Saratoga Horses in Focus for Friday, July 16

RACE 1: MIHOS (#2)

Likely favorite Shashashakemeup has been in strong form since the claim by Peter Miller last October. The only time he’s been out of the exacta for this barn was when they took a shot against Grade 1 company at Churchill two back, and his surrounding performances are pretty strong. He was a visually impressive winner at Oaklawn back on Apr. 10 when making a sweeping move from far back to get up. And last time he never had a chance to catch 5F to 5.5F specialist Admiral Abe. Shashashakemeup was off slowly that day and encountered some traffic while trying to run up into a slow pace. Now he stretches out to a more appropriate distance and gets a rider upgrade to Irad Ortiz. He’s the one to beat, but I’m not expecting to get much of a price. I prefer Mihos, who figures to be second or third choice in the wagering. This 5-year-old has always possessed plenty of ability, but consistency has been a major issue for him. He’s also developed into a closing sprinter over time, so that means he’s become dependent on pace. While he just off the board in fourth in his last two outings, he encountered very slow paces on each occasion. He previously put in an effort that could potentially win at this level back on Mar. 13, so you know he still has it in him. Now makes his first start off the claim for Brad Cox, who is 11 for 40 (28%, $2.06 ROI) making that move with 4-year-old up dirt sprinters. Plus, Cox is also 5 for 9 (56%, $3.11 ROI) adding blinkers first off a claim on dirt. 

RACE 7: MUSED (#6)

I suppose Too Sexy could go favored here as the preferred Christophe Clement runner with Joel Rosario in the irons. She’s run reasonably well in both starts against winners on this circuit. She was negatively affected by a slow pace at Aqueduct two back and last time just ran into a superior rival, as stablemate Honey Pants finished with a flourish to beat her. Cutting back to 5 1/2 furlongs shouldn’t both her at all and she brings some consistent speed figures to the table. I just feel that some others possess a bit more upside. I’m not as thrilled with some others who could take money, like Miner’s Queen and Rivendell. The former did win going this distance at Churchill Downs last time, but that was a field of dubious quality. And Rivendell has to prove that she can handle this further cutback in distance after getting outkicked at 6 furlongs in her last couple of starts. My top pick is a different Churchill shipper. Mused has yet to hit the board in two starts in this country, but she’s subtly faced tougher fields each time. She was no match for subsequent graded stakes winner Gam’s Mission two back when trying a two-turn route. This filly, breaking from post 12, was too keen in the early stages and raced wide around both turns. She seemed much more comfortable cutting back in distance last time, but was negatively affected by a slow start in a race that featured a fairly slow early pace. Though they were straight 3-year-olds, the top 3 finishers in that last race are all stakes winners or stakes-placed and would be outright favorites in this spot. She’s apparently worked well since then and just needs a little pace to set up her late run.

RACE 10: CANDY MONET (#3)

I have no major issues with the runners who figure to take money coming out of the 6th race on June 25 at Belmont. U Should B Dancing achieved the best result that day, checking in second after stalking the eventual winner along the rail. She has the speed to be more forward than that, but this rider tends to not be as aggressive as some. It’s also worth noting that she ran deceptively well in both starts on turf last year, as she was involved in strong paces that came apart each time. She’s arguably the one to beat, but it should be noted that two runners who finished behind her, Kreesa La Wrote and Uncle’s Gem, were both negatively affected by the slow pace. I prefer Uncle’s Gem of the two, since she goes out for strong second time out trainer Linda Rice, and showed some promise galloping out past the field after the wire in that debut. However, I’m leaning in a different direction for my top pick. Longshot Candy Monet was intended for turf in her debut, but stayed in once the race came off. Going 1 1/16 miles on dirt was probably a little ambitious for her first start, considering that this barn rarely has them cranked to fire on debut and that pace was fast. Sire Paynter is an underrated turf influence, winning with a solid 13% of his turf starters. The winless dam never tried grass, once finishing second in a dirt sprint, but she is a daughter of decent turf influence Sidney’s Candy. There is some evidence to suggest this one may handle turf, and she’s going to be a generous price.

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