Saratoga Horses in Focus for Wednesday, August 25

RACE 5: COOL QUEST (#8)

Digital Future comes off a narrow loss as the 3-5 favorite in which he got a fair trip and just couldn’t hold off the late charge of the winner. He’s come to the stretch call with the lead in each of his last two starts before giving it up late, so perhaps the slight cutback to 5 1/2 furlongs will work out for him. Chad Brown is 9 for 38 (24%, $1.28 ROI) first time blinkers with maidens on the turf over 5 years. He’s the horse to beat, but I’m not thrilled with the idea of taking him at a short price. There are a couple over very interesting first time turfers to consider. Kawhi Me a River didn’t take much money in his winter debut at Aqueduct, but flashed good early speed before he was overtaken by the eventual winner. Now he returns from a layoff and switches to turf. The dam never won on turf, but she has produced Grade 2 turf winner Phantom Currency and multiple turf winner Phantom Opening. Both of those siblings were best going longer, but Kantharos is a 15% turf sprint sire. My top pick is the other first time turfer Cool Quest. He’s shown speed before fading in both of his starts to date. Yet he faced some good ones in each of those races, and now switches to turf for Brian Lynch, who is 5 for 33 (15%, $1.86 ROI) with maidens trying turf for the first time. Frosted is a 12% turf sprint sire in a small sample, and the unraced dam has produced G2-winning turfer Grand Adventure, who achieved all of his success on grass. Blinkers go on this colt, who has the speed to beat this field if he can put it all together.

RACE 7: NINTH HOUR (#6)

I suppose Binkster is the horse to beat as he drops in class out of a New York-bred N2X allowance, won by the stakes-quality foe Amundson. He was a little outrun through the early stages and stayed on mildly through the stretch to be third in the mud. He may appreciate getting back on a fast track this time, as his recent off track performances haven’t been stellar. I’d use him, but I didn’t think he ran discernably better than today’s rival Power Up Paynter, who exits the same race. Power Up Paynter was trying to make up ground into a moderate pace and hit his best stride belatedly. He should appreciate the drop in class as well, but I’m somewhat concerned that there isn’t enough pace to setup his late run this time. The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a scenario favoring horses on or near the lead, and the pace player who interests me most is Ninth Hour. This gelding makes his second start off the claim for Orlando Noda after checking in a distant fifth against New York-bred allowance company last time. While he was beaten a long way, winner Judge N Jury ran an unsually fast race for the level. Ninth Hour was hustled to the lead, but then conservatively handled when others ranged up alongside leaving the backstretch. He briefly got discouraged on the far turn, but battled on gamely through the stretch. I like him cutting back to 6 furlongs, and he gets a rider switch to Irad Ortiz. Orlando Noda is 6 for 12 (50%, $4.38 ROI) riding Irad Ortiz at Saratoga on the dirt.

RACE 8: HOMBRAZO (#4)

Five runners in this field faced off against each other in the July 30 race at this level. Winter Pool achieved the best result of those. He took all the money in that spot, as he was coming off a trip in his prior start at Churchill Downs. He did show some improvement, making a strong bid in mid-stretch before getting turned away by the eventual winner Runnin’ Ray. He defeated four of today’s rivals in that spot, so he’s clearly the one to beat as he takes another crack at this level. Winter Pool has the tactical speed to work out the right trip and he appears to have gotten over some of the quirks that derailed him early in his career. He’s a deserving favorite, but I’m most interested in a runner who finished behind him last time. Hombrazo showed marked improvement first off the claim for Joe Sharp at Churchill Downs in June, sailing clear of an overmatched group through the lane to win by over 4 lengths. He moved up in class for his Saratoga debut last time in that common July 30 race. He was getting a good ground-saving trip into the stretch, at which point Irad tried to nudge his way out. Het his Sharp-trained stablemate Runnin’ Ray refused to let him out of the pocket, so he had to wait for room before finishing mildly for fifth. He arguably could have finished closer if that trip had worked out. Joe Sharp is one of the few trainers who ships in to Saratoga who has a positive ROI at the Spa over the past 5 years, and he has a strong contender in this spot.

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