Saturday Plays: Actuator has upset chance in H. Allen Jerkens

Saturday Plays: Actuator has upset chance in H. Allen Jerkens
Photo: Horseshoe Indianapolis photo

Finding a vulnerable favorite on the Travers Stakes card at Saratoga on Saturday is not easy, but there is possibility for Jack Christopher to be defeated in the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes. Assuming the pace ends up fast, Jack Christopher could get upset by a stalker or closer who can take advantage of the situation.

Here are picks and final bets for the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial, as well as the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego Stakes and Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes. 

Saratoga Race 5: Forego Stakes (G1)

Jackie’s Warrior won his last four races after returning from a layoff.

Three of those last four wins came in impressive fashion. Jackie’s Warrior took the Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) in May by four lengths, the True North Stakes (G2) by five lengths and the local Vanderbilt Stakes (G1) by two lengths while being geared down in the last few strides towards the wire.

In this spot, Jackie’s Warrior faces little opposition for the lead. He should control the race from the start and glide home to another easy victory.

For a fun value exacta, think about using Kneedeepinsnow in second. In his last start, this longshot switched to closing tactics in the Vanderbilt and rallied well for a good second behind Jackie's Warrior despite a slow pace ahead of him. He is surprisingly 15-1 on the morning line here.

Exacta: 3 / 7                              

Saratoga Race 8: H. Allen Jerkens (G1)

Jack Christopher beat a relatively soft field for its level when he took the Woody Stephens Stakes (G1) by 10 lengths over Pappacap. When Jack Christopher stepped up in distance against better horses in the nine-furlong Haskell Stakes (G1), he gave up the lead and finished third.

Now Jack Christopher must put away a good pacesetter in Conagher, who posted an eye-opening 129 TimeformUS Speed Figure three starts ago when he won a June 3 optional claiming race by five lengths at Churchill Downs.

Perhaps Jack Christopher and Conagher are destined to become tired battling each other. One entrant who could take advantage is Actuator, a stalking type who took the Indiana Derby (G2) in his last start over Best Actor. In his next start, Best Actor flattered Actuator by winning the Smarty Jones Stakes (G3) at Parx Racing.

Actuator also posted a 116 on TimeformUS when he broke his maiden by 7 1/4 lengths on June 8 at Churchill Downs. He only needs one more step forward in terms of speed figures and some luck on the pace end with Conagher and Jack Christopher.

At double-digit odds, Actuator is a good win bet, or a win and place bet.

Win/place: 4 (10-1 or higher)

Saratoga Race 11: Travers Stakes (G1)

Epicenter is the best horse in this field.

In this most recent start, Epicenter won the local Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) in a more dominating fashion than the 1 1/2-length margin over Zandon indicates. Joel Rosario opted to settle in fourth and last with his mount, while the early pacesetter Early Voting set moderate fractions of 24.22 seconds and 48.28 seconds early on.

Because of the smaller field, Epicenter was only four lengths off of Early Voting in the initial quarter, and the smaller margin compared to his initial position in his troubled Preakness effort made the difference. This time, Epicenter only had a small margin to make up when moving forward and no horses to give him traffic problems in front of him.

Rosario took Epicenter wide on the final turn because without asking his mount because he knew he had a loaded horse underneath him. He gave Epicenter a handride in the stretch run, and Epicenter responding powerfully by moving past Zandon, Early Voting and Tawny Port.

Although traffic is a small concern, Epicenter is fair at low odds.

Zandon finished second to Epicenter in the Jim Dandy. He also finished third in the Kentucky Derby behind Epicenter in second. Although Zandon tried hard the entire way, Epicenter would not let him pass by in the stretch. The following exacta almost seems too obvious, Zandon works as the underneath horse again in a straight exacta with Epicenter.

Win: 6 (at even money or higher)

Exacta: 6 / 8

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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