Saratoga Horses To Watch


The 40-day extravaganza begins July 22 and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 5. There is no racing on Tuesdays and the cards of July 29 and Sept. 2 will be twilight offerings, with first post at 2:30 p.m.).

NBC television and Versus have partnered with the New York Racing Association to televise 13 of Saratoga's most prestigious Stakes races. Thus, you could wager locally and then enjoy watching from the comforts of home. All races will be televised from 5-6 p.m. eastern time.

Here's the schedule: TVG Coaching Club American Oaks (July 23, NBC); Diana and Jim Dandy (July 30, Versus); Whitney and Test (Aug. 6, Versus); Vanderbilt and Honorable Miss (Aug. 7, Versus); Sword Dancer (Aug. 13, Versus); TVG Alabama (Aug. 20, NBC); Travers and Foxwoods King's Bishop (Aug. 27, NBC); Woodward and Forego (Sept. 3, Versus).

What follows are some horses to watch as the Saratoga racing season starts. They are listed alphabetically for easy reference, along with the date of the horse's last race. If the odds appear too short to accept in the win position, consider using any of them in exactas, rolling daily doubles or singling them in Pick 3 wagers. Let's get that bankroll started.

AFAAF (June 26, race 4): Won a maiden sprint on the turf for fillies in fast time for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Shadwell Stable without weakening on the lead. She could be any kind of runner.

ANNA SOPHIA (June 30, race 2): In this two-year-old filly maiden special weight race on the dirt, Bill Mott's charge looks like she could be a factor in the filly stakes' races this summer. Under jockey Jose Lezcano, she won in hand despite hitting her left side on the starting gate at the bell and veering outward at the start. She showed gameness thereafter in her impressive effort.

BAZINGA (June 25, race 10): She rallied from a bad post to come flying in the stretch, finishing second in this state-bred turf sprint for trainer Steve Asmussen. She'll be tough next time out.

GANTRY (June 23, race 8): In this turf allowance sprint, the Mike Hushion trainee stalked the pace and drove clear at the eighth pole, breaking the track record in the process. Though most horses don't run back to an effort like that, Gantry looks to be improving rapidly. The sky may be the limit.

GAMBLING GERALDINE (June 23, race 7): This was a state-bred first level allowance sprint on the dirt. Trained by perennial Saratoga factor Todd Pletcher, Gambling Geraldine showed terrific early speed and still stayed the course. Should move right through its conditions.

OVERDRIVEN (July 1, race 2): Remember Mike Repole and Todd Pletcher, who unveiled Uncle Mo last summer at the Spa? Well, it appears they have another star in the making in Overdriven. In his maiden race at Belmont, he bobbled at the break but still came within 3 1/2 lengths of the track record. Looks like this colt, barring any mishaps, will be a major player in the Saratoga Juvenile stakes and beyond.

SOUTHBEACHSANDY (June 25, race 2): This was a state-bred entry level allowance race at a mile on the dirt. Saddled by Anthony Dutrow, Southbeachsandy was cooked in a suicidal speed duel, yet still held on well for second. This was a very impressive effort.

SPLIT POT (June 22, race 1): In this $20,000 claiming race at a mile on the turf, trainer Mark Hennig's filly was unsettled leaving the gate, whereupon jockey Jose Lezcano grabbed hold of his mount to settle her. Despite his efforts, Split Pot was forced four paths wide for much of the race. Despite these hardships, she swept wide on the turn to loom boldly in the stretch, but flattened out at the furlong pole. Still, she finished a strong fourth, only 3 3/4 lengths behind the winner. With a better trip, Split Pot should find the winner's circle next time out.

by Paul Daley


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