Saratoga Scouting Report: Kentucky Horses for Aug. 14
Thee of the 10 horses entered in Saturday’s Saratoga Special (G2) exit the Bashford Manor (G3) at Churchill, but it’s Gunite, the other Kentucky invader, who interests me most.
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.
#9 Laughing Boy (5-2 ML) – Alternative to potential single Askin for a Baskin; B in multi-race wagers
This sophomore son of Distorted Humor endured a nightmarish trip in his lone start as a two-year-old and then he didn’t resurface until 6 1/2 months later at Churchill. Hammered down to 3-1 over a one-turn mile against nine foes, he broke out from the extreme outside post at the start, then rushed up to press a fast pace. He came up a bit short in the stretch, finishing third, but the racetrack did slightly favor off the pace runners that day.
#4 Flint Ridge (10-1 ML) – Potentially live longshot vs. talented favorites; B in multi-race wagers
Hammered down to 5-2 favoritism in a competitive field of nine in his career debut on June 26 at Churchill, this sophomore colt lost four lengths at the start. Near the back of the pack while chasing a fast pace, he was hung three wide on the backstretch and was well beaten by a runaway winner. He’s seemingly trained well between starts and the addition of blinkers could help him take a major step forward.
#1 Absam (2-1 ML) – Gimmick player; willing to fade in multi-race wagers
This four-yeear-old son of Hard Spun ran a pair of solid races over the Churchill Downs turf course this spring. On May 6 over nine furlongs, he lost four lengths at the start and sat near the back of the pack early behind pedestrian fractions. Hung four wide while advancing in the middle of the turn, he was hung seven wide off the bend, made a bid and then evened out. Cut back to 1 1/16 miles on June 24, he raced in tight between horses while stalking an even pace and then stayed on late without threatening the sharp, frontrunning winner. He was entered for a claiming tag and scratched on July 21, so the return to allowance company is a vote of confidence. Take note the 2-1 morning line has everything to do with his stablemate, who is entered for main track only. If this race stays on grass, he more like a 6-1 shot.
#2 Big Blue (12-1 ML) – Gimmick stretch; C in multi-race wagers
Off a 10-week layoff on June 19 at Churchill, this sophomore son of Big Blue Kitten sat near the back of the pack while chasing even fractions and he did very little running thereafter. He takes a needed drop in class here, but still appears to be up against it.
#6 Defeater (8-1 ML) – Sneaky win contender; A/B in multi-race wagers
Bet down to the second choice at 8-5 against six rivals on Jan. 2 at Fair Grounds, this sophomore son of Union Rags broke slowly in that six-furlong sprint, losing two lengths. Racing in the two path behind an even pace, he found momentum on the turn. Hung four wide on the bend, he had aim late and rolled by while racing greenly. Stretched out six weeks later, he once again broke slowly, losing five lengths. Last in the field of 11 on the backstretch while chasing an honest pace over a racetrack that slightly favored forward types, he made a steady advance at the rail. Hung seven wide on the turn, he rallied stoutly to just miss. Joel Rosario is a great fit as is the seven-furlong distance.
#8 Mr. Tip (30-1 ML) – Gimmick stretch; fade in multi-race wagers
Claimed for $20,000 on February 24 at Gulfstream, this four-year-old son of Mr Speaker has done a little bit of everything in his 16-race career, but two turns on dirt looks to be his best game off his most recent run at Churchill. Sent off at odds of 4-1 in that $50,000 starter allowance over 1 1/16 miles, he lost ground early and trailed by some ten lengths past the opening quarter-mile. The pace was honest, but the main track favored speed that day, and this guy was hung seven wide on the turn for home before grinding his way to victory. He should finish with some punch on the cutback to seven furlongs, but the competition appears to be too tough.
#2 Meister (20-1 ML) – Fade for now, keep tabs for later
A rare Ian Wilkes winner on debut at Ellis in a two-year-old sprint, this gelded son of Bodemeister followed up with three consecutive route runs. On Oct. 25 at Churchill, she got shuffled out on the first turn and was stuck in tight between horses in a well bunched group through slow fractions. He finished willingly to be third. Five weeks later in what would be his final start of the year, he got stuck in tight between horses just strides out of the gate and was steadied on the first turn. In very tight on the backstretch while stalking tepid fractions, he finished willingly to be third. He returns in a seven-furlong race that looks to be a springboard to a route in September at Churchill.
#2 Gunite (5-1 ML) – Top win contender; A in multi-race wagers
Bet down to 9-5 favoritism in his career debut way back on April 29, this son of Gun Runner broke alertly, but was steadied and shuffled back. Eight lengths off a controlled pace over a sloppy track, he rallied belatedly to be third. Three weeks later on May 22, he was the 3-2 second choice in the field of nine. Once again off alertly, he got shuffled back early, but this time he had a fast pace to run at over a fast track. He sustained his bid to the wire to finish third and looked like a horse who was begging for more ground to work with. He got a furlong more five weeks later. Super live at even-money in a deep field of 12, he was hustled away from the starting gate this time to set a fast pace. He responded when asked and held firm to the wire. It’s interesting to note that he adds blinkers for the stakes debut.
#10 Glacial (15-1 ML) – Win stretch, gimmick price shot; B/C in multi-race wagers
Sent off at 7-1 against six rivals on May 29 at Churchill, this son of Frosted lost two lengths at the start. He rushed up with natural speed into a tight position at the rail to press an even pace. He drew even on the turn and put away his foes late. Four weeks later in the Bashford Manor (G3), he once again broke two lengths slow and rushed up. This time pressing a hot pace from the pocket, he popped out three wide on the turn and put a head in front on the stretch. In a slowly run race that completely fell apart, he held on the best of the speed, finishing third. He takes the blinkers off here, which leads me to believe the connections hope he will settle better early on.
#12 Red Run (30-1 ML) – Gimmick stretch; C in multi-race wagers
In his career debut over a sloppy track on May 9 at Churchill, this son of Gun Runner was bet down to even-money against seven rivals. Off three lengths slow, he stalked an even pace while ridden along. Five wide on the turn for home, he had aim late, responded and switched leads cleanly in what was a workmanlike victory. Seven weeks later in the Bashford Manor, he raced in the clear near the back of the pace behind hot fractions. He passed a few tired horses late, but in a race that completely fell apart late, he should have run better. Look for a better performance here, but it’s not likely to be good enough.
#7 Double Thunder (6-1 ML) – Fade in multi-race wagers
Off a debut win at Monmouth in which he pressed the pace before edging away late, this son of Super Saver resurfaced three weeks later in the Bashford Manor at Churchill. Off slowly losing two lengths, he was pushed on for speed without showing any. Far back early behind a hotly contested pace, he was closer on the turn. He got a dream run at the rail, rallied off heels and drew off late. The race was not as good as it might appear on paper. It completely fell apart and was run 1 3/5 seconds slower than the Debutante.
#5 Set Piece (GB) (5-2 ML) – Top win contender; A and potential single in multi-race wagers
This five-year-old gelded son of Dansili was perfect from three starts at the Churchill Downs spring meet. In the Opening Verse on April 29, he was squeezed back at the start, losing four lengths. Racing in the clear behind what was a deceivingly fast pace over soft (not good) turf, he advanced steadily while in hand, was hung five wide on the turn, and rallied stoutly to score. Four weeks later, in an overnight stakes, he lost five lengths at the start and sat near the back of the pace behind slow pace. Moving on the turn while in hand, he was hung six wide off the bend. He bounded home under a mild hand ride and was under wraps late. Stepped up to the Wise Dan (G2) on June 26, he was sent off as the slight 8-5 favorite over Somelikeithotbrown, who appeared to have a serious tactical edge. That’s the way it played out, but it didn’t matter. Covered up at the rail, he started moving late on the backstretch. Forced to rally through traffic on the turn, he split foes and cut to the rail. The rally was relentless and he got up in time. He’s even better than he looks on paper.
#8 Blowout (6-1 ML) – Trifecta player; Fade in multi-race wagers
Off four consecutive tough losses, she appeared to have a major tactical advantage in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mie (G2) on Kentucky Derby Day. Sent off as the 9-5 favorite against five foes, including Got Stormy and Zofelle, she built a big lead through very slow fractions. Up eight lengths on the backstretch, that lead slowly diminished into the turn for home. To her credit, she did dig deep late to score a narrow advantage.