Wednesday, August 20
Race 2: Maiden Claiming $35,000 at seven furlongs for fillies and mares
7 – Good Catholic Girl
GOOD CATHOLIC GIRL (#7) had a bit of a trip in her turf race last time, when she was shuffled back behind a tiring runner on the far turn, losing a few lengths of position. I thought she regathered herself well to re-rally and get up for second that day. Switching back to dirt is a question mark, but that is what she’s bred to do, and I’m willing to forgive her muddy track debut. Another small step forward and a preferred outside stalking trip should give her a chance to run down the favorite.
$10 Win 7
Race 5: Claiming $16,000N2L at 6 1/2 furlongs for fillies and mares
7 – Charming Eyes
CHARMING EYES (#7) doesn’t look like much on paper, but there just isn’t much in this field, and she’s actually run some decent races against tougher company recently. I also expect the trainer switch to Brad Cox to make a huge difference for this filly. Anything above 7-2 feels like an overlay on this runner.
$15 Win 7
Race 7: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at one mile on the turf for fillies and mares
8 – Kenzadargent
6 – Hardly
5 – Almurra
I’m typically one who looks to play against these potentially overbet Chad Brown runners, but KENZADARGENT (#8) appears to have a major class edge on this field. A couple of the fillies that she was competitive with in her two most recent starts in France returned to place in Group 1 events. I’m assuming that the only reason she isn’t starting out in a stakes is because Chad Brown has his bases covered in those races at the moment, with Xcellence and Minorette also in the barn. Kenzadargent also happens to be eligible for this condition after coming out on the wrong side of a few close decisions in her career. If she brings her French form to Saratoga, she will not lose this race.
Rather than simply bet her to win, I’ll use her with a couple of horses at bigger prices in exactas. Hardly (#6) ran some excellent races at Gulfstream this winter, including a good fourth-place finish in the Sweetest Chant, when she closed into a slow pace to finish just behind Room Service. Something clearly went wrong in the Herecomesthebride, and she was given plenty of time off since then. If she bounces back to her prior good form, she’ll have a say in here. Almurra (#5) impressed in her debut here last summer and may have needed her return last month, in which she was away slowly and made a bit of a mid-race move before flattening out. She’s bred to stretch out and Kiaran McLaughlin adds Lasix today.
$15 Exacta 8-6
$10 Exacta 8-5
Race 9: The Better Talk Now at one mile on the turf for three year-olds
7 – Pure Sensation
There’s little doubt in my mind that PURE SENSATION (#7) is the best horse in this race. He’s brilliantly fast and he showed in his game effort in the Woody Stephens that he can compete with some of the fastest three year-olds in the division. The major question surrounding him is his ability to get the one-mile distance, since in the past anything beyond six furlongs has appeared to be beyond his scope.
Yet I saw a new dimension to this horse last time, which leads me to believe that he might just be able to get this distance, as long as he gets the right trip. Pure Sensation possesses a dazzling burst of speed, and his riders typically ask for it in the first quarter mile of his races. However, last time that was not the case, as he was forced to race in behind horses early, thus conserving some of his energy. When he finally angled out over horses’ heels at the top of the stretch, he unleashed displayed that excellent turn of foot, only this time in the final sixteenth of a mile rather than the first.
This ability to rate and finish should serve him well as he stretches out around two turns for the first time. Naturally, the expectation is to see him go to the front here, but I’m not so sure that’s what Christophe Clement has in mind. Rather, I’m sure that he’s looking for Jose Lezcano to switch Pure Sensation off early in the race before turning him loose in the final three-sixteenths of a mile. He may very well be on the lead, but I’m pretty sure that they’re not going to be sending him out to run a half in 46 seconds. Whether he’s behind horses or in front, if he can relax during the first half-mile, he just might be able to sprint through the latter stages of the race to a victory.
$15 Win 7