Saratoga Horses in Focus for Thursday, July 29

RACE 2: MO FAITH (#2)

Straw Into Gold is clearly the horse to beat as he comes off a solid third-place finish in the Manila behind some talented open company 3-year-olds. He got a great trip in that race, sitting just in behind eventual winner Original while racing along the hedge, and he was just unable to land a blow through the stretch. Prior to that he had been a decent New York-bred N1X allowance winner when allowed to set a moderate pace. It’s possible that he’s just improved, but I tend to think he’s coming into this race a little overrated off that Manila performance. Cold Hard Cash appears to be the main rival after running well in both turf starts at Belmont. He just missed at this level two back after leading in mid-stretch. Then last time he was simply second-best behind an improved effort from Klickitat. Cold Hard Cash is a threat to the favorite, but I’m most interested in a horse who finished well behind him last time. Mo Faith checked in last in that July 2 affair, but he didn’t get the best trip after chasing 3 to 4-wide throughout. Perhaps this once-promising 4-year-old has just gone the wrong way, but I’m optimistic that he can turn things around here with the switch back to Jose Ortiz. He won a tough maiden heat against open company on debut at Gulfstream, and then gamely fended off today’s favorite Straw Into Gold at Aqueduct. He’s been taken off the pace in both starts since, and I’m hoping Jose Ortiz rides him more aggressively here. This is his last chance, but the price should be fair.

RACE 7: TROUBLING MOON (#9)

It would appear that there’s likely to be at least an honest pace in this competitive claimer going a mile on the inner turf. The TimeformUS Pace Projector depicts Abiding Star in front setting a fast pace, and that 8-year-old gelding is arguably the horse to beat. However, after running well in his initial start for the Jeffrey Englehart barn at Belmont, he fell apart last time at Monmouth. The pace probably was the reason for the poor effort, as he ran off in a duel with another runner early before both folded in the stretch. However, he finds himself in a tough spot for the level. Hieroglyphics and Attentive are both interesting coming off wins, but they’ve each been claimed off Mike Maker by trainers who don’t win a high percentage of turf races. They’re dangerous if they maintain their form, but I’m somewhat skeptical. I prefer a couple of horses coming from other circuits. My top pick is Troubling Moon, who has yet to win on the turf in 6 attempts. However, he ran well in a couple of races down at Gulfstream, and has simply been overmatched in his last two starts in Kentucky. He’s placed appropriately here, and I like the rider switch to Jose Lezcano for a trainer who has a positive ROI with all Saratoga turf starters over the last 5 years. The other horse I want to use is Artemus Bridge, who has also kept some decent company out of town. He had no chance rating behind a slow pace at Delaware last time, but ran well in his prior start. He’s another who should benefit from a switch to a skilled turf rider like Joel Rosario.

RACE 9: FOOLISH GHOST (#7)

I’ll be interested to see how the public handles these two Michelle Nevin runners, either of whom could go favored. My Boy Tate has the better overall résumé, but he can be a little hard to trust at times. He threw in one of his occasional clunkers at Parx last time, failing to get involved over a sloppy main track as the even-money favorite. Now he returns off a brief freshening and would obviously be formidable if able to recapture top form. Our Last Buck is arguably more of a wild card since we haven’t seen him in over half a year. He was in the best form of his career over the winter at Aqueduct, following up an allowance score with a strong effort to win the Say Florida Sandy over My Boy Tate. However, now he has to prove that he can reach that same level off the bench. Wudda U Think Now is probably the most reliable option despite the fact that he exits a couple defeats at the allowance level. He was facing some very talented 3-year-olds in those races and was hardly disgraced either time. He’s posted consistent speed figures and handles this distance. I consider him the horse to beat, but I’m going in a different direction. While there is a bit of speed in this field, no one is as fast in the early going as Foolish Ghost. I’ll be somewhat surprised if horses like Wudda U Think Now and Runningwscissors are sacrificed to go after him, so it’s possible that Foolish Ghost could be allowed to set a comfortable pace. He’s been in razor sharp form lately, with his only poor effort coming when he missed the break at Aqueduct in April. He ran especially well last time, as he got early pressure from a foe and still ran away from the field late. Horses have come back to validate that speed figure, and I think he’s very dangerous even stretching out an extra half-furlong.

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