It was a wet and wild week at the Spa. It opened amidst an absolute deluge and we never saw a Turf race until Friday evening.
Still the races were chocked full of quality. We saw allowance appearances from Visionaire, Mushka and Wanderin Boy as well as some good looking first time starters.
Munnings likely owns the best 2yo debut by any horse of the meet so far. Cribnote also ran a huge race but it came in statebred company. Munnings, on the other hand, won like a $1.7 million dollar 2yo should win. He overcome what appears to be a very nice 2yo of Nick Zito's, Just A Coincidence. Oddly enough both of Zito's most promising 2yo colts from opening week ended up finishing second to superior looking horses. Cognito denied the Zito Brave Victory in the first juvenile race of the meet. Both of them look to have nice future's ahead.
The 2yo stakes races were a bit of a disappointment to my eye. Neither Jardin nor Desert Party impressed me all that much. Both races were terribly slow and although they came in the slop I do suspect that these are not a pair of killers. They are perhaps worth opposing next time out. Jardin looks like a horse who will have a solid career but is not brilliant enough to contend once this division fully blooms. Desert Party sat a perfect trip behind a solid pace and still did not finish very quickly.
The Whitney often crowns an emerging powerhouse in the older horse division. Horses like Lawyer Ron, Invasor, Roses In May and Awesome Again all won the Whitney and springboarded to the top of the division but I feel with Commentator that it was merely a lesson in basic race tactics. If you give a quality speed horse an easy lead he will be tough to catch. It's hard to get truly excited about a horse who has always faded with pace pressure and is set to contest a listed stakes race next. He also might bypass the Breeders' Cup altogether.
To my eye the most impressive horse of the first week of racing at Saratoga was Desert Key. He was seen narrowly losing the Amsterdam to the classy Kodiak Kowboy. Desert Key was making his fifth lifetime start and his first in graded stakes company. The speedy Eaton's Gift outbroke him but was hard ridden to stay in front through a first quarter in :21.79. Anyone who has followed this crop knows that Eaton's Gift is a very swift horse but just after they drilled the first quarter Desert Key went right by him under a hammer lock and posted a half in :44.19. He opened up two lengths around the turn without being asked and set sail for home. You always knew that a classy horse like Kodiak Kowboy would be tough to deny after sitting behind fast fractions like that but Desert Key was not giving an inch. He battled Kodiak Kowboy all through the lane and was just denied by a nose at the line. The pair got an excellent 108 Beyer figure for the effort which puts them on par with J Be K and many of the older sprinters out there. I suspect that Desert Key is going to turn into a fantastic horse, maybe even the best sprinter in the nation once he fully develops.
Handicapping in the opening week was pretty difficult at least for me. I hit just 14 winners. That's my lowest total ever for an opening week at the Spa. I managed to show a slight profit in dirt races it was the Turf that was killing me. I suppose it was to my benefit that Turf racing was held off until Friday. My biggest problem though was that my highest priced winner paid just $11.60. Consequently my picks showed a flat bet loss of -$16.10 or -13.88%. It's not an insurmountable deficit but it was a rather discouraging week. My selections will continue to be posted on the sidebar each day. They might be useful for knowing who to oppose at least on the sod.
Best of luck to everyone for week two of America's greatest race meet.