Saratoga Horses in Focus for Wednesday, August 24


Built to Last (#4) is clearly the horse to beat as he drops in for a tag for the first time in his career. This doesn’t appear to be the toughest $40k maiden claimer for the level, and he’s run speed figures that tower over this field in his recent starts. That said, he is coming off his worst performance in months when cut back to today’s distance earlier in the meet. He did have an excuse that day, as he was rushed into a fast pace from his rail post position, but he still faded badly in the lane. I have no argument that he isn’t the most likely winner, but I don’t feel compelled to swallow a price around even-money or lower on this 0-for-8 maiden. The only alternative that I can come up with is first time turfer My Slick Nick (#2). Though this gelding is by mediocre turf influence Frost Giant, he is out of a dam who achieved all of her success on grass and was a 4-time winner on this surface. Curiously, none of her other foals have tried turf. My Slick Nick showed speed in his career debut here earlier in the month before fading in the stretch. He moved a bit like a turf horse that day, and seems like one that should be fairly quick from his inside post position. He’ll be dangerous here if he can get in front of Built to Last early and secure the inside path, especially with the temporary rails coming down on the Mellon course this week.


Both favorites in this N1X allowance look pretty formidable off their towering last-out speed figures, but I think it’s valid to question whether either can repeat those numbers in this spot. Thin White Duke (#6) will almost surely beat this field if he runs another 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure, which he earned for his narrow miss in the Grade 3 Troy behind Golden Pal. While that appears to be a legitimate performance, Golden Pal was not at his best that day, and Thin White Duke got a sensational ride from Jose Ortiz. This horse is not exactly a winning, and has benefited from perfect trips twice in a row. Main rival King Angelo (#5) earned a career-best 115 TimeformUS Speed Figure for his victory over New York-breds in late July. However, he enjoyed an uncontested early lead that day in a race where no one was able to close from the back of the pack. There’s other speed this time, so I’m skeptical that he’ll be as fortunate. I actually prefer Call Me Harry (#8) from that July 24 event at a better price. He ran poorly after an awkward start, but is now making his first start off the claim for Joe Sharp, who does well with his turf sprinters. I liked both of his prior efforts at Monmouth, especially his performance two back when third behind subsequent stakes winner Breakthrough. My top pick is Overbore (#11), who cuts back in distance after trying a mile in his return to turf 11 days ago. He got the wrong trip that day, as Flavien Prat inexplicably chose to rate him off a slow pace, prompting the horse to get rank for the first quarter mile. I prefer him going shorter anyway and like him getting back into a turf sprint. He has to run the fastest race of his career to compete here, but I think he still has some upside for Wesley Ward, whose horses have been running very well at this meet. The rider switch to Joel Rosario certainly doesn’t hurt either. 


It’s perplexing that this John’s Call would draw such a weak field. A 12-furlong optional claiming $62k/N2X affair last weekend attracted a much stronger group, so I can’t blame the connections of Tide of the Sea (#3) for scratching out of that spot to instead run here. He’s the only one out of 6 John’s Call nominees who ran last Sunday to make that decision. I had picked Tide of the Sea in that race, so I surely like him in this spot, where his advantages seem even more apparent. He’s handled extended distance before, which is a question a few of the outsiders in here still have to answer. Some may question his current form, but I don’t think some of his recent performances are nearly as bad as they seem. He put in a decent effort three back on May 1 against a strong allowance field, and then got an odd ride on June 3 when his jockey parked him out in the center of the turf course and never asked for serious run. He made his first start off the claim for Tom Morley in an off-the-turf affair last time and actually ran deceptively well, contesting a strong pace and battling on gamely to just miss second. I think that performance bodes well for his return to turf and he projects to get an easier trip as the likely lone speed. That could be a real advantage now that the temporary rails have come down on the Mellon turf course. The other short prices in this affair do very little for me.

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