Ballston Spa Handicap
I don't customarily handicap midweek races but the Ballston Spa is such a good race I can't resist. This is definitely a G-1 caliber event despite it's G-2 status. Everyone who bets this race will have to decide what to do with Wait A While and My Typhoon. They should dominate the betting and may just dominate the race. Wait A While has lost some luster but I tend to agree with her connections, her form has not been all that bad this year. She's only had 2 races that count and in her win she beat Precious Kitten who has been winning in California and in her loss she let My Typhoon get away with murder on the front end. Wait A While was explosive last year and we might see a return to that here. As a handicapper though I think you should oppose her. Most of her impressive races came in California and the Pletcher barn is ice cold. Wait A While has also been away since June with various problems. Maybe if she drifts to 4/1 she'd be worth a play but not at 2/1. My Typhoon is on a major hot streak, in her last 3 races she's claimed the scalps of Makderah, Wait A While and Precious Kitten. The only horse to have beaten her this year is the underrated Cassydora. Amazingly she has not been favoured in any of her last 8 races despite compiling a 4-1-1 record. I think it's irresponsible not to use her. This is her favorite track and distance, she is in the form of her life and her trainer has not been this hot since the Cigar era. The one thing that gives her competition a ray of hope if the projected pace scenario. My Typhoon likes to be forwardly placed near a slow pace. As the BRISnet pace figures clearly show, when she gets to set or be near a slow pace she is basically unbeatable but when the pace is quick or even average she is vulnerable. Now Iron Goddess should set a healthy early gallop but the wild card is Pommes Frites. I'm very puzzled as to why Mott has her in here. She is a speed horse and a classy one at that and it seems that her presence is actually a hindrance to My Typhoon. Pommes Frites does give me hope though, hope that a better price can be had. Meribel looks like an excellent candidate to excel here. The distance is more up her alley this time and she should get a decent pace to run into. She is a very under rated filly and is easily the best closer in the race. The one worry is that Gomez is off and Johnny V, who hasn't won a race in weeks, gets on. I don't mind Velasquez on speed or close stalkers but with closers he almost invariably swings wide and gives up ground just to avoid the possibility of trouble. Much has been made of My Typhoon's love for the course but Meribel's only loss at Saratoga came in the Diana when she had no pace to chase. This is Meribel's best chance to step up and beat tough company like this I think she has been well built towards this. I don't like Vacare at all, something about her has always screamed fraud to me. I do give Amansara a shot to hit the bottom of the frame, it's hard to see her beating the whole field but she did match up well against Meribel last year and her first start this year should have taken care of the cobwebs. In the end I have to stick with the most reliable class benchmark and the most likely upsetter, but there may be many interesting exotics to be had using horses like Amansara and Pommes Frites underneath.
Personal Ensign Stakes
There are plenty of reasons to like this 6 horse field, chief among them is the fact that many horses have clear preferences and tendencies. Take Indian Vale for example. At 9f she is dominant and maybe even unbeatable, she is 6 for 6 with Beyer Figs that make her a match for Rags to Riches but at all other route distances she has failed to even hit the frame. Given Pletchers current cold streak (which may be broken by Friday) she is definitely not worth a play. We also have two horses who like the front end. Teammate and Sugar Shake will renew their rivalry and they might go at it from the start. The problem with both of them is that they're slow and none of the others would have to run particularly well to beat the pair of them. Unbridled Belle looms a big danger, she seems to be a 10f filly but 3 of her 4 wins have come at Delaware, she is 1 for 7 at all other surfaces and that one win was a maiden at Laurel. That basically leaves me with two bombs, Miss Shop and Lila Paige. I think Miss Shop is mostly a clunk up kind of horse, Jerkens does have some past successes in this race with longshots but I prefer Lila Paige. This 6 year old mare is rounding into the best form of her life. She owns two wins over the track and should find the pace to her liking. She is not the same class as these mares and would likely lose to them 9 times out of 10 but all we need is for her to be on track this one time and she could light up the board. I would officially cancel this wager if the race has any scratches involving pace horses.
EDIT: I've rethought this race a bit and I will add Unbridled Belle as a selection. Despite her Delaware heavy form she did beat Lila Paige by a country mile and may just be a better horse.