Best Horse Racing Picks This Weekend: Saratoga, Del Mar, Monmouth Park

Best Horse Racing Picks this Weekend July 31

Sprinters and 3-year-old males will take center stage as the excellent summer season moves along at Saratoga and Del Mar. Leading the way will be the champion Essential Quality running in Saturday’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy in his first race since winning the Belmont Stakes.

The Jim Dandy will be one of four races we look at this week from Saratoga, which also includes Grade 1 sprinters facing off in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt. Mischievous Alex looks like the one to beat there, but Breeders’ Cup champ Whitmore may have a lot to say about that. On the West Coast, C Z Rocket leads the way in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar. Both key sprints are contested at 6 furlongs.

Let’s take a look at this week’s six selections, beginning with Friday’s Curlin Stakes, which serves as a prep for the Grade 1 Travers later in the meet.

Friday Races

Curlin Stakes, Saratoga, 1 1/8 miles (dirt), 3-year-olds

First Captain will put his perfect record on the line when he tops a field of seven 3-year-old males in Friday’s $120,000 Curlin Stakes at Saratoga. The winner of the Grade 3 Dwyer at Belmont Park on July 5 in only his third career start, will be making his debut around two turns in the 9-furlong test.

Chief among the undefeated favorite’s competition will be Dynamic One. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Union rags colt has not run since finishing way back in the Kentucky Derby. Before that he won a maiden nicely, before just missing in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct two starts back.

The Pick – First Captain (7/5) – I believe the best is yet to come for this handsome son of Curlin.

Saturday Races

Jim Dandy (G2), Saratoga, 1 1/8 miles (dirt), 3-year-olds

Essential Quality, a winner in six of his seven career starts and the reigning 2-year-old champion, will be heavily favored when the gates spring open on Saturday, as he headlines a six-horse field in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga. In making his first start since winning the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, the son of Tapit will be using the race as a springboard for the Grade 1 Travers Stakes later in the meet.

Among his challengers will be the up-and-coming Masqueparade. The Upstart colt was a rousing winner of a Kentucky Derby day allowance event for trainer Al Stall, Jr. He validated that romping win with an equally impressive and game score in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby last time out. Another who should garner attention is the Canadian-bred Weyburn. A winner of the Gotham earlier this year, he was a good second behind Mandaloun most recently at Monmouth Park.

The Pick – Weyburn (5/1) – If Essential Quality is not razor-sharp for this one, the speed of Weyburn could prove very dangerous.

Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1), Saratoga, 6 furlongs (dirt), 3-year-olds and up

Mischievous Alex, a big winner of the Grade 1 Carter earlier this year, as well as two other impressive scores at Gulfstream Park, rates the favorite’s roll in a classy field of nine set for Saturday’s $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga. Last time a good third when stretched out to a mile for the Grade 1 Met Mile, the Saffie Joseph, Jr. runner looks to establish himself as the East’s top sprinter.

Chief among his challengers in the 6-furlong dash is the reigning Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner, Whitmore. The 8-year-old gelding has not won in three starts this year, but has run well in each and is always a threat in important sprint races. He also finished second in this race last year and is a past Grade 1 winner at Saratoga

The Pick – Whitmore (4/1) – The old warrior should love all the speed in here to set the table for his late run.

Bowling Green (G2), Saratoga, 1 3/8 miles (turf), 3-year-olds and up

Channel Marker, the winner of the Grade 1 Sword Dancer when he last visited the Spa, has been tabbed as the morning line favorite in Saturday’s $250,000 Bowling Green on the Saratoga turf. A winner of better than $3.2 million, the 7-year-old son of English Channel will be making his first start since a pair of starts earlier this year in the Middle East. He finished last season off with a game third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Among his challengers in this wide-open affair is another experienced son of English Channel. He doesn’t win often, but when he does, Channel Cat generally picks a big spot to do it. The Jack Siterson trainee won this race two summers ago at odds of 13/1, and more recently he pulled off another surprise by holding off Gufo to secure a win in the Grade 1 Man O’ War as an 8/1 chance.

The Pick – Breakpoint (10/1) – A star in Chile, he needed his last and should be ready to bring much better in his American stakes debut.

Bing Crosby (G1), Del Mar, 6 furlongs (dirt), 3-year-olds, and up

C Z Rocket looks like the one to beat in a field of nine talented sprinters set for Saturday’s Grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar. A graded stakes winner here last summer, the 7-year-old proved his class with a runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. A winner of his only two sprint tries this year, he comes into the race off a second-place finish last time in a sloppy Sexton Mile at Lone Star Park.

Collusion Illusion, who won this race last season as a 3-year-old, and Dr. Schivel, who won the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last summer as a juvenile, could offer the biggest challenge to the favorite in this 6 furlong test. Each of them are proven successful over the Del Mar racing surface.

The Pick – C Z Rocket (2/1) – Only one horse has beaten him in his last 8 sprint tries and he looks well spotted in this field with tons of speed.

Monmouth Oaks (G3), Monmouth Park, 1 1/8 miles (dirt), 3-year-old fillies

Midnight Obsession, runner-up last time in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks, and never worse than second in four career starts, could be the tepid choice among a field of nine sophomore fillies entered for the $250,000 Monmouth Oaks on Saturday on the Jersey Shore. The Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Overanalyze will have Paco Lopez in the irons as she seeks her first career stakes victory.

Chief among her challengers are Allworthy, who has won two straight at Gulfstream Park for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. and the unbeaten daughter of Upstart, Edie Meeny Miny Mo, who has impressed while winning her first two career starts at Pimlico.

The Pick – Gigi B. (8/1) – Long shot Street Sense filly is headed in the right direction for trainer Brendan Walsh.

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Brian Zipse

Expert on Horse Racing

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]