Another racing week at Saratoga begins on Wednesday with a 10-race program, highlighted by the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes for steeplechase runners going 2 1/16 miles. I’ve highlighted my five favorite races on the program, which gets underway at 1:05 p.m. EDT.
Best Bet: Java Buzz (Race 5)
Best Value Bet: Frosty Invasion (Race 2)
No. 3 Going Country (5-1) was the choice of Parker Hendriks, who’s riding at a 35 percent clip this year and took last Wednesday’s jump race at Saratoga. The son of Yeats won two straight before going off course in a Grade 2 and fading late against tougher at Percy Warner. The 2 1/16-mile trip in the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes should suit Going Country well. No. 5 Howyabud (5-2, morning-line favorite) won by 10 lengths in his stateside debut and is a logical alternative. No. 7 Burn the Evidence (7-2) gets in light under these handicap conditions after a runner-up effort in his first U.S. try behind a next-out victor.
How I’d bet it (based on $100 budget): $2 exacta box 3/5/7, $6 win 3
No. 6 Frosty Invasion (9-2) drops back into the maiden claiming ranks, where she was second to a next-out winner at a one-mile trip earlier this year. The cutback to a sprint could do the trick. No. 7 Darn That Song (7-2) moves up the class ladder a bit going first off the claim for Gary Sciacca (13 percent) and shows sharp three-furlong drills for this. Couple this with the rider switch to Irad Ortiz Jr., and bettors should anticipate this filly trying to wire the field. No. 8 Dorothy’s the Boss (4-1) has hit the exacta in two of three lifetime tries on fast dirt – consider her with the rider change to Jose Ortiz.
How I’d bet it: $3 exacta key box 6/7,8, $2 exacta box 7/8, $8 win 6
No. 1 Java Buzz (9-5, morning-line favorite) likely needed his last off the bench but missed graduating from the maiden ranks by only a half-length at Belmont – he should earn the diploma under Flavien Prat here. No. 6 Sul Pharoah (8-1) takes what looks like a much needed cutback in distance getting back on the turf for Bill Mott – he would be an overlay at these odds. No. 5 Sousa Summer (2-1) has held his own against stakes foes but has yet to break his maiden. He has talent, but his lone try at turf sprinting (third, beaten six lengths at Gulfstream on Feb. 19) wasn’t his best effort.
How I’d bet it: $20 win 1
No. 5 Dot’s Dollar (7-2, morning-line favorite) won each of his first two starts off the Tom Morley claim before finding allowance foes too tough at Monmouth last time out. He looks well-spotted in this race under the resurgent Javier Castellano (30 percent at the meet). No. 1 Silipo (8-1) should show some aggression from the rail under Kendrick Carmouche, and it’s difficult to knock his 5: 1-2-1 record on the year too hard. He broke his maiden in his only prior start over this course. No. 3 Buckingham Palace (4-1) tried the claiming ranks for the first time at Churchill Downs and ran second – a threat off a bullet work here.
How I’d bet it: $5 exacta 5/1,3, $3 exacta box 1/5, $2 win 1
The Chad Brown-trained Peter Brant entry appears to have a stranglehold on the featured ninth race at the Spa. No. 1 Rocky Sky (1-1, morning-line favorite) was second in the Hillsborough Stakes (G2) at Tampa behind win machine Bleecker Street to kick off the year, then settled for fourth after a somewhat troubled trip in the Miss Liberty Stakes at Monmouth. Rocky Sky gets class relief and switches to Flavien Prat, and that should put her over the top. Her entrymate No. 1A American Bridge should at least keep the pace honest under Irad Ortiz Jr. but has every right to improve going second off the bench in this spot. No. 7 Juxtapose (20-1) would be an overlay at her morning line after hitting the board in each of her first two starts this year, albeit against cheaper company. No. 3 Princess Fawzia (6-1) lacked kick thanks to a wide trip in her last – should be rolling late with a smooth voyage.
How I’d bet it: $10 exacta 1/3,7, $2 win 7
Robert Criscola is a free-lance handicapper based in New York.