Saratoga Horses in Focus for Sunday, August 15

RACE 1: SKEPTICAL (#7)

Good Skate is arguably the horse to beat as he drops in class. He participated in an auction maiden event first time out, and put in an even effort. He was outrun in the early stages but made a mild move around the quarter pole to pass half the field before flattening out late. The winner of that race is entered to run in the G2 Saratoga Special on Saturday. Rudy Rodriguez is 4 for 17 (24%, $1.87 ROI) with 2YOs going from maiden special weight to maiden claiming races in their second career starts over the past 5 years. Pickering Circle takes a similar drop after racing in an off-the-turf race late in the Belmont meet. He was an MTO that day but was no match for the top two finishers. That said, both of those horses have some talent, as winner Run Curtis Run returned to win the Rick Violette Stakes. I’m using these, but I prefer another runner with experience. Skeptical didn’t take much money in his Churchill debut, but showed good early speed chasing the leader before fading through the stretch. He got a decent 69 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the effort, but horses have not done too well out of that race. Debuting on turf was a little puzzling since the dam was a multiple New Mexico-bred stakes winner sprinting on dirt, and the siblings were all dirt winners. Ken McPeek is 3 for 18 (17%, $3.07 ROI) maiden second time starters going from turf to dirt sprints over the past 5 years. Jose Ortiz climbs aboard, and this one figures to do better here at what could be a square price.

RACE 3: GINGER KITTY (#8)

I suppose Fuddled is the horse to beat as she drops in for a tag for the first time, but I find this mare pretty difficult to trust. She once showed real ability sprinting on turf, finishing a close second to decent turf horse First Wave in her career debut. However, she’s raced sparingly since then and her last couple of efforts have been pretty dull. I’m skeptical that she still possesses the early speed to get forward here and this barn has been pretty cold so far at the meet. Among the class droppers, I prefer Herald Angel. She was setting a pace that fell apart last time going a distance that’s probably just too far for her. I like her cutting back to this 5 1/2 furlong trip, as she ran well over this course and distance last summer. The Mike Maker barn can do no wrong right now, so she figures to be a major player. Though I went in a different direction for my top pick. Ginger Kitty figures to be a square price this time after taking a surprising amount of money when last seen on June 24. She only beat one horse home that day, but she didn’t get the greatest ride. She was uncovered early, racing 4-wide into the turn before crossing into the 3-path. She had good position coming to the top of the stretch, but her rider showed no urgency to get her in gear, and she found herself in a tight spot at the three-sixteenths pole, out of which she had to steady. She’s clearly better than that, as she displayed two back when she finished a close fourth after a similarly wide trip. I like this rider change to Dylan Davis, and she has the tactical speed to work out the right kind of journey sitting in behind the leaders.

RACE 6: CANDY MONET (#6)

Write This Down is the horse to beat after she was unlucky to lose at this level last time when sent off as the 2-1 favorite. She hesitated at the start and was off towards the back of the field, spotting her main rivals multiple lengths. From there, she settled in last for much of the running before launching a wide move into contention on the far turn. She flattened out late but ran pretty well all things considered. She’s since been claimed by Rob Atras, who is having a strong meet. However, Atras is just 2 for 23 (9%, $0.79 ROI) first off the claim on turf over the past 5 years. I’m not totally convinced about this one turning all the way back to 5 1/2 furlongs and prefer an alternative at a slightly better price. My top pick is Candy Monet. This filly tried a much tougher spot for her turf debut last time against maiden special weight foes. She showed good early speed for the first quarter mile but then got to drifting out around the far turn, ultimately winding up in the center of the course. She never stopped running, but lost all chance to hit the board after those antics. Now she gets a rider switch to Javier Castellano and drops in class. I think she showed that she handles the turf last time and I suspect there’s more ability here than those running lines indicate. As long as she runs straight I think she’ll prove to be a serious rival for the favorite. The other interesting horse is Black Licorice, who returns from a long layoff for the dangerous Mike Maker barn. She finished far back in her debut last year, but was rank in the early stages of that race and could run better now.

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