Hint of Chalk in Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga


Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Roy H and runner up Imperial Hint are both in action on Saturday afternoon. (Photo credit: Breeders’ Cup Ltd.)

Imperial Hint leads a field of seven that will line up in the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) at Saratoga, one of two key sprints with Breeders’ Cup ramifications on Saturday afternoon.

Imperial Hint ran second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Del Mar and is the 6-5 morning line favorite for the Vanderbilt.

Roy H, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner is the 2-1 morning line favorite for the $300,000 Big Crosby (G1) at Del Mar. The Bing Crosby is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race.

Imperial Hint has won 10 of his 16 career starts but is lacking a Grade 1 victory. He won his first four starts in 2017 before coming up a length short in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He has won two of his three starts this year, the lone blemish coming in the slop in the Churchill Downs (G2) on Kentucky Derby Day.

His main foes on Saturday will be the D. Wayne Lukas trained Warrior’s Club (9-2) who was third in the Kelly’s Landing at Churchill Downs in his last outing and Maryland Sprint (G3) winner Switzerland (2-1) who is perfect in three starts since landing in the Steve Asmussen barn.

Four Stakes on Card

The Vanderbilt is one of four graded stakes on an outstanding 111-race Saratoga card. The other stakes are the $200,000 Amsterdam (G3), $250,000 Bowling Green (G2) and the $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2).

The Jim Dandy, a major prep for the $1.2 million Travers (G1) next month drew a small field of five, four of which are Triple Crown race alums.

The Todd Pletcher trained Vino Rosso is the even money favorite on the morning line. The colt was ninth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and then was fourth in the Belmont Stakes (G1).

Tenfold (8-5) was third in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and fifth in the Belmont, Flameaway (7-2) was 13th in the Run for the Roses and Sporting Chance (8-1) was sixth in the Preakness.

Completing the field is the Asmussen trained Reride, who was third in the UAE Derby (G2) and fifth in the Mystic Lakes Derby in his last start.

My Best Plays Report for Saturday will include my strongest plays from Del Mar and Saratoga including all of the stakes action.

Let’s head out to Saratoga for Saturday’s featured race of the day:

Saratoga Race 8 The Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap G1 (Post time 5:02 ET)

#4 Imperial Hint   6-5

#3 Warrior’s Club   9-2

#1 Switzerland   2-1

#7 Done Deal   8-1

Analysis: Imperial Hint looks primed for his first Grade 1 win here in his first trip over the Spa main track. The five-year-old battled on gamely and kept his neck in front to take the True North (G2) last out at Belmont Park going 6 1/2 furlongs. Two back he caught slop at Churchill Downs where he set the early fractions and tired to finish sixth in the Churchill Downs (G2). He started his year winning the Florida bred Sprint at Tampa Bay Downs. He won four of five starts last year with the lone loss a runner up finish to Roy H in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Del Mar. He owns a solid pace profile throughout and has been popping bullet works at Philly. Horses on or near the lead seem to have had a slight edge over the last few days at the Spa in sprints. The main knock is going to be the light price.

Warrior’s Club tracked the early pace and finished evenly for third in the Kelly’s Landing last out at Churchill Downs going seven furlongs. He was not a factor two back in the Met Mile (G1) at Belmont Park, fading to finish 10th. He earned his two best career efforts going into the Met Mile, a neck win in the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland and a head loss in the Churchill Downs (G2) earning a career top speed fig. Lukas has been sending out live longshots at the meeting and has landed four of his eight starters in the exacta.

Switzerland took eight tries just to break his maiden for the Chad Brown barn and then after switching to Asmussen has reeled off three straight, taking the Maryland Sprint (G3) at Pimlico in the slop last out with a career top speed fig. He draws the rail and owns the edge in early and mid pace numbers and Santana figures to send him out winging it early. He catches a tougher group than he has ever faced, and the 2-1 morning line looks a bit on the light side.


WIN: #4 to win at 1-1 or better.

EX: 3,4 / 1,3,4,7

TRI: 4 / 1,3,7 / 1,3,6,7


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