Saratoga Horses in Focus for Thursday, August 12

RACE 2: BLUE ATLAS (#3)

Mike Maker has two of the major players in this $40k claimer. Last-out winner Whimsical Muse appears to be heading in the right direction since getting claimed by this barn over the winter. She returned from a layoff last time at Churchill and was a dominate winner going a mile. She was facing weaker company in that spot, but she took over with authority on the turn and was a visually impressive winner. This mare has plenty of back class, though she had done most of her racing over shorter distances. That said, she’s now 2-for-2 going two turns on dirt, so perhaps she’s always been pretty versatile. I wouldn’t disagree with anyone who called her the horse to beat, since there are some questions about Maker’s other runner Candy Flower. This filly had been in great form for Saffie Joseph through the spring before trying some tough spots in her last two starts. She couldn’t withstand a pace duel with Dalika in the Dick two back, and then last time readily folded after chasing the pace. The drop in class should help, but this trainer switch feels a little desperate as the connections try to wake her up. My top pick is Blue Atlas, who returns from a layoff. She won off a similar break last year before trying some tougher New York-bred company at Saratoga. She didn’t get the best trip when last seen in August 2020, as she was spun wide on the first turn and could never pick up over yielding ground. Horacio DePaz is 7 for 31 (23%, $3.02 ROI) off 180+ day layoffs on turf over the past 5 years. She’s arguably the best closer in the field and she’s supposed to get some pace ahead of her.

RACE 4: CHOCOLATE COOKIE (#1)

Spungie figures to be the clear favorite as she moves up in class to tackle New York-bred N2X company for the first time. While she was only earning her first turf victory last time out, she had run very well in some tough spots on grass prior to that. She put in a good showing against open company in her career debut over the winter, and two back she was beaten by subsequent stakes winner Runaway Rumour. She finally got that turf win last time and did so in style, drawing off by nearly 8 lengths. However, she was facing an inferior field that day, and now she must prove she can deliver against tougher company. Only 6 runners are entered for turf, but this is a relatively strong field for the level. Kreesie is coming off a visually impressive victory at this level last time, though she will have to hold her form for a new barn. And the 3-year-old Mischievous Dream could be set to step forward after returning with a solid second-place finish going 7 furlongs at Belmont. I’d use them in some capacity, but my top pick is Chocolate Cookie. This filly makes her second start off a layoff after running deceptively well in her return last time. She stumbled at the start, putting her at the back of the pack early behind a slow pace. All things considered, she did well to close for third in a race where few made up significant ground through the lane. She had shown real promise last year when impressively winning her N1X condition at Belmont, and I think she can challenge Spungie here with a clean break.

RACE 7: EAST WING (#12)

Hollywood Gina could go favored in this conditioned claimer. She would obviously be tough for this field to handle if able to recapture the form that saw her break her maiden by 9 lengths in the slop last February at Aqueduct. She was pretty disappointing in her return at Belmont last time, but that was during a time when the Danny Gargan barn was struggling. Gargan has since won 4 races at this Saratoga meet, and this filly figures to get a more aggressive ride from David Cohen than she did last time. I think she’s the horse to beat, but there are a few runners to consider from that June 26 conditioned claimer. Malibu Luna is getting class relief after facing tougher fields so far as a 3-year-old. Hey It’s Taiti makes her first start off the claim for the dangerous Orlando Noda barn and could be set to step forward. Yet I’m most interested in East Wing. This filly got a perplexing ride from Eric Cancel last time. She broke on top and seemed in control of the pace before some rivals ranged up to her outside approaching the turn. For some reason, Cancel wrangled her back off the pace, and the filly clearly resented behind put in tight quarters. She steadied out of that spot and then continued to lose position while reacting badly to racing inside of runners on the turn. Watching her prior starts, she’s a horse who needs to be racing in the clear and dislikes being put in tight spots. She’s better than that and should be able to rebound with a more aggressive ride. The addition of blinkers would appear to signals that the connections want her forwardly placed, and I like that she drew an outside post here.

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