Saratoga Horses in Focus for Friday, August 26

RACE 6: PATRIA (#2)

I’m not thrilled with most of the short prices in this New York-bred N1X allowance. Lisa’s Vision (#7) would be the one that I would consider strongly, since she should appreciate the cutback in distance after failing to handle the stretch-out last time. She ran well enough to break her maiden two back and is dangerous with a repeat of that performance. She just figures to take money with Irad Ortiz getting aboard. I’m less interested in U Should B Dancing (#10), who got a fantastic pace setup when she won against a weaker field last time. I feel the same way about Tis a Pity (#9), who had no excuse not to get up for the win in her most recent start. The winner got much wider trip and ran a better race. I also think the longshot pacesetter of that July 29 affair is very interesting as she makes her second turf start. Patria (#2) was dismissed at 41-1 that day despite possessing some hidden turf pedigree. She blasted out of the starting gate and led for much of the way before just getting run down on the wire. She still earned a 104 TimeformUS Speed figure, which is one of the best numbers in this field. I like her chances to take them a bit farther this time now that she’s running on the Mellon course with the temporary rails down. The other horse I want to use is Aunt Virginia (#4), who has run well in both starts and figures to get a good stalking trip from her inside post.

RACE 7: ACOUSTIC AVE. (#1)

Andiamo a Firenze (#5), the younger three-quarter brother to Grade 1 winner Firenze Fire figures to go off as a heavy favorite in this Funny Cide. He was rumored to be a good one on debut and did not disappoint, blasting out of the gate to establish command before sailing clear in the stretch under minimal urging. He got a real class test when thrown in a tough spot in the Grade 3 Sanford and put in another fine effort. He sat just off a solid pace and simply got leg weary in the final furlong. My problem is that I don’t love the stretch-out in distance for him, especially in a race that appears to feature plenty of other speed. Some may try to pick him up late with the closer Donegal Surges (#4), but that debut winner needs to get significantly faster in his second start. I’m most interested in Acoustic Ave. (#1) as the alternative to the favorite. He’s another who took plenty of money on debut and delivered, setting a fast pace before drawing off through the lane. He earned a 92 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance, upgraded a bit due to the fast pace. That’s comparable with what the favorite has accomplished, and I think this guy is more likely to take a step forward. He’s been working that way, besting stablemate Song Parody (Race 1 today) in his recent drills for this. This owner/trainer combination has won this race with the likes of Senbei and City Man in recent years, and I think they may have another Funny Cide winner in the barn after Friday. 

RACE 9: ADVANCED STRATEGY (#5)

I’m hardly against likely favorite Key Point (#3), who is clearly the horse to beat in this N2X optional claimer for the New York-breds. He’s earned superior speed figures in his last couple of starts and will be tough to beat if able to maintain that form in his return from a 3-month layoff. While he did ultimately win by over 6 lengths last time, he had to be asked a long way from home to get into gear and only drew off after pressure had been applied for well over a furlong. He figures to take plenty of money due to the fact that he worked with Allen Jerkens favorite Jack Christopher last week, and I think there are some others to consider at bigger prices. Who Hoo That’s Me (#7) makes some sense off his recent N1X victory. He got a good trip, but drew away with authority through the lane and feels like one that will love this 7-furlong distance. There’s pace in this race to set up his late run. Yet I also think that will benefit my top pick. Advanced Strategy (#5) looks like a turf horse at first glance, but I actually think his dirt form makes him competitive here. He faced some good dirt horses in maiden and allowance races earlier in his career, and ran particularly well on dirt at Aqueduct in early 2021. His last dirt race on Feb. 13 is a lot better than it looks, as he was rallying wide against a gold rail that day in a race where the top two finishers were inside throughout. His performance off the layoff in the Kingston shows that he can still put forth a good effort, and I like him getting back to dirt in a spot where he figures to get somewhat ignored in the wagering.

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