Saturday Plays: Gulfport holds the edge in Saratoga Special

Saturday Plays: Gulfport holds the edge in Saratoga Special
Photo: Jenny Doyle / Eclipse Sportswire

Saratoga continues to suffer from short fields. For example, the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special on Saturday features five 2-year-olds, while the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap contains only five horses as well.

Nevertheless, below are top selections and bets for those races. To make the post more interesting, picks for the Grade 2, $250,000 Yellow Ribbon Handicap and Grade 2, $200,000 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar are included.

Saratoga Race 4: Saratoga Special (G2)

Short fields are not disappointing as races to watch as long as the race contains quality runners. In this case, the brilliant 12 1/2-length maiden winner Damon’s Mound meets the 12 1/4-length Bashford Manor Stakes winner Gulfport. Those two smashing wins both came at Churchill Downs.

Gulfport owns the slight edge for breaking sharper in his Bashford Manor win. Since Steve Asmussen trains him, Gulfport has also been working at Saratoga, while that is not the case for the Michelle Lovell-trained Damon’s Mound. Gulfport owns the important track familiarity advantage.

Playing Gulfport over Damon’s Mound does not seem worth the risk for such a little return for an exacta. Gulfport to win at 4/5 or higher is the play.

Otherwise, just skip the race.

Win: 4 (at 4/5 or higher)

Saratoga Race 10: Fourstardave Handicap (G1)

Although Get Smokin projects to secure the lead, Masen figures to either press Get Smokin or sit about one length off him at most in a race that shapes up similarly to the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) pace scenario. In that race, Smooth Like Straight led by about a length with Masen tracking him closely from a length behind.

Because Get Smokin carries a five-race losing streak, he is unreliable to take the field all the way, even if he secures an easy and uncontested lead. In his more recent form, Get Smokin gives up the lead in those situations too. In all likelihood, he will give up the lead to Masen.

Once the Chad Brown-trained Masen takes the lead, he can get a head start on Regal Glory and build up a cushion before holding off the inevitable charge from the mare in the stretch. While Shirl's Speight did mow down Masen in the Maker's Mark Mile, it is not clear if Regal's Glory has the same final punch against males as she does against females. 

There are few good betting options in this kind of field. Masen over Regal Glory might not pay a whole lot, but it is the most likely exacta.

Win: 4 (at 8/5 or higher)

Exacta: 4 / 3

Del Mar Race 6: Yellow Ribbon Stakes (G2)

As written before on this blog, the west coast group of female turf routers are not the strongest bunch in the country. Going Global runs at the Grade 1 and 2 level at Santa Anita and Del Mar, but she might fit in Grade 3s at other top tracks east of the Rockies, such as Churchill Downs and Saratoga.

Going Global won the Del Mar Oaks (G1) last year and enters this race off a hanging third-place finish in the Gamely Stakes (G1). The Gamely winner Ocean Road came into the race off a narrow allowance win at Keeneland, where she only won by a nose over her stablemate Flown. 

This Yellow Ribbon contains only one shipper in Flippant, but she is capable of competing against decent borderline Grade 3 runners back east in her territories. In Flippant's most recent start, she deadheated for the win in the Indiana General Assembly Distaff Stakes at Horseshoe Indianapolis with Hendy Woods, a good middle-distance runner.

Two starts ago, Flippant made a closing bid for third in the Miss Liberty Stakes at Monmouth, with only half a length to the familiar Vigilantes Way in second. Vigilantes Way went on to also finish second in the Eatontown Stakes (G3) and third in the Matchmaker Stakes (G3) behind Lemista and Fluffy Socks.

The competition in this race looks bland enough for another eastern-based allowance-type filly to pick off a graded turf race in California. 

Win: 7 (at 4-1 or higher)

Exacta box: 2,7

Del Mar Race 9: Sorrento Stakes (G2)

Procrastination broke her maiden at Los Alamitos by an impressive eight lengths, and she did it easily enough after being asked to open up.

Given the impressive debut, Procrastination deserves her role as the favorite. Los Alamitos is not the strongest California track, but Procrastination did receive a field-high 95 on TimeformUS. In comparison, the morning line second choice Absolutely Zero shows a 91 for her maiden win and 81 for the Fasig-Tipton Futurity win against males.

According to TimeformUS Pace Projector, Procrastination is supposed to secure an uncontested lead through a slow pace, giving her another edge.

For value underneath, Vegas Magic or Satin Doll might finish second. A lone win bet on Procrastination at 8/5 is decent value as well. 

Win: 1 (at even or higher)

Exacta: 1 / 2,5

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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