Photo by Coglianese Photos/Susie Raisher
Another spectacular Saturday of racing awaits this afternoon at Saratoga, led by a trio of intriguing graded stakes races. In particular, the $1,250,000 Whitney Stakes (gr. I)–which has attracted seven grade I winners–promises to be a thrilling race, and the quality of the field ensures that there will be plenty of value to be found in the wagering. Without further ado, let’s start handicapping!
Test Stakes (gr. I)
7 furlongs on dirt
The speedy 2014 Eclipse champion 2yo filly Take Charge Brandi is likely to be favored after winning four straight races (including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies), but she’s coming off a six-month layoff and will be facing a field with plenty of early speed. Given the circumstances, I’m going to try and beat her with a horse offering better odds.
I have been a fan of Wonder Gal since last year, and she has compiled an admirable record while placing second, third, or fourth in five consecutive graded stakes races. Last time out, she rallied to finish second in the 8.5-furlong Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park, and now she cuts back to a one-turn sprint, which I think could end up being her best distance. There should be enough pace to set up her late run, and drawing post six should allow her to save some ground and not get caught too wide on the turn. At 6-1 on the morning line, I think she offers a lot of value, and she is my selection to pull off the upset.
Whitney Stakes (gr. I)
9 furlongs on dirt
My complete analysis of the race can be viewed on the Bloodhorse.com Unlocking Winners (click here to read), but in essence, I believe that Todd Pletcher’s lightly-raced colt Liam’s Map will be able to track a modest pace set by Moreno and kick clear in the homestretch, where his weight assignment of just 117 pounds should help him hold off the best of the stretch-runners, including Lea and Tonalist.
Waya Stakes (gr. III)
12 furlongs on turf
Goldy Espony looks like the only filly in the race that enjoys racing on the lead, and coming off of a decisive win in the 12-furlong River Memories Stakes at Belmont, she has to be considered a candidate to steal the race in gate-to-wire fashion. However, I do think that Eastern Belle, who rallied from far back to finish second in the 10-furlong New York Stakes (gr. II), will have a strong enough kick in the homestretch to make the finish close. Trained by Graham Motion, the daughter of Champs Elysees also finished a late-running second in an 11-furlong allowance race at Churchill Downs two starts back, so the distance of the Waya shouldn’t be an issue for her.
For a longshot, you might take a try with Nice Number, who unleashed a strong late rally to finish second in a 12-furlong allowance race at Churchill last time out. Trainer Brad Cox is off to a good start at the Saratoga meet, and Nice Number has enough tactical speed to stay within striking range if the pace is slow. At 30-1 on the morning line, I think she’s worth a look.
Now it’s your turn! Who do you like in the Saratoga stakes races?