Saratoga Scouting Report July 18: Kentucky Horses

Profile Picture: Joe Kristufek

July 17th, 2020

An 11-race program, including the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) for 3-year-old fillies, will be offered Saturday 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.

Race 1

#5 Holland (4-1 ML)

Chilly on the toteboard, he was out the back early and never really made an impact, finishing more than 13 lengths behind his 7-5 stablemate winner Whiskey Double. He can certainly improve here, and he’s going to need to. Has a lot to prove.

Race 3

#2 Moon Over Miami (8-1 ML)

Live on the toteboard when adding blinkers and facing elders last out, he found himself in a claustrophobic position on the backstretch while chasing into an even pace. He advanced steadily through traffic, and finished best of all, giving trainer Bill Mott his 5,000th career victory. That wasn’t the strongest race for the level, but you have to respect the performance.

Race 4

#2 Lady by Choice (5-1 ML)

Off a four-month layoff, she was sent off as the 1-2 favorite on June 6 at Churchill. In tight between horses in a bunched-up field, she was steadied and shuffled to last. Hung five-wide on the turn, the mare had aim late, but evened out. She experienced a troubled trip last time, but it was a weak field for the level. Claimed out of that race, she resurfaces in a tougher spot here.

Race 5

#6 Oak Hill (3-1 ML)

In his career debut over 5 1/2 furlongs of turf, he was three-wide on the backstretch and made a quick move towards the lead while hung five-wide on the turn. He threatened in the deep stretch, but was not pushed on late when hopelessly beaten by the 4-5 chalk, settling for second. The pedigree certainly suggested he can handle the stretch. Must be given serious consideration.

Race 6

#3 Nautilus (7-2 ML)

Bet down to odds of 7-2 in his career debut, he was out the back early and rallied through traffic late to finish fourth behind Cazadero, who would later return to win the Bashford Manor S. Much more forwardly placed in the follow-up start following an alert break from the gate, he enjoyed a pocket trip and was in position to strike in the stretch, only to flatten while running on the wrong lead. He takes the blinkers off for this, but I would be inclined to play against.

#8 Breakthrough (6-1 ML)

Sent off as the 8-5 favorite in a turf sprint in his second career start, he chased the leader throughout, had aim in the stretch, but evened out a bit and finished second behind Country Final, who would return to grab the place spot in the Bashford Manor. Breakthrough is well drawn outside here, and should be given consideration.

Race 7

#1 Yaupon (2-1 ML)

Racing three-wide in a full field of 12 on debut, he drew even while three-wide on the turn. He led off the turn, bumped with a foe late and then held safe. Savvy, the horse who finished third, came back to break his maiden at Keeneland last weekend. Yaupon fits well here, but is buried on the rail against more experienced foes. Use? Yes. Single? Nah.

Race 8

#8 Flowers for Lisa (12-1 ML)

Off a six-month layoff in a third-level optional claimer, he was hustled out of the starting gate, battled an even pace, and then absolutely quit on the turn. He takes a big drop for this, but is tough to back off that last run.

Race 9

#2 Ramsey Solution (4-1 ML)

Off a three-month break, he crossed over from post position 11 to set a slow pace. He was never seriously menaced and extended his margin of victory to the wire. This is a tougher race, but he likely hasn’t reached his ceiling yet.  

#6 Set Piece (GB) (8-5 ML)

Off a seven-month layoff in what was his U.S. debut, he lost six lengths at the start and was last early behind pedestrian fractions while racing in the two-path. He made a quick move on the turn and was hung eight-wide. He sustained that bid all the way to the wire in what was an incredible run. This is a tougher race, and he’s not likely to get away spotting lengths like he did last time. He can certainly win this, but I would not recommend singling.

Race 10

#3 Altaf (5-1 ML)

In his second career start and first on dirt, she lost four lengths at the start of the one-turn mile journey. The pace was fast, and this girl swooped from the back of the pack to the lead while seven-wide on the turn in the blink of an eye. She absolutely cantered home in what was a WOW performance. She’s certainly bred to handle the added distance, and I like her chances quite a bit here. The NYRA morning line is very reliable, but 5-1 on this gal is likely too high.

#4 Velvet Crush (12-1 ML)

Dismissed at odds of 17-1 last out, she was hung four-wide on the first turn before settling into a perfect, pressing position. She took over off the turn, held safe, and galloped out way in front. Impeccable Style, the runner-up, returned to finish second in the Indiana Oaks (G3). Velvet Crush deserves a chance here, but she might be up against it.

#6 Paris Lights (2-1 ML)

In her second career start and first around two turns, she was super live on the toteboard, and she ran to her 9-5 odds and then some. Tugging while racing in the pocket behind honest fractions, she popped out in the stretch, responded when asked, and was eased under the while winning by almost seven lengths. In her follow-up start five weeks later, she enjoyed a perfect, pressing trip through slow fractions, drew even while in hand on the turn, and was kept to task late while drawing off to win by more than three lengths. As a side note, the 3-year-old filly beat elders in both of those races. She’s well drawn with tactical speed here and should get the right trip. Tough to dismiss.