American Turf Magazine
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Jul 28, 2006

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


Saratoga opened its doors on July 26th for its 138th racing meeting. This year’s meeting promises to be one of the best from a racing standpoint and also a betting standpoint. Many people point towards this meeting which will make for large fields and in turn solid betting opportunities.

With many new races written into the condition book like 5 ½ furlong turf sprints, optional claiming races and statebred optional claiming races make for large fields. The bigger the fields the more competitive the racing the better opportunities to make money.

Another reason that Saratoga will be so competitive this year is the jockey colony. This has been the most competitive jockey colony that we have seen in a long time. With the top jockeys that are already here, like John Velazquez, Edgar Prado , Javier Castellano, Eibar Coa, Cornelio Velasquez, and Richard Migliore. In addition to those world class jockeys others that will be bringing their tack for this meeting are top apprentice Julien Leparoux who is coming off a tremendous meeting at Churchill Downs that saw him win the jockey’s title there. The runner-up to Leparoux, Rafael Bejarano, will also be coming here to Saratoga. He will try to improve on last year’s results that saw him win seven races before getting hurt cutting his meeting short with only 66 mounts.

Two top West Coast jockeys that made the move to New York earlier in the year will be spending the whole meeting at Saratoga. Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux made the move from California in late March and has ridden in New York ever since with some success. Obviously it took some time for him to gain the top mounts but he is riding well right now and will be a force at this very tough Saratoga meeting. Another top jockey that made the move from California is Garrett Gomez. Gomez made the move to New York after jockey John Velazquez was injured at the Keeneland meeting. Trainer Todd Pletcher who rides John Velazquez as his first call rider wanted to get a rider that he could ride as a first call rider without having to use multiple jockeys. When Velazquez came back from injury during the week of the Belmont Stakes a lot earlier than expected Gomez decided to stay as he was riding a lot of winners and has gained a lot of new clients. He still rides a lot of horses for Pletcher as his barn has a lot of horses to go around.

Another hall of fame rider that made the switch to New York earlier this year was Mike Smith. Smith who was a top rider in New York for many years before getting injured has never really regained his top form. However, he has always ridden well at Saratoga in the past and he had a decent Belmont meeting. Look for him to boot home some winners at solid prices.

Ramon Dominguez was supposed to ride at this meeting but has not accepted any mounts through the first three days. Shaun Bridgmohan, who was a regular in New York before leaving a few years ago is back to ride here and he will have the first call for the Steve Asmussen barn who will be running under Scott Blasi as he is suspended. You have more than 10 jockeys that could go and ride anywhere, all at one meeting. Some jockeys that might fly under the radar and will offer value at the windows are Fernando Jara who won this year’s Belmont Stakes aboard JAZIL, and already got off to a good start with a $53.50 winner on opening day. He is a very underrated rider and may get lost a bit here with all the big names but he can ride with anyone. Mike Luzzi is another jockey that might fly under the radar with 36 wins at the recently concluded Belmont meeting and will be riding some live longshots so you might want to throw him in your exotics.

The top trainer last year Todd Pletcher is expected to run away with the title again. He will have some stiff competition from Bill Mott who had a great Belmont meeting along with Bobby Frankel who was also coming off a very good Belmont meeting that saw him win with over 31% of his runners and should have a good meeting here at Saratoga. Richard Dutrow Jr., who just won the Belmont training title is always a threat and Gary Contessa who is having a great year and just finished second at Belmont is a longshot but if Pletcher falters anyone can win.

Patrick Biancone is a top trainer that points for this meeting and had a big winner on opening day that was sent off as the favorite. Don’t expect much of a price on his horses but they are usually ready for their best effort here at Saratoga.

If you get a chance to get up to Saratoga there is nothing like it, it is like heaven on earth but if you can't make it up there, making a few dollars while playing the meeting isn’t that bad either. Good Luck!



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