Saratoga Horses in Focus for Sunday, September 4

RACE 6: TAKE CHARGE BRIANA (#2)

Stonestreet homebred Pure Pauline (#4) is likely to take some money as the only debut runner in this field. She’s out of a dam who won the G2 Black Eyed Susan, who has produced one full-sibling who earned both victories on turf. Todd Pletcher is 4 for 32 (13%, $0.99 ROI) with 2-year-old first time starters in 6.5 to 7 furlong dirt races at Saratoga over the past 5 years. She’s been coming along nicely in her workouts, and was best in company from the gate in that fast drill on Aug. 21. I won’t be surprised if she runs well, but this is a tough spot for a first time starter. There are a few with experience who have a license to improve. Bill Mott sends out a pair of runners, both with upside. I prefer Misintention (#6), a Godolphin homebred who closed decently up the rail in her debut. She’s been working well out of that race, recently looking best in company with debut runner-up Arthur’s Ride, who runs on Saturday. My top pick is Take Charge Briana (#2). This well-bred Lukas filly has been coming along nicely through two career starts, and now takes the next logical step, stretching out to 7 furlongs. She was beaten by some pretty good Todd Pletcher trainees in the first couple of starts, including Kaling, who is a major player in the Spinaway. She showed improved tactical speed last time, which should serve her well from this rail draw. The added distance is not supposed to be an issue for the daughter of Curlin, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have Prat take over the reins.

RACE 9: TIMBUKTU (#4)

I have no major issue with Catch That Party (#1A), who seems like the horse to beat after closing to victory at the starter allowance level last time out. He also ran better than the result indicates two back when blowing the start. He arguably does have the most natural talent of anyone in here, but his deep-closing style does make it a little more difficult to work out a trip. Frank’s Art (#5) may also attract support off his narrow loss on the stretch-out last time. However, I think this horse has gotten fantastic trips and setups in both career starts. He closed into a fast pace on debut in a race that completely fell apart in the late stages, and last time he saved ground for much of the way, riding an advantageous rail path before angling out. I prefer Timbuktu (#4) from that Aug. 10 race. He finished farther back in the pack, but just got the wrong trip. Breaking from the outside post position, he was wide around both turns, which was not a path to success when the temporary rails were down on the inner turf course that week. This horse had run well in his prior start at this level at Belmont, and the slight stretch-out in distance from last time figures to suit him. The other horse that I want to use is Citizen K (#10). I’m not as convinced that the distance suits him, but he did run better than the result would suggest in his first attempt going this far last time. He was very wide into the clubhouse turn and proceeded in the 3-path racing without cover for much of the race. That’s an especially tough trip for a horse who had previously been a closing sprinter.

RACE 11: KALING (#1)

This Spinaway has drawn a talented and competitive field of 10 juvenile fillies. The horse to beat is arguably Wonder Wheel (#9), who is seeking her third victory in a row after romping in the Debutante late in the Churchill Downs meet. She doesn’t have a significant speed figure edge this time, but she has trained well over the main track at Saratoga, registering an impressive series of drills leading up to this Grade 1 test. Also in the field are recent Saratoga stakes winner Just Cindy (#5) and Naughty Gal (#4). The former wasn’t beating the strongest field in the Schuylerville, but seems like one that should have no trouble with the added ground. Naughty Gal is a little tough to endorse after she blew the turn and raced so greenly through the stretch of the Adirondack, though she obviously has some talent. However, I’m most interested in a couple of local debut winners. My top pick is Kaling (#1), who was so professional in her debut score early in the meet. She had trained aggressively into that race, but showed no keenness in the afternoon, kindly rating off two horses before passing them at the quarter pole. She strikes me as one that should love this 7-furlong distance, and I’m very encouraged by the way she’s trained out of that victory. The other filly that I want is Leave No Trace (#6), who figures to be a better price. She won a weaker auction-restricted race on debut, but she traveled strongly into a fast pace to break the race open that day. The pacesetter returned to win with a much faster speed figure in her second start, and I won’t be surprised when this one has a step forward in her.

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