Friday, July 20, 2018

Handicapper's Corner: Sanford Stakes (G3)

Looking for a Silver Lining in Sanford Stakes

By: Laurie Ross, IMTBreds

The 2018 Sanford Stakes is the first of three graded stakes races carded for two-year-old colts during the Saratoga meet. The others are the Saratoga Special and Hopeful Stakes (G1).  This year, a field of seven colts are looking for their first graded stakes victory. The promising Dream Maker scratched.

The charges of super trainers Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen make up half of the field. Pletcher is looking for his seventh Sanford Stakes trophy.

The Favorites
SOMBEYAY (Into Mischief - Teroda, by Limehouse) was very professional in his second start, the 5 1/2-furlong Tremont Stakes. He sat near the back of the pack during the early stages, took the short way ‘round, and had to come off the rail to pass horses. The Todd Pletcher trainee gained ground steadily but had to settle for second, missing by just 3/4 length. The extra distance of the Sanford should help the colt, and he signaled his readiness with a sharp five-furlong bullet breeze

Pletcher’s other starter LEXITONIAN (Speightstown - Riviera Romper, by Tapit) settled directly behind the pace in his five-furlong debut, then squeezed through a narrow opening on the rail to win by a measured length. Lexitonian’s last two breezes were professional, and he tried blinkers for the first time breezing with the older maiden King Orb on July 7.  Some may recall Lexitonian’s second dam, the Grade 1 sprinter SWAP FLIPAROO, who placed in the Astarita (G2) and Miss Grillo Stakes as a juvenile.

Mark Casse’s barn is loaded with two-year-olds this year. He scratched the promising Dream Maker but is represented in the Sanford by STRIKE SILVER (Violence - Frank's Hope, by Pulpit).  The son of top 2nd crop sire Violence captured his debut at Churchill Downs, traveling five furlongs in :58.38. The dark bay colt fought every step of the way, putting away three different challengers, and holding on to win by a neck over the royally-bred Tapit colt, Nitrous. Strike Silver’s dam is a 3/4 sister to the dam of the multiple stakes winning turf miler Dreaming of Sophia. Strike Silver’s second dam SILVER MAIDEN captured five of six starts, including the Frizette (G1), Arlington-Washington Lassie S.(G2), and the Honest Pleasure Stakes against the boys. Strike Silver had a sharp second to last breeze at Keeneland, traveling four furlongs in :47.4. His last work was an easy four-furlong trip around the Saratoga oval in :51.4.

Logical Longshots
BANO SOLO (Goldencents - Royale Paradise, by Unbridled's Song) sold for $400K after breezing two furlongs in :20.1 at the OBS March sale. The son of new sire Goldencents promptly won at first asking at Churchill Downs, traveling five furlongs in :59.00, while gearing down, three lengths in front of the field. Bano Solo breezed a bullet 5F 1:01.40 in company with Whisky Echo on July 9. Both moved strongly past the wire.

Steve Asmussen’s WHISKEY ECHO (Tiznow - Atala, by Stormy Atlantic) led every step of the way in his 5 1/2-furlong debut at Belmont, winning by an easy 3 3/4 lengths. The dark bay colt has the pedigree to handle middle to classic distances and has some impressive performers in his distaff line.  Whiskey Echo’s unraced dam is a 3/4 sister to ALDIZA, who placed in the Frizette (G1) and Tempted Stakes (G3) as a juvenile, and later captured the
Go For Wand (G1) at 1 1/8 miles. She and her daughters produced GSWs  FAR FROM OVER (Withers S. G3),  TIMELINE (Peter Pan G3),  and multiple graded stakes-placed Lone Sailor, to name a few. Whiskey Echo’s third dam is Rene-de-Course (superior producer) COURTLY DEE. 

Talented but Green
CHASE GREATNESS (More Than Ready - Salsa Star, by Giant's Causeway) was victorious in his second start when stretching to 5 1/2 furlongs at Churchill Downs. He battled with Carter Cat most of the way, both colts still green, and lugging in and out down the stretch, looking like two friends on their way home from a pub crawl. Chase Greatness persevered by a half-length, strictly on talent.  The dark bay colt is a half-brother to the listed stakes winning miler Blamed and stakes placed turf miler Chubby Star.  Chase Greatness had an easy four-furlong breeze over the Saratoga dirt in company with last year’s Arlington-Washington Futurity hero BARRY LEE. 

KNICKS GO (Paynter - Kosmo's Buddy, by Outflanker) zipped five furlongs in :57.96 at Ellis Park, wining his debut by an easy 3 1/2 lengths. The Ben Colebrook trainee shied from the whip a few times but looked like he could go around again. Paynter’s son recorded a last out bullet four-furlong breeze in :47 at Keeneland. The caveat here is that he’s shipping, adding distance, and hasn’t had a breeze over the track.

#1  SOMBEYAY (2-1)
#7  BANO SOLO (6-1)
#4 WHISKEY ECHO (8-1) – Longshot 

The key to being a successful handicapper is knowing which races to play and which to pass. Early juvenile stakes with short fields are the later.
Anything can happen with two-year-olds. That being said, betting a Todd Pletcher baby at Saratoga is a no brainer. Unfortunately, it’s a no money earner, either. Physical handicapping, selecting babies by how they look in the paddock and warming up is crucial. 
Absent that, if you must absolutely bet this race, toss a few dollars on the longshots and hope for the best.  Alternatively, you can key the favorites over the rest.

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