Saratoga Horses in Focus for Wednesday, August 31

RACE 4: BABY BLYTHE (#2)

Chad Brown holds a strong hand in this race, sending out two of the likely favorites. Zainalarab (#3) comes in with some of the best turf speed figures, but I didn’t like the way she finished going a mile last time. She had a clear chance to seize control of the race in upper stretch and just seemed to hang. I prefer Nevisian Sunrise (#4) from that race, despite the fact that she finished just behind her stablemate. She was stymied in traffic in upper stretch and only found running room once it was too late to mount a challenge. She has more tactical speed that she showed that day, and I would expect her to get a more aggressive ride from John Velazquez. However, there are others to consider. Todd Pletcher sends out Scotish Star (#5) to try the turf for the first time. She does have some pedigree for the surface, but it’s a little odd that she’s switching surfaces after having run well on dirt in California for Richard Mandella. It’s also unusual that she’s worked exclusively on turf leading up to this. My top pick is Baby Blythe (#2). She’s coming off a poor effort going 11 furlongs earlier in the meet, but she got the wrong trip that day. She was wide throughout while far too keen trying to run off under restraint. I just don’t think the marathon distances work for her, since the slower paces tend to make her more aggressive. I like her turning back to a mile and she should settle better if Luis Saez can get her covered up early from this inside draw. The talent is there for her to be effective at this level. She just needs a trip.

RACE 6: TAKE CHARGE LISA (#9)

I don’t have a major issue with the likely favorites. Sals Dream Girl (#5) is arguably the horse to beat as she drops in for a tag for the first time in her career. She’s coming off a poor result in July, but that was a much tougher spot and she was always out of position after breaking from the far outside post position in a 12-horse field. She figures to do better from today’s slot, but I’m still not thrilled with the idea of taking her at a short price, especially since the Danny Gargan barn has been a little cold at this meet. Eau Claire (#4) also makes perfect sense on the dropdown. I didn’t think she had any excuse to get run down at Belmont on June 4 when she got away with pretty soft fractions up front, but she is facing softer company this time. I just want to get a little more creative with a filly who I’ve been waiting to see get a chance on turf. Take Charge Lisa (#9) hasn’t shown much on the dirt, but she strikes me as a candidate to move up on this surface. She worked well over the synthetic track at OBS when she sold for $107k as a 2-year-old. She’s by Will Take Charge, who is a deceptively strong turf influence, getting 15% winners from his turf route starters. The dam never tried turf, but she has produced a turf winner by Bodemeister. I think she’s going to take to grass, and am encouraged to see that her connections have waived the claiming tag in her return.

RACE 9: DETERMINEDLY (#11)

Battle of Normandy (#1) seems like the horse to beat off his solid debut score earlier in the meet. He earned a strong 98 TimeformUS Speed Figure that day and wasn’t a major surprise, as he cost $500k as a yearling and had trained well into the race. He also drew a good post position in this large field, which should help Kendrick Carmouche work out a trip for him. He’s an obvious contender, but I just didn’t want to settle for the favorite in this wide open race. Andthewinneris (#2) also offers some appeal off his impressive maiden-breaking score at Keeneland back in April. That was accomplished over a sprint distance, but he’s bred to stretch out and finished up that race like one that shouldn’t mind some added ground. It’s also encouraging to see Flavient Prat take back the mount in a race where he seemingly had another live option. Some may find Our Dream Rye’d (#9) appealing off his win at the distance in late July. However, he was a surprise at 21-1 that day, and is going to be a much shorter price this time. Furthermore, he benefited form a hot pace up front and worked out a perfect trip, avoiding a traffic jam in the stretch. That was not the case for also-eligible entrant Determinedly (#11), who did save more ground than the winner, but lost momentum when ridden into traffic at midstretch. Despite having to stop and start at a critical point in the race, he gathered himself and was still finishing best of all, actually making up ground on the winner late. The other horse who encountered traffic in the stretch, Rarified Flair, came back to win off his trip. If this runner draws into the race I think he’d be a major player despite the fact that he’s the lone maiden in the field.

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