Win Big Late in the Saratoga Meet with Horses & Horsemen to Watch
By Noel Michaels - OTBLearningLabs.com
All the rage these days up in Saratoga Springs, NY is the arrival of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah for the running of the $1.6 million Travers Stakes, but as exciting as that race will be, it is just one small part of what will make the remainder of the 2015 Saratoga meet for handicappers and horseplayers looking for great opportunities to cash tickets and make a lot of money.
The Saratoga meet is always highlighted by the Travers Stakes, nicknamed "The Mid-Summer Derby." Travers Day 2015 at Saratoga will be on Saturday, August 29, and the race will be HUGE. There hasn't been a Triple Crown winner in 37 years, and therefor there have been no Triple Crown winners visiting the Travers in nearly four decades, so you can imagine the buzz around Saratoga. American Pharoah won't be the only star in town either, because the Travers will still be a marvelous race because all of the other top players in the 3-year-old division who are expected to run, including Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Jim Dandy winner Texas Red, West Virginia Derby winner Madefromlucky and other big names such as Frosted, Upstart, Tale of Verve, and Keen Ice.
In addition to the Travers, the day will also include the runnings of several other important stakes races. This includes the Grade 1 $500,000 King's Bishop for 3-year-old sprinters, the Grade 1 $500,000 Ballerina for female sprinters, the Grade 1 $1 million Sword Dancer at 1½ miles on turf, the Grade 1 $750,000 Personal Ensign for fillies and mares, the Grade 1 $700,000 Forego for older sprinters, and the Grade 2 $400,000 Ballston Spa for female turf horses.
Saratoga will kick-off Travers weekend on Friday, August 28 with a gala day of state-bred stakes, called Saratoga New York Showcase Day, worth a total of $1 million.
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WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT
The big human story at this point in the 2015 Saratoga meet is jockey Irad Ortiz, who has turned-in a tour-de-force performance the last few weeks to surge to the top of the jockey standings by a comfortable margin with 46 wins through August 24. Ortiz is still 9 wins ahead of Javier Castellano with 37 wins, and John Velazquez with 33 wins. Irad Ortiz, and has regularly been benefitting from his jockey/trainer combination along with the equally red-hot Chad Brown, who leads all trainers with 24 wins (2 wins ahead of Todd Pletcher thru Aug. 24)
Irad Ortiz has been totally dominant in Saratoga turf races in a jock's room filled with the country's best grass riders. Ortiz has won 28 grass races for 28% turf wins. To put that in perspective, the jockey with the next-highest amount of turf victories so far is Javier Castellano, who is 13 wins behind Oritz with 15 wins.
Also in terms of turf races, another surprise in a positive sense has been Luis Saez, who owns 14 turf wins already at the meet, many of which came in turf sprints. Johnny Velazquez, by comparison only has 10 total turf wins for a win percentage of only 12%.
For trainers in turf races, Chad Brown is flat-out putting on a clinic. Brown is dominating the Saratoga lawn with 17 turf wins at the meet already. The next-highest winning turf trainer so far is Christophe Clement who has heated-up significantly with with 9 turf wins. Bill Mott started hot, but has since been ice cold ever since with only 2 wins the last 4 weeks.
JOCKEY/TRAINER SECOND-HALF BETTING TIPS
Here are some jockey and trainer betting tips for the rest of the meet, beyond just the obvious advice like continuing to bet Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown in their wheelhouse categories (Pletcher on dirt and with 2-year-olds, Brown on the turf).
Bet: Kiaran McLaughlin has quietly been on fire at the 2015 Saratoga meet. He owns 11 wins from 33 starters (33% wins), and has been in the exacta with 18 of his first 33 runners for a big percentage of 55% in the exacta.
Bet: Linda Rice who has long been the queen of turf sprints at Saratoga, with roughly 5 times as many turf sprint victories there than any other trainer the last 10 years. So far, Linda Rice has only 2 turf sprint wins. She usually garners 8-10 wins in that category, so start betting Rice heavily in turf sprints. She will heat up.
Bet Against: Wesley Ward. His horses always attract betting money, but he has been dreadful at Saratoga this year, especially on the turf where his horses are 0-for-21.
Bet Against: Bruce Brown, can't buy a win at Saratoga with a record of 1-for-38. This is terrible because many of his horses have been well-bet, and have been ridden by top jockeys such as Javier Castellano. He's burning a ton of money, and I can't envision a quick turnaround for him because he was ice cold this spring/summer at Belmont too.
Bet: Eric Cancel. From purely a wagering standpoint, the return-on-investment (ROI) leader for jockeys has been apprentice Eric Cancel, who has only 9 wins (8%) but has an average win payoff of $25.70. When he wins and you catch him, you're gonna get paid.
Bet: Irad Otriz on the turf. You can't say enough about what he's done at Saratoga in grass races. He's won 28 races for 29% wins on the lawn.
HORSES TO WATCH AT SARATOGA
Looking for some hot bets at Saratoga? I have some great recommendations for horses to watch in the final 10 racing days of 2015. These are horses that have already run at The Spa this season, and should have great chances to win their next races.
When it comes to buzz horses, the 2015 Saratoga meet has already featured several tremendous stakes performances. The actual top "buzz horses" so far at this meet, however, have all been first-time starters. Champion Rachel Alexadra's 3-year-old son, Jess's Dream, and 2-year-old daughter, Rachel's Valentina, both brought down the house when each scoring dramatic victories in their respective career debuts. The filly, by Bernardini, and the colt, by Curlin, should be stakes-bound shortly. The overall best-looking 2-year-old winner of the meet so far would have to be Tap to It, who blew away maidens at first-asking and will no doubt be bound for the Grade 1 Hopeful on closing weekend.
Not all horses to watch are stakes horses or future stakes winners, however, some are just ordinary horses who you should keep a close eye out for, so you can bet them in their next races. I have identified several of these horses to look out for in the late stages of the 2015 Saratoga meet. Best of luck!
Spa Winners Likely to Repeat:
Hartford: Returned from a long layoff to win an allowance for Pletcher in fine fashion against a speed bias. Should go onward up the ladder.
Big Thrill: First starter broke two lengths slow but blew away the field in an excellent debut winning effort. Seems stakes bound vs. 2-year-olds.
Spa Losers Likely to Rebound:
Brevard: Closed up the rail for second, just missing behind a lone speed wire-to-wire winner. Ready to graduate.
Island Therapy: Outran 50-1 odds for second behind only a winning 6-5 favorite. Was far clear of the third horse in a 12-horse field, and even had a bad start that day. Don't overlook.
Mylute: Drew the far outside post and took a right turn out of the gate to lose his best chance, but nevertheless rebounded to run a big race, rallying strongly for second behind only a loose lone speed runaway winner. Just needs a clean start.
Slam Chowder: Dueled for the lead in fast :21.2 and :44.2 splits and nearly held on to win after putting away her early challengers at 21-1 odds. Lost to the 8-5 favorite, but remains dangerous to shake loose up front.
Mind Your Biscuits: First starter lunged out of the starting gate for an immediate disadvantage, but then regrouped and closed best of all behind a loose lone speed wire-to-wire winner in a 5F dash. Just needs a good start and won't be a maiden for long.
Path Dependent: Needed a race off an extended layoff, but ran big for third when closing from too far behind in a 5 1/2F turf sprint ruled by the front-runners. Live in return from the layoff.
Iroquois Girl: Got pinched back at the start when prepping in a turf sprint return from a year layoff. Finished just a head behind the 3-2 favorite when third, and will improve in next.
Ramble: A Sluggish start cost this horse two lengths behind the field at the break, then got unlucky to chase a slow pace in a race ruled by front-runners. Finished best of the rest in third and just needs a better break.
Super Surprise: Well-bet first starter broke poorly and then rushed up into a speed duel to set the race up for a pair of stalkers. Should make immediate amends with a better start in the second outing.
Candir: Finished second and was DQ'd back to fifth in unlucky fiasco when absolutely loaded and full of run but buried in traffic before bursting through. Better luck next time.
Wonder Gal: Exits an eighth-place finish in the Test thanks to a terrible start. Was underrated that day at 7-1, and will be an even bigger overlay next time out vs. similar.
Spa Live Longshots Next Time Out:
Sky My Sky: Finished eighth in well-bet career debut, but had an excuse that day with a disastrous break from the gate. Too early to give up on her.
Miss Frost: Broke poorly from the rail and then rushed up to set a very fast pace in a race that set-up for stalkers and closers. Set for an immediate turnaround given a clean start.
Tizaninch: Finished third at 26-1 odds, and actually ran the best race of all that day, stalking the pace, getting shuffled back, and then coming again behind a pair of perfect-trip closers.
Johannesburg Smile: Spotted the field 5 lengths at the break two races ago, then draw the far outside when seeking revenge the next time. Much better than the public thinks at present.
Diannecantretire: Got hooked in a two-length-gap speed duel and settled for fourth, but looms a threat to shake loose up front and will be a bargain price next time as the bangwagon clears out.
Take the Stand: Broke slowest in a nine-horse field when needing a race in return from a six-month layoff. Finished seventh, but lost by only two lengths and it's much to early to give up on this guy.
Howaboutwe: Got clobbered back between horses at the start to break last in a 10-horse field. Closed for fourth in a solid effort, and just needs a better start to win.
The 2015 Saratoga meet has been a strong one. Continue to keep an eye out for jockey and trainer trends and horses to watch, and you will be on your way to cashing-in on some valuable information that could help you stay ahead of the other bettors in the line to cash tickets at the mutuel windows. Good luck at Saratoga, and continue to enjoy the year's best racing at the country's premier racetrack.
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