As is typically the case in the summer, Saratoga has the spotlight again today. The only $100,000 stakes race of the day will take place in Saratoga Springs on Thursday. The running of the New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) is the biggest race in North America. Del Mar will take precedence on the weekend with the running of the $500,000 Pacific Classic (Gr. 1). That’s one of five stakes races at Del Mar on Saturday. Saratoga is highlighted Saturday with the running of the $400,000 Fourstardave Handicap (Gr. 1). I will be covering Del Mar and we’ll see if Saratoga has anything worth looking at.
All of this leads to the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of September. Prep racing is done, though, so the door has closed on teams trying to book a ticket to Churchill Downs. You aren’t going to see any Kentucky Derby contenders running right now. The main contenders have to be Tiz the Law, Honor A. P., and Art Collector. Tiz the Law looks unbeatable, but Art Collector is worth keeping an eye on in the morning. Note that the New York Turf Writers Cup is the first race of the day at Saratoga, so if you want to bet the main attraction today, you’ll have to get in early. Head below for our free Saratoga picks for August 20, 2020.
Race 1 – New York Turf Writers Cup
Post Time: 12:50 p.m. EST
Distance: 2 ⅜ Miles
The main event at Saratoga on Thursday is a hurdle race for a $100,000 purse. We likely have a duel between Moscato and Optimus Prime in the stretch. The rest of the field should fade back and weaken towards the end of the race.
Moscato enters as the betting favorite on the morning-line with a price of 6/5. He is looking for a hat-trick after a win in the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey Hurdle Handicap (Gr. 1) by 11 lengths. It wasn’t close, as everyone else faded off and Moscato took control.
Moscato followed up for a Gr. 1 win on July 23 in his most recent outing for a ¾ win at the $100,000 level. Since last May in 2019, Moscato has gone 3rd, 8th, 3rd, 1st, 1st. He’s in some really nice form right now. If Moscato didn’t have Optimus Prime to worry about, he’s likely to get clear in this race.
However, Optimus Prime is going to be hanging around in the stretch. Optimus Prime, all the way from France where hurdle racing is more popular, has a nice success clip of 11 wins in 34 races. He’s been a major player recently, with finishes of 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd in his previous four outings.
Optimus Prime lost by ¾ lengths behind Moscato on July 23 in an allowance race. He had a lead at the top of the stretch, but Moscato came on hard late to go from 4th to 1st. That said, Optimus Prime is 1st, 3rd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd in his last six performances. He can easily beat Moscato despite losing a close one a few weeks ago. The public will likely ride Moscato because of that race. You’ll probably get better value on Optimus Prime.
Post Time: 1:21 p.m. EST
Distance:1 ⅛ Miles
The feature race of the day Race 1 is worth $100,000, but there is a pretty big race following it with a $72,000 maiden event. This is the third biggest race of the day following the Tale of the Cat Stakes. Race 2 could shape up to be another duel at Saratoga on Thursday. Todd Pletcher’s Thankful and Simply Sweet should be in the mix and near the front. Simply Sweet is a slight betting favorite on the morning-line as a sophomore.
Simply Sweet was 4th as a first-time runner on July 9 in a $64,000 event. She showed some improvement late in that race, which covered 7 furlongs. Simply Sweet will need to go longer in this one, but should be competitive. She has been in good form going into today, with recorded times of 49.29 and 48.65 seconds at 4 furlongs and 37.14 seconds at 3 furlongs on August 17.
Her biggest threat is likely going to be Thankful who is slightly behind Simply Sweet on the morning-line. Thankful showed great improvement from her first to second race. She finished 9th as a rookie runner on May 14 for a $45,000 purse, but was a different horse most recently on June 18. Thankful placed 2nd So Darn Hot for a $64,000 purse covering 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park. This was after Thankful finished well back of So Darn Hot in May.
Thankful enters in good form following a productive workout on August 12. She was hot with a time of 48.32 seconds at 4 furlongs. Thankful was a $625,000 purchase and is expected to be a competitive horse in this class. Pletcher likely continues to have Thankful showing signs of improvement. Look for Thankful to do one better and go from 2nd to 1st here.
Post Time: 3:02 p.m. EST
Distance:6 ½ Furlongs
Race 5 is worth $43,000 at Saratoga on Thursday. We’ll stay on the dirt for our final pick at Saratoga. Customerexperience and Leaveuwithasmile are a couple of horses who should be hot commodities at the betting window in Race 5. I’ve been on Customerexperience in the past and won with the Kentucky bred filly on June 26. That was a win for a $29,000 win for Customerexperience by ¾ lengths over Reiterate. They had just about the same odds to win and Customerexperience emerged victorious.
Customerexperience faltered in her next outing, but still managed to get into the money to show 3rd in a $49,000 event. Slightly down in class, I think Customerexperience is at a manageable level that he should be able to cope with. She has been in fine form in the morning, with recorded times of 48 and 49.09 seconds in 4-furlong workouts.
Leaveuwithasmile is 4 for 9 in her career with some solid form since November. She has gone 1st, 1st, 5th, 4th, 1st in her previous five outings. Leaveuwithasmile is coming off a strong performance for a half length win over Pick Up the Fone on July 17. That was the same race that Customerexperience was racing in, so while Customerexperience is attempting to drop a class to find easier competition, she’s stuck having to deal with Leaveuwithasmile again. Leaveuwithasmile was clear of Customerexperience by 3 lengths in that contest. If she brings the same form to the part today, then expect a repeat performance.