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Opening Day At Saratoga: Monzo’s Preview And Horses Worth Betting

Get Ready For A Great Day At The Spa
Thoroughbreds in action at Saratoga Race Course. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Thoroughbreds in action at Saratoga Race Course. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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By Brian Monzo
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The first leg of great summer of racing has started at Del Mar racetrack. Now we get ready for Saratoga, where the best of the best go for six weeks.

Saratoga has some of the best racing, both on turf and dirt, and I can’t wait for it to get started. Traditionally, we look at only a few races, but for the celebration that is opening day at the Spa, we will glance at each race and try to hit a few winners.

Looking at the card, it has a lot of competitive races, so this is going to be a challenge.

Race 1: Optional Claiming 35k, 1 3/16 miles on the turf:

Minister Colin has shown the ability to run well late in races. Has run nicely in six of his last seven races, and with the slight drop, I think he can be a big player here. Distance will be no problem. Royal Blessing is 3-for-5  in his career and seems to be getting better. Since an injury scare last year, he has come back to win two at Belmont in impressive form. Too good to ignore. Kingofthebluegrass made an impressive run down the stretch in his last despite being wide. Even at 6-years-old, he can pull this out and hit the board. He’s hit the board in 8 of 12 turf tries and could be the priciest horse in the mix.

Race 2: Claiming 20K, 1 1/16 miles on the turf:

Volcano Run drops down in class and has had success at the Spa. His speed numbers are still pretty good and I think if he gets the running room can be a huge threat. Yankee Fortune has two wins at Saratoga and is often bet on. His last three results do not give justice to the run and I think he finds himself in a favorable spot. Jason Servis on the turf is always appealing, especially when he doesn’t have the favorite. Dual Citizen is coming off a nice race in his last at this distance at Belmont, just getting nailed at the wire. David Jacobson had a great Belmont meet and I can see him starting off hot at the Spa with this one.

Race 3: Maiden Special Weight 80K, 5 1/2 furlongs on the dirt:

Stopchargingmaria/ Our Amazing Rose goes out with the Mike Repole/Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez connections. Whichever one goes out for the entry is going to be the heavy chalk and going to be tough to beat. Ireland was sired by Afleet Alex and his works have been consistent heading into this one. Predicate goes out for the second time after a good third at Belmont. His last workout at Belmont was quick and I think he could set the pace here.

Race 4: The On The Bus 100K, 1/16 miles on the turf:

Hessonite is coming off two bad efforts as the favorite but loves the Spa, winning three times in four tries. I am going to throw out the May 25 effort in the Sheepshead Bay and believe this horse will find the form that won 10 races. Velazquez on board certainly helps. Shakiera has hit the board 17 times in 18 races. Two wins in sharp closing efforts here at the Spa and has perfect this year. I’m typically not a Rajiv Maragh fan, but I think the horse is too good. Inimitable Romanee may go ignored because of Hessonite and Shakiera, but may be just as dangerous and will have a very tempting price. He just got caught by Shakiera in the Mt. Vernon last month at Belmont, but if he gets sent for the final run a bit earlier, there is a chance he takes this one. Good value here.

Race 5: Maiden Special Weight 70K, 5 1/2 furlongs on the dirt:

I’m Gonna Flip struggled in her first try on the dirt at Belmont last month, but I think she needed that race to gain the experience. If she comes out of the gate well, I don’t know if she is going to lose.  Flying KC has had three impressive works in a row and could go straight to lead.  Jose Lezcano should have her ready to go. Irish Sweepstakes placed in her first try but was clearly second best. Should be right there in the end.

Race 6: Allowance 72K, 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf:

Neck of the Moon hasn’t run since last August, but was dominant back then. Chad Brown had a tremendous meet last year and he should have her firing here. Subtle ran a big one at Monmouth in May and was game in holding the lead. Should show some early speed and will try to wire the group. Invading Humor has run two good races in a row, including just missing in her last one at Belmont in her first try on the turf. Maragh’s rides come with big prices and this could be one of them.

Race 7: Allowance 82K, 7 furlongs on the dirt:

Strike One seems to finally have found his best running style, which is close to the lead. Speed numbers have been good and I think he fits this group well.  Ithastobegeorge was dominate in breaking his maiden last month. First try against winners is no easy chore, but if he runs like he did in his last, could find himself in the money. Titletown Five ran 9th in the Preakness and returns to Saratoga where he ran two good races last year. Joel Rosario gets the call and could prove to be much the best.

Race 8: The Grade 3 Jim Marvin 100K, 7 furlongs on the dirt:

Souper Speedy won the Jaipur when Big Screen was DQ’d, but was flying late. His Beyers are super impressive and this could be his first graded win. Top pick. Sage Valley ran his first bad one in the True North last month, but ran eight straight good races before that. I think talent alone will get this horse in the money, and if he feels like it, could win the race. Price should be playable, too. Strapping Groom steps up in class here, and is one of the speedsters here, but if speed has been holding up all day, could wire the race. Jacobson/Velazquez will get a lot of looks.

Race 9: The Grade 3 Schuylerville 150K, 6 furlongs on the dirt:

Brazen Persuasion has run two near perfect races at Churchill and think she is primed for this one. Rosie Napravnik has a knack for these kind of races and trainer Steve Asmussen knows where to spot horses. This is a good spot for a graded win. True Blue Nation was awesome his her first at Belmont last month in her first try, beating maidens by 6 lengths. Could improve off that and be a good price horse. Yes Liz / Elena Strikes are coupled by Todd Pletcher and both ran big ones in their first tries. Pletcher loves his young horses at Saratoga and one of them here could easily take this and wouldn’t shock anyone.

Race 10: Maiden Special Weight 75K, 1 1/16 miles on the turf:

Sunbio has run four solid sprints on the turf and now gets some added distance which will help. Expect him to be 3-4 lengths off the lead and make the early move around the turn. Big player here.  Sonnyandpally is 0 for 15, but has hit the board seven times. Has put in good efforts in the last three and has experience at Saratoga. Wouldn’t be shocked if this one finally wins. Smart exotic play, for sure. Hudson Miracle goes out for Chad Brown and found his best run last in his last at Belmont. If he can stay a little closer, he may be able to take it. Brown is as good as it gets here.

Well, that’s the entire card for the opening day. Scratches could obviously affect things, but that’s where I’m going.

Enjoy day one of the best racing days in the East!

Follow Brian on Twitter for updates throughout the day: @BMonzoWFAN

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