RACE 2: LADY FIREFOOT (#8)
Chad Brown holds a very strong hand in this maiden claimer, as he sends out the two likely favorites. Beachfront Bid (#1) has the stronger credentials, having finished second at the maiden special weight level in 4 of her 6 starts. This is just a logical Saratoga dropdown for a barn that likes to win races, as this filly hasn’t really progressed since the winter at Gulfstream despite continuing to run well. She’s clearly the horse to beat, but I don’t like to default to short-priced favorites who seem to have issues winning races. For what it’s worth, Chad Brown is 8 for 18 (44%, $2.84 ROI) going from maiden special weight to maiden claiming races on turf at Saratoga over 5 years. That stat also applies to Gather the Facts (#7), but she’s a little tougher to endorse off her last race. She ran fine in her career debut, but was one who needed plenty of encouragement to get into gear. She just didn’t respond as well with the blinkers last time, and those come off here. However, the stretch-out is an added hurdle, and it’s not like she’s going to be a great price either. I’m going in a different direction with Lady Firefoot (#8). She’s stepping up into a much tougher spot after debuting for $40k earlier in the meet. However, I thought she showed some promise that day. She was off to a slow start and got into some trouble down the backstretch when steadying in behind horses. She also had to check on the turn before finishing up decently through the lane. She looks like one that should want to run a lot farther than 5 1/2 furlongs, so I like the stretch-out for this daughter of Temple City.
RACE 6: ULUMALU (#7)
Provision (#9) and Secretary of War (#2) finished second and third, respectively, in a race that this level back on Aug. 4. I thought Provision ran the better race that day, as he had to stalk in the two-path while Secretary of War rode the rail. Provision kicked on better at the top of the lane, and was in contention until getting pushed inward by the eventual winner in deep stretch. Jonathan Thomas, trainer of Secretary of War, does well with second time starters, but his numbers with 2-year-olds aren’t particularly impressive. I prefer Provision today but it’s not as if either one figures to be much of a price as the obvious runners with positive experience in this field. There are a few other second time starters with upside, but I’m most interested in one of the firsters. Ulumalu (#7) is a $20k yearling purchase by 6% debut sire Cinco Charlie. Though that sire never ran on turf, he’s been a deceptively strong turf influence, getting 18% turf winners among his progeny. The dam was unraced but all 4 of her foals are winners, including one minor turf winner. Ken McPeek is 5 for 49 (10%, $2.11 ROI) with 2-year-old first time starters in turf routes over the past 5 years. This colt has been clearly best in company with Highest Rated, a $1 million unraced son of Frankel, in his recent workouts on the Oklahoma dirt course. He appears to have some ability for a modestly-bred sort, and may get somewhat overlooked.
RACE 10: APPRAISE (#8)
This Skidmore marks the second start of Oxymore (#3), who was one of the most impressive juvenile debut winners at the recently completely Belmont meet, and clearly the best of those who ran on grass. He went off at 11-1 that day for low-profile connections, but has subsequently been privately purchased by a Michael Dubb partnership and transferred to Chad Brown. The Brown barn is 3 for 13 (23%, $1.45 ROI) first off a trainer switch with last-out maiden winners over the past 5 years. This runner obviously has talent, but horses running back out of that July 1 maiden event haven’t exactly flattered the winner, so there’s some question about the quality of the field he beat. I actually prefer Brown’s other entrant Appraise (#8). I really liked the grit this colt displayed in hanging on to win his debut last month. He got a good trip stalking the pace outside and looked vulnerable to a late challenge from runner-up Inflation Nation before turning that one away at the wire. That came up a fast race as the top two finishers drew well clear of the rest. This Irish-bred son of Kodiac looks very fast and I like the professionalism he showed in his debut. I’m not sure he really deserves to be a much bigger price than Oxymore, so I’m landing here. The other horse that I find very interesting is No Nay Hudson (#4). He won his debut impressively at Keeneland before fading late in the Tremont. I know Wesley Ward was initially apprehensive to try him on turf, but I liked the way he worked over the Oklahoma turf course last week. His pedigree says he’s supposed to be better on this surface, and he could prove a real threat to Oxymore on the front end.