Saratoga Horses in Focus for Wednesday, August 18


Free Enterprise could go favored here as he drops in class off a win at the $50k claiming level earlier in the meet. He got into that off-the-turf race as an MTO but did have to face some legitimate dirt horses in that spot. He obviously has prior speed figures that would crush this field but he may not be capable of performances like that anymore. His recent form certainly makes him a player here, but he’s facing some intriguing rivals, and I’m not keen to take a short price on him. Cantrell Hill is slightly more appealing as he makes his first start off the claim for Danny Gargan, who is notoriously dangerous with this move. This gelding is a consistent performer who seems to run well for whichever barn he’s in. He put in a game effort to close for second last time in a race where horses who were close up to the pace appeared to hold a slight advantage. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a bit more forwardly placed this time under Luis Saez. My top pick at what figures to be a better price is Easy Shot. This gelding is moving up in class off the claim for a barn that has had limited success with this move over the years. However, I think he has a right to improve on his recent form. He had little chance facing the likes of Jalen Journey, Lone Rock, and Pioneer Spirit at Oaklawn over the winter. He ran well in his NYRA debut two back, and last time he ran much better than the finish would indicate. He broke towards the back of the pack and made a premature move into the clubhouse turn to reach a stalking position. He also did so while getting rank in behind a slow pace, tugging Lezcano every step of the way. I think he’ll appreciate the turnback in distance, as he has been effective sprinting in the past. 


This race figures to be dominated by first time starters and there are a few with intriguing pedigrees. Vagaries is a $217k Tattersalls yearling purchase for Chad Brown who figures to attract support. Among the progeny of Lope de Vega to race in the US, the sire wins at 27% with firsters and is 5 for 10 with 2YO firsters; While there isn’t a ton of immediate damside pedigree, the dam is a half-sister to G1 Moyglare Stud winner Mail the Desert. Chad Brown is known for success in these races, but he’s just 9 for 46 (20%, $1.13 ROI) with 2YO firsters in Saratoga turf routes over 5 years. Diamond Hands could also take money as she debuts for Christophe Clement. The dam was a good turf horse and all 4 of her foals to try the grass won over it. These connections are arguably just as dangerous as the Chad Brown barn in these races. I’m using both, but my top pick is Gun Boat. This homebred filly is by 11% juvenile debut sire War Front who wins with 16% of his turf route starters. The dam earned all of her victories on turf and is a G3 winner on that surface. Shug McGaughey is 4 for 24 (17%, $2.82 ROI) with 2YO firsters in turf routes over 5 years, and is 2 for 3 with such runners at this current Saratoga meet. She has been clearly best working in company with the unraced Let’s Go Native in those last two turf drills, and looks like she has some ability.


I’m not against possible favorite Poppy Flower in this Bolton Landing. She beat a decent field of males when she broke her maiden in her third career start last time at Belmont. She did get away with a soft pace on the front end, but she really finished powerfully though the lane. There is other speed signed on here, but she doesn’t seem like one who needs to be in front. She’s worked very well over the Oklahoma turf course recently and seems like the one to beat. I have more questions about the other runner who figures to take money, Fulminate. She was visually impressive winning her career debut at Gulfstream, but she was ridden hard and it’s unclear if she was beating anything of quality. She also figures to face pace pressure from the aforementioned favorite, as well as Charlee O and Stand Up Comic. I prefer a filly who can come from just off the pace, and New York-bred Derrynane appears to fit the bill. She was well backed in her debut here last month and won in stylish fashion despite only earning an 83 TimeformUS Speed Figure. She ran a professional race, waiting in traffic on the turn before finding a seam and finishing best through the lane. I think she has more to offer than what we saw that day. Furthermore, Christophe Clement is 10 for 33 (30%, $3.03 ROI) with debut winners making their second starts on turf over the past 5 years. 

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