Saratoga Horses in Focus for Thursday, August 26

RACE 5: KEEPCALMCARRYON (#8)

Rattle N Roll could vie for favoritism in this rare 9-furlong maiden event for the 2-year-olds after putting forth a solid effort in his Churchill Downs debut. He broke with the field but was steadied slightly soon after the start, putting him at the back of the pack early. He then proceeded to drop far back on the turn before launching a strong stretch rally, coming through on the rail before angling out. All things considered I thought it was a strong effort, and the form of that race was validated when Gunite returned to finish second in the Saratoga Special. Ken McPeek has decent stretch-out statistics, and this colt has been ready to run for a while. He was entered early in the meet on turf but was forced to miss that start while the McPeek barn was under quarantine. My top pick is Keecalmcarryon. This colt already has two starts under his belt, having finished behind stablemate Wit in his debut before closing sell for second behind the highly regarded Stellar Tap going 7 furlongs at this meet. In both of those starts, he seemed like a horse who just hit his best stride too late, so targeting him at this demanding two-turn maiden event makes sense. He also has the pedigree to handle it, as a son of Union Rags out of a dam who won going 1 1/8 miles on dirt. Todd Pletcher is the master of races like this, as he is 10 for 27 (37%, $3.02 ROI) in maiden dirt routes at Saratoga over the past 5 years.

RACE 6: HALO OF FIRE (#5)

This maiden turf sprint features a couple of fillies switching surfaces for the first time after running well on dirt. The most notable of those is Lady Scarlet, who showed some promise in her first start at Churchill Downs before running second to the talented Echo Zulu on opening day of this meet. Given the fact that she earned a 96 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that last performance, it’s a little curious that her connections are now switching to turf. While her dam ran on turf, she never won over it, and this filly is a daughter of negative turf influence Union Rags, who wins with a paltry 4% of his turf sprint starters. The other experienced runner of note is Shared Future, who has a more convincing turf pedigree. She showed some ability in her debut on dirt, but Steve Asmussen doesn’t have great statistics with this move. I’m more interested in some first time starters, and the most dangerous of those appears to be Halo of Fire. Welsey Ward is 12 for 44 (27%, $2.56 ROI) with 2YO firsters in NYRA turf sprints over the past 5 years. This filly is by excellent sprint sire Munnings out of a dam who won the Wonder Where Stakes on turf. She’s been breezing over turf leading into this race, though there appears to be an error on her published worktab. She did breeze on the Oklahoma track on July 31, easily outworking an unraced stablemate. However, I’m dubious about that published Aug. 5 breeze on the main track. There is video of her working on the Oklahoma turf on Aug. 6, going slightly better than experienced Lucci, who won his debut and was a strong fifth in the Group 2 Norfolk at Royal Ascot.

RACE 9: KEEPER OF TIME (#2)

Chad Brown has three entrants in this wide open Riskaverse, including the morning-line favorite Rastafara. This filly is only coming off a maiden win, but she beat a strong field that day and may be putting it all together at the right time. I do think she’s the one to beat from the Chad Brown stable, as Amy C and Minaun did not draw favorably here. Both didn’t get ideal trips in the Lake George last time, but I worry that they could be similarly compromised again. A complicating factor in this race is the lack of early pace. The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting that Love and Money will be on the lead in a situation favoring the front-runner. However, I have doubts after she failed to hold on against allowance company last time. She did set a fast pace that day, but it was her own doing, as she ran off uncontrollably into the clubhouse turn. I’m skeptical that she can see out the trip over a turf course that took on plenty of rainfall last week. I’m most interested in the Irish import Keeper of Time. Brendan Walsh isn’t necessarily known for success with European shippers, but he is a solid 6 for 34 (18%, $3.39 ROI) with foreign shippers in turf routes over the past 5 years. Her only substantial achievement overseas was a victory in the Grade 3 One Thousand Guineas Trial when last season at Leopardstown in April. She was sent off at 80-1 that day and was clearly a surprise, beating some classy foes in the process. However, her prior efforts weren’t terrible, and she had hinted at improved form in March at the Curragh when running on well with a difficult trip. She’s training forwardly for this and shouldn’t be bothered by a little give in the ground.

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