Saratoga & Del Mar Scouting Report: Kentucky Horses for July 31
Due to a total 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.
#6 Woodline (9-2 ML) – Win contender; A in multi-race wagers
In a race where his stablemate winner Red Run was 3-5, this son of Gun Runner was sent off at odds of 8-1 in his career debut on May 9. Off slowly losing five lengths in the five-furlong slop sprint, he was hung six-wide on the turn but managed to stay on for third. Five weeks later over a fast track, he broke on top and battled for the lead through hot fractions over a racetrack that slightly favored speed. Faces a field of mostly first-time starters, and his experience could certainly come into play.
#7 High Tone (5-2 ML) – Win contender; A in multi-race wagers
Off a nine-month layoff on May 16 on the Churchill turf, this four-year-old son of Tonalist bobbled slightly at the start from an outside post. He pressed a slow pace thereafter, led off the turn, and dug deep once challenged in the stretch, only to lose a narrow decision. Instead of losing him via the claim box at Churchill, it looks like the connections decided to await Saratoga with this New York-bred, who does appear to be a bit of a standout on paper.
#6 Dowagiac Chief (12-1 ML) – Gimmick stretch; C in multi-race wagers
Sent off at odds of 10-1 against 11 rivals in a debut race that should be very key moving forward, this son of Cairo Prince broke alertly, but was hung three-wide while chasing hot fractions. He made a bid while five-wide on the turn, but lost a little ground thereafter. The stretch-out around two turns makes sense, but the turf pedigree is marginal at best.
#6 Secret Time (5-1 ML) – Top win contender; A in multi-race wagers
In her April 3 run as the lukewarm 3-1 favorite against 11 foes at Keeneland, this four-year-old daughter of Camacho saved ground near the back of the back while chasing fast fractions. Loaded on the turn, she awaited racing room and somehow found a way through, but by that time others had already gained more serious momentum. Off 3 1/2 months, she returns with blinkers back on. Looks like a live wire.
#2 Invincible Gal (3-1 ML) – Secondary win contender; B 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 this gal was recently scratched out of the Lake George (G3) stakes for three-year-olds in favor of this first-level allowance against her elders.
#6 Whitmore (4-1 ML) – Win contender; A/B in multi-race wagers
In the Churchill Downs (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day, this ageless eight-year-old gelding was hung three-wide on the backstretch while chasing a fast and contested pace. He made what appeared to be the winning move while six-wide on the turn and put his head in front late, only to get the worst of a three-horse photo.
#4 Strike Power (15-1 ML) – Gimmick stretch; fade in multi-race wagers
Sent off at odds of 4-1 in the non-graded Kelly’s Landing at Churchill on June 25, this lightly raced six-year-old veteran broke alertly and made the lead through a reasonable opening quarter. They quickened in the middle stages, and he simply couldn’t quite go with the top pair late. Collectively, this is a much tougher spot than that one.
#2 Masqueparade (4-1 ML) – Logical alternative if you’re willing to oppose Essential Quality, which I am not
I’m very familiar with this improving son of Upstart from his races in New Orleans and Kentucky. He ran some solid races at Fair Grounds this winter, but the massive step forward he took in the Derby Day allowance at Churchill was tough to envision. Off two lengths slow, he raced three-wide on the backstretch, drew even in hand on the turn, was hung five-wide, responded when asked and drew off like a good thing. Seven weeks later in the Ohio Derby (G3) at Thistledown, he stalked an even pace, pressed on the turn, and for the first time in his young career, he proved he could win a battle.
#7 Tizzarunner (5-1 ML) – Gimmick player; willing to fade in multi-race wagers
Off nearly a three-month layoff on June 11 at Churchill, this eight-year-old gelding raced last in the field of eight through pedestrian early fractions while covered up at the rail. Closer on the turn, he kicked home strongly to just miss behind the 21-1, gate-to-wire upsetter. This is a tougher race for the level and there doesn’t appear to be a lot of speed signed on. The presence of Irad Ortiz Jr. deflates the price.
#3 Code Duello (7-2 ML) – Gimmick player; willing to fade in multi-race wagers
I’m very familiar with this horse from his runs in New Orleans and Kentucky. On May 7 at Churchill, he was hard held early and he continued to tug on the rider when placed in the pocket. Chasing slow fractions, he hung around in the stretch without seriously threatening. In the follow-up start five weeks later, he enjoyed a perfect, pressing trip through slow fractions. He put his head in front off the turn, but couldn’t finish with the top three late in what was a “no excuse” performance.
#5 Ocean Atlantique (6-1 ML) – Willing to fade
Off a two-month layoff, this four-year-old son of American Pharoah was entered to compete on dirt for the first time in a 10-race career. He spied a slow pace early, drew even on turn, but faltered at the top of the stretch. The switch from Brendan Walsh to Mike Maker is lateral enough, and I’m guessing this guy will get more attention than he deserves.
#3 Media Blitz (15-1 ML) – Willing to fade
Off a nine-week layoff and making only his second start in a year, this four-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro enjoyed a perfect, pressing trip through galloping fractions over the 12 furlong distance. He drew even on the turn, led late, and held firm as the 3-2 favorite in what was a very average field for the level. Three weeks later at the same distance, he got the same trip, but the fractions were even softer. Swarmed at the top of the stretch, he gave way readily as the overbet 6-5 favorite in what was a “no excuse,” dull performance.