Saratoga Horses in Focus for Thursday, August 25

RACE 4: ROYAL MOVER (#6)

Ee Yah (#7) could go favored in this maiden claimer for 2-year-olds as he drops in for a tag following a decent runner-up finish on debut at Monmouth. That has proven to be a strong race, as winner Great Navigator returned to finish a good second in the Grade 3 Sanford in his next start. Additionally, the third-place finisher returned to win with an improved speed figure. He makes sense as he switches into the barn of David Jacobson, who is seeking his first victory since a recent return to training. Yet I prefer a different runner from that same Monmouth race. Royal Mover (#6) finished fourth, about 4 lengths behind Ee Yah when they met on debut, though the Pletcher runner was finishing better and galloped out well. The major difference between them is that Royal Mover has gotten in an additional start, having raced at Monmouth again in late July. While it might appear that he regressed that day, the trip just did not work out. He showed improved tactical speed on the backstretch, but was then eased off the pace and found himself in a difficult position pinned down on the rail. He had some run in upper stretch, but could never get out from in behind a tiring foe while stuck on the rail until it was too late. I think he’s better than his past performances indicate. Furthermore, Todd Pletcher is 6 for 11 (55%, $4.27 ROI) with 2-year-old maidens making their third career starts at Saratoga.

RACE 6: QUEEN BOURBON (#3)

Rocky Sky (#8) figures to go favored here as she stretches out in distance for Chad Brown. This once well-regarded filly is still seeking her first win in this country after disappointing at a short price last time. She found herself in a seemingly weak race for this level that day and yet still couldn’t capitalize on a strong pace setup when attempting to rally up the rail in the lane. It’s unclear if this dramatic stretch-out in distance will suit her, though the slower pace could allow her to attain forward position. Among those who could take money, I prefer Light Stars (#7). Christophe Clement rarely has his European imports ready to fire their best efforts first time in this country, and this filly ran like one who needed a race off the bench. She was away awkwardly and then got rank through the opening stages, fighting Joel Rosario’s restraint for several furlongs. She ultimately settled and passed some tired runners late, suggesting there’s more in the tank. She feels like more of a certainty to successfully stretch out. I suppose Beside Herself (#2) is a threat to wire the field if she is ridden aggressively. She has used those tactics successfully in the past, though the 12-furlong trip seems like a tall order for this 3-year-old taking on elders. My top pick is Queen Bourbon (#3). I acknowledge that she got a perfect trip when she won her N1X condition two back at Belmont, where she saved ground early and produced an effective closing kick when angled out in the stretch. However, she got the wrong trip when she returned 21 days later at Saratoga. Breaking from the rail, she got shuffled back into the first turn and then made a premature, wide move up to stalk the pace. That race was dominated by horses who were ridden more patiently, and I’m hoping we see Jose Ortiz resort to those tactics this time.

RACE 8: HANDBELLE (#1)

I’m somewhat skeptical of the likely favorites in this maiden event. Tizzy in the Sky (#5) figures to attract strong support off her runner-up finish on debut at Belmont. She took money and ran well, just getting nailed in the last furlong after traveling strongly into the race. I do find it a little curious that she’s now being transferred to a new trainer, though Jose Camejo has had success at this meet. Liquidity Provider (#7) should also take money off her solid debut performance. She looked like a winner in upper stretch that day, but got passed from the inside by a longshot in the closing stages. Both of these fillies were primed to win on debut and didn’t quite get it done, so I’m reluctant to assume they’ll improve second time out. Alessia (#2) is another second time starter to consider, as she did put in a nice effort at Keeneland. However, the subsequent layoff and spotty worktab are a little concerning. I’m intrigued by both Bill Mott trained runners. The more logical of the two is Precursory (#8), who has earned speed figures that are comparable to both favorites in her recent starts. She also seems like one that may benefit from a slight turnback after trying a mile twice in a row. My top pick is the bigger price Handbelle (#1). I know she looks light on speed figures, but I thought she showed some promise in both races last year while racing a bit greenly. It appears that she’s been working well for her return down at Belmont, and I have a feeling that we’re going to see an improved version of her as she makes her 3-year-old debut.

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