Saratoga Horses in Focus for Wednesday, August 10

RACE 8: REPO ROCKS (#4)

I imagine that #3 Southern District will go favored in this Tale of the Cat as he seeks his fourth consecutive victory, but he does have some obstacles to overcome. He’s never raced at a distance shorter than a mile, and there may not be that much pace in here to set up his late run. He’s also coming off a victory at Churchill Downs in which he received a fantastic pace setup to win going away. I won’t be surprised when he handles the turnback, but I don’t need to take him at a short price. Some may turn to #5 Mr Phil as an alternative, but I have some reservations about this runner. He got a series of perfect trips when he was successful following the claim by Rob Atras, and he really had nothing to offer in the True North last time. #4 Repo Rocks figures to get somewhat overlooked going out for lower profile connections. However, he’s generally run well whenever he’s placed in realistic spots. He put forth a huge effort to win first off the trainer switch to Greg DiPrima in April with today’s rider aboard. And then last time I thought he put in a deceptively strong performance to be third in the G2 John Nerud, chasing home Life Is Good, finishing just over 2 lengths behind top sprinter Speaker’s Corner. He’s winless at 7 furlongs, but has run just fine at this distance throughout his career. The start will be key for him, as he sometimes has gate issues, but I think he’s a serious threat if able to work out a trip.

RACE 9: MAJOR SPIN (#2)

There are a few horses in this NY-bred allowance who I want to play against if they’re short prices. #5 Frank’s Art was visually impressive rallying from last to first in his debut at Belmont, but he got a fantastic pace setup. He feels like more of a sprint type, so I don’t want him stretching out. #3 War Terminator has run competitive speed figures, but is another that has excelled sprinting and seems like a real question mark going longer. The two logical favorites with proven route form are #8 Front Line Dancer and #11 Timbuktu. I’m not really opposed to either one, as both are coming off good efforts. Front Line Dancer has just been in solid form since returning from a layoff for Todd Pletcher this year. I don’t think he had any excuse when finishing second last time, but he was beaten by a horse with some talent. Timbuktu arguably still has upside in his third start off a layoff, though I’m not sure the slight cutback in distance to a mile helps his cause. I don’t see that much speed in this field to set up the late runs of these horses. Therefore, I want to take a shot with #2 Major Spin in his turf debut. He’s supposed to get the right trip, as he possesses plenty of tactical speed and has drawn a favorable inside post position for this distance. He doesn’t possess that much obvious turf pedigree on the dam’s side, but Hard Spun is an underrated turf influence, as his progeny win a healthy 14% of their turf starts in a large sample. This gelding moves like a turf horse and ran his best race over a sloppy, sealed track.

RACE 10: CLUBBING (#5)

Chad Brown has a couple of contenders in this maiden field. #8 Most Wanted Man could take money as the choice of Irad Ortiz after he closed for third at this level at Belmont. However, he never looked like a serious threat that day and I just get the sense there’s limited potential here. Between the Brown duo, I much prefer #7 Running Bee, who took a big step forward in his 3-year-old debut last time, closing well for second behind runaway winner Capensis. That rival did not come back to validated that performance in his next start, but third-place finisher Sosua Summer did return to win convincingly. Yet I want to consider some others. #9 Cloud Forest is a little intriguing as he tries turf for the first time. He ran pretty well in his career debut, tracking the pace before settling for second routing on dirt. However, his pedigree is definitely geared towards turf, as his dam did her best running on this surface and his second dam is the excellent turf mare Tranquility Lake. Bill Mott is 8 for 80 (10%, $1.94 ROI) with maiden non-firsters trying turf for the first time in routes over the past 5 years. I’m going in a different direction with #5 Clubbing. This horse finished last in his first attempt on this surface earlier in the meet, but he ran a lot better than the result would indicate. The early pace was a crawl, and he was restrained towards the back of the pack. He was racing in the two- to three-path around the second turn and was hitting this best stride too late in a race dominated by the longshot early leader. His damside pedigree is full of grass influences, and he’s a full-brother to stakes-placed turfer Passing Out. He strikes me as one that should handle the added ground, and he figures to be a square price.

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