Saratoga & Del Mar Scouting Reports: Kentucky Horses for July 18
Lots of Kentucky influence on the Sunday Saratoga card. I’m most intrigued by Mischiefful in Race 9. She’s a super talented filly entered to test turf for the first time against an accomplished field of grassy dashers. She should offer a square price if the race stays on the grass, and if it gets rained off, I’ll be looking to single her in the multi-race wagers.
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 Partner’s Hope (10-1 ML) – Live longshot turf (preferred) or dirt
In his first start back off a five-month layoff, this sophomore son of More Than Ready finished a troubled fifth of nine. Off four lengths slow, he found himself in a tight spot between horses early on. Steadied nearing the turn, he made a solid bid under a ride, only to be checked late. He finished a distant fifth, but only missed second by two lengths. Based on pedigree I’d like him a little better in what would be his turf debut. If it’s washed off, his deep closing style would be a bigger concern, but if the price is right and the pace looks like it will play out honestly, I’d still be willing to back him.
#13 Mark This Down (12-1 ML) (AE) – Win contender turf only
Bet down to odds of 5-1 against nine rivals in his career debut six weeks ago, this sophomore son of Kitten’s Joy raced in the clear while three-wide and finished evenly to the wire. I get a sneaky suspicion that the connections expected more of him, and now he takes a logical drop in class with blinkers on. If the race stays on turf and he does draw in, he’s worth a second look at the expected price.
#6 Mystical Man (6-1 ML) – Win contender dirt, gimmick player turf
His last four races have come at Churchill, and his most recent start was the best of his five-race career. Over that one-turn dirt mile on June 3, he was covered up at the rail near the back of the pack while chasing fast fractions. He popped out five-wide off the turn for home and finished willingly behind a talented top trio. He has some turf influences on the dam’s side of the pedigree, and his lone grass start, which came in his career debut, was deceivingly good. A little sneaky if the race stays on turf, he’s a much more obvious contender should it get washed over to the main track.
#7 Group Hug (10-1 ML) – Gimmick player turf or dirt
This sophomore son of Speightster ran twice at the Churchill spring meet. Off a two-month layoff on May 23, he got a dream run on the rail and finished a creditable third behind a decent, gate-to-wire winner over a racetrack that slightly favored speed. Cut back to a one-turn mile in the follow-up start, he was hung four-wide while pressing into fast pace, and he subsequently flattened out over a racetrack that slightly favored off the pace types. Finished third in his lone turf start, but another one who would theoretically benefit if the race gets washed off.
#3 Abdan (20-1 ML) – Gimmick stretch dirt only
This three-year-old son of Liam’s Map did a little bit of everything during the Churchill Downs spring meet. Nine furlongs in the slop to a one-turn mile and a sprint on a fast track, he lit the tote in all three. Now he’s entered to run on turf for the first time off the claim, but a rainy forecast could wash it off, and that scenario would theoretically work in his favor. He ran perhaps his best race of the meet last out when pressing hot early fractions before settling for third. Sure to go forward, he could set the pace stretching back out here.
#11 Complicate (20-1 ML) – Gimmick stretch turf or dirt
In his first start back off a two-month layoff and only the second of his career, this gelded sophomore son of Lookin at Lucky set the pace before finishing fifth of 11 in a turf route that absolutely fell apart late. He actually held OK, considering. He faces a lot of class droppers here, and will need to take a solid step forward in order to be competitive.
#6 Honor Hop (3-1 ML) – Top win contender
Two starts back over 10 furlongs at Churchill, this four-year-old daughter of Honor Code spied an honest pace, took over on the turn and held off the odds-on favorite. She proved the effort was no fluke in her follow-up start, against the boys, over 12 furlongs on turf. She couldn’t quite match strides with the top four in the final quarter-mile, but it was a solid effort nonetheless. She drops and returns to the main track against the girls and appears to be as good as any.
#2 Misty Veil (5-2 ML) – Win contender
This sophomore daughter of Tonalist ran three times at the Churchill spring meet, and her two dirt starts, the only runs on that surface in her seven-race career, were actually quite good. On April 27 in a $20,000 maiden claimer, she set a comfortable pace, responded when asked, and held firm. She broke four lengths slow and raced evenly in a follow-up turf start in advance of a rise to the allowance ranks for her return to dirt. Dismissed at odds of 21-1 against six rivals, she was nudged for speed out of the gate and enjoyed a perfect, pressing trip through honest fractions. She couldn’t quite push past a logical 2-1 pacesetter late, losing a tough, nose decision. She fits like a glove under today’s starter conditions.
#4 High Fashion (4-1 ML) – Secondary win contender, B in multis
Off a career-best effort in her sloppy track maiden-breaker at Keeneland, this sophomore daughter of Union Rags proved it was no fluke in her follow-up start at Churchill. Racing in the clear throughout, she was hung six-wide on the turn for home. She sustained her closing bid to the wire over a racetrack that slightly favored off the pace types and just missed catching the 6-1 pacesetter. She fits this condition to a tee and could very well take another step forward in the third run of the form cycle.
#3 Puye Timing (6-1 ML) – Gimmick player
Pinched slightly at the start of her lone run of the Churchill Downs spring meet, she was denied the forward position that she covets. Forced to stalk an honest pace while three-wide, she was all in on the turn and continued willingly to the wire. Norm Casse shows his hand with the presence of Luis Saez. If she can make the lead and back down the pace, a minor award likely awaits. I’d like to see her cut back and try sprinting again.
#1 Family Time (5-1 ML) – Dressed up, FADE
This sophomore daughter of Not This Time ran twice at the Churchill spring meet, finishing an even seventh of 12 in a $30,000 maiden claimer on turf with no excuse in advance of a runaway wire job over today’s nine-furlong distance in an off-the-turf race. Don’t give her too much credit for that one. She did set an honest pace, but it was one of the few defined, inside speed-favoring tracks at the meet, and her six rivals ran like they wished they were somewhere else.
#8 Handy (10-1 ML) – Live longshot on turf, top win contender on dirt
This four-year-old son of Tiznow enters this assignment in the best form of his career. He set a moderate pace over a one-turn dirt mile on May 15 before drawing away late. Stretched back out around two turns in his follow-up start, he enjoyed a pocket trip over a main track that favored speed. Held up on the turn behind honest fractions, he eventually enjoyed an advantaged run, but fell just short. Last out when switched over to turf, he broke alertly against 10 rivals and was steadied to the pocket. He raced three-wide in the catbird’s seat thereafter, was all in on the turn and sustained his bid to the wire, only to get run over late by a deep-closing winner.
#4 Fortuity (7-2 ML) – Prefer on turf, fits on dirt, but skeptical at a short price
The somewhat fortunate winner of an off-the-turf, one-turn sloppy mile on April 24 at Churchill, he returned to finish a better than it looks fifth in a grass route last out. Covered up at the rail in the slop, he gained momentum while under a ride on the turn, got away in the stretch and just held safe at the wire in front of Gershwin, who returned to win the Penn Mile (G3) last out. In the grass race, he sat in an advantageous, catbird’s seat position, made a threatening move while five-wide on the turn, steadied light and then evened out. Off the three best races of his career, it’s a little surprising that he’s being dangled for a $50K tag, but then again, it is Saratoga.
#2 Glory Road (8-1 ML) (MTO) -- Fade
A good second following some traffic trouble behind the eventual Ohio Derby (G3) runner-up three starts back, this four-year-old gelding was ambitiously placed off the claim in his follow-up start. He looked like the one to beat when dropped back down to the claim level in his most recent start, but instead he finished a no excuse fifth of six as the 8-5 favorite. Even if this race gets washed off the turf, I’d be willing to let him beat me.
#2 Super Quick (10-1 ML) – Potentially live longshot, B in multi-race wagers
This gal showed plenty of promise in three starts as a two-year-old, losing narrowly to the classy Clairiere in her final start of the year. Her much anticipated sophomore debut was four weeks ago. A very tardy start put her at a disadvantage from the start, but she enjoyed a perfect, spying trip thereafter and then tired badly on the turn for home. She cuts back for this, and the pedigree does suggest she might prefer sprints moving forward.
#2 Mischiefful (8-1 ML) – Top win contender at half the ML price on turf, potential single on dirt
The form is darkened by the clunker she threw in two races back, but this is a very, very nice filly. Not sure why she ran so poorly on May 20. She rushed up three-wide to press a fast pace, and had aim on the leaders late, only to fall flat behind a 13-1 frontrunning winner. She bounced back in a big way in her follow-up start, breaking from the rail and holding her position to battle through fast splits. She got away on the turn, switched her leads perfectly and was only nudged slightly before cruising under the wire with plenty left. Do take note, that race was originally scheduled for turf. If this race is washed off the grass, she’s a single. If it stays on, don’t expect to get the 8-1 price offered in the ML.
#4 Goin’ Good (5-2 ML) – Win contender on turf; B in multis on dirt
Sent off as the 3-2 favorite in a salty edition of the Mamzelle S. at Churchill, she was severely compromised when checked back early on. Sitting in an uncustomary position near the back of the pack early while covered up at the rail, she finished nicely to be fifth behind some talented foes. The betting public wasn’t discouraged, betting her down to 6-5 favoritism in a follow-up start against a similar group. This time she sat a cozy trip from the catbird’s seat, pressed the leader into the turn, and proved best late.
#10 Illegal Smile (9-2 ML) – Secondary win contender on turf only; B in multis
This Wesley Ward trainee ran a couple of bang-up races this spring at Churchill. Unfortunately for her connections, neither one landed her in the winner’s circle. Off two steps slow off a six-month break on May 8, she found herself in a claustrophobic position early on. Hung five-wide on the turn, she led late, but evened out just a bit in the final strides, getting the worst of a four-horse photo. In her follow-up start, she went head and head early through even fractions and dug in when challenged, only to be bested late by Goin’ Good, whom she faces again today. She’s in great form and off the two losses, she’ll probably be a bigger price than she should.
#9 Farsighted (15-1 ML) – Live longshot on turf, gimmick player on dirt
This filly has flashed some talent in her seven-race career, but she’s been unable to take her game to the next level. Against just four rivals on May 31 at Churchill, she spied a fast pace and finished clearly second best behind an accomplished foe in Li’l Tootsie. She’s entered for turf for the first time in her eight-race career, and the pedigree suggests she may turn out to have an affinity for it.
#8 Wink (10-1 ML) – Fade turf or dirt
She too ran in the Mamzelle, but after battling an honest pace early on, she shortened stride pretty badly in the stretch. She faces an equally talented group here, and I have a tough time envisioning the tide turning in her favor.
#6 Shirley Greene (10-1 ML) – Worth using in a multi-race spread scenario only
A somewhat odd claim for $30K out of a distant ninth-place effort in her debut at Keeneland, this $8K yearling buy dropped a notch for her follow-up start at Churchill four weeks later. In what was a weak race, even for that level, she sat near the back of the pack while covered up at the rail and made a mild bid on the turn before flattening out. The addition of blinkers could provide a spark.
#3 Hold Me Black (3-1 ML) – Win contender, sneaky single in multis
A well-documented lover of Churchill Downs, this seven-year-old gelding was dismissed at odds of almost 10-1 on May 14 under the Twin Spires. Going into that start, he had run several underwhelming races, and the seven-furlong distance was a big question mark, particularly against what appeared to be a decent race for the $20K starter level. Away alertly, he sat an advantageous, catbird’s seat trip behind moderate fractions early on before sliding over to the pocket. He got a dream run up the rail, and prevailed over a solid rival in P R Radio Star. Entered in a $50K claimer six weeks later, he lost four lengths at the break, rushed up four-wide and was hung six-wide on the turn before finishing up evenly. That race completely darkens his form. He is entered in a position to succeed here.
#6 Nightlife (7-2 ML) – Win contender, use with others as A in multis
A disappointment as the favorite on dirt on May 22 at Churchill, she woke back up with the return to turf off the claim last out. Stalking the pace while three-wide, she advanced steadily through the turn, had aim on the leaders in the stretch, and ran by late in what was a solid performance. She drops in price here, but appears to be facing a stronger field overall.
#3 On Deck (20-1 ML) – Gimmick longshot, worth considering in a multi-race spread scenario
A six-time winner from 15 lifetime starts, with all of those victories coming on dirt or synthetics, this five-year-old mare was claimed for $25K out of a second-place finish at Churchill on May 22. She broke alertly that day, but was forced to stalk the pace while three-wide. Five-wide on the turn for home, she gutted out second behind a runaway winner. Her affinity for the Poly at Turfway lends hope that she’ll like turf too.
#11 Founder’s Day (20-1 ML) – Gimmick stretch
Claimed out of her second career start for $75K, she ran a big race in her first of two spring tries at Churchill on May 20. Stalking a fast pace from the two-path, she cut the rail late, but failed to menace the 13-1, gate-to-wire winner while outfinishing the rest for second. Despite the solid performance, she was dismissed at 17-1 in her follow-up start over seven furlongs. She enjoyed an advantageous, pocket trip that day, but faltered on the turn for home and faded. Sprinting on turf, she’ll try something new here.