Saratoga Horses in Focus for Sunday, July 18

RACE 2: MYSTICAL MAN (#6)

The horses dropping out of maiden special weight company figure to take money in this spot, and there are multiple options to choose from among them. Amano could go favored for Chad Brown has he returns from a layoff and makes his first start for a tag and as a new gelding. I wasn’t thrilled with any of his races at the special weight level last year, and always got the sense that he preferred more ground than the 1 1/16 miles he gets here. He’s one to consider, as is Charleston Strong, who put in a good effort off the layoff last time. That was only going 7 furlongs, but he finished behind a couple of talented runners, one of whom has already returned to win impressively. Yet I’m more interested in a couple of horses switching surfaces as they drop. Tallis has to be considered based purely on pedigree. He’s by good turf influence Uncle Mo out of multiple stakes-winning turf dam Isabella Sings. Given that strong grass pedigree, it’s a little weird that Todd Pletcher tried him on dirt twice and is dropping in for a tag for this turf debut. However, Pletcher is a solid 6 for 21 (29%, $2.84 ROI) with maiden special weight to maiden claiming dropdown trying turf for the first time over the past 5 years. My top pick is Mystical Man. This Al Stall trainee tried turf just once before in his debut as a 2-year-old, and he ran deceptively well that day. He was sluggish in the early stages, rating well behind a slow pace. He was still far back at the top of the stretch, but steadily made up ground while altering course through the lane. He finished up like a horse who handles turf, and he appears to have improved since then while racing on dirt. Mucho Macho Man is a 15% turf route sire, so I like him switching back to grass here. He just needs a bit of pace to close into to set up his late run.

RACE 5: JUGGLER (#4)

Among those with experience, Juggler is probably the most interesting option as he makes his second start for Kelly Breen. He took more money than another Breen runner in today’s first when he made his debut at Belmont, but looked like a horse who just needed a start. He was very sluggish from the start and Joel Rosario didn’t show much urgency letting him settle at the back of the pack. He did make some late progress and galloped out strongly. It is worth noting that the third-place finisher who was closing in tandem with him came back to just miss with an improved speed figure. This colt has a nice damside pedigree and I think we’re likely to see him show more this time. He’s my top pick, but there are a few very interesting first time starters in this field. Senbei, Hot Rod Rumble, and Lil Stevie all go out for very dangerous debut barns. Lil Stevie in particular sports a quick workout at Pimlico last week and figures to take money with Irad Ortiz aboard. Senbei is bred to be a pure sprinter, and Hot Rod Rumble has strong dirt sprint pedigree on the dam’s side. I’d even be interested in Cozzy’s Attitude, a half-brother to capable dirt sprinter Pretty Cozzy. The majority of his workouts prior to the last one were in company with Bourbon’s Hope, who won his debut on dirt at Belmont with a 92 TimeformUS Speed Figure.

RACE 9: HONEY PANTS (#3)

Goin’ Good is obviously the horse to beat in the Coronation Cup after earning a strong 107 TimeformUS Speed Figure for her allowance victory at Churchill Downs last time. That win came going this distance over a strong field that included Mazelle winner Lady Edith and today’s rival Illegal Smile, who is also a contender. Goin’ Good was a little unlucky two back when beaten as the favorite in the Mamzelle, but she’s otherwise run well in all of her turf starts. She’s obviously a major player, but there is plenty of speed signed on, so she has to avoid getting caught up chasing a fast pace. I prefer the Christophe Clement-trained Honey Pants, one of two runners for that barn in this field. She’s tried two-turn routes and sprints multiple times, and I much prefer her going shorter. She ran well in a stakes at 6 furlongs as a 2-year-old and she proved that she still possesses that kind of talent when cut back in distance last time. Facing a field of older allowance runners, Honey Pants got caught behind an extremely slow pace and unleashed a furious stretch rally to get up. Trakus caught her coming home her final quarter mile in a blazing 21.99 seconds. This time she figures to get much more pace to close into, and I think she’s going to be difficult to hold off if she’s able to reproduce that same finishing speed over this slightly shorter trip.

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