Saratoga Best Bets:

OPENING DAY AT SARATOGA: As a youngster, I couldn’t imagine anything more awesome than 12 days of Christmas. Now, as an avid horseplayer, I know there is nothing better than 40 days of Saratoga. Going to the Spa is so much more than a trip to the track. It’s like a day at a community fair featuring first-class racing. There’s eating, drinking, picnicking, rooting, wagering, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, being with special friends (mostly old geldings), and making new ones (hopefully young fillies). For Mr. Ed it’s been that way since the mid 70s. Short of being at the Spa today, I look forward to my annual week in Saratoga Springs in mid-August. Until then, a few opening day observations, followed by today’s Saratoga best bets.

WHO TO WATCH: Several top riders are worth following. Those include brothers Irad and Jose Ortiz, Manny Franco, Flavien Prat, Tyler Gaffalione, Joel Rosario and Frankie Dettori. Also, keep an eye on two HOFers, Johnny Velazquez and Javier Castellano. And Mr. Ed is a big fan of promising young Katie Davis. As for trainers, Chad Brown, Linda Rice, Brad Cox, Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott and Dick Dutrow all have deep barns. Mr. Ed favorites Danny Gargan, Al Stall, Norm Casse and Wesley Ward also merit attention.


JUST THE FACTS: The opening day 11-race card, highlighted by the $175K Schuylerville stakes for 2YO fillies, is expected to draw a crowd of more than 30,000, in spite of the threat of inclement weather. More than 140 horses from 84 stables, piloted by two dozen jockeys, will participate. Post time for Race 1 is 1:10 p.m. ET/10:10 a.m. ET.

Mr. Ed’s Best Bets at Saratoga for Thursday, July 11

Race 2 (1:42 p.m. ET/10:42 a.m. PT) — $115K Allowance/Claiming for fillies & mares 3YO & up at 1 ⅜-mile on turf
Mr. Ed’s pick is #3 BE YOUR BEST (3-1 morning line). The Irish import has been campaigning in tough graded-stakes company. She gets class relief, adds top rider Irad Ortiz Jr., and stretches out. Horacio De Paz is a well-regarded trainer. Just one of my bests.
SARATOGA BEST BET: $10 to Win. ($10)

Race 4 (2:48 p.m. ET/11:48 a.m. PT) — $120K Allowance/Claiming for fillies & mares 4YO & up at 5 ½ furlongs on turf
I’ll take a shot with #5 SUNDAY SHOES (10-1 morning line) for razor-sharp trainer Wesley Ward, who hires top jock Flavien Prat to spring upset. The expensive daughter of Pioneerof the Nile is making her first grass start. Sunday’s best.
SARATOGA BEST LONG SHOT: $5 Win & Place. ($10)
Weather Note: If the race is taken off the turf, the BEST BET is $10 to Win on wet track specialist #9 BUSTIN BAY (7-2).

Race 5 (3:21 p.m. ET/12:21 p.m. PT) — $90K Maiden Special Weights for 3YOs & up going 6 furlongs
Mr. Ed likes three: #1 NEW YORK SCRAPPY (3-1 morning line), #7 BROWN EYED CAT (9-2) and #8 CALL BOB (6-1).
SARATOGA BEST BET: $5 Exacta box of 1,7,8. ($30)

Race 8 (5:05 p.m. ET/2:05 p.m. PT) — $70K Starter/Claiming for 3YO fillies & mares at 1 1/16-mile on turf
Mr. Ed likes three for the money: #3 MORE THAN GLORY (8-1 morning line) with Dettori; #7 SPRING MAGIC (4-1) with Irad Ortiz; and #9 ELLE EST FORTE (9-2) with Dylan Davis.
R8: 3,7,9
R9: 2,5,6,7
R10: 1,3,5,10 ($48)

Race 9 (5:42 p.m. ET/2:42 p.m. PT) — $120K Allowance/Claiming for 4YOs & up going 1 ⅛-mile
Mr. Ed’s pick is rested and ready #6 ROCKET CAN (9-2 morning line). Bill Mott’s trainee adds Lasix for the second time as the barn’s regular rider, Junior Alvarado, returns to the saddle. Speedy work seals deal. Trip to the moon.
SARATOGA BEST BEST: $10 to Win and $5 Exacta boxes with 2,5,7. ($40)

Race 10 (6:16 p.m. ET/3:16 p.m. PT) — $175K SCHUYLERVILLE STAKES for 2YO fillies at 6 furlongs
I like #10 VIGGIEDAL (9-2 morning line). It’s hard not to like the young gal trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Tyler Gaffalione. Wire-to-wire romp at Churchill Downs convinced me. Veggie dip.
SARATOGA BEST BET OF DAY: $20 to Win; also using her & 1,3,5 to round out Pick 3. ($20)


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