The Linda Rice trained Palace, a multiple Grade 1 winner over the Spa main track returns off a four month break and is back in the the New York bred ranks as the one to beat in Thursday’s feature, the $100,000 John Morrissey.
The 6 ½ furlong test on dirt drew a field of eight with Palace installed as the 6-5 morning line favorite. The six-year-old won the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt and Forego over the Saratoga main track last summer, but coming back off a four month break his trainer Lind Rice elects to bring him back in a softer spot facing state breds.
He has won five of his last six starts when taking on New York breds including victories in the Chowder’s First and Hudson back in 2013.
His biggest threats appear to be recent Alw-2 winner Noble Cornerstone and Ostrolenko.
Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out longshot Ostrolenko, winner of the state bred Mike Lee at Belmont Park on May 25.
Pletcher, who has won the Spa training title 11 times is off to a good start with four winners from 16 starters through Monday, but is currently overshadowed by Hall of fame trainer Bill Mott, who leads all trainers with six winners from just 13 starts.
Mott has won at least one race each day of the meet so far, with two winners coming on Sunday and Monday. He had one runner entered for Wednesday’s card.
Five of his six winners have been in maiden races including first time starters Site Read, who pulled off the upset at 21-1 and Sage Hall, who scored at 11-1.
Let’s head out to the Spa for Thursday’s featured race of the day:
Saratoga Race 4 The John Morrissey (Post time 2:39 ET)
4 Palace 6-5
8 Noble Cornerstone 4-1
3 Ostrolenka 12-1
7 Moonlight Song 5-1
Palace makes his first start since running fifth in the Carter Handicap (G1) on April 4, which was his first start since checking in sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) last fall. The Linda Rice trainee won the A.G. Vanderbilt (G1) and the Forego (G1) here last summer and has won three of his five trips over the Spa main track.
This year’s Vanderbilt is Saturday but the trainer elects to spot this guy in a much easier spot back with state breds. He last faced New York breds in January of 2014 where he ran second to Moonlight Song. He comes back here off nearly a four-month break for a barn that is 13% winners with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff. He seldom runs a bad one, landing in the money in 19 of 24 career starts with 11 wins. The only knock here is going to be the light price we are going to have to settle for.
Noble Cornerstone came off an eight-month layoff with a sharp win against Alw-2 optional claimers, his fifth win in 11 career starts. The Tom Morley trainee has a win over the surface, beating state bred Alw-2 foes here last July, earning a career top speed fig. The gelding figures to move forward second off the bench and he should get a solid pace to run at here.
Ostrolenka cuts back to a sprint after dueling for the early lead and weakening to finish fifth in the state bred New York Derby last out at Finger Lakes as the beaten chalk. The colt won the state bred Mike Lee two back going seven furlongs, his second career stakes win.
The Todd Pletcher barn is 23% winners moving runners from route to sprint. His lone go over the main track here was in his debut last summer and he checked in seventh over a sloppy track.
WIN: #4 to win at 1-1 or better.
EXACTA: 4,8 / 3,4,7,8
TRIFECTA: 4,8 / 3,4,7,8 / 1,3,4,7,8
Get Michael’s full card reports for Saratoga includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations. Get reports for the entire meeting between July 24 and Sept. 1. Michael’s Saratoga Report includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations. Mike has been handicapping the New York Racing circuit on a daily basis for nearly three decades. Saratoga runs six days a week, Wednesday through Monday.