Saratoga Horses in Focus for Thursday, August 18

RACE 1: UNCLE WATER FLOW (#3)

I don’t want any part of Olympic Dreams (#6), who could take some money as the lightly raced option in this maiden claiming field. He attracted some tote support in his debut against maiden special weight company at Belmont, but the performance was pretty ugly. He had to be niggled at to keep up in the early stages and was unable to maintain contact with the field after about 5 furlongs. It seems like a bad sign that Christophe Clement debuted him on turf since he really has more of a dirt pedigree. I’m skeptical of his ability to compete in any race on this circuit based on the optics of that debut. Sensibleconclusion (#1) is the horse to beat and I don’t have any major knocks on his recent form. He comes in with the best speed figures, though all those were earned sprinting. The distance is a minor hurdle, and he also lacks upside as he makes the eleventh start of his career. I prefer Uncle Water Flow (#3) at what figures to be a better price. This runner goes out of a low-profile barn, but he’s actually run pretty well in his only two starts over fast dirt tracks. He had a few trips early in his career, but put in a good effort going today’s distance when dropped in for a tag in March. He tried this $25k level for the first time last month at Belmont and ran well considering the pace of that race. They didn’t go that quickly up front, and he was the only one making up ground at the end. I think he possesses more ability than it appears and I like that Javier Castellano retains the mount.

RACE 6: BERNING HONOR (#1)

I imagine that Orange Freeze (#8) will take money by default in her career debut as she goes out of the potent combination of trainer Christophe Clement and jockey Joel Rosario. However, she’s not exactly a standout on pedigree, and she didn’t draw a great post position for the inner turf course. Freud is a versatile sire, but the two siblings to try turf haven’t had much success. She was decidedly second best to a workmate in that Aug. 5 drill over the Oklahoma course, so I’m a little skeptical of her overall ability at what figures to be a short price. The runner with the best pedigree in this field is Sarah’s Dialed In (#5), who sold to Mike Dini at the OBS April sale after working a furlong in 10 2/5. She’s from a strong Larry Goichman family of turf performers and is a half-sister to multiple grass winners Graded On a Curve and My Sassy Sarah. Those runners were by better turf influences than Dialed In, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if she took to this surface for a barn that can win with a firster. My top pick is Berning Honor (#1), who is one of two Dominick Schettino trainees in this field. She just looked like a runner who badly needed the experience in her debut. She broke a step slowly and was pretty green thereafter, reacting badly to kickback while climbing and striding awkwardly down the backstretch. She now adds blinkers for her second start and switches over to grass. Honor Code is a solid 13% turf route sire and her dam is by Freud, so there are some turf influences here. She looks like one that should handle it, and she also gets a rider upgrade to Flavien Prat.

RACE 9: ROYAL DANCER (#3)

I wasn’t on board Dream Central (#4) when she won two stakes in a row at odds of 39-1 and 9-1, so I don’t feel right jumping on her bandwagon now that she’ll be a fraction of those odds. She didn’t get much respect off her initial stakes win last time, but ran down a solid field and is arguably the horse to beat off that performance. Javier Castellano will take over the reins as Jose Lezcano has opted to instead pilot the morning line favorite Busy Morning (#6). That Jorge Abreu trainee is a dangerous prospect if she can handle the distance. Her breakout performance came going 6 furlongs last time, as she spurted away from an overmatched field through the stretch to win by 6 lengths. She didn’t finish nearly as well in her prior start at a mile, but that was just her debut. She’s a contender, but I’m a little concerned about stamina for this half-sister to sprinter Qian B C. I prefer Royal Dancer (#3) at what I’m hoping is a better price. She is getting a rider upgrade to Irad Ortiz, which figures to attract attention, but she’s also a maiden stepping up into stakes company. I thought she ran very well in her prior stakes attempt against Dream Central, when setting an honest pace in a race where the other speeds totally collapsed. The cutback to 5 1/2 furlongs last time may have been too sharp, but I like this stretch-out to a mile given the current rail position and her inside draw. I’m hoping Irad sends her forward from the gate and tries to slow down the pace, which seems to happen often in these one-mile races on the inner.

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