We head into the second half of the Saratoga meeting, with 21 of the 40 days of the meet in the books and trainer Todd Pletcher looks well on his way to a fourth consecutive training title.
Pletcher won four races on Sunday’s card and now has 23 winners from 63 starters, winning at a 37% clip. Last summer Pletcher set an all-time record with 36 winners from 149 starters, a 24% win clip, with Chad Brown the runner up with 29 winners.
Brown got off to a slow start at this meeting but has been heating up recently and is currently second with 12 winners from his first 48 starters at the meeting.
Pletcher dominated the meeting last summer with his juveniles and is doing it again this year, winning nine two-year-old races with 25 starters. Pletcher also is having a strong meeting in stakes races, winning 10 with his 19 starters.
He won Sunday’s Saratoga Special (G2) with Corfu, who set sharp early fractions and was able to hold off Wired Bryan in deep stretch to win. The runner up is trained by Michael Dilger, an assistant to Pletcher for seven years before going out on his own earlier this year.
When I was handicapping the race I was curious to see how many times Pletcher had won the Saratoga Special and I was quite surprised to see he had not won the race. He sent out Drum Roll last year to a fourth place finish, and had the runner up in Drum in 2011.
So far the trainer that may be the biggest surprise at the meet is George Weaver, who has really been sending out live runners, winning seven races with his 18 starters.
Trainers that are having a rough meet include Gary Contessa (2 for 36), Tom Albertrani (2 for 26), Linda Rice (2 for 25) and D. Wayne Lukas (0 for 29).
The jockey title figured to come down to Joel Rosario and Javier Castellano as John Velazquez said he would be choosier and take less mounts at the meeting and indeed he has.
While Joel Rosario has had 162 mounts and Javier Castellano 163, Velazquez has taken the call on 126. However, after a five win day on Sunday Velazquez has crept up and now has 26 winners, five behind Rosario and four behind Castellano.
Rosario could be facing a suspension after getting disqualified aboard Who’s in Town in the Adirondack (G2). The jockey came in twice down the stretch putting the favorite Fiftydhadesofgold in a tough spot, and the stewards could end up giving him days.
If he does get a short suspension, and three days is likely, he probably will appeal the suspension and serve it after the Saratoga meeting is over.
Total wagering on races at Saratoga increased compared to 2012 levels through the first half (20 days) of the meet, according to The New York Racing Association.
All-sources handle, which includes wagers on Saratoga, races both on-track and from simulcast outlets nationwide, was $286,598,192, up 0.5% from $285,295,757 last year.
On-track handle on Saratoga races totaled $68,809,989, off 2.9% from $70,892,924 last year.
Through the first 20 racing days, average betting interests per race were 8.2 (1,689 total over 207 races) compared to 8.3 (1,724 total over 207 races) in 2012. There have been 100 turf races and 8 races taken off the turf and moved to the main track, compared to 85 on and 21 off in 2012.
Let’s head out to Saratoga for Monday’s featured race of the day:
Saratoga Race 8 The Kid Russell (Post time 4:47 ET)
2 Right to Vote 8-1
5 Hardened Wildcat 2-1
4 Strapping Groom 5-2
3 Candyman E 4-1
Analysis: Right to1 Vote ships in from Kentucky for the Moquett barn and the 8-1 morning line looks fair enough on this guy. Last out he pressed the early pace and weakened late to finish third in the Bernhard at Ellis Park. Two back going seven furlongs he took the field gate to wire to win the Kelly’s Landing at Churchill Downs. His last trip to New York produced a solid second in the Peter Pan (G2) last year and his trip on the Spa main track was a runner up finish in his debut in the summer of ’11.
Hardened Wildcat chased Strapping Groom last out and had to settle for the runner up spot behind the gate to wire winner in the Lion Cavern at Belmont Park. The winner came back to check in fifth in the James Marvin (G3) in his next start. The Chad Brown trainee owns a solid pace profile throughout and has put in a couple of solid works since his last outing. His last three speed figs are good enough to beat this group although his price may end up on the light side.
Strapping Groom won the Lion Cavern gate to wire in his first start for the David Jacobson barn, who claimed this guy for $35,000 three back when he was coming back off nearly a year on the sidelines. The six year old earned a career top speed fig in his first go for the barn, and then regressed in his fifth place finish in the Marvin. He looks capable of bouncing back here dropping out of a graded stake but did not run well in his other two starts over the Spa main track.
WIN: #2 to win at 9-2 or better.
EX: 2,5 / 2,3,4,5
TRI: 2,5 / 2,3,4,5 / 2,3,4,5,6
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