Saratoga Horses in Focus for Wednesday, July 12

RACE 3: INSPECTOR HENNING (#1)

The favorites in this race seem particularly vulnerable, as most have had their chances at this level and failed. I suppose Fluent in Sarcasm may be the public choice as he retains Irad Ortiz while going out for the hot Mike Maker barn. While he lost a this level last time while putting on his usual act – showing early speed and fading – at least he had the excuse of getting involved in a fast pace that fell apart. It does seem like’s subtly improved since we first saw him in New York earlier this year, but he’s still no the kind of horse that I’d want to take at a short price. Daring Disguise is even less appealing at similar odds, as he’s had more chances than most and may find this 5 1/2 furlong distance to be too short for him. If he couldn’t win as the odds-on choice against a hungry field last time, he may have trouble ever breaking out of the maiden ranks. Despite his low-profile connections, Money in the Bank seems far more trustworthy among those with turf experience. He defeated Fluent in Sarcasm when last seen and has earned multiple speed figures that put him in the mix. Yet I want to get a bit more creative with a first time turfer. Inspector Henning has done little running in his prior dirt efforts, but he strikes me as a horse who may really benefit from this surface switch. He just seems to be flailing about over the dirt in his races, and he’s bred to be far more successful on grass. He’s by 14% turf sprint sire Shackleford, his dam was a 4-time turf winner, and he’s a half-brother to 3-time turf winner Free N Clear.

RACE 5: CHOCOLATE BAR (#1)

Digital Software began his career in promising fashion. While he was never a threat to his talented stablemate Greyes Creek in his debut, he nevertheless closed well into a moderate pace for second. He was understandably bet down to odds-on favoritism for his second start, but he took a marked step in the wrong direction. He had good position coming off the far turn, but failed to quicken while appearing to lug in during the drive. It makes sense that he’s getting class relief now, and Chad Brown is 11 for 23 (48%, $3.48 ROI) with maiden special weight to maiden claiming dropdown on turf at Saratoga over 5 years. However, he figures to be an awfully short price for a horse who displayed some concerning tendencies last time. I want to look elsewhere, and there is a viable alternative in the form of the Mike Maker entry. Of the pair, I’m more interested in Chocolate Bar. This colt put in a competitive effort in his second start at Gulfstream when closing from well back. He then ran deceptively well two back at Churchill, forging his way to a clear lead in upper stretch before tiring late. Yet he had a right to fade given the fact that he was chasing some pretty fast early fractions. Given that strong prior form, you have to be a little concerned about his last race, in which he finished last. He did go wide around the first turn before just coming to a stop at the quarter pole, and his rider clearly didn’t persevere with him late. Something obviously went awry, but Maker takes the blinkers off, presumably to get him to relax again, and I expect him to rebound. And if he’s not exactly trustworthy, his stablemate Freedom Force is a viable backup option. He ran fairly well in his lone turf start, finishing behind some runners who have since shown promise against winners.

RACE 9: BEAUTIFUL FAREWELL (#6)

This Adirondack is not exactly the toughest stakes we’re going to see for the two-year-old fillies this year. Make Mischief is probably the horse to beat given that she already has positive stakes experience, finishing a distant second to the promising Dayoutoftheoffice in the Schuylerville. She appears to be quick enough to get in front of these early and she may merely have to repeat that 99 TimeformUS Speed Figure, which is 11 points higher than anything her competitors have achieved. I’m not against her, but I do think this race is fairly wide open, so I’m not inclined to settle for a short price. Though, I do prefer her to the two other favorites, both of whom are coming off debut wins. Thoughtfully looks a little more attractive at first glance given her gaudy purchase price and 8-length margin of victory on debut. However, she was beating a very weak field that day and benefited from a fairly slow pace. I anticipate that she may be overbet in this spot. Lucifers Lair looked professional first time out, but she won a slow race. I’m always afraid of Todd Pletcher in these situations, but I need to see more from this filly. If I’m going to take a horse with slower speed figures, I’d rather land on a price. My top pick is the maiden Beautiful Farewell. That 88 TimeformUS Speed Figure that she earned in her debut is the second highest number in this field, and she ran well to be third that day when facing males. Some may be disappointed in her second start, but she ran on gamely after getting an uncomfortable trip. I like the outside draw and think she still has room for improvement.

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