Saratoga Horses in Focus for Thursday, July 15


If this race stays on the turf, there figures to be a quick and contested early pace. At least three of the main players – Hohohoho, Mopolka, and Kemba – all do their best running on the front end. The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace with Hohohoho leading those two rivals early, and I do believe this Tom Morley trainee is the most dangerous of the speeds. She was somewhat unlucky to get disqualified two back when she crossed the wire first, but she actually ran better last time in defeat. She was hounded every step of the way by a filly who faded to finish seventh while setting a very fast pace for the distance. She faded to finish third, a nose behind today’s rival Ocean Air, but I certainly prefer the pacesetter out of that spot. That said, given the volume of speed signed on here, I want to find a closer. And the best option that I could come up with is Evidence Based. It’s obviously not ideal to endorse a filly exiting the powerful Chad Brown stable, especially considering that new trainer Wayne Potts is just 3 for 42 (7%, $1.12 ROI) first off the claim on turf. However, Potts is running this filly back in just 14 days – essentially, on Chad’s training. She was up against a slow pace when she made her debut at Churchill Downs, but she was an impressive winner when dropped in class last time, finishing powerfully through the lane. She’s stepping up in class here, but I think she fits well and she should get a favorable pace setup.


The Shadwell Stable entry figures to attract plenty of support, as both halves of this pair are contenders. I slightly prefer Arham, who has run well in both dirt starts since stretching out to a mile. However, he was supposed to win last time when he had dead aim on eventual winner Yankee Division and just couldn’t forge past. I actually am somewhat more interested in Dust Devil out of that race as he makes his first start off a private purchase and trainer switch to Bill Mott. He’s proven that he can handle the 9-furlong distance, and he brings strong speed figures and consistency to the table. Yet, as much as I respect those 4-year-olds, I’m most interested in a couple of the 3-year-old challengers exiting maiden victories. The one who could attract a bit more support is Southern District, who was a visually impressive winner going two turns at Churchill Downs last time. He got a great trip, sitting just off a slow pace, before taking over in the lane. He finished up with plenty of energy, giving the impression that he definitely prefers dirt and won’t mind a little added ground. I’d use him, but my top pick is the other Churchill maiden breaker Business Model. This son of Candy Ride made three starts as a 2-year-old and just looked a little raw and immature. He finished well in those two-turn races but was always hitting his best stride too late. Therefore, it was encouraging to see him getting engaged midway through that one-mile event in his return last time. He ranged up at the quarter pole and lowered his head to grind past the leaders through the lane. Brendan Walsh is a strong 14 for 60 (23%, $2.71 ROI) with 3-year-old last-out maiden winners, and this ridgling seems like one who should relish the stretch-out to 1 1/8 miles.


The likely favorite in this Schuylerville, Happy Soul, looks somewhat vulnerable as she steps up to face the toughest field of her career. While she did achieve a stakes victory in the Astoria, winning by 11 lengths, that was an incredibly weak edition of that race. Among her 4 rivals, 3 were maidens coming into that race and Happy Soul merely did what was expected of her. This time the waters get much deeper and she figures to encounter much more serious early pressure. She’s already run fast enough to win this race, but I prefer some of her rivals with upside. The two fillies drawn down towards the inside seem especially dangerous. Mainstay merits strong consideration based on her facile debut score at Monmouth, in which she drew off from an overmatched field by nearly 8 lengths while racing in hand. This half-sister to last year’s two-year-old champion Vequist clearly possesses dazzling early speed, which she’s since showed off in some flashy workouts at Parx. Stretching out an extra furlong and a half is no easy task, but this talented filly may be up to the challenge. My top pick is the grey filly drawn just to her inside, Pretty Birdie. This Marylou Whitney runner is a homebred through and through, being produced from a sire and dam who both trace back to Whitney’s foundation mare Dear Birdie. She also was very professional in her debut, showing excellent early speed to win by nearly 4 lengths at Churchill Downs. She rated well on the lead that day, offering some hope that she may not be a one-dimensional front-runner. She’s also been flattered by runbacks from that race, as fourth and sixth place finishers both returned to win with respectable speed figures. She wouldn’t have to improve much on that effort to upset the favorite.

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