One of the most common betting angles says to play against a favorite trying something new, whether it is a change in surface, distance or track configuration.
In the case of the Grade 1, $500,000 Alabama Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga, the favorite Swiss Skydiver tries to stretch out to 1¼ miles for the first time. Last month at Keeneland, she gave up the lead to Art Collector and settled for second in the nine-furlong Blue Grass Stakes (G2). Is the loss a sign of distance limitations for the 3-year-old filly?
In contrast, Harvey’s Lil Goil is loaded with stamina. She leads off the three selections for the Saratoga's Saturday card.
Saratoga Race 9: Alabama Stakes (G1)
Harvey’s Lil Goil (10-1) is a 3-year-old daughter of American Pharoah out of the Tapit mare Gloria S. Based on those first two sire names alone, she shows plenty of stamina influence.
Gloria S’ dam is the familiar Arch’s Gal Edith, who produced I’ll Have Another. For those new to racing, I'll Have Another captured the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes before an untimely injury derailed his career.
In terms of actual race record, Harvey’s Lil Goil flashed promise earlier this season when winning the nine-furlong Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct by 7½ lengths. TimeformUS awarded Harvey's Lil Goil a 108, a good figure for a 3-year-old filly in February.
Trainer Bill Mott then tried entering her in the Fantasy Stakes (G3), but she did not break fast and traffic problems entering the first turn discouraged her. She never got involved and ran a dismal 11th, 21 ¾ lengths behind the winner Swiss Skydiver.
Harvey’s Lil Goil returned to turf and won the Regret Stakes (G3) after tracking the leader in second and finishing strong to win by a head.
Perhaps Harvey’s Lil Goil is a future turf star, but she deserves another shot from bettors on dirt. This seven-horse Alabama field gives her more breathing room to run freely. If she can get into an unobstructed rhythm and move forward, she is capable of upsetting the favorite.
Swiss Skydiver (1-1) remains the best horse on paper, but the slight fade last time and 1¼-mile distance give some pause for concern. In her defense, she lost to one of the top 3-year-olds in Art Collector and still defeated 11 other male horses.
Both fillies are usable, but the price on Harvey’s Lil Goil makes her a bit more interesting in terms of vertical wagers.
Saratoga Race 8: Saratoga Derby Invitational
In his graded stakes debut for trainer Chad Brown, Domestic Spending closed for a strong third in the local Hall of Fame Stakes (G2), missing second by a nose and losing by only 1¼ length to Decorated Invader.
Decorated Invader won praise afterwards for capturing his third stakes in a row this season, but he did not appear as dominate as he did in his 4¾-length win in the one-mile Pennine Ridge Stakes (G2). Did the nine-furlong distance soften his blow a touch, or did he toy with them?
In the Saratoga Derby, both horses stretch out to 1 3/16 miles.
It is possible the slightly longer distance allows Domestic Spending (6-1) to turn the tables and pick up the win. As a closer, he will get pace help from Colonel Liam and Get Smokin. Plus, he retains Irad Ortiz Jr.
Because Decorated Invader (7-5) tries a new distance and offers a super low price, Domestic Spending is the choice, or at least is usable alongside.
At 5-1 or higher, Domestic Spending offers value.
Saratoga Race 6: Maiden
With only two stakes races on the card, this post will offer one extra pick.
The 2-year-old colt Charleston Strong (8-1) makes his career debut for trainer Jeremiah Englehart and there are some positive notes.
On Aug. 2, as seen on XBTV, Englehart opted to work Charleston Strong with the 6-year-old horse Runaway Lute, a winner of $323,000 in his 18-race career. Does he pair baby horses with older horses often? It only makes sense if Charleston Strong is skilled enough to train with him.
Charleston Strong is a son of Flatter out of Facethefront, a half-sister to Ball Four. In terms of career highlights, Ball Four won the 2006 Kentucky Cup Classic (G2) and 2009 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (G2) at the demolished Hollywood Park. It is nice to see evidence of a winning family.
Also, Charleston Strong cost $600k as a yearling, which means he either worked fast or impressed physically, or a combination of both.
As long as he is not favored, Charleston Strong is the choice.