Saturday’s card has a trio of graded stakes races, the highest of which is the eighth race, the Grade I Alfred G Vanderbilt Handicap. A six-furlong sprint over dirt, this race, like the majority of the rest of the card, has a definitive and expected favorite, giving the day the feel that it will be more chalk than usual.
Mischievous Alex (2-1) is that representative favorite in the Vanderbilt. The 4-year-old has come into his own this year, winning three of four in races with improved speed ratings on his 3-year-old race year. He returns to six furlongs, where he is 2 for 2, both times clearing away from the place finisher in the stretch. He also reunites with jockey Irad Ortiz, under whom he has collected each of his three wins this year. Ortiz has been the regular jockey of Firenze Fire (3-1) recently, but he has opted for Mischievous Alex.
Whitmore (4-1) has made his career at this distance, collecting 13 of his 15 lifetime wins and finishing in the money in 24 out of 26 runs at six furlongs. His recent workouts should alleviate any worries regarding his layoff. So long as the track is dry, Whitmore should be in the mix.
Firenze Fire is the mount for jockey Jose Ortiz, with whom he won the Grade II True North Stakes at Belmont. He is another proven sprinter on a fast track, but has finished behind Whitmore in each of their last two races together.
Special Reserve (9-2) is expected to be among the pacesetters, which would be the best position for him in this field. He’s on a hot streak, winning four of his last five and finishing second in the one he did not win, but this race will be a step up in class from any of those wins.
In a card loaded with well-rated favorites, the best bet belongs to Essential Quality (1-2) in the Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes. The most-recent Belmont Stakes winner has taken every race he has entered, aside from the 2021 Kentucky Derby, all of which have been graded stakes, except his debut race. The Brad Cox-trainee retains his usual jockey Luis Saez, and should also retain his regular spot in the winner’s circle.
The best value on the card belongs to Honey Money (9-2) in the fifth race. Her three sprints on fast tracks this year have all been wins. She seems to run best under ideal conditions, which can explain away her poor performance in her Saratoga debut on July 18 in the mud. The second race at a track can often bring an improved performance as the horse becomes more familiar with its surroundings, so expect something more like the three wire to wire wins that preceded her last race. The other contenders do not have the win percentage or recent form of Honey Money, so if her price stays near the morning line, she will be hard to pass up.
2-Master Game, 6-Woodline, 1-Life Is Great, 3-Kevin’s Folly.
1-Fast Gordon, 12-Majestic Sky, 3-Eight Weeks Long, 11-Out of Breech.
Noda Entry (1-Miss Liana and 1A-Flat Awesome Jenny), 2-Cartwheel, 7-Lady By Choice, 4-Saratoga Beauty.
7-High Tone, 6-Noble Conquest, 2-Pivital Run, 8-Brennan’s War.
5-Honey Money, 3-Beautiful Karen, 8-Our First, 7-Shanes Pretty Lady.
7-Ohtwoohthreefive, 4-Royal Spirit, 6-Dowagiac Chief, 8-Limited Liability.
7-High Opinion, 8-Love and Thunder, 9-Pecatonica, 2-Invincible Gal.
2-Mischevious Alex, 6-Whitmore, 3-Firenze Fire, 9-Special Reserve.
5-Essential Quality, 3-Weyburn, 2-Masqueparade, 1-Dr. Jack.
5-Channel Maker, 4-Rockemperor, 8-Shamrocket, 7-Moon Over Miami.
7-Tizzarunner, 10-Sharp Prospect, 5-The Last Zip, 9-Counter Offer.
Sea Foam (fourth), The Big Kahuna (fifth), Runnin’ Ray (seventh), Claytnthelionheart (eighth), Highway Queen (tenth).
Record for meet: 34 for 119.
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