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Aug 17, 2007

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            Saratoga is known as the “Graveyard of Favorites” because it seems that heavily favored horses have lost here in the past in races they weren’t supposed to lose. However, this year that adage is really coming true. The first half of the meeting has saw the favorites go down more often than not producing some very nice priced winners.

            On Saturday, August 11th, in the late Pick Four this was very evident. The first leg of the Pick Four was a maiden special weight race on the turf with 10 horses. The favorite going off at even money and racing wide to nowhere the longest shot in the race closed strongly through the lane to get up for the score at 42-1. The second leg of the sequence was an optional claiming race with a NW1X allowance condition. The favorite in this race as it has been with many races at this year’s Saratoga meeting was sent off at 7-2. He led right from the start but was nailed late by a 5-1 shot, who was the fifth choice in a nine horse field. The next leg of the sequence was the Grade I Sword Dancer which featured the heavily favored ENGLISH CHANNEL who was coming off a win in the United Nations at Monmouth and was sent off as the 3-5 favorite. He got a good trip in fifth early on but when he made his move to take the lead at the top of the lane, Calvin Borel was in his usual spot up the inside to score going away with 15-1 longshot, GRAND COUTURIER. The “Graveyard of Favorites” moniker was coming true now as all three favorites went down in Pick Four. The last leg of the sequence was 10 horse field of New York bred allowance horses sprinting on the turf. The favorite went down again this time to the second choice. However, the Pick Four was still paying very well. The parlay on all four races was about $34,000, the pick four paid more than double the parlay returning $78,050 for every $2 wagered. With a pool on this Saturday in excess of $500,000, and the fact that you can make a $1 wager on this bet it is clearly the best wager at the racetrack. Especially here at Saratoga with big fields that are very competitive.

            When it comes to the jockeys race this year has been extremely competitive. With nine jockeys separated by just 11 winners through August 15th we have a race on our hands. This is clearly the strongest jockey colony we have seen in a long time. Cornerlio Velasquez, who has booted home many longshot winners, currently has the lead with 22 wins, four more then Kent Desormeaux and five more than Edgar Prado, John Velazquez and Garrett Gomez. Javier Castellano is enjoying a great meeting so far with 15 wins, followed by Ramon Dominguez who has 13 and then Eibar Coa and Rafael Bejarano who both have 11.

            With such a competitive jockey colony this makes for more betting opportunities. Any of these jockeys could lead the meeting and there would be no surprise making betting races an adventure. You can see the top jockeys riding 10-1, 15-1 shots all day and you won’t hesitate to bet, especially if you like to stick with certain jockeys.   

            On the trainers side, so far at Saratoga there has been a surprise, at least for what has been the norm over the past few years. Perennial leading trainer Todd Pletcher is currently chasing the current leader Bill Mott. Mott has 13 wins, winning with all type of horses, dirt, turf, long, short, two year olds, etc., his barn is loaded, while Pletcher has only nine wins and his young horses except for the Stakes races have not been running very well. With only a winning percentage of 14.8% he has a long way to go but I wouldn’t count him out just yet. Richard Dutrow Jr. is tied for second with Pletcher but his winning percentage is up around 31%. Another trainer that is having a very good meeting is Tom Bush who is currently in fourth place just five wins behind with eight wins. Gary Contessa, who easily has the most starters of the meeting with 87 through August 15th, has only seven wins but had two wins on the 15th so maybe his barn is heating up. With a little more than two weeks left in the meeting the jockeys and trainers races are long from over and the betting should only get better as these races heat up. Good Luck!

           



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