Saratoga Horses in Focus for Sunday, August 21

RACE 5: REUX (#1)

The obvious horse to beat in this $32k claimer is Devamani (#3), winner of the Grade 2 Knickerbocker and Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes, who is dropping down significantly after having plenty of success for these connections. He just hasn’t come back in the same form now that he’s an 8-year-old. For what it’s worth, Chad Brown is 6 for 10 (60%, $3.25 ROI) with non-maidens getting 50% claiming tag dropdowns over the past 5 years. He’s a deserving favorite, but I am a little concerned about his running style in a race that lacks a clear pace scenario. The other noteworthy dropdown in this field is Monarchs Glen (#10). However, his recent form leaves a lot to be desired and he’s another lacking early speed. Mertkan Kantarmaci has entered two uncoupled runners for turf and I think they’re both fairly interesting. Attentive (#3) looks logical as he drops slightly off the claim for $40k last time. I thought he put in a decent effort, and he also feels like one that can be slightly more forward than few other contenders. My top pick is Reux (#1). I know his recent form looks terrible, but he feels like the potential controlling speed in this race. I also like him stretching out in distance, since he was most effective at a mile and beyond when racing overseas earlier in his career. Kantarmaci has deceptively strong statistics off the claim on turf, especially over the past two years. He’s showing an improved worktab for this race, and may be ready for a step forward at a big price.

RACE 7: TIDE OF THE SEA (#4)

Balthus (#3) just seems to be putting it all together for Chad Brown. This well-bred son of Galileo returned as a new horse since getting gelded and adding blinkers. He’s also responded well to the gradual stretch-out in distance, and seems like one that will relish today’s 1 1/2 miles. However, he was almost 6-1 when he won last time, and now he’ll be a fraction of that price while stepping up to face a tougher field. I don’t doubt that he’s the horse to beat, but I just didn’t feel compelled to throw more support towards him at a shorter price.  I do much prefer him to the possible second choice Reigning Spirit (#7). This horse got the right trip last time the Louisville. Though he was wide for much of his trip, he stayed out of trouble in race where many others had to deal with traffic issues. He’s obviously better going longer, but I need some confirmation of that last-out improvement before backing him in a spot like this.  I’m instead going in a different direction with Tide of the Sea (#4). It’s possible that this 6-year-old’s career is simply finished, as his recent turf form has been pretty abysmal compared to the peak of his career. Yet now he’s been claimed by Tom Morley for Flying P Stables, a combination that has had plenty of success, especially in this situation. Morley is 16 for 57 (28%, $2.78 ROI) second off the claim over the past 3 years. He has rehabilitated a few runners for these connections, mostly recent Lure Stakes winner Dynadrive. Tide of the Sea didn’t actually run that badly on turf three back, and last time he actually showed some signs of life on dirt for these connections. He figures to be the controlling speed on the stretch-out.

RACE 9: DANSE MACABRE (#8)

Wesley Ward sends out two runners in this Bolton Landing, including likely favorite Love Reigns (#2), who is returning to the U.S. following a solid effort in the Group 2 Queen Mary at Royal Ascot. Her career debut at Keeneland was obviously very impressive, as she earned a 97 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance. Ward has great stats with these types, as he is 12 for 22 (55%, $3.35 ROI) with 2-year-old foreign shippers over the past 5 years. A return to that form makes her an obvious contender, though I’m not sure she deserves to be an overwhelming favorite. This came up a pretty strong field for this type of race and there are definitely others to consider. Grand Oak (#5) didn’t run nearly as well as Love Reigns in that Queen Mary, but she figures to be more effective getting back to American racing. She showed promise in her first couple of starts and is sure to be a much better price. My top pick is Danse Macabre (#8). She showed ability in her debut when second to Schuylerville runner-up Summer Promise, and it felt like she really took a step forward on the turf last time. Though she broke her maiden at Colonial, she did so in a turf race that seems pretty strong for the level. She earned a 102 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the performance, which is the highest number in this field. She drew away impressively in the lane and there were some significant gaps behind her, often a hallmark of a fast race. Trainer Kelsey Danner does excellent work with turf sprinters and is 5 for 19 (26%, $5.08 ROI) in turf sprints at NYRA over the past 5 years.

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