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Pete’s Picks: Sage Valley in Forego, Paynter in Woodward

Posted by Pete Mitchell on 8/30/2013 4:51:36 PM

Who: Thoroughbreds – Sage Valley, Fast Bullet, Justin Phillip, Successful Dan, Flat Out, Paynter

What: Horse Racing Betting Tips – The Forego, The Woodward

Where: Saratoga

When: Saturday, August 31st

A pair of Grade 1 events highlight Saratoga’s Saturday card. The 34th Running of The Forego, named after that great gelding from the 1970’s, will feature the formidable even-money entry of Fast Bullet and Justin Phillip, both owned by Zayat Stables LLC. The former has been moved from the barn of Bob Baffert to D. Wayne Lukas, while the latter, a recent Grade 1 winner, is trained by Steve Asmussen. The 60th Running of The Woodward (won by the aforementioned Forego four years in a row) should be a highly contentious affair, with a compact field of six accomplished older runners all in with a shot. Let’s take a closer look at these races below.

While the entry of Fast Bullet and Justin Phillip looks hard to get past, I’m going in another direction. #1-Fast Bullet (1-1) recently changed barns, has been off nearly three months, makes his Spa debut, doesn’t appear to be quite as imposing on fast dirt, and has yet to win carrying more than 122 pounds. #1a-Justin Phillip (1-1) ran the best race of his life last out to earn his first Grade 1 win, and may be a bounce candidate. His last three wins came under imposts of 119 pounds (twice) and 118 pounds. He’ll be picking up six pounds off his latest score. His local record of 5-1-2-1 suggests he’s more likely to settle for a minor award. I’m interested in the sharp 4YO #4-Sage Valley (7-2). He’s a multiple Grade 3 winner who has notched five wins in his last six starts, including the Grade 3 James Marvin locally at the Forego distance of seven furlongs. You’ll note that win came toting 123 pounds, just one shy of his Forego impost. Winning rider Cornelio Velasquez gets the return call, and Sage Valley’s two recent main track breezes suggest he retains his edge. I’ll bet on #4-Sage Valley to win at odds of 3-1 or better, and box him in the exacta with the #1-entry. I’ll also bet a straight 4/5 exacta…#4-Sage Valley over the intriguing longshot #5-Lea (12-1).

In The Woodward, the only winner on the Spa main oval is longshot #7-Alpha (12-1). However, he appears to be in over his head from a figure standpoint. The other contestants with a race over the track are a combined 10-0-7-2, suggesting that a new shooter could get the money. That new shooter is #5-Paynter (2-1), arguably the feel-good story of the year in Thoroughbred horse racing. He has rebounded from a near-death illness with a vengeance…winning his comebacker impressively (earning a Beyer Speed figure of 114), and stretching out to a half-length defeat to the hard-knocking Kettle Corn in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap. He should make a huge leap forward in The Woodward, the third race of his form cycle. The mile-and-one-eighth hits him right between the eyes, and he’s clearly a better horse on dirt than on Del Mar’s synthetic surface. He might also be the lone speed, which would make him doubly-dangerous. I’ll bet on #5-Paynter to win at odds of 7-5 or better.

Those are my horse racing betting tips for Saturday. Best of luck and happy gambling!

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