$500,000 Sword Dancer (G1)

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$500,000 Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga on Race 9 (Saturday, August 29, 2020: 5:43 p.m./ET; 2:43 p.m./PT) Mile and a half on turf (four-year-olds and upward.)

Named after the 1977 Racing Hall of Fame inductee who won the Belmont (G1), Metropolitan Handicap (G1), Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Travers (G1) in 1959, the Sword Dancer (G1) goes as the feature race on another top-class Saturday card at Saratoga. Let’s keep the good times rolling:

#1 HIGHLAND SKY went off at odds of 23/1 in the August 1 Bowling Green over this turf course and unofficially ran third behind #8 SADLER’S JOY and #6 CROSS BORDER, but was moved up to second via disqualification. Make no mistake, he was never winning the race, but he put up a respectable effort that might be good enough to hit the board again in this spot.

#2 AQUAPHOBIA pulled off a 10/1 upset in the United Nations (G1) on July 18 at Monmouth and faces a deeper field in this Grade I event. Three starts ago, he ran an impressive race that is worth mentioning. Although he didn’t win, he finished second behind last week’s Fourstardave (G1) winner HALLADAY. Top North American jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. rides for trainer Mike Maker and they win at a 25% clip when teaming up together. Two recent bullet workouts leading up to this race indicate this guy is feeling good.

#3 MARZO makes his second start off a four-and-a-half-month layoff for trainer Mike Maker. Son of MEDAGLIA D’ORO ran off on the lead in his comeback race, the Bowling Green (G2), and faded to fifth. Irad Ortiz Jr. rode that day and opts to ride #2 AQUAPHOBIA, which tells us what we need to know. Others look classier.

#4 CHANNEL MAKER went off at 5/1 in the Rowling Green and finished fourth. Two races ago, he lost by a length to INSTILLED REGARD in the Manhattan (G1), a respectable effort all things considered. A Grade I winner with over $2.2 million in the bank, he is a consistently hard-trying horse. That said, it’s not easy to trust him on the win end as he currently sits on a 10-race losing streak.

#5 CORELLI makes his third start in the form cycle for trainer Jonathan Thomas and may be ready for a peak effort. After a poor performance in the Tiller Stakes off a nine-month layoff, he returned and finished a length and three quarters behind #2 AQUAPHOBIA in his most recent afternoon appearance, the United Nations (G1). Top jockey Joel Rosario picks up the mount, which only adds to the appeal, and he figures to go off at a decent price.

#6 CROSS BORDER unofficially lost by a neck to #8 SADLER’S JOY in the Bowling Green (G2) but was moved up to first via disqualification. It was a great effort given he sat well off the pace, something he doesn’t often do, and still flew home late. He sports an undefeated record on this turf course (five-for-five) and trainer Mike Maker knows how to keep his horses, especially distance turf horses, healthy and strong for lengthy periods of time. Definitely in with a huge chance.

#7 PEDRO CARA (FR) makes his first start since February for a barn who wins at a strong 22% rate with their trainees off a layoff over 180 days. This gelding’s last race came at Doha Racecourse in Qatar on February 22, when he ran third behind the talented FRENCH KING in the Amir Trophy (Group 1). Two starts ago, he won the Qatar Derby (G2). John Velazquez rides and this new shooter could definitely make some noise.

#8 SADLER’S JOY unofficially won the Bowling Green (G2) but was disqualified to fourth for interference in deep stretch. Son of KITTEN’S JOY has won $2.5 million in purses and multiple graded stakes, but hits the board more often than he wins.


1. #6 CROSS BORDER - Loves the Saratoga turf course.

2. #2 AQUAPHOBIA – Former claimer won G1 last race.

3. #8 SADLER’S JOY - Pro is always right there at the wire.

LONGSHOT VALUE PLAY - #5 CORELLI - Rounding into good form.


I’ll box my top two picks and longshot value play in exactas and use all four selections in a $1 trifecta box. I’ll use my remaining $2 and play it to win on another likely longshot.

BANKROLL PLAY ($50 Budget)

$4 Exacta Box: #2 AQUAPHOBIA and #5 CORELLI and #6 CROSS BORDER ($24).

$1 Trifecta Box: #2 AQUAPHOBIA and #5 CORELLI and #6 CROSS BORDER and #8 SADLER’S JOY ($24).

$2 Win: #7 PEDRO CARA


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