Saratoga: The best way to bet the Alfred G. Vanderbilt
Ten years ago, trainer Steve Asmussen won Saratoga’s Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) in easy fashion with a sensational sprinter named Majesticperfection, who was making his graded stakes debut after he dominated a listed stakes race with jaw-dropping authority.
Can lightning strike twice for Asmussen?
On Saturday, the trainer will saddle #4 Volatile (4-5) in the Vanderbilt, and if this lightly raced sprinter brings anything close to his "A" game, he can dominate the Vanderbilt in much the same manner as Majesticperfection.
Victorious in four of his five starts to date, Volatile showed promise as a 3-year-old last season, but he has developed into a monster in 2020.
After he crushed a 6-furlong allowance at Oaklawn Park by 7 1/2 lengths, Volatile made his stakes debut in the 6-furlong Aristides S. on June 6 at Churchill Downs. The result? A freakish eight-length victory in 1:07.57, just 0.02 second off the track record.
Volatile ran a huge race in the Aristides. After he pressed fast splits of :21.48 and :44.36, he blew the doors off his pursuers with a :11.30 penultimate furlong, then finished in :11.91, without any special urging from jockey Ricardo Santana. Volatile raced a little greenly at the top of the stretch, but this appeared to be in part because he was so full of run that he hardly knew what to do with himself.
Volatile’s victories this year have produced Brisnet Speed ratings of 107 and 109, which stamps him as the fastest horse in the Vanderbilt field. In a race without any clear frontrunners, Volatile can seize the early initiative, run his pursuers off their feet, and draw away to score another powerful victory.
For the runner-up spot, #5 Mind Control (6-1) is the horse I want to play. While he never fired over a sloppy track in the Carter H. (G1) last month, he was returning from a three-month layoff and figures to be sharper over a dry track in his second start back.
In March, Mind Control overcame a poor start to win Aqueduct’s 6-furlong Tom Fool H. (G3) with a 107 Brisnet Speed rating, so we know he has the speed to compete at this level. He’s also 2-for-2 at Saratoga, where he battled to victories in the 2018 Hopeful (G1) and 2019 H. Allen Jerkens (G1).