RACE 4: OFF WE GO (#1)
Harper’s in Charge figures to take money once again despite putting in a poor effort off the layoff last time. This filly was extremely impressive breaking her maiden as a 2-year-old at Aqueduct, winning under a light hand ride by open lengths. Something obviously necessitated the long layoff, so she had something to prove last time out. She didn’t run well, but she had some things working against her. She drew the rail, which forced Manny Franco to be aggressive despite the fact that there was other speed signed on. She got into a heated duel with G1 Test contender Bella Sofia before that one drew off to an easy win. I expect her to run better here, but I’d also want a price on her that I doubt I’ll get. Easy to Bless also makes some sense as she moves up in class. This filly obviously loves to win races, but she’s accomplished most of her victories against weaker company. My top pick is the shipper Off We Go. This Tom Amoss trainee was well regarded at the start of her career, and ran well against some tough company. It was no disgrace losing to graded stakes winner Travel Column in her debut, and she won her second start nicely over subsequently stakes-placed Sun Path. They took a shot in a stakes after that and she didn’t run that badly in a race dominated towards the front end. Most recently she was in over her head going too far in the Rachel Alexandra, and I won’t hold her turf race against her. Now she returns for Tom Amoss, who is excellent off layoffs, and she figures to get a good trip stalking the speeds to her outside.
RACE 5: DISTRACTANDATTACK (#8)
I’m Blaming You could go favored as he drops in for a tag for the first time. He faced a few decent rivals as a 2-year-old, though he didn’t earn particularly strong speed figures. And last time he put in an even effort off the layoff, chasing an honest pace before getting passed by some closers in the lane. He’s now dropping to an appropriate class level for connections who purchased him for a similar price to today’s tag. However, he may have to take another step forward to beat a few rivals who already have experience at this level. Babagram obviously has upside in his second start after showing good speed in his debut. That pace was fast, which set things up for the closing winner. Babagram did fade late, but he was also hampered in the late stages by some drifting rivals. He’s one to consider, but I prefer another speed to his outside. Distractandattack is coming off a pair of dirt efforts, and that’s not his preferred surface. He actually ran deceptively well two back after a disastrous stumble at the start, and last time he put in a good effort with a clean break. In both of his prior turf attempts, he was setting fast paces that fell apart, earning solid TimeformUS Speed Figures for both efforts. Since Irad Ortiz has gotten aboard him in those dirt races, it appears that he’s relaxed more in the early stages of his races, and I think that bodes well for his chances in this spot. There’s plenty of speed signed on, and he should sit a great trip stalking just outside of them.
RACE 9: GAM’S MISSION (#3)
There are some intriguing European shippers in this Saratoga Oaks, and that group is perhaps led by Rocky Sky, who was privately purchase out of her last victory by Peter Brant and transferred to Chad Brown. This filly had run well without dazzling on all-weather courses early in her career, but she took a huge step forward back in April, wiring a decent field in the Salsabil Stakes. She set a strong pace and just kept going, so she could be forwardly placed in this U.S. debut. The fact that Brown is running her here with Irad Ortiz named to ride seems like a good sign. Charlie Appleby’s Godolphin shipper Creative Flair also comes in with strong credentials. This barn has proven that they can take down major U.S. races this year, and this filly has progressively stepped forward this year. She almost got the job done against Group 3 company in France last time after making all the running up front. Yet, she may have to adapt her running style with Con Lima and Rocky Sky also looking to be forwardly placed. As for the Americans, the major players exit the Belmont Oaks, won by the classy Santa Barbara. Con Lima put in her typical good effort, but she once again worked out a perfect trip. The horse that intrigues me most out of that race is the one who got the toughest trip. Gam’s Mission was never in the right spot after breaking from the outside post. She was wide without cover for much of her journey and that proved especially detrimental in a race that turned into a sprint to the finish. The two Americans who did well in that spot both rode the rail, so Gam’s Mission did well to close for fourth on the outside. I liked the way she was developing into that race, and I think she can take another step forward here.