Saratoga Horses in Focus for Thursday, September 2


Esotica is the horse to beat off her maiden victory last time out. She dominated that field of New York-bred maiden claimers in the slop, drawing off to win by nearly 7 lengths after carving out honest fractions. However, one of her primary pace rivals failed to break well and she was just outrunning overmatched rivals after that. She doesn’t meet the toughest conditioned claiming field for her first start against winners, but there are some viable alternatives in this race. Furthermore, after such a strong start to the meet, Mike Maker went 3 for 42 (7%, $0.99 ROI) over the last two-week period ending on August 29. There are some things to like about Red Pepper Grill and Cause to Dream, but I’m most interested in a filly I’ve been waiting to bet back. East Wing 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 from new pilot Dylan Davis. She’s been scratched twice recently, and was supposed to have blinkers added in those starts, though they’re not listed here. There are questions, but I like that she drew an outside post this time.


Aloha West figures to vie for favoritism off his gutsy allowance win earlier in the meet. A repeat of that 115 TimeformUS Speed Figure will make him tough, and he was flattered when the second and third-place finishers Night Time and Cost Basis returned to finish in those same positions behind the talented 3-year-old Beau Liam last week. This colt has trained forwardly in Saratoga since then, and doesn’t figure to be bothered by the slight stretch-out to 7 furlongs. Though he is a closer in a paceless race, he overcame soft fractions to win last time. He’s the one to beat, but there are others to consider. I’m somewhat against the lone speed American Power. He figures to have a pace advantage, but I really didn’t like his effort in the Nerud last time and wonder if he’s heading the wrong way. Three Technique put in a fine effort in that same Grade 2 event, finishing a solid third behind the classy pair of Mind Control and Firenze Fire. I won’t hold his Vanderbilt against him, since he was just a little overmatched against that Grade 1 field. Seven furlongs is perfect and he’s drawn well outside. That said, I want to go in a different direction with Our Last Buck. This gelding really came to hand last winter, earning a stakes win at this distance over the talented Funny Guy. He was put on the shelf after that and didn’t resurface until earlier in this Spa meet. He caught a sloppy track in the Morrissey off the long layoff but ran an admirable race to stay on for third. He should benefit from that experience. While he’s stepping up into a tough spot here, he does have the tactical speed to sit close to likely leader American Power, and I believe he can cause an upset with his top effort.


I have no major knocks against likely favorite Time Limit, other than the fact that her form is totally exposed at this point. She’s already won twice at this meet over this same distance, and now steps up in class again. Horses like this tend to get a little overbet, though I don’t want to undersell her talents. She’s become a much more versatile horse as a 4-year-old and figures to work out another good trip from her outside post position. I prefer her to Gotta Go Mo, who could also take some money here. She tried this level last time as the odds-on favorite and disappointed to just miss to an inferior rival. Some might say that Jose Ortiz wasn’t aggressive enough in the early stages, but she was still supposed to beat that weaker field. I want to go in a different direction if I’m trying to beat Time Limit. My top pick is first time turfer Motivated Seller. She has the natural speed to be effective over this 5 1/2 furlong distance, and she comes into this race in great form. Though she lost at this level on dirt first off the layoff last time, she arguably ran the best race. She set a taxing early pace and was only run down by a pair of deep closers. Furthermore, Chad Brown is a surprisingly strong 8 for 27 (30%, $2.41 ROI) with 3-year-old and older non-maidens trying turf for the first time, and within that sample he’s 3 for 4 (75%, $5.07 ROI) in turf sprints. This filly has plenty of turf pedigree, by versatile sire Into Mischief out of a dam who ran exclusively on turf and synthetic.

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