Saratoga Horses in Focus for Sunday, August 7


Likely favorite #2 Naughty Gal seemingly needed her debut, in which she raced a bit greenly. This daughter of Into Mischief took a big step forward second time out, showing improved early speed before drawing off to an impressive 9-length victory. The time she ran matched the Debutante on the same card, and she earned a nice figure. A repeat of that performance will make her awfully tough, and she’s looked strong in her recent training. This early-developing type appears to have a size advantage over her competition at this stage. She picks up Luis Saez and goes out for a barn that knows how to win 2-year-old stakes at the Spa. She might have a bit of speed to deal with on the front end since debut winners #1 Apple Picker and #3 Promise of Hope both want to be forward as well. I’m taking a shot against the favorite with #4 Sabra Tuff. This filly showed some real tenacity in her debut, rushing up to take the lead after a slow start and fending of multiple challenges through the stretch. The runner-up returned to win her next start, improving her TimeformUS Speed Figure by 10 points. She moved up to stakes company in her second start at Churchill and used completely different tactics, rating in last early before slicing through the pack to run up into second through the stretch. She obviously has to get a little faster, but I like the versatility and willingness that this filly has displayed. It doesn’t hurt that she gets a rider upgrade to Irad Ortiz and lands in a spot where her experience should serve her well.


This G3 Saratoga Oaks didn’t draw the largest field, but it’s an interesting cast of 6 promising 3-year-old fillies. #2 McKulick has to be considered the one to beat off her convincing victory in the G1 Belmont Oaks last time out. She had been mildly compromised by trips and pace scenarios in her first two starts of the year, but Irad Ortiz was able to work out a beautiful journey for her last time. She saved ground on the turns and was produced into the clear with plenty of time to run down the leaders. However, she’s now cutting back slightly in distance and landing in a race that doesn’t feature that much speed. We also got 5-1 on her last and she’ll be a fraction of that price today. #3 With the Moonlight didn’t have a major excuse in the Belmont Oaks, but I like that she’s stayed in this country to train since that race. She looked awesome working in company with Derby starter Nations Pride last week and could be sitting on an improved effort. Yet I’m most interested in the horse who defeated McKulick at Churchill. #4 Walkathon may get somewhat overlooked here despite the fact that she’s undefeated on turf. While she did have the pace in her favor when she won the Regret last time, she figures to get an even more favorable setup this time. Only With the Moonlight has the tactical speed to go with her, and I’d imagine that Leparoux will allow Walkathon to go forward and secure a solo lead. She can really motor along when she gets into a comfortable rhythm, and I believe this talented Kentucky shipper will be tough to reel in.


Two of the likely favorites in this spot exit the Perfect Sting last month at Belmont. #5 Jouster won that day, getting a pretty good trip. She’s steadily been rounding back into top form since tailing off in the second half of her 3-year-old season. However, now she’s stretching back out around two turns and I think last time was the time to have her. I actually prefer #1 Love and Thunder out of that Perfect Sting, since she made an early move into contention on the far turn before flattening out. Trakus caught her running that third quarter in 22.25 seconds, so it’s understandable that she had little left for the stretch. However, she’s just not a reliable win candidate, having settled for too many minor awards in the past, so I have trouble picking her on top. #6 Our Flash Drive also makes sense as she ships in from Canada. It appears that she has really improved as a 4-year-old and figures to sit a good stalking trip. Yet I want to get a little more creative with my top selection. #8 Assertive Style has never won on the turf, but she has run well on this surface the last couple of times that she’s tried it. It also seems like she’s subtly improved since the claim by Tom Morley. She achieved a graded stakes placing behind two talented rivals in the Vagrancy two back. And she actually ran deceptively well in the Intercontinental last time, having to alter course in the stretch before hitting her best stride too late. Now she stretches out, but she’s successfully routed on the dirt in the past so stamina shouldn’t be an issue. She could also potentially be the speed in a race that doesn’t feature a clear front-runner, and Javier Castellano is making all the right moves currently.

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