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HRN Original Blog:
Shapper Da California Capper

John's Call headlines all-turf Pick 4 on Wednesday at Saratoga


A busy week on the Saratoga lawn, reaching its peak with Saturday’s Grade II Fourstardave Handicap, begins Wednesday at approximately 3:43 Eastern with an all-turf late pick four. The pick four wager commences in Race 7 and requires players to select the winner in races seven through ten.NYRA has a minimum bet of fifty cents for its’ four-race horizontal wager which has surpassed a total pool of $300,000 in all, but one of its sixteen days of racing thus for in 2014. The full fields of quality horseflesh have made this wager extremely popular and have seen it yield four digit payouts regularly and one over $17,000 on July 31st.  Wednesday is no exception as all four races have full fields assembled and value to be found.  While, I do not foresee a five-digit payout, I see a series of four races where no runner should be below 2-1. This makes for a challenging and hopefully fruitful sequence. Let’s take a look at the four races.


Race 7 

The seventh gets the all turf pick four started with a solid group of fillies and mares going a mile and an eighth for a purse of $85,000. This race has four contenders that will take the lions’ share of money and I believe they are also the four most likely to get the Wednesday sequence started. One of them is Satisfaction for Shug McGaughey and the Phipps Stable. This four-year old daughter of Awesome Again won at a mile on the grass in her debut last December at Gulfstream Park, but has failed to replicate the victory in three starts since. She will have to show more of a punch to beat this group. Precarious has somewhat of a similar profile to Satisfaction in that she has had a few efforts that suggest she may be more of a plodder than a winner. She should have won her last race, but got beat on the wire. 

The third of the major contenders is 2-1 morning line favorite Lawn Party for Todd Pletcher and the Stonestreet Stables. This daughter of Medaglia d’ Oro has encountered trouble in her two starts since breaking her maiden at first asking in March.  She has shown impressive grit to still run on well in those starts despite the less than ideal voyages, but the main issue with her other than the lack of value is what appears to be a lack of pace in this race.  Lawn Party does not appear to be a quick mover out of the gate and Wednesday’s race might not provide her with the pace she needs to run into. I think she has a great shot to be the best horse in this group long term and is worth using if you are spreading in this leg, but I believe there is one runner who offers better value and a better shot of winning race 7. Kitten’s Queen is the runner in the field that seems to be equipped with the most early speed.This Kenneth L & Sarah K Ramsey owned daughter of Kitten’s Joy has been in several races recently where the early fractions were too brisk for her to make the front.  Wednesday’s race on the other hand appears almost completely void of “early zip.”  This should allow jockey Javier Castellano to get to the lead and hopefully dictate a moderate to slow early tempo.  An easy lead and a repeat effort of her final two furlongs against the tremendously talented Crown Queen over this track on July 20th and she should bring the familiar connections back to the winners’ circle yet again.  She could be a nice single to start your pick four.


Race 8

The eighth is an optional claiming event run at one mile over the inner turf for a purse of $90,000.  Unlike the seventh race, this one appears to have a few that will seek the early lead. Both Silver Freak and Joe’s Blazing Aaron are both likely to want to control the pace in this wide-open event, which should provide a very honest pace.  Silver Freak draws the 2-hole, which all but forces his jockey Joel Rosario to send out of the gate. This five-year old son of Badge of Silver has talent, but only has 7 starts and none at the tricky mile distance. I wonder if he is up for Wednesday’s strong group.  Joes Blazing Aaron draws outside Silver Freak and could try to rate off him, but has never had much success doing anything but going right to the top.  I think there is a strong chance these two go at it early. Upgrade, who is a must use on all tickets and Helm for the red-hot Graham Motion will most likely use their outside draws and tactical speed to draft in right behind these leaders.  

Unless scratches take out one of the probable frontrunners, I think that there is a very good chance that the pace is a hot one.  This could set things up for some runners from off the pace. On paper, the logical closer to go to is the 3-1 morning line favorite Middleburg for Christophe Clement. This son of Lemon Drop Kid has been consistent but has had his chances in the last few at Belmont Park where he had perfect trips and yet could not finish the deal. I think today’s field is deeper than those groups and believe an out of the exacta performance is very possible. Other than the previously mentioned Upgrade, I think there are a few price horses in with a huge shot. First, Casino Dan is 12-1 on the morning line and may finally remember what it is like to save ground. This six-year old Charles Lopresti trainee drew his first inside post in five starts and will give the “leg up” for the first time to strong young rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. The cutback to the preferred mile distance makes this one a potential spoiler on many pick four tickets. Battle Force is another in with a huge upset opportunity on Wednesday. This five-year old son of Giant’s Causeway appeared to be out for a jog in his first race off the layoff on July 19th and should be much tighter for this one.  If he can get back to the form he had when running down Fed Biz and Tigah at Santa Anita Park in April then they will be running for second place.  Brickyard Kitten for the red -hot Anthony Dutrow barn is also interesting with John Velazquez getting the call and having won or finished second in four consecutive starts. The value on this one makes him a must use for me in the pick four. All in all, this race is an opportunity to get some separation.  


Race 9 

The ninth is the featured $100,000 John’s Call for three year olds and upward which have not won a graded stakes on the turf in 2014. This one is quite tricky to handicap given the treacherous and uncommon one-mile and five-eighths distance. I do think the 2-1 morning line favorite Winning Cause is clearly exiting the best races and in with a huge chance, but the four-year old colt has not seen the winners’ circle his last ten starts and his desire to go this distance is very much a question mark like it is for most. Playing him to win at a short price is not advised nor singling him in this pick four sequence.  I think a case can be made for several others including Grand Rapport for trainer David Jacobson. This veteran gelding is coming off of a strong second place effort over this course on July 25th. He has had success at Saratoga and the barn appears confident he is in good form. Holiday Star for Graham Motion is another worth considering based on the price and success of the barn thus far at this meet. This Pennsylvania bred could be improving and ready for a career best under veteran jockey Edgar Prado. Cases can also be made for Tricky Hat, Horvat Clan and Bohemian Dance who would prefer a slow pace upfront. I will play against the Todd Pletcher / Repole Stable runner Micromanage as I do not think the grass is this one’s choice surface. The positive is he did show the ability to go this long on Belmont Stakes day in the Brooklyn Handicap, but I would be surprised if this one moves up on the change in surface. 


Race 10 

The final leg of Saratoga’s Wednesday all-turf pick four is a state bred $40,000 maiden claimer at one mile over the inner turf.  While this is a full field and offers great betting opportunities, it does appear that the morning line favorites are the most likely winners. Copper Core is 2-1 on the line and is coming off two narrow defeats at this level where he ran very hard and was hard to fault in defeat.  He adds blinkers for trainer Thomas Morley and appears very tough to beat if he is able to replicate those efforts.  The second choice is Sole Train for Flying Zee Stables and Phil Serpe. This Tiznow gelding has not run much at all in his six starts at the maiden special weight level, but the huge drop in class should wake him up quite a bit. He is the most likely to run down Copper Core, but like the Morley runner provides little value.  could move up quite a bit with first time blinkers, but will have to really run big in his first start at a distance of ground to beat the two favorites. Island Therapy came rolling from the back of the pack in his last for Gary Gullo, but will need to get a similar pace scenario to win this one for Irad Ortiz, Jr. I do not recommend getting too cute in this race as value is hard to find past the top few.


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Scott has been a fan of handicapping and following thoroughbred racing since Garden State Park was rebuilt in Cherry Hill, NJ in 1985.  His first memories of the racetrack include the 1985 Jersey Derby won by Spend a Buck and the 1990 Met Mile clash between Easy Goer, Criminal Type and Housebuster, but it was not until his mid to late twenties that Scott became confident he had a knack for picking winners. He points to the summer of 2007 in San Diego while working on a masters degree in American History as the time where he took his handicapping, his communication skills, and his attention to detail to the next level.  It was at this time where he had his first real big score.   He had four of only five winning combinations in the now extinct “Place Pick All” on a $8 ticket netting himself $40,000. 

A few months after hitting a monster pick five at Santa Anita Park in February of 2013, Scott started his website, www.shapperdacapper.com showcasing his and other experts' selections, as well as analysis and commentary on North American racing. From there, he began writing a weekly column for www.danonymousracing.com called "Race of the Week" and soon thereafter started writing for Horse Racing Nation. Currently, he is Horse Racing Nation's Southern California Racing Correspondent and can be found most days at Santa Anita Park or Del Mar Race Course.

Scott loves playing in horse racing tournaments and constructing pick four and pick five tickets.  His favorite all-time horses are Captain Bodgit, A.P. Indy, Fly So Free and Charismatic. He has lived in multiple states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Colorado before returning to Southern California in the middle of 2015 to start "Shapper Da California Capper." 


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