Keeneland Select Pick of the Day | August 24, 2019
Race 7 at Saratoga on Saturday, August 24 | Post Time 2:59 PM Eastern Time
H. Allen Jerkens Stakes | Purse $500,000 | Seven Furlongs | Three Years Old
The BUZZ horse this summer, at least for the past month, has been Shancelot (1), who destroyed a good field in the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes four weeks ago over the track at six and one-half furlongs. He led from start to finish, easing up late when 12 1/2 lengths in front after running six furlongs in 107.6, with a final time of 1:14. Trying to make a case for another scintillating effort isn't hard, as this will be his fourth career start, third after four months off, and his pattern of improving Equibase figures (103, 108, 122) suggest he should not regress (bounce). Adding to that, trainer Navarro is hitting at an amazing 40% with back-to-back winners in dirt sprints going back two years (166 starts so not a small sample at all). Still, Shancelot won the Amsterdam from the 12 post and gets the rail today. A lot can happen when a horse with early speed gets the rail, particularly in this case as another speedball, Call Paul (2) is parked right outside Shancelot in the gate. On paper, at least in the first quarter mile, Call Paul is FASTER than Shancelot, so the question is whether Shancelot will be able to sit in second and still win if Call Paul shows all his speed or whether, if Shancelot goes for the lead, he can have enough left to hang on when the closers come calling.
As such, and because my motto has never veered away from "friends don't let friends bet chalk" over the years, the horses I'm going to be concentrating on are Mind Control (6), Borracho (4) and Nitrous (5), as well as Shancelot (1) on some tickets as a defensive measure, hoping to crush the race if Shancelot fades out of the top two spots late.
Mind Control (6) went to post as the 2 to 5 favorite last month in a non-graded stakes at this seven furlong trip at Laurel and, to be honest, he got a poor ride. I don't usually criticize jockeys, but if one is riding a heavy favorite, he or she should never assume since they are on the best horse they don't need to get into a position to win in case things don't go as planned. In that race Mind Control was blocked most of the last eighth of a mile, with a hole opening then closing not once, but twice. Basically he had no chance to run his race at all. Reunited with John Velazquez, who is three-for-four aboard the colt including the Jerome Stakes (one turn mile) in January and the Bay Shore Stakes (this seven furlong trip) in April, Mind Control put in a sharp five furlong workouts at the trainer's home base in New Jersey and has a shot to run significantly better than his 15/1 starting odds suggest he will. His record in eight one turn races is 4-2-1 and the Bay Shore effort earned a 108 Equibase figure which, except for the 122 Shancelot earned in the Amsterdam, is one of the best in the field just behind the 111 figure Borracho (4) earned winning last month at Saratoga when prepping for this race. There's no question of liking the track either, as Mind Control won the Hopeful Stakes last August at Saratoga in his second career start and as the 3 to 5 favorite.
Borracho (4) was a fast closing third in the Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont in June, ending up three-quarters of a length behind runner-up Nitrous (5), then won strongly when facing older horses for the first time last month at this distance here at Saratoga. Landeros was up for that win and the one which preceded the Woody Stephens but not in the saddle for the Stephens and stays aboard here. That allowance win versus older last month earned Borracho a 111 figure which, similar to the 108 Mind Control earned in the Bay Shore in April, is as good or better than the previous two figures earned by prohibitive favorite Shancelot and if there is a hot pace up front Borracho will be flying late. Nitrous (5) rallied from ninth of 12 to get second behind Shancelot in the Amsterdam, which in effect was like winning the race as the winner was in a league of his own. He came from last of 11 in the Woody Stephens to miss by a neck to Hog Creek Hustle, earning a career-best 108 figure in the process. Like Borracho, Nitrous is likely to be coming from far back whereas Mind Control is likely to be third or fourth in the early stages, but nevertheless if everything goes his way, Nitrous can have a say in the outcome.
Call Paul (2) and Hog Creek Hustle (9) round out the horses I'm using on some exacta tickets. Call Paul added blinkers three back and almost wired the field in the first of the three with a 99 figure, then won by six with a 106 figure when almost leading start to finish before a try on a yielding turf course when he pressed a sizzling 21.6 first quarter then tired. Irad Ortiz, Jr., who rode Call Paul to victory last summer in the Saratoga Special Stakes, gets back on, also having ridden him to a win in the Swale Stakes at this distance in February. The question is whether he is absolutely a need-the-lead type in blinkers or not because in the Swale, without blinkers, Call Paul rallied under Ortiz from fifth to draw off late. I think he is a need-the-lead type, but that does not mean he can't stick around for a share. Hog Creek Hustle hasn't been seen since June 7 when winning the Woody Stephens at 18/1. He's run two big races in a row, the other when second in the Pat Day Mile on Derby day in May, and he will benefit from a fast early pace. The main knock is he has never raced or worked at Saratoga.
Mind Control (6) to win at 7 to 2 odds or higher, adding a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.
For a smaller amount consider win bets on Borracho (4) and on Nitrous (5) at odds of 4 to 1 or higher.
The fairly aggressive exacta play is Borracho (4), Nitrous (5) and Mind Control (6) over Shancelot (1), Call Paul (2), Borracho (4), Nitrous (5), Mind Control (6) and Hog Creek Hustle (9).
Box Shancelot (1), Borracho (4), Nitrous (5) and Mind Control (6).
The defensive exacta play is Shancelot (1) over Borracho (4), Nitrous (5) and Mind Control (6).
Trifecta: Box Shancelot (1), Borracho (4), Nitrous (5) and Mind Control (6).