Today is Opening Day for Major League Baseball on July 23. Try telling somebody from 2019 that Opening Day in the major leagues would be scheduled for July 23, and that the Kentucky Derby would be on Labor Day Weekend. Yeah, there would be some confusion. We’re back at Saratoga on Thursday after coming up a bit short on our Pick 4 and Pick 5 yesterday. It wasn’t a bad effort, but several horses were scratched and a loss in Race 2 put an end to those tickets. Over at Parx in Philadelphia, we were able to record two wins in three races for the second consecutive day.
Instead of going after a multi-bet win at Saratoga on Thursday, let’s see how things play out with a few straight wagers. Saratoga is the home of the $250,000 Vanderbilt Handicap (Gr. 1) and $200,000 Ballston Spa Stakes (Gr. 2) on Saturday. That’s something to get excited over, but the Travers on August 8 is the date to circle. As far as today is concerned, Saratoga has nine races, five on the dirt and four on the turf, with a total of $698,000 offered. There are two stakes races with the running of the $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase and New York Stallion Stakes. Head below for our free Saratoga picks for July 23, 2020.
Post Time: 1:21 p.m. EST
Distance: 6 Furlongs
Race 2 is our opening race at Saratoga for the Thursday afternoon card. This event features 6 furlongs on the dirt for a $30,000 purse. I think you have to look at Carthon and Wonder In as the most intriguing options here. They could get into a bit of a duel in the stretch if their form holds from previous events.
Carthon is coming off a layoff following a decent stretch from December to February. He was in good form with finishes in the top-3 in three straight outings. Carthon finished 3rd, 3rd, and then came close for 2nd in his most recent performance on February 22 at Aqueduct. He lost by 1 ½ lengths in a more difficult race that Race 2 on Thursday. That was for a $67,000 purse.
Carthon is down in class today after that race. The other two races were for purses of $67,000 as well. Upon returning from his layoff, Carthon is stepping down to a more winnable level, and it’s not like he ran poorly in any of those races. He is coming off a couple of encouraging workouts on June 19 and July 12 with times of 48.25 and 48.78 seconds.
Wonder In will likely challenge Carthon this afternoon. Wonder In is 2 for 8 in his career and coming off a win on February 21. It was a 2 ¼ length win for Wonder In in an easy $27,500 race. Leading up to that race, Wonder In finished 6th, 4th, 3rd, 3rd. Unlike Carthon, Wonder In has played it safe in a lower class throughout his career. Wonder In completed 4 furlongs with times of 50.50 and 50.08 seconds at 4 furlongs, and 3 furlongs with times of 37.22 and 37.66 seconds. I’d have Carthon as the +250 horse on the morning-line instead of Wonder In in Race 2.
Post Time: 4:46 p.m. EST
Distance:5 ½ Furlongs
Race 8 isn’t a stakes race, but it still carries a sizable purse of $72,000. This event will take place on the turf over 5 ½ furlongs. There is a lot of inexperience in Race 8, with a couple of first-time runners and four second-time runners. Todd Pletcher’s Obsessed and Chad Browns’ French Reef are both expected to be tough runners in Race 8.
Obsessed is coming off a poor debut on November 16, 2019 at Aqueduct. He was a slight favorite in that race, but didn’t run like it at all. The only horse Obsessed beat was Bayern’s Mirage who was 23 lengths away. Bayern’s Mirage essentially stopped, so it’s not anything to get excited over. Following a layoff, Obsessed is ready to return on Thursday afternoon for Todd Pletcher. His work in the morning has been inconsistent, though.
Obsessed has been up and down the last couple of months going into today. He has completed 4-furlong workouts of 50, 48.53, 50.89, and 48.35 seconds since May. At 5 furlongs, Obsessed was slower, with times of 1:04.29, 1:03.88, and 1:01.10. The most encouraging sign for Obsessed was the improvement at 5 furlongs. As a $330,000 purchase in 2018, Obsessed is expected to perform and win some races throughout his career.
French Reef had a fairly disappointing debut as well. He finished 6th in a $70,000 event on November 16, 2019 at Aqueduct. French Reef was the favorite but underperformed. Despite the effort, French Reef is projected to have a promising career for Chad Brown. French Reef was purchased for $494,000 in 2018. At that price, expectations are high for French Reef. He’s been sharp and consistent in the morning leading up to today. French Reef completed 4 furlongs with times of 49.47 and 49.67 seconds in June, along with a 1:00.60 and 1:01.50 workouts over 5 furlongs in July. This could very easily be a winning run for French Reef on Thursday.
Post Time: 5:17 p.m. EST
Distance:6 ½ Furlongs
Race 9 is our third and final selection of the day at Saratoga. This has another nicely sized purse with $78,000 available. Honest Mischief and Captain Scotty should be in contention in the stretch in Race 9. Captain Scotty drops down in class today following a 9th place run in the Saudi Cup Sprint on February 29 and 10th on June 27 at Churchill Downs in an allowance race. This was after Captain Scotty won the Palos Verdes Stakes (Gr. 2) on January 25. He won by a neck over Flagstaff in an upset in the $70,000 event.
The trip to Saudi Arabia must have sucked the energy out of Captain Scotty, because he put up a stinker in his most recent outing on June 27. Captain Scotty struggled to finish dead last as one of the favorites in the $88,000 race. He was fine early for 2nd at the ⅜ pole, but folded up shop late.
That was at 5 ½ furlongs. If Captain Scotty brings the same to the table on Thursday, then he will continue to fade in this one. However, bring his older form and a win will be within reach. Captain Scotty completed 4 furlongs with times of 48.40, 50.80, 48.40, and 50.60 seconds in the morning. He was really fast in his most recent outing over 3 furlongs at 33.80 seconds.
While Captain Scotty can’t find any consistency, Honest Mischief has been a model of consistency and even has some stakes experience. Honest Mischief has finished in the top-3 in four straight outings. In his last three races, Honest Mischief went 1st, 1st, 2nd, including a win in the Force the Pass City of Laurel Stakes on November 30, 2019 and 2nd in the Aristides Stakes on June 6 at Churchill Downs. Overall, Honest Mischief is 3 for 7 in his career.
The biggest race of Honest Mischief’s career was the Woody Stephen Stakes (Gr. 2) on June 8 at Belmont Park. He finished 6th in the $400,000 race, but it was a good learning experience in a race of that caliber. Despite losing his last race, Honest Mischief has weaker company than that in the gate on Thursday. Honest Mischief is a solid choice for Race 9.