Saratoga Horses in Focus for Friday, September 4

RACE 1: SAMBORELLA (#4)

Rossa Veloce and Summer Brew finished first and second in a maiden race earlier last month and figure to again have a strong say in the outcome as both move up into this Seeking the Ante Stakes. While that August 5 race earned a fast speed figure (76 Beyer and 91 TimeformUS Speed Figure), I’m a little skeptical of the number. Third-place finisher No Mo’ Spending returned to win last week, but did so with a significantly slower speed figure. The track appeared to be changing and carrying some horses on August 5, so I’m just a little skeptical that either of these fillies ran quite as well as it seems. I want an alternative and there are two viable options. The more obvious one is Make Mischief, who drops out of a couple of graded stakes to face New York-breds for the first time since her debut. While she’s a legitimate contender in this race, I’m not certain that she’s actually getting much class relief, since those open company stakes were pretty weak races for the level. I want to instead go for second-time starting maiden Samborella. This filly was touted prior to her debut, but ran like a horse who badly needed that first-out experience. She was off slowly and then raced greenly along the inside, as Jose Ortiz rode her gingerly until midstretch. She figures to benefit from that race and it appears that she’s been training well out of it. I like her stretching out in distance and I’m hoping she can outfinish these fillies down the lane.

RACE 7: EAGLE ORB (#1)

A couple of contenders in this field are dropping out of the Saratoga Special, where they were overmatched against some of the best open company two-year-olds in the country. Both of those horses, Market Alert and Hold the Salsa, should appreciate this drop in class, as each of them showed promise in their respective debuts. Market Alert is slightly more appealing, as he beat a couple of today’s rivals when breaking his maiden on debut at Belmont. He unleashed a strong stretch rally to win that day, drawing off impressively in the late stages after closing into a slow pace. Any natural progression off his debut should make him a major player. Hold the Salsa could be a better price, but he got plenty of pace to close into when he put in that wild stretch rally to win his debut. The same horse who set the pace that day, Lookin for Trouble, is back in this field, but this race isn’t exactly projected to feature a blazing early pace. I’m instead going with the second-time starter Eagle Orb. This colt won his debut the right way. He professionally sat off the leaders in the early going, and showed a nice turn of foot at the top of the stretch before holding sway late over a resurgent runner-up. The major hurdle for him is the 14-day turnaround since his last start. He also loses debut rider Irad Ortiz to another rival in the field, but Irad may have already been committed as this colt was likely a late addition to the race. I like that Rudy is showing confidence and he doesn’t need to improve that much to beat this field. Plus, over the past 5 years, Rudy Rodriguez is 7 for 20 (35%, $3.95 ROI) with last-out debut winners making their second starts in dirt sprints.

RACE 10: SHARP STARR (#3)

Critical Value is the horse to beat, but I think she’s somewhat vulnerable at a short price. Jeremiah Englehart has had trouble keeping her on the racetrack, as she’s only made one start thus far in 2020. While she got the victory with ease in that Bouwerie Stakes last time out, it’s now taking her a while to follow up that performance. She was a vet scratch earlier last month out of a race that should have served as her prep for this affair. She can obviously win with her top effort, but I’m not sure that we’ll see it as she’s stretching back out to 1 1/8 miles. She’s really bred to be better going shorter distances, and I think she’s facing some fillies who are better suited to this two-turn route distance. I think Ice Princess is just as likely to win this race at what should be a slightly better price. She was progressing nicely over the winter at Aqueduct before her connections got a little too ambitious in a very tough edition of the Fantasy last time out. While she’s been most successful around one turn so far, she acts like a filly who should relish the added ground she gets to work with here. I’m using both of these fillies prominently, but my top pick is the improving Sharp Starr. This daughter of Munnings already handled the 9-furlong trip last time out, as she finished second in a N1X allowance event. While she lost as the favorite that day, she arguably ran the best race in defeat, as the track was favoring sped on July 22. She was one of the only horses on that entire card to make a significant run from the back of the pack and she did it while maneuvering her way through traffic. I think she’s getting better with every start and she may usurp the favorites with another step forward.

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