Saratoga Horses in Focus for Wednesday, August 17

RACE 5: MIJA (#5)

This maiden special weight could feature some talented first time starters, though that also appeared to be the case in Sunday’s race at this same level, which was dominated by a runner with experience. Binsky (#7) is the only filly in his field with a start under her belt and she figures to benefit from it as she faces a group of newcomers. Linda Rice is 8 for 23 (35%, $2.97 ROI) with 2-year-old maiden second time starters over the past 5 years. This filly was slow into stride in her debut, but was staying on well at the end. The only knocks against her are that the race was falling apart after some quick early fractions and she was the only MTO entrant in a field of turf-meant horses. I think she’ll do better here, but there are some interesting first time starters. Justifying (#8) could take some money for Steve Asmussen, who typically excels with his juvenile debut runners. She looked slightly second-best to another unraced filly in that Aug. 6 workout and seems like one that may ultimately want more ground. Padma (#6) was second-best in company with the highly-regarded Upper Case in her most recent drill, but that one disappointed in her debut on Sunday. My top pick is Mija (#5), a Stonestreet homebred daughter of Spinaway winner Rachel’s Valentina, and granddaughter of the great Rachel Alexandra. She’s by Curlin, so she’s another who may ultimately want to go farther than this. However, I like the way she’s been working into this debut. She looked best in company in that July 31 drill and then always seemed to have more in the tank when holding the edge over a stablemate from the gate on Aug. 7. Some may be deterred by the fact that John Velazquez is named on her, but he still rides some good ones for this barn.

RACE 7: CRYPTO MAMA (#7)

This auction-restricted maiden event features a couple of fillies with experience who could attract support. U Glow Girl (#6) seems likely to take money again after getting bet down to 2-1 favoritism in her career debut. She contested a fast opening quarter that day before fading and deserves some credit for finishing ahead of her other pace rivals. However, she lost by 13 1/2 lengths to a winner who was only 2 lengths off the lead at the first call. Perhaps Leave No Trace is just a talented specimen, but I want to see some confirmation of that race’s quality after the runner-up returned to regress on turf. Brad Cox is 32 for 105 (30%, $1.49 ROI) with 2-year-old maiden second time starters in dirt sprints over 5 years. These runners win, but they tend to get overbet. I’m taking the other second time starter Crypto Mama (#7). Kelly Breen is 9 for 30 (30%, $2.00 ROI) under those same parameters mentioned above for Cox. She may not have been facing the strongest field at Monmouth in her debut, but I liked the way she stayed on at the end. That pace was pretty slow relative to the final time, with all TimeformUS Pace Figures color-coded in blue. She was the only one to be passing runners late on a day that is also coded as favoring speed. She seems like one that will surely appreciate added ground as a daughter of Cloud Computing, and she gets a rider upgrade to Joel Rosario. The other horse I’d use is firster Oh Donna (#4). I liked her OBS sale workout and Ray Handal has had some success with debut runners over the past few years.

RACE 9: SHINSUN (#3)

I readily acknowledge that Dakota Gold (#8) is a likely winner of this New York Stallion Series stakes. I’ve just seen a pattern of him getting continuously overbet and foresee him once again going off at odds that make him an unappealing wagering prospect. It was ludicrous that he got pounded down to 1-5 last time when facing a field that included a couple of rivals with quality. He had every chance to go by the winner late and was unable to get his head in front, failing to perform up to expectations. I pegged him at 3-5 on the morning line here, but won’t be surprised when he gets bet down much lower than that even in this 10-horse field. All of his rivals are running significantly slower speed figures, but a few of them are coming into this race with upside. My top pick is Shinsun (#3), who makes just the third start of his career. He wasn’t beating much of a field in his career debut against maiden claimers, but I really liked the way he leveled off through the stretch, mowing down rivals while appearing to gather momentum approaching the wire. He stepped way up in class to try starter allowance foes last time and rose to the challenge, again unleashing a furious stretch bid to nearly get up for second. He’s going to require some pace here to have a chance at the upset, but I think he has another step forward in him and I’m going to get rewarded at a square price if able to defeat this favorite.

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