By Jarrod Horak
Juveniles take center stage in the final two Grade 1 races of the Saratoga 2023 summer meet. Ways and Means makes her much anticipated stakes debut in the Spinaway on Sunday, Sept. 3, and the closing Monday feature is the Hopeful featuring Bob Baffert’s $2 million purchase Muth.
Grade 1 Spinaway – September 3 – Race 9 – 7 furlongs dirt
This juvenile filly extended sprint includes two-time stakes winner Brightwork, but all eyes are on Chad Brown’s exciting filly Ways and Means. The latter showed that she might be something special in her romping local debut as the strong favorite on Aug. 6. She was bumped at the break and ended up stalking the pace under Flavien Prat. She just cruised up and was always full of run, and she coasted across the line by a dozen lengths while under a hold. I cannot wait to see what the daughter of Practical Joke has in store for us in her stakes bow.
Brightwork is a perfect 3-for-3 for John Ortiz. She pressed and kicked away in her 4 1/2 furlong bow at Keeneland in the spring. She battled on the pace and defeated three foes in the Debutante at six furlongs second time out, and stalked and dominated the local Adirondack (G3) at 6 1/2 panels last time. Leading rider Irad Ortiz Jr. got acquainted with her last time and she should make her presence felt from the outset.
Miz Sense was supposed to run in the P. G. Johnson Stakes on Aug. 30. That race was originally scheduled for turf and moved to one mile on dirt. Todd Pletcher’s filly was a main track only entrant and was the favorite, but she scratched after running off prior to the start. This is a much tougher spot and she is a 15-1 outsider this time.
The field also incudes D. Wayne Lukas maiden Lady Moscato, local debut winner Sugar Hi, Astoria winner Closing Act, Schuylerville winner Becky’s Joker, local debut winner Alys Beach, local extended sprint winner Wonder Ride, and Horseshoe Indianapolis shipper Lemorian.
This race is all about Ways and Means, and Chad Brown’s electric filly could easily put on a show. I am not interested in going against her in this spot.
$150,000 Bernard Baruch – September 4 – Race 3 – 1 1/6 miles inner turf
This used to be an important graded turf event in the past but it has lost its luster in recent runnings. Steinlen won this race in 1989 and it was a Grade 1 at that time. It was downgraded to a Grade 2 after that, and quality grass horses Lure, Fourstars Allstar (twice), Yagli, Artie Schiller, Get Stormy, and Wise Dan were some of the bigger names to capture this event. It is now a listed affair.
Wit makes his first start since January for Todd Pletcher, and he ran well in both local turf starts last summer. He rallied for the place in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame, and easily captured the restricted Better Talk Now as the strong favorite. He missed by a neck in the Bryan Station (G3) at Keeneland, and ended his successful sophomore campaign with a close show finish in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. He stalked and weakened at 11-1 odds in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf in his only 2023 start early in the year, and he has been in steady training at Saratoga since July 23. Jose Ortiz knows him well and he is probably ready to fire a big shot off the bench.
Emaraaty is the defending champ. He scooted right to the front and easily went all the way in this event last summer, and he won a local optional claiming turf route before that. He is 4-for-5 overall at Saratoga and Flavien Prat was aboard for both of his wins last year. He ran last in his 2023 return in the Grade 3 Poker, and Chad Brown’s lightly raced 8-year-old gelding will probably bounce back in this spot.
Public Sector is also conditioned by Chad Brown. He started out his career with five wins from nine starts. He won the Hall of Fame (G2), Saranac (G3), and Hill Prince (G2) in 2021, and lost his way after that. He has dropped his last eight starts and Brown is trying to shake things up. He adds blinkers and reconnects with his winning pilot Irad Ortiz Jr. He has struck three times at the Spa and should be competitive in this spot.
Pioneering Spirit is back quickly for Linda Rice. She claimed this one for $40k in March. He captured four turf routes this year and exits a distant show finish in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer. He cuts back in distance and will try to get involved late.
Bring Me a Check ran well in his last four turf sprints. He stretches back out in his second start after the Patrick Reynolds claim, and he might try to wire the field from the inside post under Tyler Gaffalione.
Jake Rocks is entered for main track only purposes. They are calling for mostly sunny skies so I doubt he gets in.
All five turf entrants have a shot. Emaraaty elevates his game at the Spa and I will give him the slight nod over Wit and Public Sector.
Grade 1 Hopeful – September 4 – Race 10 – 7 furlongs dirt
Muth ships in from Del Mar for Bob Baffert and he is the 5-2 morning line favorite. The $2 million Good Magic colt was brilliant as the overwhelming favorite in his Santa Anita debut. He was the 1-2 favorite in the Best Pal (G3) second time out, and he dueled through rapid fractions and was second best to his stablemate Prince of Monaco that day. Flavien Prat takes the call and he might be the one to catch.
Timberlake broke slow from post 10, and raced wide and was up the track as the beaten favorite in his Ellis Park bow, and that was a productive race. The winner and show finisher both returned to score, and Brad Cox’s $350k Into Mischief colt added blinkers and ran off the screen at seven panels second time out. The runner-up from his last graduated in his next start, and this one drilled a local training track bullet on Aug. 20.
Gold Sweep missed by a neck in his Churchill Downs bow and that was a productive race. He romped at Belmont Park second time out and stumbled badly at the start and ran on for the place as the beaten favorite in the Grade 3 Sanford on July 15. Jose Ortiz stays put and Steve Asmussen’s $285k Speightstown colt will probably stalk the pace if he gets out the gate in good order.
Mission Beach was professional in his winning debut at Del Mar on Aug. 5. Bob Baffert’s $400k Curlin colt pressed from second and edged away to win by a length and a quarter that day. John Velazquez takes the call and I expect him to elevate his game when he stretches out around two turns.
Yo Yo Candy added blinkers and sat a nice stalking trip in his 46-1 upset in the Sanford (G3). The favorite was compromised that day and this is a much deeper cast.
Just Steel is a $500k Justify colt exiting a nose victory in a local maiden sprint for D. Wayne Lukas. He prompted the pace from the outside post last time, and he will have to work out a different trip from the rail in this spot.
Be You finished a nose behind Just Steel as the 3-2 favorite on Aug. 5. The Todd Pletcher trainee broke from the intimidating inside post that day and sat a decent stalking trip. Mike Repole paid $320k for this Curlin colt and he will probably stalk while out in the clear this time. Irad Ortiz Jr. sticks with him.
The 11-horse field is completed by Delaware Park debut winner Nutella Fella, Ellis Park Juvenile hero Baytown Chatterbox, local debut winner Valentine Candy, and Pirate, a good looking Omaha Beach debut winner as the favorite for Todd Pletcher.
I would not be surprised if Muth bounced back after going too fast early in the Best Pal, but I want a bit more value on top, so I will side with Timberlake. Gold Sweep can go better after losing all chance at the start in the Sanford.