Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown is well known for his success training high-class turf horses. He’s won a bevy of Breeders’ Cup races, trained a large handful of champion horses, and saddled a winner in seemingly every major grass race in North America.
Well, almost every major grass race. Surprisingly, the $400,000, Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga has eluded Brown, though he’ll seek to remedy the situation when saddling four of the nine starters in Saturday’s renewal of the 1-mile turf test.
Brown’s four runners form a formidable quartet in this “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Nov. 7 Grade 1 FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF. There’s #1 Raging Bull, runner-up in the 2019 Fourstardave and a runaway winner of the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile three months ago. There’s #6 Uni, a powerful winner of the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Mile. There’s #7 Valid Point, who won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes against 3-year-olds last summer, and #8 Without Parole, victorious in the 2018 Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
But dig a little deeper, and you can make a case for playing against the Brown brigade. Uni is 1-for-3 at Saratoga, finished third as the favorite in the 2019 Fourstardave, and kicked off 2020 with a non-threatening third-place effort the Grade 1 Just a Game Stakes at Belmont Park. Valid Point has finished off the board in two starts outside his own age group. And while Raging Bull and Without Parole are capable competitors in fine form this season, they’re not frequent winners, and they were defeated at short prices when finishing third and fourth in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland last month.
There’s another potential obstacle to overcome – all four of the Brown trainees prefer to rally from off the pace, and there isn’t much speed at all in the Fourstardave field. Defending winner and 2019 Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up #4 Got Stormy likes to be forwardly placed, but she’s not a pacesetter, and she’s been beaten in all four of her starts this season. #9 Chewing Gum could flash speed while exiting a series of sprints, but even when running long last fall he was never more than a pace-pressing type.
This lack of speed could present an advantage to #5 Halladay, hailing from the barn of hot trainer Todd Pletcher. A beautifully-bred son of War Front out of a Tapit mare, Halladay showed serious front-running speed during the winter at Gulfstream Park, wiring a 1-mile allowance race before leading all the way to claim the 1 1/16-mile Sunshine Forever Stakes in the blistering time of 1:38.66. His three closest pursuers – Aquaphobia, Social Paranoia, and Admission Office – have all returned to win graded stakes races.
Halladay could only finish fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga last month, but I thought he ran deceptively well in defeat. A change to pace-tracking tactics took away Halladay’s greatest weapon – his excellent early speed – and allowed the victorious Somelikeithotbrown to escape on an uncontested lead through slow fractions of :24.79, :49.08, and 1:12.43. Despite being taken out of his game, Halladay finished fast (sprinting the final five-sixteenths of a mile in about :29 flat) to cross the wire just 1 ½ lengths behind the winner.
I’m optimistic Halladay will return to his front-running style in the Fourstardave, setting up the potential for a gate-to-wire upset in this paceless race. Certainly the Brown trainees will be formidable, and no one will be surprised if they sweep the exacta or trifecta. But if we can squeeze Halladay into the mix for a top-two finish, the payoff should be lucrative.
Bettors playing on a small budget are encouraged to key Halladay in the exacta with Raging Bull, Uni, and Without Parole. Bolder bettors with more wagering capital can employ the same strategy with trifecta tickets.
Wagering Strategy on a $15 Budget
$2 exacta: 5 with 1,6,8 ($6)
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, 9th race, $2 exacta 5 with 1,6,8
$3 exacta: 1,6,8 with 5 ($9)
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, 9th race, $3 exacta 1,6,8 with 5
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$1 trifecta: 5 with 1,6,8 with 1,6,8 ($6)
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, 9th race, $1 trifecta 5 with 1,6,8 with 1,6,8
$2 trifecta: 1,6,8 with 5 with 1,6,8 ($12)
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, 9th race, $2 trifecta 1,6,8 with 5 with 1,6,8
$2 trifecta: 1,6,8 with 1,6,8 with 5 ($12)
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, 9th race, $2 trifecta 1,6,8 with 1,6,8 with 5
Good luck, and enjoy the race!