Looking for Longshots on Saratoga's Closing Day

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman")

Just as the opening of Saratoga in mid-July marks the beginning of summer for racing fans, the closing of Saratoga on Labor Day marks the arrival of fall. It’s always a bittersweet occasion, but the closing-day races promise to be special ones, highlighted by the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) and the $300,000 Saranac Stakes (gr. III). So let’s try and finish the meet with a bang by finding some live longshots!

Hopeful Stakes (gr. I)

This seven-furlong race for two-year-olds marks the stakes debut of Competitive Edge, a highly-regarded Todd Pletcher-trained colt that romped to a 10 ¼-length victory sprinting six furlongs at Saratoga earlier in the meet. The performance was an extremely impressive one, as Competitive Edge set fast fractions before drawing away under a hand ride to stop the clock in 1:09.89 seconds, which earned him a strong 90 Beyer speed figure.

Chances are, Competitive Edge is going to romp in the Hopeful, but it’s certainly not uncommon to see well-regarded two-year-olds regress off of runaway debut performances, and since Competitive Edge is likely to be a heavy favorite, I’m going to try and beat him.

There are a couple of colts that I believe are capable of pulling off an upset. The first is I Spent It, who brought his record to a perfect 2-for-2 with a victory in the Saratoga Special (gr. II) at Saratoga on August 10th. Trained by Anthony Dutrow, I Spent It did take advantage of a good trip while winning the Saratoga Special, but earned a Beyer speed figure that would make him competitive if Competitive Edge lacks his edge—okay, sorry. :) He also signaled his readiness for this race when he breezed five furlongs in a bullet :59 4/5 on August 26th.

The other colt I like is actually one of three maidens in the race: Signature Cat. The Eric Guillot-trained colt flashed excellent early speed in his debut sprinting five furlongs at Saratoga, running the first quarter-mile in :22.11 while opening up a five-length lead. He did tire late in the race to finish second, beaten a length, but earned a solid Beyer speed figure for his effort and has turned in a sharp five-furlong breeze since then. Also, note that the third-place finisher in that race, El Kabeir, returned to win a seven-furlong maiden race on Saturday by almost eleven lengths.

I could easily take any one of these three colts and feel good about my chances, but since Competitive Edge (6-5) and I Spent It (2-1) are both going to be heavily bet, and since Signature Cat (8-1) is bound to be overlooked as a maiden, I will take the latter and hope for an upset in the final grade I race of the meet.

Saranac Stakes (gr. III)

A field of ten has been entered in this 8.5-furlong turf race, although two of the entrants—Life in Shambles and Lunar Rover—will run only in the event that the race is taken off the turf.

The morning line favorite is Ring Weekend, who finished second behind Tourist (subsequent runner-up in the grade I Secretariat Stakes) in the Sir Cat Stakes earlier in the Saratoga meet. His performance was a good one, as he tracked quick fractions before closing well into a :23.30-second final quarter mile. A repeat of that effort would make him difficult to beat. The only negative is that he’s the 8-5 favorite on the morning line, although given his strengths, 8-5 might not be such a bad price.

One other colt I like is Storm, a Todd Pletcher-trained son of Artie Schiller that rallied strongly to win a nine-furlong turf allowance race at Saratoga. In that race, Storm ran his final furlong in approximately :11 2/5 seconds, a very strong time that should put him right in the hunt for victory. He should also offer considerably more value than Ring Weekend, as he is a 5-1 shot on the morning line. Assuming Ring Weekend stays at 8-5, or even drops below that, Storm would be a logical contender to play on top at a solid price.

If you’re looking for a longshot, you might want to take a look at Beyond Smart, a Jonathan Sheppard-trainee that has won three straight races, including a turf stakes, against lesser company. He’ll need to step up to contend against in a race of this caliber, but he’s 15-1 on the morning line, and Sheppard is a master with turf horses.

Who do you like this weekend?


Leave a Comment:


Keelerman : With a lot of speed that would go with Ring Weekend, and at 8-5, I think he's a vulnerable favorite here and I'm surprised that you didn't mention Wallyanna at all who beat your favorite 3YO Bobby's Kitten with no weight break.  I think he'll be sitting from just off the pace and blow by Ring Weekend and Smooth Daddy at the top of the stretch.   My longshot is Bashaart, 3rd race back and has some back class.    I’m interested in what you think of Wallyanna as I think he’s the one to beat in this race, I don’t get the 8-5 ML on Ring Weekend at all specially with a lot of speed in the race.   Do you think Ring Weekend will run away from this ?   Wallyanna ran a 1:40 beating BK in a G2 race.   I must be missing something here…maybe he peaked in his last race, I’ll wait for KY to make that assessment.

10 with 5, 8 with 4, 8, 5, 1

Hopeful Stakes :

I’m not even going to try and beat Competitive Edge unless he has an off day, this race is for 2nd place.  The way the track is playing at Saratoga, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t win by at least 10 lengths.  I’ll play Signature Cat, Requite and Dekabrist to complete the trifecta and superfecta.

01 Sep 2014 2:59 AM

I Spent It will scratch.

Competitive Edge will romp.

Bayerned who finished 3rd to C E came back and won by 8!

C E over Requite Sig Cat with All

Ring Weekend STORM Wallyanna TRI Box

01 Sep 2014 7:04 AM

I don't think Ring Weekend is value at 8-5, he does have the inside post but he is flatters to deceive more often than not.

I will take wallyanna to win , once the 7-2 holds, going to box with the Sheppard horse, if track has some give.

Also like the 9 in race 6, if thick is less than firm.

01 Sep 2014 8:26 AM
English Pete

Having looked at the Hopeful this morning, I also landed on Signature Cat as a value play. I secured 20/1 with Ladbrokes for a small bet. The obvious worry is that his conqueror last time was a Pletcher horse, so you'd think that Pletcher knows where Competitive Edge stands and that one is clearly very well fancied. On the other hand I can't have I Spent It when he has to give weight away all round.  Anyway, I don't want much of a financial interest in the race and the 20/1 will do for me.

I hadn't looked at the Saranac, but since the blog prompted me to do so here's my take. Ring Weekend's 2nd to Tourist giving away 4lb, and Wallyanna's beating of Bobby's Kitten at levels are the best pieces of turf form on offer. Horses like Cabo Cat and Bashart look held by those two. If not for the weight concession I'd pick Wallyanna, but Ring Weekend has been given a right chance receiving weight from Wallyanna, Cabo Cat, Bashart and Beyond Smart. If he goes off 8/5 that might look good value after the race, but I shan't be playing on this one. If you forced my arm I'd do a trifecta with 1,10 over 1,10 over 8. [Is that how you say it?]

01 Sep 2014 10:09 AM
Plod Boy Phil

Saratoga R8

1 Wizardly (8-1)closed impressively in last despite a speed favoring Flow. Colt's prior two were near 'none chance' trips in events with very Speed favoring race dynamics.  I'm willing to bet he gets a much more favorable Flow today, perhaps as kind as the one he had in breaking his maiden in April.

01 Sep 2014 10:40 AM
Plod Boy Phil

re: Ring Weekend

His run in the restricted turf stake was very impressive considering the race dynamics.  Not only was the Flow Speed favoring, but the turf course came back notably kind to Speed on July 18 - a similar analysis led to a good result with Protection in Saturday's finale.

Exacta box key w/ 4 Cabo Cat and 8 Bashart.

01 Sep 2014 10:51 AM


Thanks for your thoughts! I guess you've noticed that I'm one of Bobby's Kitten's biggest fans? :)

I'm not sure what to make of Wallyanna. He did defeat Bobby's Kitten without a weight break, and he definitely deserves credit for that. But I thought the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes was an unusual race, both in how it unfolded and how it ended. For one, the pace was odd -- Bobby's Kitten ran the opening quarter in a moderate :24 flat, then ran off through subsequent quarters in :22.77 and :23.57, much too fast for the middle portion of a turf route. In spite of this, Bobby's Kitten looked like a winner when opening up a two-length lead at the eighth pole, and the rest of the field appeared to be going nowhere at that point, especially Give No Quarter. Yet in the final furlong, Bobby's Kitten ran out of gas, allowing Wallyanna to rally for victory while Give No Quarter re-rallied to finish third, beaten just a neck by Bobby's Kitten. The final time was sharp, but the final five-sixteenths were timed in a rather moderate :30.32 seconds. I believe that the fast pace -- and the eventual meltdown -- combined to set the race up for Wallyanna.

As for Ring Weekend, it's certainly possible that he could find himself in a speed duel, especially while breaking from post one. But he did show the ability to rate off the lead in the Sir Cat Stakes, so I'm confident that he will be able to work out a good trip tracking the early pace. And as English Pete pointed out, Ring Weekend will be receiving six pounds from Wallyanna.

In any case, the Saranac should be a very exciting race! I'm actually looking forward to it even more than the Hopeful. Good luck!

01 Sep 2014 11:55 AM

English Pete;

20-1 on Signature Cat? That's fantastic! He will most likely be no more than 8-1 in the U.S. win pools, and possibly much lower if I Spent It does indeed scratch. Good luck!

01 Sep 2014 11:57 AM

Plod Boy Phil;

Thanks for your thoughts! I'm glad to hear you like Ring Weekend as well. I'll be sure to give Wizardly a look this afternoon!

01 Sep 2014 12:16 PM
English Pete

Hi Keelerman, he's into 14/1 now (8/1 with a couple of other bookies) so I can pat myself on the back for at least being quick. All he has to do now is win LOL.

While looking, I just saw that Beyond Smart is scratched from the Saranac, in addition to Life in Shambles and Lunar Rover.

01 Sep 2014 12:25 PM
Plod Boy Phil


If past performance meansx anything, you're "I'll be sure to take a look" comment usually means my runner gets distanced !


01 Sep 2014 12:42 PM
Plod Boy Phil


01 Sep 2014 1:00 PM

English Pete : I'm sure that works here as well, but I normally use "with" i.e.,  1, 10 with 1, 10 with 8...but I'm not betting that hehe.  I'm still wondering why Ring Weekend is the favorite here, he's running his 2nd race on turf, against a much experienced turf horses.   I see Ring Weekend getting pressure from Smooth Daddy and setting a quick pace ... maybe 23 / 47.

Keelerman :  Yes, I've seen you post it several times hehe.  Thanks, I must admit I didn't see the weight break RW was getting from Wally, that might make a difference going 9Fs.  I still think Wallyanna is the best though, I just hope his jockey doesn't do anything dumb and try to go with RW and SD.   I'm also starting to really like Cabo Cat and throwing his last race out...I really like jock switch to Rajiv, so I might get another ticket with him on top with my longshot and I'll also use him in my P4 as well

If I'm wrong, the 1 and the 7 might get away on the lead early and make it a two horse race at the top of the stretch, I just can't see that happening though.  And yes, this is a better race to watch than the Hopeful.

Good luck to all... off to the races.

01 Sep 2014 1:58 PM
Little Bill

Parx for me today. Race 8) 4 Quality Lass 15-1. Hate to take a front runner here but this one should clear the inside ones easy enough. Only four races this year, against fair competition. Hope the 8/26 work didn't go to fast.

01 Sep 2014 1:59 PM
Little Bill

Parx 9) 4 Cary Street 20-1. Not the only CD shipper on the card but I find it interesting off a layoff they made this decision with CD opening next week. Training good I guess?

01 Sep 2014 2:14 PM

Not catching anyone on the dirt today.

01 Sep 2014 3:19 PM

Little Bill;

Fantastic call on Quality Lass in the Turf Amazon Handicap! You called it exactly -- she easily cleared the three horses to her inside, and won the race gate-to-wire at 8-1! Great job!

01 Sep 2014 4:01 PM
Little Bill

Thank you Keelerman. I felt pretty good about it after they settled.

01 Sep 2014 4:23 PM

In the upcoming Greenwood Cup at Parx Racing, I believe I'll take a shot with Irsaal, who put in a good run when second to Micromanage in the 1 3/4-mile Birdstone Stakes at Saratoga. The cutback in distance to 1 1/2 miles should help his chances, and the price difference between Irsaal (9-1) and Micromanage (1-1) is appealing. Good luck to all!

01 Sep 2014 4:37 PM
Little Bill

Cary Street saves all the ground. Needed Mott's horse to make the super. Boo.

01 Sep 2014 4:48 PM
JJs Rocket

Nice picks Little Bill,,, I didn't bet on them but it brought a smile to my face when your picks came through. Great call and hope u scored big!!!!!

01 Sep 2014 4:53 PM

WOW!! Little Bill, that was fantastic!! Cary Street strikes in the Greenwood Cup at 28-1! What a selection! Congratulations!

Would you care to share your selection for the Smarty Jones Stakes? :)

01 Sep 2014 4:58 PM
English Pete

Had to go out on business for a few hours so missed everything so far. Congrats to all of you who have been picking winners. I can't resist having a pop at the Saranac, so I've gone for: 1, 10 with 1,10 with 8 on the Tri and 1,10 with 1,10 with 4,5,8 with 4,5,8 in the Super. Cheers Jayjay for teaching me the lingo:)

01 Sep 2014 5:04 PM
Little Bill

Parx 10) 5 Grasshoppin. Horse is only 1 length from being undefeated. State bred co. but still, he likes the game.

8)Protonico. Surprised he's still 7-2 with the race he ran in the Curlin.

01 Sep 2014 5:05 PM
Little Bill

Thanks JJs Rocket. I did well.

01 Sep 2014 5:07 PM
Little Bill

Parx 11) I'm in a Zone with 4,7,11

01 Sep 2014 5:31 PM

Plod Boy Phil;

Whoops! Sorry about that! Looks like the past performances were accurate... :)

But at least Ring Weekend came through! Nice job!

01 Sep 2014 5:34 PM

Little Bill!! This is amazing! 3-for-3, with a pair of terrific longshots! Congratulations! And good luck with your selections in the Turf Monster Handicap! Are you live in the all-stakes pick four?

01 Sep 2014 5:39 PM
Little Bill

Yes I am with the 1 and 11. Thanks.

01 Sep 2014 5:46 PM
Little Bill

Bummer. I really felt good about P Zone. Surface might have got him.

01 Sep 2014 5:55 PM
Little Bill

Oops, the P-4 paid a consolation, 904.

01 Sep 2014 5:58 PM

Little Bill : Man, you were in a zone, I hope you were loading up on those picks!   That's just incredible, double digit picks 3 straight in a row...and it's good you cashed out even though you didn't have the last leg.   Congrats on your big day !

Keelerman : You were right about RW, if the race was run again, I still wouldn't pick RW.  Wally didn't have any excuse at all, I think both 1 and 7 were just too tough on the lead.  I'm the only one in the planet that didn't see the race the way everyone did lol.

01 Sep 2014 9:35 PM
Pedigree Ann

Guys, I haven't received the official notification yet, but I have received the phone-call from a chap at the Racing Post telling me I had won their 'Trip to the Arc' contest. VIP-section tickets and hotel rooms for 3 nights, for me and the hubby. I'm still not sure if I believe it completely yet. Stay turned for developments! I may he hobnobbing with the sheikhs and Rothschilds and Wertheimers come Arc weekend. Good God, I don't have any clothes for that kind of company!

02 Sep 2014 3:52 AM
Pedigree Ann

Just watched a replay of the Smarty Jones - that Curlin S. form is looking pretty good right now, isn't it?

02 Sep 2014 4:46 AM

Pedigree Ann, that's fantastic!! Congratulations!! That sounds like a ton of fun!

Yes, please keep us posted on any further developments!

02 Sep 2014 12:01 PM

Little Bill;

Well, at least you got a sizable consolation payoff! It's not every day that one sees a pick four pay out to three of four winners! You did an amazing job getting three winners in that impossible sequence, and no one else managed any better than that. Congratulations!

02 Sep 2014 12:07 PM
Pedigree Ann

I received the e-mail this morning and spoke with the tour coordinator (apparently, I will be among a tour group with people who have paid top dollar for this!). It seems to be all for real but I can't quite take it in yet. And weekend after next, I will be with my son and daughter-in-law at the Irish Champions day at Leopardstown, featuring Australia. I'll be hitting the big meets this fall, just like the jet-setters! I will be coming home to be in Kentucky over the Breeders Cup time so that will be all on TV, like most of the big races I get to see these days.

Got to thinking - what was the first graded-type race that I saw from the stands? It would have been either the Oak Leaf or the Norfolk at Santa Anita - I remember that June Darling won, but she won both, on consecutive weekends. She also won the Del Mar Futurity; SHE had no problem with facing guys. Went East for the Gardenia at Garden State (then THE championship race of the 2yo season for fillies), but she flipped in the barn area the morning of the race and didn't run up to par. Otherwise, I think she would have been champion 2yo filly. She probably did have a problem from the fall or the race because she never ran again; she wasn't bred the following year, so they must have thought she could come back from it but that never happened. However, June Darling had a long career as a broodmare, had her last foal when she was 25 and it was a 3-time winner.

02 Sep 2014 1:23 PM
Little Bill

Thanks Keelerman, JayJay. I hit the Greenwood pretty good with the ex, tri, WP. The other two not so much. Protonico was most impressive with his win. I suspect we'll see him in the Pa. Derby with Chrome. The other two winners got the right trip, which is the case in most races. Even with the trip the horse has got to capable.

Quality Lass must have left it all on the track as she had problems getting to the picture and off the track. Hope she comes back.

02 Sep 2014 4:02 PM

Pedigree Ann: Congrats!!  I never made it to the VIP section but I was at three Arc's in a row - 88, 89 and 90.  They bet up to the 5th place horse.  The Brits think that if they yell loud enough, the French pari-mutuel clerks will understand them.  There is champagne drinking even in the cheap seats.  Wear what you would wear in a box at the Derby, and this includes hats.

I envy you.

(p.s.  if you need the names of some nice, real people restaurants and stuff, contact me: mzanini@on.aibn.com.  My sister lived in Paris for a year in the early 80's and we've been back three million times)

02 Sep 2014 4:18 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Lil' Bill -


02 Sep 2014 5:18 PM

Congrats Ann !  Ayez un temps grand et prenez beaucoup de photos! Permettez-nous de savoir qui votre pour choisir devra gagner l'Arc!

02 Sep 2014 9:54 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Closing Day Del Mar

5) 6 Usbeck Thunder upgraded turn back wears them down

6) 3 Dallas Skyline impressive in 'vs Flow' debut win

7) 12 Zendai game despite pressured Closers Flow

03 Sep 2014 12:57 PM
Little Bill

Phil, I'm also looking at that card. I'm in the 4th. Hard to picture Renee getting beat. The 8 should break clean. The 9 should get a good stalking trip, maybe get close late.

Good luck.

03 Sep 2014 5:02 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Curious rush to the lead up the backstretch for Dallas Skyline. Equipment issue, bad decision, or a headstrong colt ?

04 Sep 2014 9:11 AM
Rusty Weisner

Holy crap, Little Bill.

04 Sep 2014 10:32 AM

Bold Conquest runs Saturday in the Iroquois at Churchill facing Hashtag Bourbon and MR Z. Very competitive race. Bold Conquest maybe 3rd or fourth choice so he will be good value. This is a win and you're in race and they will get points towards the Derby. Steve A told us this horse is very smart and is doing everything right and loves to race. It is a two turn 1/16 race and Steve thinks it is a better prep for the Juvenile than the Hopeful or the one turn Champaign at Belmont. On paper he does not look as fast as the others but Steve told us he is training like a four year old. We asked how does he match up against his other 2 yr old Bayerned and he said his last race looked better because of the fatality in the race and he thinks B.Conquest will get better with distance. He has the 8 post. Rosie opted to ride Vickers in Trouble in the Louisiana Derby and 3 other mounts so Joel Rosario will ride him. Wish us luck!


04 Sep 2014 11:22 AM
Rusty Weisner


It's the French "Champagne", not the Illinois kind ;-)

04 Sep 2014 12:49 PM
Rusty Weisner

Laurel has a good meet with bunched-up stakes days.  I hope to make one or both of the Sept. 27 card and Oct. 18 ("Maryland Million" day).

I'm ahead on the year, so I may get to go to both.


04 Sep 2014 12:52 PM

Sorry Rusty,

I am from the island of Malta so my vocabulary is not as good as I wish. I just know enough to get in trouble.

04 Sep 2014 2:22 PM


That is awesome!

Looks like a great day of racing that day.

04 Sep 2014 2:26 PM



04 Sep 2014 4:47 PM

Pedigree Ann;

You're going to be at Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Stakes?! That's sounds fantastic! I hope you have a great time!

Rusty Weisner;

That sounds great! Maryland Million day is always exciting, especially with Ben's Cat in the mix. I hope you have a great time!

04 Sep 2014 6:28 PM


Good luck with Bold Conquest in the Iroquois! I think he has a terrific shot to win!

Here's the link to my latest blog post, analyzing the Iroquois and the Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs: cs.bloodhorse.com/.../racing-returns-at-churchill-downs.aspx

04 Sep 2014 6:30 PM

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