Early on, observers were thinking that Jose Ortiz and Joel Rosario were in a two-rider race for the Angel Cordero Saratoga meet title. Irad Ortiz was having a quiet meet–until Thursday’s five-bagger.
As for the trainers, Christophe Clement got off to one of the fastest starts we’ve seen in 53 years at Saratoga. But there’s no stopping the Chad Brown juggernaut and now it’s a horse race (CC was leading 9-8 through Thursday).
But this weekend, it’s about the horses, upstate New York and near different oceans. Champion turf mare Sistercharlie returns in the Ballston Spa and Volatile will try to become the star of the 2020 sprint division. He’ll be odds-on to do so.
However, on Saturday morning, the great Enable will try to get back on right track as Ascot vs. only three rivals–all Ballydoyle runners. It will be one against three, but the one is a legendary race mare.
Perhaps the biggest return, though, occurs at Del Mar when Maximum Security makes his first start for Bob Baffert in the G2 San Diego, a possible and likely prep for the Pacific Classic.
Here’s a handicapping look-in at the Spa and out west.
SARATOGA G2 Ballston Spa
The last time Sistercharlie (2-5) was seen she was finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. But prior to that she won a remarkable six consecutive Grade 1s. Her class is extraordinary, but we’re looking for a minor upset.
The champ is now six years old and older horses often need a run to get their game hooves back on. Chad Brown said she’s fit enough but is concerned that 1-1/16 miles is not as suitable as longer distances.
In that context, Starship Jubilee (2-1) can do anything from any distance, as her 17-for-35 lifetime record attests. She’s not beaten the quality of this champion but gets her best chance to do so in this spot.
She’s closer to a race, having won the always competitive G2 Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs, she can lead or come from behind, and was a little unlucky not to have won this race last year, losing ground throughout while racing a bit too keen early on.
Two-for-two beneath Javier Castellano, she might be able to steal away into the first turn with not much speed signed on today.
Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt
The redoubtable Whitmore (2-1), earner of $3.5 million, is clearly the most accomplished runner, given time after his convincing win in Oaklawn Park’s Count Fleet, a race he’s won thrice.
To repeat here, he will have to beat a budding star in Volatile (4-5). Mitole Redux? Well, the barn’s the same, the style at this stage is similar, and this looks like Steve Asmussen’s major Spa goal, getting this colt a Grade 1.
His last was off the charts, winning Churchill’s Aristedes by 8-1/2–his last three races by a combined 18-1/2–and the time of 1:07.57 was 2/100s off the track record.
His Thoro-Graph figure of minus-5 1/4 is among the fastest we’ve ever seen. He’s had a full seven weeks to recuperate and is drawn nicely toward the outside in a short field. His tactical speed is his best weapon for today’s task.
DEL MAR Grade 2 San Diego Handicap
That’s no typo, an actual handicap, one in which the returning Maximum Security, highweight at 127 pounds, will have to spot five and six pounds, respectively, to G1 winners Higher Power and Combatant and multiple graded winner Midcourt.
Baffert said he loves how the horse is training and is confident. The worktab is strong and steady but we didn’t care for the one work we saw as it appeared that he was ridden hard through the stretch.
Can’t beat him on paper but he’ll win this without me. Your call.
Check in Saturday am as we’ll construct some betting strategies for the Spa races and analyze Del Mar’s G2 San Clemente, the first half of a turf meets the surf stakes double.