Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Nomination Is In: The Diana Grade 1 at Saratoga

Lady Eli- Equisport Photos
Welcome Friends to The Turk and the Little Turk.  I'd like to start by thanking The Thorofan and the Handicapper's Corner for allowing me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you today about The Diana, a Grade 1 affair run over 1 1/8 miles of the Mellon turf course at Saratoga.

Keep your eye on the scratches, changes and track condition.  With a six horse field, one scratch would be one too many.  Weather doesn't seem to be an issue at the Spa until maybe Sunday.

At Saratoga, when analyzing your Past Performances, a T in a circle represents a race run on the Mellon or outer turf course.

A T in a square box represents an inner turf event.

As with any two turf course configuration, inner turf races have very tight corners and its different racing dynamics.  Take that into account when judging cross over horses from one track to the other.  You'll also note visually why you won't see many shorter sprints on this turf course, as it's hard to configure without placing the starting gate right on the 1st corner.

Are you a Saratoga watcher, a Del Mar watcher or both or some other combination over the summer meets?  I love Saratoga even if my ROI's are lower at Saratoga than most other courses.  I lived in Saratoga during the 1986 race season and I walked to the track from my house on Jumel Place.  I could have bought the little house for $70,000 from my landlord, and it recently sold for $450,000. My ROI off the racetrack in Saratoga isn't any better!

As far as Del Mar,  I was very turned off by the former artificial surface.  It played horribly and I have yet to really come back.  It's not an East Coast/West Coast thing with me, in fact, as an East Coast Handicapper I use to play Santa Anita, Del Mar and Hollywood exclusively.   For me, I'm going to focus on Arlington Turf and Saratoga Turf and Dirt Routes, that's my summer plan.

Today's Diana is a six horse field with the mighty Lady Eli leading the way.  At $2.4 MM lifetime earnings, she towers over the rest of the field with 11 starts and 11 times in the money.  She's not unbeatable, and she will be bet hard and heavy on opening weekend,  Let's see if we can make a case against her.

Lady Eli has finished in the Win or Place spot in every race in her 11 race career.  That's multiple Grade 1 competition.  When you watch her a beaten nose in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita last year, how do you take anything away from her.

She followed that race up with a long break, a Place by a head in the Jenn Wiley  and then set a career high best Beyer of 104 in Gamely.  I think if this race is run 100 times she wins 90 of the 100 races.

Gamely Stakes Grade 1:  1 1/8 Mile Hillside start on Santa Anita Firm Turf

I look at the field and I wonder where pace pressure will come from.  I'm not sure it will and she may have the lead early and hold it.  I think that's the most likely scenario and from an overlay perspective, I'd have a hard time taking a position a against her, but the tote board will make that decision for me.  There are at least two legitimate candidates to beat her in this field.

Let's take a look at Antonoe and Dickerson:

Just a Game Stakes Grade 1:  1 Mile Firm Turf at Belmont

Great trip and ride by Castellano, taking the rail when the rail opened late.  This was not some paceless fake Grade 1.  Watch the stride, watch the power.  Impressive win for Antonoe.  Trainer Chad Brown has a very impressive stable this year, and with Antonoe and Ladi Eli, he has an embarrassment of riches.  I would expect Antonoe will take one run at Lady Eli but lets not expect that sort of gift trip every race.  You have to respect the speed she showed on that late run.  I'm really floored watching that.  

Dickerson is a flawed but very talented 5 YO Medaglia d'Oro mare.  5 wins in 7 career turf starts. Three straight wins this spring, all graded stakes over routes of grass.  Not a great trip in the Just A Game, sent outside late, willingly up for Show and one more hop away from Place.  If I get 9/2 or 5-1 I'll be happy.

Jenny Wiley Grade 1:  1 1/16 Miles on Firm Turf at Keeneland

Quidora (GB) has class, but her class won't win this.  She had a nice stalking trip in the Grade 2 New York but I didn't think she really got rolling until 1 3/16ths.

New York Stakes Grade 2: 1 1/4 Miles on Firm Turf at Belmont

She's cutting back 1/8 of a mile.  Watch her here over soft turf at 1 1/16 miles in a big field at Keeneland, the Grade 3 Valley View.

My Impression hasn't really made an impression on me, and I'm more impressed with her connections than anything she's done on the track.   Training nicely and coming in off an effort at PARX on July 4th,  winless in 4 starts in 2017 for Trainer McGaughey, with Ortiz up for owner Stuart Janney III.  The trainer/jockey were 21% together last SAR meet.  5 Wins in 13 turf starts. Unless things go really upside down its hard to imagine anything but a minor Exotic prize.

I've tossed 4 Year Old Harmonize.  You can't cover everyone, but Bill Mott is a hard one to just discount.  While today's field is small, this is a classy group, including this daughter of Scat Daddy.  It's hard to believe the Florida Derby and excellent sire Scat Daddy is gone, may he rest in peace.

Antonoe-NYRA Susie Raisher
So what do we do with this?  As I write this on Thursday night, I take stock of what I know:

The Turf should be firm.

The Course should be in good shape.

A six horse field with Harmonize and My Impression long shots and not very live.

I'd expect the tote board ranking will be Lady Eli, Antonoe, Dickerson, Quidora in that order.

I'm not sure where pace will come from.  This is a pretty similar group of running style horses.  Is it as simple as Lady Eli going gate to wire?  I think that's a strong possibility.  Who will take late run and who has best late turn of foot?  I like what I've seen in a limited body of work from Antonoe.  

I'm not sure what I'm going to bet yet, but whatever I do, I'm going to keep the risk/reward quotient realistic.

Have fun friends.  Do your own handicapping and bypass the tip sheets.

Turk Out!

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