Saratoga Horses in Focus for Friday, July 17

RACE 5: VOLIERO (#2)

Scuttlebuzz and Sandro the Great figure to vie for favoritism in this spot and they couldn’t be coming into this race with more different profiles. Scuttlebuzz has only sprinted thus far in his career, having made two starts on dirt before trying the grass going 6 furlongs last time. He arguably ran the best race in that June 14 loss, overcoming a tardy start by making a wide move on the far turn before just falling short in the closing strides. He is bred to handle this distance, since his dam was a two-turn turf route winner and he’s a half-brother to Saratoga turf route winner Myhartblongstodady. However, he has displayed gate issues in all of his starts, and he tends to get rank after breaking slowly. Those are traits that just aren’t compatible with route success. I prefer Sandro the Great, but he also has distance questions to answer, as 1 1/16 miles may be too short for him. Christophe Clement tried this New York-bred against open company twice – once at Gulfstream and then last time at Belmont – in an effort to make use of his stamina in longer races. He ran pretty well when he finally got on the turf last time, but he was no match for his stablemate Shamrocket. This is a softer spot, but this horse is somewhat one-paced and may not have the turn of foot to pass them all. I prefer Voliero. This gelding showed some promise in his debut as a 2-year-old, closing well to be third. While he hasn’t improved much on that effort since then, he has been unfortunate to draw the outside post position in three consecutive races. That proved to be especially detrimental two back over the inner turf course at Belmont. And then last time he just ran into vastly improved winner Barleewon, but finished well for second. His TimeformUS Speed Figures are superior to this field and I just think he’s the most reliable option in a race where the other short prices still have things to prove.

RACE 7: CLARA PEETERS (#4)

Chad Brown has entered a quartet of uncoupled runners in this wide open De La Rose, including the morning line favorite Blowout. She may not get the job done every time, but she is always right there at the finish. Blowout was her own worst enemy early in her career, as she tended to get rank and refuse to settle. Yet those problems have largely disappeared since they started putting her on the lead. She did all the hard work up front in the Valley View last time before just getting nailed in the final jumps. She has to overcome a lengthy layoff, but a flat mile is arguably her best distance. I prefer her to Catch a Bid and Noor Sahara, both of whom also go out for Chad Brown and figure to attract support. Among Brown’s entrants, I’m actually most interested in the filly that could be the biggest price of them, Viadera. This British-bred made her U.S. debut in the Intercontinental last time, where she trailed three of her Chad Brown barnmates across the wire. While she was beaten a long way, she broke inward at the start and was off slowly, which proved to be pretty detrimental in a race where few horses made up any ground. All things considered she closed nicely and was moving best of all in the last eighth; now she stretches out, which should be to her benefit since she was 2-for-2 going this distance in Europe. She’ll feature prominently in my wagers, but my top pick is Clara Peeters. This Brad Cox trainee hasn’t done much wrong through two U.S. starts. She overcame a tardy start and wide trip to finish a strong second at the Fair Grounds, and then improved upon that effort when beating a solid field at Belmont last time. Javier Castellano did a fantastic job working her into the clear from a difficult position in upper stretch, and she kicked in late with a flourish. One mile is probably her best trip based on her European form, and I think she could fly under the radar here in the face of the Brown runners.

RACE 10: FROZEN ACCOUNT (#10)

The merits of the favorites in this race are fairly obvious. The Postmaster will probably beat this field if he returns in top form, but it’s very difficult to trust a horse who has made just one start in the past 2 years and comes off a 15-month layoff. Many of these exit a race at this level on June 21, and K. K. Ichikawa is probably the horse you want out of there. He was only making his debut and closed nicely for third after having to alter course around some traffic at the top of the stretch. He has more upside than many in this field, but it’s not as if he earned a speed figure that makes him particularly formidable. I want to go in a different direction, since I’m interested in Frozen Account getting on turf for the first time. This horse showed ability in his debut over a sloppy, sealed track at Aqueduct, but has struggled to recapture that form ever since. I think this surface switch could be the answer since he’s by 11% turf sire Central Banker and is a half-brother to turf winner Miss Mystique. This seems like a good spot to take a shot with a new face.​

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