Saratoga Horses in Focus for Friday, July 31


There isn’t much turf form to sink your teeth into in this maiden claimer, so it stands to reason that a first time starter like Silent Empress could go favored. It seems like every Christophe Clement runner has been getting overbet in light of his hot streak to start this meet. Yet there are reasons to think this filly will take to turf. She’s out of a dam who was a 3-time winner in turf sprints and her best half-sibling is turf winner Quiet Out East. I’m using her, but I think there are more interesting alternatives at better prices. Among those with experience, Love Me Tomorrow makes plenty of sense. There isn’t that much early speed signed on for this race, and she could attain an advantage in the early going. She tends to hit a wall in the final furlong, so cutting back to this 5 1/2 furlong distance should suit her. My top pick is Imincomunicado, who returns to the turf for the first time since her career debut over this course last year. She was facing tougher maiden special weight foes that day, and put forth a respectable effort to close for fourth. The top three finishers have all returned to do nice things since that race. Imincomunicado obviously didn’t do any running in her subsequent starts, but those came on dirt. Now she’s back in Derek Ryan’s barn and moving to her preferred surface while getting a realistic drop in class. Furthermore, while you can’t say anything positive about her finishes in those dirt races, at least she showed improved speed in those two efforts.


The horse to beat is clearly Empire Line, who exits an unusually strong $20,000 N3L claimer at Belmont. A number of horses were dropping in class for that spot, and this gelding did well to stay on for second behind the very fast Riken while drawing well clear of the rest. His career hasn’t quite panned out as his connections might have hoped, but his last race proves that he can still produce competitive efforts at this level. Furthermore, there isn’t much speed signed on here and he may be able to control the pace on the front end. I’m hardly against him, but there are others to consider. Zealous makes some sense as he drops in for a tag for just the second time in his career. He ran a number of races that would be good enough to beat this field in 2019, but he has to prove that he’s still capable of producing top form as a 6-year-old. I’m not as confident in the chances of Cobble Hill, who also figures to attract support. He was defeating vastly inferior company in his last couple of starts and I think he finds himself in deep waters here. My top pick is Jerome Avenue. This horse lost a heartbreaker in the first race of this meet, making a decisive move to the lead in midstretch before getting nailed on the wire. The 9-furlong distance of that race was probably a little too far for him, so he should appreciate the cutback. Furthermore, his overall dirt form is better than it appears. He did well to hang on for second behind late-running Creative Style after setting a fast pace on Feb. 1, and then he should have won on Feb. 29, but lost a ton of ground on the turn after stumbling at the start. Mertkan Kantarmaci is a solid 14 for 57 (25%, $2.48 ROI) first off the claim on dirt at NYRA over the past 5 years.


There are many viable contenders in this wide open Coronation Cup. A few of these exit the Lady Shipman from last month at Belmont, in which She’s My Type arguably ran the best race. She was very wide on the far turn and did well to close for second. Yet she could go favored here as it seems Christophe Clement’s runners have been getting overbet, and I’m not totally convinced that less distance will suit her. Miss J McKay finished behind She’s My Type and winner Bredenbury in that Lady Shipman, but I won’t be surprised if she’s able to turn the tables here. This filly showed a lot of ability sprinting on turf last year and ran deceptively well to just miss in the Steward Manor at Aqueduct. She was a little flat in her return, but she certainly has a right to take a step forward. Wesley Ward sends out a pair, both of whom are legitimate contenders. Artie’s Princess figures to attract some attention, having won 3 of 4 starts in Canada. She ran a legitimately fast speed figure to win her return race on that synthetic course. Yet it’s rarely a good gamble to bet horses trying a new surface for the first time at short prices. I want to go in a different direction with longshot Shippy. This filly showed true sprint ability right from the start last year in her Laurel debut, prompting her to go favored in the Schuylerville. She’s primarily raced on dirt during her career, but her lone turf try at Gulfstream over the winter is better than it seems. She lost some momentum following a longshot into the stretch and hit her best stride late before galloping out impressively. I think it’s interesting that George Weaver has been intent on switching her to grass and she could fly under the radar in this competitive field.​

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