Marcus Hersh: Picks for Sword Dancer, Forego, Amsterdam

By Marcus Hersh, Daily Racing Form on

Published in Horse Racing

A limited national stakes menu and the chance for heavy rain at Saratoga tamp down excitement for Saturday racing across North America. Take heart: We're one week away from the Kentucky Derby and an avalanche of high-class racing in New York and Kentucky. As for this week, the SoCal sprinters look as inscrutable as ever, so it's a hard pass on the Pat O'Brien, while the Ontario Colleen at Woodbine has a short field. We'll stick to (possibly) soggy Saratoga, instead.


Sword Dancer

I'm looking at this race through the lens of rain, and it really does look as of Thursday like this 1 1/2-mile fixture will be run over yielding or soft ground. That means Channel Maker can break a 10-race losing streak.

You have to dig deeper into his past performances to find it, but Channel Maker is (or was, at least) a wet-turf specialist: From five starts over courses rated yielding or soft he has three wins, and the defeats came at distances short of his best, one with trouble. Channel Maker won the Bowling Green two summers ago over a wet Saratoga course and hit a career peak going this 1 1/2-mile trip on a soft Belmont course.

It doesn't jump off the page, but it's my strong belief Channel Maker needs 1 1/2 miles to show his best, and somehow he hasn't gotten into a 1 1/2-mile race since the 2018 Breeders' Cup Turf. He has been out-quicked late going 1 1/4 and 1 3/8 miles in his last two races, but his Manhattan showed he remains capable of hitting the performance level needed to win this, and significant stretch trouble last out in the Bowling Green cost him third. Channel Maker still is his regular high-headed self, running like a horse who shouldn't be as good as he is, but on a wet course, he can win his first Sword Dancer after two solid showings.




Whitmore can come close to his best going seven furlongs rather than six, and he has run well over wet tracks, but neither thing - wet tracks nor seven furlongs - is what he really wants. With a potentially tricky inside draw, Whitmore seems worth opposing, even if he is the best and most accomplished horse in the Forego.

Now, if Whitmore really were 7-2 at post time, or even drifted from there, you'd have to give consideration to banking on his class coming through. But if not Whitmore, the Forego, especially on a wet track, has the chance to throw up some chaos.


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