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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

UPDATED FINAL: FROM SARATOGA TO ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, THE A B C’s OF A X-C PICK 5

HALLANDALE BEACH, August 14, 2021 — Quality, and quantity too, are the buy-words for horseplayers looking to cash big on big Thoroughbred events from Saratoga to Arlington.

At the moment, today will be a final, albeit name-altered hurrah to Million Day, Illinois’ Thoroughbred signature event.

There currently are plans for the grand palace to return if a deal can be struck for the start of the 2022 racing season. The racing fans of the greater Chicago area can only hope those plans come to fruition.

Meanwhile, enjoy the day, hopefully making a bunch of money in a cross-country Pick 5 pool that will begin at the old Spa and end with the leading riders of both Saratoga and Del Mar prospecting for gold and Grade 1 glory in Arlington Heights.

Here’s one handicapper’s approach to what figures to be a massive pool from two legendary venues.

This is a live column that will be updated to include the three storied Grade 1s from Arlington Park later this morning.

SARATOGA

G2 SARATOGA SPECIAL      Race 9

A:   8-Doctor Jeff,   7-Double Thunder (6-1),   2-Gunite (5-1)

B:   3-Ottoman Empire (15-1),   4-Kitodan (30-1),  6-Stolen Base (8-1)

C:   1-Nakatomi (8-1),  9-Dance Code (15-1)

G1 FOURSTARDAVE HANDICAP    Race 10

A:   1-Raging Bull (9-5)

B:   5-Set Piece (5-2),   4-Casa Creed (9-2)

C:   6-Got Stormy (10-1)

ARLINGTON PARK

G1 BEVERLY D       Race 7

A:   4-Santa Barbara (2-1),  2-Mean Mary (9-5)

B:   5-Naval Laughter (9-2)

C:   6-Lemista (5-1)

GI BRUCE D    Race 8

A:   2-Tango Tango Tango (2-1)

B:   9-Like a Saltshaker (12-1),   6-Point Me By (3-1)

C:   none

GI MISTER D      Race 9

A:   3-Domestic Spending (6-5),   9-Armory (9-2)

B:   5-Zulu Alpha (8-1)

C:   8-Bizzee Channel (6-1),   4-Two Emmys (10-1) 

A Warm and Fuzzy Renewal from Saratoga

The feel good race of the 2021 Saratoga meet, the Grade 1 feature Saturday, is romanticized more for its namesake than it would be for any of its present competitors.

Traditionally, it is old school, and not only for the fact that it’s one of the country’s few remaining major handicap events, but for its namesake: Fourstardave.

The “Sultan of Saratoga” is one of the rarest of animals, winning a major event at the age 9 but for his eight-year win streak at the Spa. It’s a feat that not only is unique on its face, but it flies in the face of modern Thoroughbred racing.

It is a standard that strongly suggests it will be impossible to duplicate. Think Woody’s five Belmonts; DiMaggio’s 56 straight games; Asmussen’s all-time North American victory total at 9,950 winners and counting.

On paper, the three horses likely to catch the public’s attention is Raging Bull (9-5), Set Piece (5-2) and Casa Creek (9-2). Chad Brown obviously has decided that his charge is at his best going a mile on grass.

This is a Breeders’ Cup “Win-and-In” event so he and his rivals will be playing for a big pot and an all-expenses paid trip to Del Mar in November.

Set Piece has come into himself as a gelded five-year-old and seeks his fourth straight. He won Churchill’s G2 Wise Dan from 10th and last, knifing through on the fence and, despite the narrow margin, was drawing away in hand.

Casa Creek, winner of the G1 Jaipur last out, was scratched last week to await another crack at the Fourstardave for 4-time race winner Bill Mott.

The co-featured G2 Saratoga Special for juvenile males marks the return of impressive Belmont debut winner Doctor Jeff (2-1). It’s difficult what to make of a frontrunning score on a wet track over four rivals. But he’s been pointed here specifically by Rudy Rodriguez, having a very solid meet.

Double Thunder (6-1) is undefeated in two starts, including Churchill’s G3 Bashford Manor, showing laudable versatility. Ottoman Empire (15-1), Nakatomi (8-1) and Dance Call (15-1) merit upset consideration.

Lots of star quality on display for Arlington Park’s last hurrah for their current owners on their flagship program formerly known as Arlington Million day.

Topped by three Grade 1s, the Arlington Million, now the Mr. D, in honor of long-time owner now chairman emeritus Dick Duchossois; the Beverly D, honoring Duchossois’ late wife, and the Bruce D, named for son Bruce.

The premier events feature several head-on battles. In the Beverly D, it will be Mean Mary (9-5) beneath current Saratoga leading rider Luis Saez, vs. Santa Barbara (2-1) with European star Ryan Moore, and recently a winner of the G1 Belmont Oaks.

The Mr. D features Domestic Spending (6-5), America’s topped ranked turf runner beneath Del Mar leading jockey Flavien Prat  vs. accomplished Euro Armory (9-2) for Ireland’s team of Aidan O’Brien and Moore, getting Lasix for the first time.

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