 Dwyer to kick off the second half of the year, he finished 3rd in the Jim Dandy, before missing by a desperate nose to eventual three-year-old champion Will Take Charge in the Travers.  He finished a game 2nd to that rival once again in the Pennsylvania Derby before ending his year contesting the pace and giving way in the Breeders' Cup Classic.  He has made the progression from 3 to 4, and came through with the best race of his life when posting a new top TimeformUS Speed Figure of 114 in his Whitney win.  He's the favorite to win right back, and we think he is the horse to beat, but the question is: Is he the horse to bet?

We think that he is not.  Not this time.  After all, he won the Whitney at odds of 10/1, and did so with the benefit of an uncontested lead.  We think the pace may play out a little differently for Moreno in this race, and we would not be thrilled at the prospect of taking a short price on a horse with a 3-for-20 career record, especially one coming off a soft-trip win.

The obvious alternative to Moreno is the horse who just finished second to him, Itsmyluckyday.  Itsmyluckyday has been steadily making his way back from a serious injury suffered in last year's Pegasus Stakes.  He handled lesser competition with ease in his three starts leading into the Whitney, and then finished gamely while second-best to Moreno, earning the same TimeformUS Speed Figure as that horse, a 114.  He's drawn to the rail, and we are expecting him to use some of his speed early to keep Moreno a little more honest in the early stages of this race.  To us, he is at least as likely to win the Woodward as that horse, and we prefer him on Saturday.

Assuming that Itsmyluckyday does indeed get a little more aggressive early on Saturday, we think that this race could set up the right way for a horse we will take to pull off a mild upset.  That horse is Long River, and he projects to be in a perfect trip tracking in behind the two favorites early in this race.  Long River has been something of a disappointment overall to this point, but he was showing signs of being on the upswing once returned from a layoff last September.  He improved his speed figures from start to start while winning three straight races, beginning October 25th, and then put up a 112 when getting outdueled by his stablemate Romansh (whom he will be coupled with on Saturday) in the Grade 3 Excelsior.  We liked his effort when taking the race to Game On Dude in the three-turn Charles Town Classic and were expecting him to have a big second half of the year once he returned from a short break to run in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster.  That hasn't exactly been the case, but we did think that he received a curious ride at Monmouth last time and are wondering if he wasn't simply being given a prep in that race.

Long River may simply not be good enough to defeat two horses of the quality of Moreno and Itsmyluckyday, at least not both of them in the same race, but we think he'll be the right price and want to give him the chance.

The play:

Win bet on Long River and an exacta box with Itsmyluckyday.



The Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante

Del Mar / August 30 /  Race 9 / 6:00 PST

By TimeformUS Analyst Justin Finch


The Grade 1, $300,000 Del Mar Debutante, for two-year-old fillies, will be run at seven furlongs on the Polytrack. Always one of the highlights of the season, this year it has attracted a field of nine, and the favorite seems quite likely to be the Wesley Ward filly Sunset Glow, who is the only graded stakes winner in the field.
According to the TFUS Pace Projector, the Debutante will unfold at a fast pace, and three fillies will be contesting the early lead: Seduire, Manahatta, and Conquest Eclipse. They are followed by Sunset Glow, Stealth Glow, and Windy Forecast, who are in stalking positions. The others should be considered mid-packers or closers.
When looking at the Pace Projector's projections for this race, it may be worth keeping in mind that Manahatta's projection is based on her one and only race, and in that race, she broke in the rear of the field and then, while a bit rank, she very quickly recovered to show big speed and, indeed, make the lead by the opening quarter.
Seduire (8-1): 2 for 3 lifetime, she comes in off a victory in a minor stake at Santa Rosa. Has a strong Pedigree Rating of 94 for synthetic sprints as she makes her synthetic debut. Has strong speed figures but is hooking a lot of early speed today.  
Manahatta (5-1): Won her debut despite a difficult beginning. Exits a race that earned a strong Race Rating of 90. Has the second-fastest last-out speed figure in the race: a 90. Dangerous filly if she pops the gate today. In trouble, against this field, if she doesn't.
Starlet O'Hara (5-1): Broke her maiden in her second start. Earned a competitive speed figure of 87. Visually impressive, to say the least. She made a strong backstretch advance, worked her way out 3-4-wide around the turn, looking for room, straightened out five-wide, and overpowered the filly in front of her. Her trainer, Bob Baffert, has been having a slow meet, but he gets a rating of 94 in the race after maiden victories. Strong contender, and at decent odds on the ML.
Dad's Princess (12-1): Grinder seems too slow at the moment. But at least she possesses the best Late Pace rating in the field: an 83. The problem is that she figures to be too far behind for it to do a lot of good.
Sunset Glow (5-2): Broke her maiden on Belmont grass. Travelled to Ascot and finished second in a Group 3 grass sprint. Then shipped to Del Mar and won the Grade 2 Sorrento on Poly, going wire to wire and earning a speed figure of 91--the best speed figure any filly in this field has ever run. An obvious contender, but is facing much early speed today and figures to take a lot of money. We see her as a huge threat but, at the likely odds, one to use defensively rather than as a key.
Her Emmynency (7-2): benefited from a sweet, garden-spot trip when breaking her maiden and earning a speed figure of 82. Another obvious contender, she will almost certainly need to take a big step forward to win, and her morning line odds are a bit stingy. So we are looking elsewhere.
Stealth Drone (20-1): We are having a hard time seeing Doug O'Neill winning the Debutante with this filly, first off the claim from Pete Miller. Needs a giant step forward.
Conquest Eclipse (6-1): Drawn outside the other early speed, which gives her options, but does not yet seem fast enough to make good use of these options.
Windy Forecast (12-1): Had all the best of it, trip-wise, over Manahatta in their shared debut but could not get by her. We're having a hard time seeing her reversing the verdict today, but at those fat morning line odds, she is usable in exotics.
The play:
Win bet on Starlet O'Hara.
Exacta box:  Starlet O'Hara and Sunset Glow.



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