Saratoga Horses in Focus for Sunday, July 19

RACE 1: ROYAL ASSET (#5)

I have some issues with the favorites in this race. The Michael Dubb entry figures to attract plenty of support, with Dowse’s Beach obviously the stronger half of this pair. However, this 9-year-old gelding did his best work at this level for Jason Servis, who obviously is no longer training. He made his first start off the trainer switch to Mike Maker last time, and he was just a little dull. He wasn’t that quick out of the gate, got to the lead in midstretch, but then offered no resistance once Fast Getaway ran by him. Perhaps 5 1/2 furlongs is better for him, but I prefer others at better prices. Dr. Shane will also take money here, but I’m a little concerned about the distance. He clearly comes out of the toughest races, having competed in very strong open company optional claiming events over the winter. However, he appears to have lost the early speed that he once possessed, and this 5 1/2 furlong distance was always on the short side for him. Furthermore, Danny Gargan, who typically wins at a high rate, is just 5 for 41 (12%, $0.61 ROI) with all starters over the past 3 months. In some ways the most trustworthy horse is Banana Thief, who always runs well at this level and can certainly fire fresh. Yet I want to go in a different direction, so I’m taking a shot with Royal Asset. This horse’s recent form is pretty inconsistent, but I thought he actually put forth his best effort in quite some time when last seen on June 25. Romero Maragh tried to be aggressive in the early going, but he ultimately got shuffled back down towards the inside. He actually put in a solid stretch rally when he got clear in the lane, losing to Dowse’s Beach by only a head. He has more tactical speed than that, and I think he should be more forwardly placed having drawn outside this time. Turf is his best surface, and he should be a generous price with Luis Cardenas taking over the reins.

RACE 9: CAT’S PAJAMAS (#8)

Typically I’d be reluctant to advocate for a likely favorite in a race as competitive as this Lake Placid, but I just can’t get past Cat’s Pajamas. She’s the quintessential “last time was the time” kind of horse, as you got odds of 7-1 and 27-1 on her in her last two victories, and now she’s going to be among the shortest prices. That said, I have to assess her based on her form today, rather than my past perceptions of her. She’s just a different filly on the turf, and she’s won her last two races with something left in the tank. The margin was only a half-length last time, but she never looked like a loser. She got a good trip, but her tactical speed allows her to make her own luck. Today’s rival Lashara took a shot at her late after having to extricate herself from traffic in upper stretch, but that filly was never getting to Cat’s Pajamas in the late stages. Cat’s Pajamas seems far more likely of these two horses to step forward with the 1 1/8 miles distance. Furthermore, there isn’t any speed signed on in this spot and Cat’s Pajamas should be able to either make the lead or track her uncoupled stablemate Blame Debbie. I think that gives her a significant advantage over main rivals, all of whom have very little speed. Speaktomeofsummer was compromised by a slow pace against a tougher field in the Wonder Again last time, but she could have similar troubles today. Stunning Sky comes in with some of the best speed figures, but she figures to be last early and passing them all could be a tall order if they go slowly up front.

RACE 10: ARMAMENT (#1)

Malibu Pro seems like the horse to beat as he drops in class for Robertino Diodoro, who has a string in New York for this Saratoga meet. Typically you wouldn’t want to bet horses at Saratoga who were defeated at Canterbury Park in their most recent start, but this gelding actually faced a decent field last time. His speed figures put him squarely in the mix, but I thought there were more intriguing options at better prices. Rudy Rodriguez has entered an uncoupled pair, and I prefer Shadow Rider of his horses. This 8-year-old returned from a brief layoff last time and just found himself in a tough spot against some seasoned and classy mid-level claimers. Now he’s dropping down to a more appropriate level and he’s been competitive going the two-turn 1 1/8 miles in the past. He’ll definitely be on my tickets, but my top pick is Armament. I haven’t loved the rides that this horse has gotten in his recent starts. He was squeezed back at the start and then dragged back to last in that turf race two back at Belmont. And then last time he was the clear speed after breaking on top, but his rider wasn’t particularly aggressive and allowed two horses to range up alongside of him on the far turn. I think he does his best work when he gets to control things on the front end, and I expect Ricardo Santana to get aggressive from this rail draw. Armament won the first race of the meet going two turns at Saratoga last year and I think he can be successful getting back to the site of that success.

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