Humming off his runner-up finish to an overwhelmingly awesome Frosted in the Met Mile (I), Anchor Down is favored in a field of eight in the first Grade 1 sprint of the Saratoga meet for leading trainer Todd Pletcher. With four graded stakes on Saturday’s card highlighted by the return of Belmont Stakes (I) winner Creator in the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (II), the Vanderbilt is the lone G1 race and the best betting race of the four with several horses stepping up in class and changing up their distance marks. Also coming to the post is Belmont Sprint Championship (III) victor A. P. Indian and Churchill Downs Stakes (II) winner Catalina Red, both of whom should make things interesting, while Jorge Navarro sends in three entries to grab elite sprinter status.
$350,000 Alfred Vanderbilt Handicap (I) – 3-Year-Olds & Up. Six furlongs on dirt at Saratoga Race Course. Post Time: Saturday, July 30 at 5:40pm EST.
[Post Position, Horse – Jockey, Impost, Trainer – Summary, Opinion in italics]
1) Anchor Down – Jose Ortiz, 117 lbs, Todd Pletcher – Trainer Pletcher originally earmarked Anchor Down’s next start after the Met Mile (I) second place run– which by no means was an insult to the big Tapit colt– to be the 7-furlong Belmont Sprint Championship in early July, but ultimately scratched him because the rail post wasn’t agreeable and has mentioned before that the horse was sketchy at anything other than a mile. A winner in the past at this distance, Anchor Down will likely get sent early but judging by his trainers’ comments as well as the oft-dead rail, it would surprise no one to see him fade late. A poor and vulnerable betting favorite.
2) Catalina Red – Luis Saez, 119 lbs, Jorge Navarro – The Munnings colt ran huge on Derby Day at Churchill Downs, notching a big 105 Brisnet figure while coming from off the pace in his first start for Navarro. He bounced a bit in the True North (II) next out, finishing a modest fourth. He wouldn’t be a tremendously surprising upset since he does have a nice late kick, but he loses Javier to Requite and is emerging from a 50-day layoff.
3) Delta Bluesman – Emisael Jaramillo, 119 lbs, Jorge Navarro – A winner three times this year in as many starts, the gray son of Wagon Limit has finished in the money at six furlongs 11-for-16, and has put up some bruising speed figures for the year against meek competition at Monmouth before taking the Smile Sprint (II) at Gulfstream. He has stringed together multiple triple-digit Brisnet figures this year and his morning workouts are littered with bullet moves. With Navarro shipping in at 30%, he could be a freakishly fast contender wire-to-wire.
4) A. P. Indian – Joe Bravo, 118 lbs, Arnaud Delacour – 3-for-3 this year, the Indian Charlie gelding achieved graded status last out while winning the Belmont Sprint Championship (III) at 7 furlongs, and has won 3 out of 5 times at 6 furlongs. Adaptable pace-wise, A. P. Indian will likely seek a behind-the-pace strategy this time out as he steps up to the Grade 1 plate. He’s a very nice horse with a good shot to win, and judging by the morning line, no one can still believe that. Delacour a very strong barn overall this year.
5) Holy Boss – John Velazquez, 119 lbs, Steve Asmussen – Winless since his Amsterdam Stakes (II) win one year ago, the Street Boss four-year-old will get the blinkers treatment from Asmussen following a one-length loss in the True North (II) last out. The six-furlong distance is agreeable for Holy Boss, who has a 9:4-1-1 record at the mark. This race is probably a little too deep for him as he is apt to be forwardly-placed again in a very fast field.
6) Chublicious – Antonio Gallardo, 115 lbs, Jorge Navarro – The third and longest shot of the Navarro entries, the Hey Chub gelding is 2-for-2 since his transfer from Preciado, notching two wins at Monmouth Park including the Mr. Prospector Handicap coming in from off the pace, returning to the distance at which he is 6-for-10. He’s had two very strong bullet moves since his last win and will be third off the layoff for Navarro. Given the light impost and pace setting, Chublicious could cause fireworks at 12-1 morning line.
7) Requite – Javier Castellano, 116 lbs, George Weaver – Another horse likely to rocket to the lead early on, the Warrior’s Reward colt was second in last year’s Amsterdam Stakes (II) and returned to the winners’ circle in his first start since that performance, taking a stakes at Gulfstream. Attracting Castellano and being 2-for-2 at six furlongs, he is very intriguing. The class step up is a little concerning, especially given all but one of his wins came at Gulfstream Park (he did break his maiden at first asking at Saratoga in 2014). Given he’s a speed horse and Weaver is just at 9% in graded company, I would use him as value underneath.
8) All Star Red – Irad Ortiz Jr, 115 lbs, Rudy Rodriguez – It’s a big step up for the Five Star Day colt, who transferred to Rudy three starts ago from Michelle Nevin before winning at Aqueduct and finishing second in two other starts. Likely to run late, All Star Red has big shoes to fill.
Top 4 Picks in Order (with preferred odds):
#6 Chublicious (8-1)
#3 Delta Bluesman (3-1)
#4 A. P. Indian (3-1)
#7 Requite (10-1)
Value Pick: #6 Chublicious has been a big improver in a stable that ships very well. With so many early pace horses in the mix, Chublicious could easily make a strong closing move like so many have done already down the center of the stretch to launch a big upset. He looks rarin’ to go and why not give him a go while he’s still overlooked.