Haskell Invitational and Jim Dandy Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
We are going to preview a top race or races each weekend through the summer and into the fall as horse racing's sights shift to the road to the Breeders' Cup, and we start with two three-year-old spectacles in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on Saturday and the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on Sunday. The three-year-old male division goes into a bit of a hiatus after the Belmont Stakes as horses regroup after the Triple Crown trail, and horses that weren't on the trail get ready to attack. This weekend traditionally marks the return to top-level action leading up to the Travers next month and the Breeders' Cup at the beginning of November.
This year these races have even more significance. Justify was incredibly dominant as he marched to history as a Triple Crown winner just 111 days after making his racing debut. It was like nothing we have ever seen, but unfortunately we will never see him race again. An injury has forced his retirement, though I strongly suspect that was just a convenient excuse for an ownership group that had no interest in risking another race. With him gone, an otherwise wide open and talented three-year-old field has a chance to stake their claim. We think we know who the best horses are in the class beyond Justify, and this weekend will be a good test of whether we are on the right track.
This is an on-site prep race for the Jim Dandy, the jewel of the summer racing season for this division, so I am somewhat surprised that only five horses are heading to Saratoga this weekend. It's an interesting field, though, with five horses that really need to prove themselves. Vino Rosso, the even-money favorite for Todd Pletcher, won the Wood Memorial to become a legitimate Derby threat. But the son of Curlin didn't have great days in either the Derby or the Belmont. The breeding is sound and the connections are excellent for this spot, but at this price I can't help but look elsewhere. Second choice Tenfold, one of two Steve Asmussen entries, is another son of Curlin - this time out of a Tapit mare - who was third in the Preakness in just his fourth career start then fifth in the Belmont. I like his upside more than Vino Rosso, and he'll likely be my first choice in the race, though I wish the price was solidly better than the 8/5 it opens at. Mark Casse's Flameaway, a son of Scat Daddy like Justify, is third choice at 7/2, and I hate the price. He was awful in the Derby, and not much better in the Ohio Derby, and he needs to prove himself before I take him seriously.
I like and respect D. Wayne Lukas, but I hate his horse Sporting Chance here - or really in any high-level race. He was largely irrelevant in the Preakness and hasn't run an impressive race since the Hopeful in September - though that was here at Saratoga. Still, he's an easy pass. And the long shot is the other Asmussen horse, Reride, who was aimed elsewhere originally but entered when Asmussen saw the field was coming up short. This horse has had a bizarre path this year, racing at Delta Downs, Sunland Park, Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, and Canterbury Park in his four outings. I would be willing to bet that he is the only horse ever to run at those four tracks in a career, never mind in a spring. He's not good enough, but at 12/1 with Irad Ortiz aboard in this field, he'll be in my exotics.
It's a slightly bigger field of seven for this $1 million race. The clear favorite is Good Magic, the two-year-old champion who was probably the best horse not named Justify this spring. He's the 6/5 favorite and has worked steadily - and well - since recovering from the Preakness and skipping the Belmont. Good Magic fought Justify neck-and-neck early in the Preakness and ran out of gas. His race shouldn't be as challenging out of the gate here. His family owes me money - I lost money betting on sire Curlin in this race when he finished third as favorite in 2007. I'm planning to collect now as this is a horse I like in a race that sets up well for him. He'll be on top of my exotics.
The second choice at 3/1 is Bravazo, who ran in all three Triple Crown races. The highlight was his second-place finish in the Preakness, when he passed a fading Good Magic and almost surprised Justify, who didn't seem to notice him. The Belmont wasn't a great race for him, but he's an honest horse - more than a hugely-talented one - and he could be a factor here.
Core Beliefs at 4/1 and Lone Sailor at 5/1 are meeting again after an epic battle in the Ohio Derby a month ago. Lone Sailor made a dazzling move to take the lead in the stretch but was nipped by Core Beliefs at the wire by not even a full nose. They are both nice horses, but I struggle to believe they are at Good Magic's level if the favorite is in form.
The final three runners are easy to discard, so my bets will center on Good Magic over combinations of the other three.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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