Saratoga & Del Mar Scouting Report: Kentucky Horses for Aug. 7
The match-up between Knicks Go and Maxfield in Saturday’s Whitney (G1) at Saratoga is fascinating. For multi-race wagering purposes, it makes sense to take a stand, and I’m going to give the ever-so slight edge to Knicks Go, who should be the controlling speed.
Due to a complete revamp of the turf course, the Churchill Downs backstretch is completely vacant this summer, and many of those horses have taken up residence at Saratoga.
As the racing analyst at Churchill Downs, it’s my job to provide information you can’t necessarily read in the past performances. I keep detailed track bias, pace and trip notes for every race, every day, and that information can prove to be quite valuable, particularly when horses travel from one circuit to another.
For the entirety of the Saratoga meet, I will provide “scouting reports” for the horses who raced in Kentucky in their most recent start.
#10 Slim Slow Slider (8-1 ML) – Secondary win contender; B in multi-race wagers
Sent off at 6-1 in his career debut on June 21 at Churchill, this son of Vancouver ran better than the fifth-place finish would indicate. He stalked a slow pace from the two path, ranged up closer on the turn, was stuck in tight between foes, advanced steadily, made a bid four wide on the turn for home and then flattened a bit late.
#5 Fort Peck (10-1 ML) – Live longshot; sneaky A in multi-race wagers
This six-year-old gelding’s last four races have been subpar, including his most recent start at Churchill on May 9. Four wide on the first turn, he raced three-to-four wide on the backstretch and faded badly on the turn. He’s capable of much better and has run well fresh in the past. Diodoro shows some confidence by entering him back here off the claim. This isn’t the strongest race for the level and he should get the right trip behind an honest pace.
#2 American Tattoo (ARG) (3-1 ML) -- Secondary win contender; B in multi-race wagers
This six-year-old son of Not for Sale showed plenty of promise early in his career, but his form was poor when Norm Casse reached in to claim him for $50K on May 9 at Churchill. Stretched out from 5 1/2 furlongs in the slop to 12 furlongs on turf in his initial try for the new barn, he practically crawled on the lead while in hand, but faltered badly on the final turn. He took a big step forward when cut back to nine furlongs on dirt last out. Breaking alertly, he set a slow pace and dug in once challenged to finish a game second at 30-1.
#4 Stage Left (9-2 ML) – Gimmick player; willing to fade in multi-race wagers
Sent off as the even-money favorite in an off-the-turf start at Churchill on June 3, this five-year-old gelding stalked a hot pace set by a runaway leader while three wide and he failed to make an impact in what was un uncharacteristically dull effort. I’m skeptical he will return to top form and even his best likely leaves him short.
#2 Brigadier General (3-1 ML) – Win contender; A in multi-race wagers
In his career debut on June 26 at Churchill, this son of Street Sense was sent off at 8-1 against 11 rivals. Reluctant to load the starting gate, he was ridden along early to the pocket and then found himself in an advantageous position in the catbird’s seat behind a fast pace. He had aim off the turn, but raced a bit greenly off the turn and settled for second behind the odds on favorite Gunite. It was a very good debut effort in what should be a key race moving forward.
#9 South Bend (12-1 ML) – Gimmick stretch; fade in multi-race wagers
In the Blame S. on May 29 at Churchill, this four-year-old colt lost two lengths at the start. Covered up at the rail while trailing a tepid pace, he had momentum on the turn. Hung four wide, he got pinched out badly between rivals at the top of the stretch, but raced evenly thereafter. Four weeks later in the Stephen Foster (G2), he raced in the clear behind an honest pace and simply outfinished beaten rivals to finish a non-threatening fourth. He returns to turf for the first time in over a year in this spot, and one could easily argue that he’s better on the main track.
#4 Fighting Seebee (20-1 ML) – Fade
This four-year-old ran three times in Kentucky this spring. In his April 8 victory at Keeneland, he got a dream run at the rail behind a fast pace and prevailed in a race where eight horses were separated by three lengths at the wire. In two of his three races at Churchill he stalked a slow pace but failed to kick with the leaders, and in his stakes start over 12 furlongs he was simply overmatched. He’s ambitiously placed here.
#3 War Like Goddess (8-5 ML) – Top win contender; A in multi-race wagers, but not willing to single at the expected short price
On April 23 at Keeneland, this four-year-old filly trailed an even pace while covered up at the rail near the back of the pack. She gained momentum five wide on the turn and displayed an explosive turn of foot, blowing past her rivals and winning well in hand. We haven’t seen her in 3 1/2 months, and her only previous start off the bench resulted in her lone defeat.
#5 Maxfield (8-5 ML) – For multi-race purposes, single Knicks Go (my lean) or Maxfield
I’ve had the pleasure of watching the vast majority of this four-year-old colt’s starts live, and he’s never been better than he is right now. In the Alysheba (G2) on April 30, he was hung four wide on the first turn and then raced in the two path on the backstretch behind an even pace. He loomed three wide in hand on the turn, took over on his own accord, and was kept to task late while clearly best. Two months later in the Stephen Foster, he stalked from the two path behind an honest pace, made a bold move in hand on the turn and was four wide on the turn. He took full command and was eased under the wire.
#5 Empty Tomb (7-2 ML) – Secondary win contender; B in multi-race wagers
Cut back to a one-turn mile on May 22 at Churchill, this five-year-old son of Speightstown made the lead through very moderate splits for the distance. He dug in when challenged, and held firm to the wire in what was an advantaged run. Ambitiously placed in the Stephen Foster in his follow-up start, he broke alertly and set an honest pace, but he was unable to finish with his classy rivals late.
#5 Train to Artemus (15-1 ML) – Gimmick stretch; C in multi-race wagers
This Tapizar filly ran three times as a two-year-old in Kentucky. Bet down to 5-2 in her career debut on Kentucky Downs turf, she set a reasonable pace while loose on the lead before tiring very late to finish third. In an off-the-turf race six weeks later at Churchill, she was allowed to set a slow pace in the slop. She took full command off the turn and was eased at the sixteenth pole. Four weeks later, in her first start on a fast track, she broke two lengths slowly, rushed up to battle an honest pace, and faded badly over a racetrack that favored off-the-pace types.
#9 Spicy Marg (8-1 ML) – Win contender; A in multi-race wagers
In five career starts, this sophomore daughter of Into Mischief has only raced against restricted female company once. She ran well in her first two starts as a two-year-old, and was super impressive in her Oct. 25 run at Churchill, wiring the field and winning with plenty in reserve. She ran into a buzzsaw and finished third in her follow-up start on dirt, and then disappeared for six months. In her return run on June 4, she flashed speed for a half mile as the 7-5 favorite, but wilted entering the turn. The “good” turf course did noticeably favor off-the-pace types. That poor effort will darken her form, and the recent works look inspiring.
#13 Semble Juste (IRE) (MTO) (8-1 ML)
Bred for grass on both side of the pedigree, this sophomore daughter of Shalaa has actually run two of her better races on dirt, and she’s entered for main track only here. Her first of two tries at the Churchill meet came at a mile on turf. She broke alertly, enjoyed an advantageous pocket trip, and finished evenly to be fourth of 12 behind a filly who has since come back to win again. Cut back to a one-turn mile on dirt last out, she broke well once again and enjoyed a perfect pressing trip through moderate fractions over a racetrack that favored speed. She took full command off the turn and was solidly best.
#5 Zippy Baby (4-1 ML) – Top win contender; A in multi-race wagers
On June 13 at Churchill, this gray gelding lost two lengths at the start. He rushed up to stalk a slow pace from the catbird’s seat, had aim in the stretch and led late, only to get nailed right on the finish line in what was a tough loss. He adds blinkers off the claim, which seems like a logical move.
#6 Midnight Jostar (3-1 ML) – Win contender; A/B in multi-race wagers
In a rare dirt start off a three-month layoff on May 6 at Churchill, this four-year-old gelding rated near the back of the pack at the rail behind a tepid pace. Seemingly loaded on the turn, he had aim late and made a bid, but the slow pace took some of the steam out of his late run, and he settled for third. Six weeks later over his preferred turf surface, he broke slowly, losing two lengths. Last early behind an even pace while hung three wide, he finished well but simply had too much to do. He appears as though the early pace will be honest in this one, and he should be on edge for a big run in the third start of the form cycle.
#3 Cane Creek Road (8-1 ML) – Gimmick stretch; willing to fade in multi-race wagers
Following a promising second at 49-1 at Keeneland on April 17, this three-year-old gelded son of Bayern tailed off a bit during the Churchill spring meet. On May 7, he set a slow pace and was swarmed late, fading to sixth. Claimed for $50K, he stepped up to the starter ranks for his follow-up start. He enjoyed a perfect, spying trip through even fractions, and put a head in front off the turn for home, but was outkicked by the top two late.