Saratoga Horses in Focus for Wednesday, August 11


Welsey Ward holds a strong hand here with two of the likely favorites. Castle Leoch ran reasonably well in his debut despite losing as the 3-5 choice. He got a strong 88 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the effort, and a repeat of that performance puts him in the mix. Wesley Ward is 17 for 58 (29%, $1.84 ROI) with 2YO maiden second time starters in turf sprints over 5 years, so he has a right to step forward. However, Admiral Halsey may be more dangerous. This $230k yearling purchase is by War Front out of a dam who was a G3 winner on turf in Ireland. She’s produced 2 turf winners from 2 foals to race in the US, topped by this one’s full sibling Balon Rose. Plus, the second dam Airwave was a G1 winner as a 2-year-old in England before turning into a top turf sprinter in Europe. I’m using both of these but there are certainly others to consider. Steve Asmussen and Linda Rice both send out firsters off impressive sales workouts. However, my top pick is one with experience. Red Danger finished off the board in his debut, but the effort wasn’t bad at all. He broke with the leaders before getting slightly outrun on the backstretch. He then chased determinedly on the far turn while put under a drive, but encountered some traffic when guided down to the rail in the stretch. Now he moves to turf. There isn’t a ton of obvious turf pedigree here, as Orb wins with just 6% of his turf sprint starters and there isn’t much production on the dam’s side. However, he sports a nice drill over the Oklahoma course since his debut, and I get the sense he has more ability than we saw that day.


Town Avenger is the filly to beat in this highly competitive N1X allowance optional claimer. She ran very well to win her debut going 5 1/2 furlongs, overcoming a wide trip to get up at the wire. She was ambitiously stretched out to a mile against stakes foes in her next start and was hardly disgraced. That Tepin was dominated on the front end by Navratilova, and Town Avenger was trying to make up ground into that slow pace. She made some headway late to be fourth, and has been flattered since by those who crossed the wire ahead of her. Runner-up Tobys Heart returned to finish a good second in the Lake George. She’s a deserving favorite, but she is now stretching out again to 1 1/8 miles, so her stamina will be tested. The others look very evenly matched, so I’m expecting trips to separate the contenders. Miss Delicious figures to work out the right setup as long as John Velazquez gives her a better ride than last time. She had done her best work setting the pace at Belmont in June, yet Velazquez made no attempt to get her into a forward position when he took over the reins last time. Breaking from the outside post position, Miss Delicious was hung wide around both turns without cover, which is rarely the right trip on the turf. This time, she figures to be used more aggressively breaking from the rail, and I like her stretching out in distance to 9 furlongs. I would also use Earth Strike, who closed well behind Miss Delicious on June 25, as well as recent maiden winner Elle Est Forte, who closed into a slow pace last time.

RACE 9: MOMOS (#7)

Jaxon Traveler could take some money here based on his third-place finish behind the highly regarded Golden Pal last time in the Quick Call. He took to turf about as well as he did a synthetic surface in his prior start at Woodbine, and just ran into a superior rival. Jaxon Traveler does deserve some credit for trying to apply some pressure to Golden Pal early, and he may have paid the price late, as he got passed for second in the last furlong. He’s a contender here, but I think he’s facing a deeper field from top to bottom than last time. Wesley Ward has a pair of contenders. Into the Sunrise could attract more support after winning two in a row, including a stakes at Ellis Park. Yet I’m more interested in Arrest Me Red off the layoff. This colt makes his first start off the trainer switch to Welsey Ward, and ran some nice races for his former conditioner as a 2-year-old. He got a great trip to win the Atlantic Beach last year, but he had shown real talent in both starts prior to that. He’s training very well for this 3-year-old debut and should not be dismissed. My top pick is Momos. This colt hasn’t yet won on the turf, but he’s run  some of his best races on this surface. He proved he could run at this level on grass in the Futurity last year before getting run off his feet by Golden Pal in the Breeders’ Cup. Following a gutsy return win at Monmouth two back, he put in a strong effort back on turf in the My Frenchman last time. That was arguably a stronger field than this, as Chasing Artie is a good sprinter for Ward, and multiple runners who finished behind Momos have returned to run well.

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