Saratoga Horses in Focus for Sunday, September 5

RACE 3: BALINESE (#9)

Coalition Building is obviously the horse to beat as a likely heavy favorite in this $40k maiden claimer. She was compromised by a slow pace last time when only managing to get up for third at the $75k level. The potential for a quicker pace in this spot will help her, but that loss marked the fifth time in a row that she’s been defeated as the favorite. She’s generally had good trips in most of her other starts and her form is mostly exposed, so I didn’t want to take yet another short price on her. If Coalition Building loses, I think it’s most likely going to be done by a horse who gets the jump on her once again. I’m hoping that can be Balinese, who returns from a layoff and makes her 3-year-old debut for Phil Serpe. Notably, she is the only horse in this race who is not risked for the $40k tag, as her connections had the optional to withhold the claiming price due to the fact that she last raced for the same tag over 6 months ago. Both of those prior starts came over the Tapeta surface at Woodbine and I thought she ran decently in both starts. She chased a fast pace in her debut and then got the wrong trip next time when going 4-wide all the way around the turn in a race dominated by rail runners. She shouldn’t mind the switch to turf as a half-sister to Futurity winner Uncle Benny. I think it’s also meaningful that Luis Saez takes the mount for this low-profile barn, as he figures to be aggressive in a race with a murky pace scenario.

RACE 8: TEXIAN (#4)

Jester Calls Nojoy figures to be pretty tough for this group to handle as she makes the second start of her career. She showed excellent early speed in her debut and fought on valiantly through the stretch, just succumbing to the more experienced Gimmick in the late stages. She had worked well leading up to that race and ran to expectations. She obviously wouldn’t need to improve much to beat this group, and her experience should be an advantage going this 7-furlong distance. Todd Pletcher is 3 for 18 (17%, $1.22 ROI) with 2-year-old maiden second time starters on dirt at Saratoga over 5 years. And picking up the leading rider at the meet certainly doesn’t hurt. I’m hardly against her, especially since none of the firsters in this race appear to be training particularly well. However, I am interested in some other runners with experience who could get dismissed at bigger prices. Pletcher’s other filly Amani’s Image is certainly one to consider after she raced a bit greenly in her debut. She’s bred to stretch out, and has apparently trained well out of that unveiling. I’d use her, but I’m most interested in Texian at what could be a bigger price. This filly got an educational run in the debut, as she really wasn’t asked for much until the late stages by Jose Ortiz. That was obviously a tough spot, as she and most of the others in that field were no match for the talented Echo Zulu, the expected favorite in the Spinaway later on this card. She didn’t take much money that day, so perhaps there will be more intention this time. Her dam was a multiple dirt route winner, so she should handle the added ground. Plus, Shug McGaughey is 6 for 28 (21%, $2.34 ROI) with 2-year-old maiden second time starters on dirt over the past 5 years.

RACE 11: DREAM LITH (#7)

Echo Zulu is obviously the horse to beat in this Spinaway as she stretches out off her visually impressive maiden victory on opening day. That was the faster of two maiden divisions on that card, and she was flattered when third-place finisher Outfoxed returned to run away with a stakes at Gulfstream last week. Echo Zulu may be very talented, but her 104 TimeformUS Speed Figure, while the highest number in this field, doesn’t make her a total standout in this race. Steve Asmussen is just 4 for 23 (17%, $0.99 ROI) with 2-year-old last-out debut winners returning in dirt graded stakes over the past 5 years. She also has to contend with a difficult pace scenario, as the two runners drawn immediately to her outside appear to be committed to sending for the lead. Given her likely short price, I want to take a shot against her, and I’m most interested in horses who can rally from off the pace. One of those who interests me is Tarabi, who makes her second start for Cherie DeVaux. She got a great trip in her debut, slipping through along the inside before running away late, and can be a factor here. My top pick is Dream Lith, who I trust the most to get this demanding 7-furlong distance. This filly took no money in her debut but ran a professional race. She rated kindly on the backstretch and delivered a strong stretch rally when called upon, finishing with good power through the line. The runner-up came back to finish off the board in her next start, but actually repeated the same TimeformUS Speed Figure, so it’s a legitimate number. She’s bred to handle added ground and she doesn’t figure to be bothered by having to rally from off the pace.

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