Saratoga picks: Pace play in Thursday's Morrissey

Saratoga picks: Pace play in Thursday's Morrissey
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Even though Saratoga’s Thursday card lacks any graded stakes, the $100,000 John Morrissey Handicap does offer a competitive field for value bettors. Plus, there is an interesting baby race on turf three races before it.

Here is analysis and picks for those two races on Thursday, including a clear example of a horse who was pace compromised in his last two starts.

Saratoga Race 6: Maiden

This is a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race on turf for 2-year-old fillies.

The most interesting entrant as a bettors is Empress Tigress, who makes her career debut for trainer Jonathan Thomas.

According to TimeformUS, Thomas strikes at 29 percent out of 38 attempts over the past year with first-time starters. He struggles to win at Saratoga though, with only one win at this track over the same time period.  

With that said, Empress Tigress shows a great win-early pedigree. The sire Classic Empire is seen as underrated by First-Timer Insights found on HRN Pro Reports, with Classic Empire getting a +37 percent Impact score overall and +37 percent Impact score with first-time starters. In other words, the public tends to ignore Classic Empire babies.

Also, Empress Tiger’s dam Tigress Tale is a half-sister to Miss Technicality and Stays In Vegas. Both six-figure earners won their first two career starts.

Based on mostly pedigree, Empress Tiger is the top pick, although multi-race wager players might want to use the two Chad Brown entries Consumer Spending and The Elle Train as well. It is no secret Brown fires with first-timer starters on turf. Plus, both Brown fillies gave a good impression in their July 20 workout together shown on XBTV.

Saratoga Race 9: John Morrissey Handicap

Jemography carries a three-race losing streak into this stakes race, but there are pace-related excuses for his two recent losses.

Two starts ago in a May 21 Belmont optional claiming race, Jemography contested a fast pace before fading to fifth in the stretch. Although 22.44 and 45.36 fractions do not appear particularly fast at first for a 6 1/2-furlong race, TimeformUS labels both fractions red and gives Jemography an opening 151 pace figure.  

Jemography lost by 7 3/4 lengths, which is not terrible given that pace scenario. The pressing speed, Amundson, faded to ninth, but he went on to win a New York-bred optional claiming race on July 25 on this course.

In Jemography’s more recent start on June 10 in another Belmont optional claimer, he ran as a stalker this time in a wide position. Unfortunately, the pacesetter Jalen Journey got away with 23.92, 47.49 and 1:11.25 fractions, which are crawling fractions for seven furlongs.  

Jemography tried hard in the lane and had perfect aim, but Jalen Journey reserved enough energy to win the seven-furlong race by one length.

Now Jemography cuts back to 6 1/2 furlongs and receives an advantageous outside post position. If jockey Dylan Davis opts to stalk the leaders, then Jemography gets to run in the clear. If the pace looks moderate or slow, then Jemography is capable of running more aggressive and pressing the leader early. This gelding is versatile. 

Considering Jemography is trained by Mark Hennig, the public is likely not to overbet him. The three-race losing streak also helps his value. Expect his odds to stick around his morning line of 6-1 at post time. 

For those playing multi-race wagers, think about using the mild 3-1 favorite Wudda U Think Now as well.

Wudda U Think Now has ran against stiff competition in his last few starts. Two starts ago, he lost by 6 ½ lengths to Following Sea in a June 3 Belmont allowance race, which is fine considering Following Sea’s talent. More recently, he faded to fourth in a local July 17 allowance race by 8 ¼ lengths, but that is forgivable given the winner Beau Liam and runner-up Witsel are possible sprinting stars down the road. 

Although Wudda U Think Now must deal with other pace foes in this spot, there are no monsters to deal with this time around. 

Wudda U Think Now is the second preference in this analysis. 


Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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