Check out our predictions and odds for the 2020 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga!
In what could be one of the key races leading up to this year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint, the excellent recent form of Volatile will be put to the test in a compact field of five sprinting six furlongs in Saturday’s Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt.
The winner of a 4-of-5 lifetime has dazzled with two eye-catching wins so far in 2020. He began the season with a romping win at Oaklawn Park. More recently, the son of Violence shattered the track record at Churchill Downs when blitzing the field in the Aristides. Despite making his graded stakes debut in the Vanderbilt, he figures to be a solid favorite against a field of stakes winners.
Chief among Volatile’s competition includes a trio of multiple graded stakes winners in Firenze Fire, who is coming off a smart score in Belmont’s True North (G2), Whitmore, who has amassed better than $3 million in earnings as a top sprinter for the past several years, and Mind Control, who is a two-time Grade 1 winner over the main track at Saratoga.
|What to watch||Alfred G. Vanderbilt|
|When||Saturday, July 25 — 6:16 pm Eastern time|
|How to watch||Fox Sports|
A horse I’ve followed since his debut, he took things to a whole new exciting level last time when winning the Aristides at Churchill Downs. The turn of foot he displayed at the top of the stretch is one that few horses will ever know. It was only his second start of the season, and the fifth of his career, so I believe it to be more of a sign to come, rather than a flash in the pan performance. He has stepped into a bit of a hornet’s nest here, with a trio of top sprinters, who have all won at Saratoga before. Having said that, I do believe that it is the perfect proving ground to prove just how good he really is. He has the most speed in the race, but if someone else does hustle out early, he is more than capable of stalking and pouncing. I believe he is the best six-furlong horse in the country. He is the top pick.
Part of the string of horses formerly with trainer Jason Servis, this multiple graded stakes winner demonstrated that he has not lost a step for his new barn with a very solid victory last out at Belmont Park. He’s proven himself a very nice one-turn runner over the years and has good tactical speed for any type of race set up. Now trained by Kelly Breen, he certainly merits respect for his excellent record, but he is one horse in the race who I do not believe likes Saratoga as much as he does Belmont. With a similar running style to the top pick, I suspect he will lose that battle early in the stretch, and not be the one to stick around for a second.
Judging by his last two performances, the time has not caught up with this 7-year-old gelding just yet. Armed with a strong closing kick, a win in his only previous start at Saratoga, and proven class, it would come as no surprise to see this Ron Moquett-trainee run another strong race. He certainly appreciates the distance of six furlongs as evidenced by his 12-for-21 lifetime mark at the trip. He’s been away for a few months since his sharp victory in Count Fleet (G3) at Oaklawn Park, but his works are sharp, and this veteran undoubtedly knows when to turn it on. Volatile looks like a special type of sprinter, but Whitmore is the one most likely to make a race of it.
If you are a big believer in horses for courses, then this 4-year-old son of Stay Thirsty makes plenty of sense. This will be his third trip to Saratoga, and if he wins it will be his third consecutive summer at the Spa with a Grade 1 victory. That’s certainly an impressive start for a horse who has proven to have a nose for the wire. His last race looks ugly, finishing way back in the Grade 1 Carter, but it was over a sloppy track that he didn’t care for. Draw a line through it, and Mind Control is an obvious threat. I’m not quite sure he is fast enough to stay with Volatile as the field turns for home, but it would be a surprise to see this one run anything but a good race.
The lone dark horse in the field is not without a chance. Though a bit inconsistent, he has run some very good sprints over the past two seasons. His Chick Lang win last spring was very good, as was his performance in last fall’s Phoenix (G2) when he finished just a nose behind Whitmore at Keeneland. Last time out, it was only an allowance, but he beat a Grade 1 winner in Hog Creek Hustle. Class is the question, but he does come in sharp. If you are looking for a longshot in the Vanderbilt, he is your only option and not a terrible one at that.
$20 Exacta – Volatile Over Whitmore = $20
$15 Exacta – Volatile Over Mind Control = $15
If you’re playing only to win, go with my top pick, Volatile (6/5).
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Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Email: [email protected]
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