Woody’s Horse Hunch: Handicapping Opening Day At Saratoga Race Course

Hello, it’s Woody again, from Woody’s Barbershop in Saratoga Springs, and well, things have taken a turn for the scary here in the last few days. Truth be told, I’m writing this from a hospital bed and am about to go under the saw for a little open heart surgery and a triple bypass—give or take an artery. But don’t worry about me; I have complete faith that the surgery will be a major success, and I’ll have a speedy recovery.

I hope all’s well with everyone out there in Saratoga (and cyberspace), and that you’re healthy, happy and getting yourself outdoors and enjoying the Saratoga summer. Need I remind you how punishing a winter it was? If you’re not, get on up outta that chair, pour yourself a cold one and enjoy some fresh air. And then enjoy one for me, too. (Really, please don’t forget to toast to my health!)

So as I was saying in my last Horse Hunch column, no need to pinch yourself, because this Friday, July 20, is Opening Day at Saratoga Race Course! And horses (and horsemen) have all but invaded our little town. Now, I’ve spent the last couple of months over at the track researching and learning everything that I could to pass on a few great tips and winners to you—but lo and behold, I’ve got this clogged artery here, and it’s going to be slowing down my handicapping for the first few weeks of the meet. (Make sure to grab a copy of saratoga living‘s “The Races!” issue on Friday to read my debut article in the magazine!)

All handicapping and print articles aside, I’ve still got a few pointers up my sleeve that’ll do you right, wherever you set up shop at the track on Friday and beyond. For starters, José Ortiz is the best jockey on the planet. Bet him, not the horse, and you’ll never go broke. Kendrick Carmouche is my personal favorite jockey, and you should bet on him if you want to win the big bucks. Nobody gives you more of an honest ride time after time, race after race. When it comes to saving a horse on the lead, seriously, Carmouche’s far and above the best.

In terms of trainers for opening week, it’s worth assuming that both Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown will be vying (and frontrunners) for the top trainer title at Saratoga and both will have horses shooting out of the gate opening weekend. So if your program says that there are Pletcher or Brown two-year-olds in X race, they’ll likely be winners. Of course, don’t forget about Ian Wilkes, George Weaver, Jimmy Bond, Mike Dilger and my buddy, Eric Guillot, who are all extremely talented trainers and can win any race and pay big anytime.

So until next week, when I’m home recovering and studying again, play it smart and have fun!

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