Saratoga Horses in Focus for Thursday, August 11

RACE 3: CLARA BELLE (#3)

This feels like a spot where many will default to logical dropdown #5 Dame Cinco. She appears to have a tactical advantage, shown as the early leader on the Pace Projector in a race predicted to favor front-runners. She also owns the best speed figures in the field and has won at today’s distance. That makes her look pretty formidable, but there are some questions to be answered. She tailed off significantly at the end of last season, and we’ve only seen her once in 2022, over three months ago. That race was a little disappointing, as she was defeated as the favorite by a horse who looked inferior on paper. Perhaps she’ll bounce back, but it is worth noting that her best speed figures last year were accomplished over tracks that TimeformUS has color-coded red, indicating strong speed biases. I see two alternatives. #2 Preposterousmakes her first start off the claim for Antonio Arriaga. The barn has solid stats with this move and she broke her maiden going this distance on dirt. Yet I’m more interested in #3 Clara Belle at what should be a fair price. She’s spent most of her career racing on turf, but it’s unclear if she actually prefers that surface. She broke her maiden in her lone dirt route attempt, winning by 6 lengths at Fair Grounds over the winter. She didn’t earn the strongest speed figure, but that may have been a better field than it appears, as horses have returned to improve in subsequent starts. She has more of a dirt pedigree, and may just finally be getting back on the right surface for Mike Maker.

RACE 7: KERSHAW (#4)

I’ll be interested to see how much money #1 Air Attack takes off the 99 Beyer and 117 TimeformUS Speed Figure he earned for his last performance. The claim was voided that day, and now he’s coming back for the same price tag, still with Rob Atras. He’s obviously formidable if able to produce his best effort, but this gelding has never been that reliable. From a class standpoint, #8 Winter Pool might be the horse to beat. He’s coming off a couple of disappointing efforts, but that Keeneland race two back was dominated on the front end while he was racing wide at the back of the pack, and last time a one-turn mile is just too short. He’s stretching out to the right distance off the claim for Norm Casse and relished this Saratoga surface last summer. #6 Claytnthelionheart is another who has enjoyed past Spa success and could be dangerous here if able to recapture his past form. #5 Truculent goes out for Mike Maker, who doesn’t have the best stats off the claim with dirt routers. However, he does possess tactical speed, which could be an asset against this field. I’m going in a different direction with #4 Kershaw. This horse was in form that would beat this field as recently as this spring, prior to entering the Bonnie Lucas stable. That trainer just hasn’t had much success with the horses under her care, and runners racing first off a claim away from Lucas over the past 4 months are 4 for 7 (57%, $4.14 ROI). Furthermore, new trainer Jose D’Angelo is 8 for 17 (47%, $2.66 ROI) first off the claim in dirt routes over the past 2 years. If Kershaw can step forward for the new barn, he’s a serious threat to beat this field at a square price.

RACE 9: BREEZE EASY (#6)

Morning line favorite #7 Empress Tigress will obviously be tough to beat if she starts in this Galway. Jonathan Thomas has said that he’s likely to just run one of his entrants, and it would be her only if the turf comes up firm. This daughter of Classic Empire obviously possesses a ton of talent. She was an easy winner on debut at Woodbine in a race that is much stronger than speed figures capture. And she took to turf without issue in the Coronation Cup last time, spurting away in upper stretch before holding off a closer. Her tactical speed should ensure that she works out another good trip, but she does figure to be a shorter price than the generous 7-2 odds we got last time. Thomas’s other runner #3 Benbang is hardly impossible if she’s the one that competes here. She ran well to win the Blue Sparkler at Monmouth last time and may be the controlling speed if her stablemate scratches. Yet I’m taking a shot against these runners with #6 Breeze Easy. She’s run well in both starts since coming to this country. She got briefly shuffled back in upper stretch of the Soaring Softly two back before coming on to just miss. They tried to stretch her out to a mile last time in the Wild Applause, and she might have run the best race. She got involved in an early duel through some quick fractions before succumbing to a pair of Chad Brown closers who got perfect trips. I don’t mind the turnback for this daughter of sprint sire Bated Breath. Furthermore, Christophe Clement is 6 for 17 (35%, $3.03 ROI) going from routes to turf sprints in non-graded stakes over the past 5 years. 

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