Two-year-old stakes at Saratoga are some of the most fun races to watch and the toughest to handicap. Often you have horses who have made only one or two starts, and at times many of them have won them.
I like these types of races. They offer less information which forces you to pull from experience and memory and your gut instincts to decide. You can separate the men from the boys, so to speak, and maybe find an edge.
We’ll run down the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on Saturday and see how it shakes out.
Nakotami is tough to gauge for Wesley Ward. He won at Keeneland in the spring, where Ward almost always fires and has his horses on the go. The track was sloppy that day as well. He then went to Ascot for the ultra-tough Group 2 Norfolk, where he dwelt. Nobody who dwells wins that race. He has the rail, a negative, and chilly Javier Castellano, maybe another negative, but I sense he has some quality. Why else would Ward send him to Ascot, and why run him back on the dirt? Because he can run, I believe, and he will like the extra ground.
Gunite took three times to get the maiden win for the new sire Gun Runner. He was a hype horse from the get-go, and now he knows how to win. He adds blinkers, and that may help him even more. Dangerous.
Ottoman Empire was dusted in the Sanford and added blinkers. I think they are looking and searching, and I don’t like that angle.
Kitodan ships in from Gulfstream after taking four starts to figure things out. These will be tougher than anything he saw down south. A lot tougher.
Midnight Worker won his only start over the track, a positive, 10-1 first out for Pletcher, and Saez is negative. He gets Irad here as Saez is at Arlington, but he will have to prove it to me on the track again.
Stolen Base was impressive in his only start, a win over the track for red hot Maker. Jose Ortiz replaces Tyler Gaffalione, who winds up on another runner. That had to be a tough call, and this one appears live to me right back.
Double Thunder is two for two for Pletcher and was impressive in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs. He rallied into a fast pace that day, and I think the race looks better than it was. The water is likely deeper here too.
Doctor Jeff brings a lot of hype and a gate-to-wire win at Belmont in an off-the-grass race. He is another who will have to prove it to me.
Dance Code went off long odds, winning his debut at Parx and even longer odds shipping in here for the Sanford. He stumbled badly at the start in that race and wasn’t disgraced. Lezcano stays here, and he is interesting again at a big number.
Glacial lured Gaffalione off Stolen Base. Both are looking pretty good, but this guy does look a tad better. He adds blinkers off a decent third in the Bashford Manner but does not need the lead to win and might sit a nice trip.
High Oak might have impressed me most of these in his debut win. He ran like a game and experienced horse, and I like how Mott pointed hereafter that nice race. I wish he had a draw, but it is what it is. Dangerous and a good horse.
Red Run is the other Asmussen in here and another Gun Runner. I like the other one better, and this draw will also be tough for him and Manny Franco.
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