Saratoga Starting Gate

At this time of year hardly any stakes races for 2-year-olds have been run, and comparing the form of juveniles from different tracks is a tricky process.

But when examining the entries for Saturday’s $150,000 Sanford Stakes (G3) at Saratoga, #2 Raging Whiskey jumps out. Somehow this son of Bourbon Courage has already been beaten by two future stakes winners, which says something about the quality of competition he’s been facing.

Raging Whiskey debuted in a seemingly unremarkable 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight May 19 at Santa Anita Park, where he broke slowly and rallied to finish in a dead-heat for third. But the winner, Fore Left, came right back to romp in the Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park, while the runner-up—Phantom Boss—immediately broke his maiden before a victory in the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. For good measure the runner who earned a share of third-place with Raging Whiskey—Verb—returned to finish third in the Bashford Manor.

Obviously this was a competitive and high-quality maiden heat, so it wasn’t surprising to see Raging Whiskey come back and win at the same condition at Santa Anita by 2 1/4 lengths. A sharper break helped his chances, and Raging Whiskey led all the way.

With these form lines under his belt, Raging Whiskey looms as the proven class horse in the Sanford Stakes. He’ll stretch out to six furlongs and make his first start for new trainer Doug O’Neill, but there’s enough stamina in Raging Whiskey’s pedigree to suggest he won’t have any trouble negotiating distances up to a mile. And while O’Neill rarely ships horses to Saratoga, he does have a 2-for-8 record here since 2015, and betting his runners blindly would have yielded a profit.

In terms of speed figures, Raging Whiskey boasts the highest number of any entrant on the Brisnet scale. On the Beyer scale he comes in a bit light, compared to #3 Cucina (narrow winner over a sloppy track at Belmont) and #5 By Your Side (who edged Verb by a half-length in a maiden race at Churchill Downs). But speed figures for juveniles can be unreliable, and I wouldn’t hold Raging Whiskey’s modest Beyers against him. He has already demonstrated some potential against high-quality runners, and you can argue he’s facing an easier field in the Sanford.

Let’s bet Raging Whiskey to win and key him on top of a trifecta with Cucina, By Your Side, and #4 Tomato Bill underneath.

$12 to win on #2 Raging Whiskey
$3 trifecta: 2 with 3,4,5 with 3,4,5 ($18)

Good luck!