JEFF SIEGEL'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW - SARATOGA - 7/16/23

Specifically designed for the rolling exotic player, Jeff Siegel’s Daily Saratoga Handicapping Analysis, Wagering Strategies, and Workout Commentary identify those horses that should be included in daily doubles, pick-3s, pick-4s, pick-5s, and the pick-6.

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Grade Descriptions:

Grade A=Highest degree of confidence

Grade B=Solid Play.

Grade C=Least preferred or pass

Grade X=probable winner but likely at odds too short to play

Selections/analysis published before late (morning) scratches.

RACE 1: POST: 1:10PM ET GRADE: C

Main ticket: (in order of preference): 3-Speakinofthedevil; 6-Giroovin; 2-Fight Fiercely

Backups/Savers/Underneath: none.

Forecast: There are too many red flags to handicap the Sunday opener with any degree of confidence. Speakinofthedevil earned a monster speed figure when demolishing maidens at Horseshoe Indiana two races back but regressed big time (on numbers) when third in a first level allowance grass sprint last month. Back on the dirt and facing 3-year-olds only in this modest $25,000 claiming sprint, the Steve Asmussen-trained gelding looks more than capable of taking this field gate to wire with his best effort but offers no value at his morning line of 3/5. Giroovin was claimed for $75,000 last time out when beaten off at Ellis Park last month and returns in his first start for Michael Maker (22% with this angle) for a third of that price (ouch!). In this league, he could improve a bunch (or not). Fight Fiercely managed to finish behind Giroovin in that same race (beaten 54 lengths) when eased through the lane but has previous form that makes him competitive with this bunch. The Joe Sharp trained colt lacks early speed but can finish a bit when in the mood. Tread lightly.

RACE 2: POST: 1:44PM ET GRADE: B-

Main ticket: (in order of preference): 3-Jolly Miss Jill; 2-Susie’s Saver

Backups/Savers/Underneath: 7-Yogi

Forecast: Jolly Miss Jill stretches out for the first time, and if she’s ever going to get two turns it'll most likely be in her initial attempt. The daughter of Handsome Mike projects as the controlling speed and has a few back figures that will make her difficult to catch. Susie’s Saver has primarily been a turf performer but actually broke her maiden on dirt, so the return to the main track shouldn’t be an issue. She lacks tactical speed, but if the front group falls apart she may make a serious impression in the final stages.

RACE 3: POST: 2:21PM ET GRADE: B

Main ticket (in order of preference): 2-Pleasant Passage

Backups/savers/Underneath: 7-Veronica Queen; 3-Beechhut Trophy

Forecast: This race has been handicapped for turf. We’ll pass if it is switched to the main track. Pleasant Passage adds blinkers for the first time and may try gate-to-wire tactics. She’s a fit on speed figures and is lightly raced with further improvement likely. We’re curious to see if Shug leaves her in the race should there be a surface switch (she’s really bred to handle a wet track). Beechnut Trophy and Veronica Queen are one-paced grinding closers and need help up front to be most effective. ‘Greene has the better figures and is the one to fear most. If the race comes off the turf and onto a wet main track, it surely will boil down to two of the “main track only” entrants, Sunset Louise and Pharoah’s Heart

RACE 4: POST: 2:54PM ET GRADE: C

Main ticket (in order of preference): 1-Let Freedom Spring; 6-Ensign Parker

Backups/Savers/Underneath: 7-Hereby

Forecast: Let Freedom Spring crushed a non-winners of two $16,000 field last month at Belmont Park with a career top (but not particularly fast) speed figure and remains at this price while stepping up to the nw-3 level. Looks like a logical move. The Orlando Noda-trained gelding will have to deal with the other main speed, Ensign Parker, who is drawn outside and has the option of employing a stalk and pounce strategy. ‘Parker is just two-for-33 in his career and generally gives you little to nothing under pressure, so we’ll go with ‘Spring on top in a race in which our confidence level is quite low.

RACE 5: POST: 3:32PM ET GRADE: C+

Main ticket (in order of preference): 8-Always a Warrior

Backups/Savers/Underneath: none.

Forecast: Maiden New York-bred juveniles sprint five and one-half furlongs in the fifth. With Antonio of Venice entered back on Thursday and likely to come out, let’s go with the Monmouth Park shipper Always a Warrior, who attracts I. Ortiz, Jr. On that angle alone the Carlos David-trained colt is worth including on your ticket. The work tab shows a hint of ability for a barn that can get them ready without the need of quick works. But this entire race is pretty much a guessing game.

RACE 6: POST: 4:06PM ET GRADE: C+

Main ticket (in order of preference): 1-Rockstar Red; 4-Cumberland; 6-Ringside

Backups/Savers/Underneath: none.

Forecast: Here’s a grass grab bag for older maiden $75,000 claimers in which nothing would surprise. We’ll try to survive and advance going three deep but feel free to use as many as you like. Rockstar Red is a first-off-the-claim play for Linda Rice (a massive 26% with this angle) and is raised considerably on the claiming ladder in a sign of confidence. The Frosted gelding missed by a head despite a less than ideal trip (stumbling start, etc.) but earned a career top speed figure in that race at Belmont Park two weeks ago and is likely to step forward today for his new outfit. Cumberland shows up in a seller for the first time after failing to threaten (and then getting vanned off) last month. We have to think he’s physically okay today, and the number he earned when second (while more than six clear of the rest) two races back probably beats this bunch. Ringside, away since March, returns as a first-time gelding and earned numbers in his two starts facing maiden special weight foes at Tampa Bay Downs that make him a solid fit with these. He may be most comfortable on the lead, but the pace flow projects to be quicker than par, which makes his chances problematic.

RACE 7: POST: 4:34PM ET GRADE:

Main ticket (in order of preference): 6-Film Star; 3-The Prince’s Spur; 2-Ouster

Backups/Savers/Underneath: none.

Forecast: Though he has finished second in each of his last three starts, Film Star looks pretty solid in this main track router for entry-level allowance older horses, and with numbers that are stronger than par for the level the son of Flatter should break through with a win for the powerful Linda Rice/Jose Ortiz trainer jockey team. Both of his career scores have been accomplished gate-to-wire and we suspect front-running tactics will be employed in a race that projects to have modest early splits. Ouster and The Prince’s Spur both have strong chances as well, with the latter showing a runaway win over the Spa’s main track in an off-the-turfer here last year.

RACE 8: POST: 5:10PM ET GRADE: X

Main ticket (in order of preference): 3-Baby Yoda

Backups/Savers/Underneath: none.

Forecast: Saratoga specialist Baby Yoda (three wins in four starts) returns to his favorite track and is likely to be a short price to regain his winning form in this three-other-than extended main track sprint for seasoned performers. Rested since May and with a history of firing fresh, the Bill Mott-trained gelding is reunited with his favorite jockey (Joel Rosario) and simply should outclass this field. The projected pace looks soft, adding fuel to his fire. At 6/5 on the morning line, the son of Prospective won’t offer any wagering value but he can used as a short-priced rolling exotic single.

RACE 9: POST: 5:48PM ET GRADE: B

Main ticket (in order of preference): 9-Uncashed; 10-Gaslight Dancer

Backups/Savers/Underneath: none.

Forecast: This year’s renewal of the Quick Call S.-G3 has been handicapped for turf. We’ll pass if the race is transferred to the main track. This group seems to take turns, and there are several in the field that could win without calling it an upset. Uncashed is the quickest in the field but he is unproven on grass and against this type of competition (his chances markedly increase if the race is switches to dirt). He’s fast on speed figures, attracts I. Ortiz, Jr., and may never look back if he can clear early. Gaslight Dancer employs an effective stalking style, so his far outside draw shouldn’t be an issue. He was beaten at odds-on when third in a listed turf stakes at Churchill Downs but after two months rest could easily bounce back with his best effort. However, he seems unlikely to start if the race is transferred to dirt.

RACE 10: POST: 6:21PM ET GRADE: C+

Main ticket: (in order of preference): 4-Maggie; 10-Strange Fruit

Backups/savers: none.

Forecast: Maiden claiming ($30,000) New York bred fillies and mares sprint six and one-half furlongs in the nightcap. Maggie beats this group with a repeat of her race before last, a nose defeat while almost six lengths clear of the rest last November at Aqueduct. Her recent comeback outing was disappointing, but it came against tougher foes and on grass, too. This looks like her proper spot. Strange Fruit is drawn comfortably outside and seems certain to enjoy a soft stalking trip with clear sailing throughout. She’s hit the board in three of five career starts and while basically slows on numbers, the others are, too.

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