Thursday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Palace Avenger seeks back-to-back Spa victories

Saratoga | Race 8 | Post Time 5:12 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs 
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I’m not trying to beat the likely favorite PALACE AVENGER (#3). This filly was something of a disappointment as a 2-year-old, but it’s been a different story this year. She made quite a splash in her 2020 debut, hanging on for second at 29-1 against a strong allowance field at Churchill. And then last time she actually improved on that return to gamely win her N1X condition. Even more impressive is that she won despite having to awkwardly alter course around the half-mile pole. She could play out as the primary speed this time and looms a deserving favorite for a barn that has been enjoying a strong Spa meet.

One of her main rivals is Fair Regis (#6), who is one of the most consistent runners in this field. However, she’s struggled to get to the winner’s circle lately and now finds herself in a spot where some younger rivals appears to have more upside. Another contender Kept True (#5) vied for the early lead last time in a race where the pace fell apart, so she has a minor excuse for fading in the late stages. She should be fitter with that run under her belt, and she has prior form that makes her a player in this race.

I’m using her, but perhaps the mare that scares me most is Bertranda (#1). She was experiencing a renaissance in 2020 up until that disappointing effort last time. Yet, with the exception of a blowout win in February at Aqueduct, her recent form just isn’t good enough to compete at this level. That said, she has now been claimed by Orlando Noda, so it;s necessary to assess her based on the upper reaches of her past ability. Through Wednesday, was Noda is 9 for 23 (39%, $4.09 ROI) at the current meet and had won with 6 of his last 10 starters through Wednesday. She’s likely to improve, but how much? I still prefer Palace Avenger and believe she deserves to be a prohibitive favorite in this spot.

THE PLAY

Win: 3
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 1,5,6
Trifecta: 3 with 1,5,6 with 1,2,4,5,6

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