Saratoga and Del Mar Scouting Report: Kentucky Horses for July 23
Friday’s featured Lake George (G3) for three-year-old filly turf milers has quite the Kentucky flavor. Based on the morning line, Navratilova and Tobys Heart, the one-two finishers in the Tepin, should provide value.
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.
#1 American Law (5-2 ML) – Would offer much more value if uncoupled
This sophomore son of Constitution has run well in all four lifetime starts, three of which came around two turns. He hasn’t competed in seven weeks, but the works have been steady, with three of those breezes coming on turf. He set a tepid pace as the 3-5 favorite in his May 14 start, but gave way once headed in what was a disappointing effort. I noted “high knee action” that day, which is often an indicator that a horse will prefer turf over dirt.
#8 Flint Ridge (5-1 ML) (MTO) – Sneaky A in multi-race wagers
Surprisingly bet down to 5-2 favoritism against eight rivals in his career debut on June 26, this sophomore son of Into Mischief lost four lengths at the start. Hung three wide throughout the journey, he failed to make an impact, finishing a distant eighth. He’s listed with blinkers here, and would be a candidate for major improvement if the race gets washed off the turf.
#4 Kentucky Ghost (9-2 ML) – Win contender; A in multi-race wagers
This 4-year-old son of Ghostzapper ran some big races on turf last year, but he’s taken his game to a much higher level at age four. Two back over nine furlongs at Churchill, he was steadied on the first turn and raced in a clear stalking position behind a tepid pace thereafter over a turf course that slightly favored speed. He responded when asked on the far turn and made a quick move into contention. Hung six wide, he tried to lug in a bit late, but proved best nonetheless. In the Wise Dan (G2) over 1 1/16 miles in his follow-up start, he ran deceivingly well behind the monster Set Piece at odds of 16-1. He lost three lengths when crowded at the start, and found himself chasing slow fractions from the back of the pack while three-wide. Closer on the turn for home, he was hung seven wide before finishing willingly to the wire. He’s never run 12 furlongs, but has the profile of a horse who should handle it.
#2 Jais’s Solitude (8-1 ML) – Secondary win contender; B in multi-race wagers
This five-year-old gelding is winless from four starts at 12 furlongs, but he has been competitive against solid competition at the distance. Last out in the Louisville (G3) at Churchill, he stalked an honest pace for the distance while hung out three-wide. Nine wide on the turn for home, he finished evenly to the wire in a performance that was likely better than it looks on paper. He’s capable of showing better tactical speed, and has a rider aboard who will recognize that.
#14 American Tattoo (10-1 ML) – Gimmick stretch; potential C 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. He’s headed back in the right direction, and Luis Saez is obviously a good fit.
#7 Tobys Heart (10-1 ML) – Top win contender; A in multi-race wagers
Off six lengths slow in her career debut last June, this daughter of Jack Milton absolutely freaked thereafter, winning that turf sprint by nearly seven lengths. She served notice that day, but her results since have been somewhat of a mixed bag. In the Tepin last out at Churchill, she ran a winning race, only to fall a half-length short of the front running Navratilova. Bumped at the start losing four lengths, she was forced to race three wide on the backstretch. She made a bold move on the turn, was hung 6 wide and she sustained that bid all the way to the wire. She still has some upside.
#9 Navratilova (12-1 ML) – Win contender; A in multi-race wagers
Although three of her first five starts have come in sprints, this daughter of Medaglia d’Oro out of the classy Smart Strike mare Centre Court was always meant to route. Hung four wide throughout the Mamazelle, she was six wide on the turn of that turf sprint. She sustained her rally to the wire, falling just a neck short of the win. Stretched out to a mile for the Tepin, she broke alertly, set a tepid pace, shook off all challenges and dug in late to prevail. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. mentioned after the race that the plan was to get her covered up in a stalking position, but when she broke alertly and made the lead, she went on with it.
#4 Invincible Gal (15-1 ML) – Gimmick player; C in multi-race wagers
Bet down to 5-2 favoritism in the Tepin at Churchill on June 26, this sophomore daughter of Invincible Spirit found herself last in the field of 11 early on. Hung eight wide on the turn for home, she finished willingly without threatening. Trainer Graham Motion has added blinkers with success, and at 15-1 in the morning line, she’s worth secondary consideration.
#1 Demodog (12-1 ML) – Willing to fade
Undefeated from two starts, this sophomore daughter of American Pharoah takes a big step up in class for this assignment. Dismissed at odds of 21-1 in her debut, she broke alertly from the rail, set a slow pace, responded when asked, and sealed the deal. Displaying versatility in her follow-up run, she made a nifty move to the catbird’s seat on the first turn. Chasing a fast pace, she had aim late and grinded her way to victory.
#2 High Flair (6-1 ML) – Gimmick stretch; willing to fade in multi-race wagers
This sophomore daughter of American Pharoah routed on turf against special weight foes in both of her previous starts. She pressed an honest pace and faded on debut at Keeneland. Leaving from post 11 of 12 in the follow-up start at Churchill, she made a crafty move into a stalking position while covered up at the rail. The pace was honest, and she couldn’t keep up. She cuts back in distance and drops in class. For Wesley Ward to debut her in a route to begin with, early speed is obviously lacking.
#8 Optimistic Valor (4-1 ML) – Win contender; A in multi-race wagers
This gelded son of Optimizer ran against elders in each of his last three starts, the first of which was a win at Tampa. On April 27 at Churchill, he spied the eventual frontrunning winner through slow fractions before flattening out. Dropped into a $20K claimer in the follow-up start, he made the lead and set even fractions, only to tire in the lane behind Stage Ready, who won on the Del Mar turf last week. He’s the only horse in the race with two wins and the move back into restricted three-year-old company is a sneaky one.
#1 Cumberland Avenue (12-1 ML) -- Fade
This three-year-old gelded son of First Samurai ran two races at Churchill this spring, both at seven furlongs on dirt. In the slop on April 24, he lost three lengths at the start and was hustled along without response. He cut the claiming tag in half for the follow-up start, but after racing in the clear, he failed to make an impact. Out of a Kitten’s Joy dam, he was obviously claimed with turf in mind, but based on what we’ve seen so far, this dart throw will likely miss the mark.
#7 Taishan (8-1 ML) – Outside win contender; single #2, or include #7 in multi-race wagers
This four-year-old son of Twirling Candy ran twice during the Churchill Downs spring meet. In the slop on May 9, he was hung five wide on the first turn, but he sat a clear, stalking trip behind an even pace thereafter, and failed to make an impact behind the runaway winner Sprawl, who has since gone on to legitimize himself against graded stakes company. Cut back to a one-turn mile for his follow-up start, he somewhat surprisingly sat a close-up trip from the pocket behind hot fractions. He stayed on willingly to be third, and Gun It, the runner-up, retuned to win at Saratoga last week.
#8 Man On the Moon (5-1 ML) – Win contender; A in multi-race wagers
As the former owner with Brilliant Racing, I happen to have intimate knowledge of this horse. Even though he seemed to profile out as a two-turn grinder, we were very surprised he ran so poorly in the one-turn mile race on April 28. In what was a weak field for the level, he stumbled slightly at the start but sat a cozy, catbird’s seat trip thereafter while chasing fast fractions. Adding blinkers for his first start off the claim, he ran much better in his follow-up start. He enjoyed a perfect, spying trip behind an honest pace and stayed on nicely to the wire, only to lose a tough decision. Stepped up a level last out, he hopped at the start, losing four lengths. Bothered early, he raced in the clear thereafter while chasing a hot pace. Closer on the turn for home while still in hand, he was hung eight wide on the turn. He made a bid, but flattened. I think he’d be even more effective with more ground to work with, but two turns and the move back to restricted company off the claim should work in his favor.
#5 Language Barrier (15-1 ML) – Longshot gimmick player; C/B in multi-race wagers
Dismissed at odds of 10-1 against nine rivals over a one-turn mile two back, this First Samurai gelding was bothered at the start, losing four lengths. Ridden along on the backstretch, he advanced steadily, He made a bold move on the turn and was hung four wide. He took full command thereafter, and ran a surprisingly big race. Stepped up to the $20K level off the claim, he lost two lengths at the start, was shuffled out, and then raced three wide over a racetrack that favored speed. He proved to be no factor thereafter. Two turns and restricted three-year-old company should help the cause off the claim.
#3 Launch Pad (15-1 ML) – Willing to fade
This First Samurai ridgling ran twice at the Churchill Downs Spring Meet, once in the slop and most recently on turf. Facing just four rivals in the goo on April 24, he chased an even pace while three wide. Four wide on the turn, he had aim late and grinded his way to a narrow victory. Stepped up on turf off the $20K claim, he broke slowly and was outrun thereafter. Surprisingly, he has yet to run on a fast main track.