Saratoga Scouting Report: Kentucky Horses for July 17
Saturday’s card at Saratoga marks the return of the super talented Beau Liam for Steve Asmussen, and outside the favorite Wit, the Sanford (G3) has quite a Kentucky flavor to it. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
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 Misspell (4-1 ML) – Win contender; watch for tote clues
This sophomore daughter of American Pharoah ran only twice as a two-year-old. Both of those races came around two turns and the most recent was at Churchill, where she won much more impressively than the margin indicates. Breaking from the extreme outside post in a field of 10, she worked out a clean trip, but she was forced to stalk into what was a pedestrian pace. In hand while three wide on the turn for home, she extended her stride quite nicely and won under a mild hand ride. She hasn’t run in 10 months and has been training at Monmouth, so some negatives are mixed in with all the positives.
#8 Semble Juste (IRE) (7-2 ML (MTO) – Win contender if off the turf
Bred for grass on both side of the pedigree, this sophomore daughter of Shalaa has actually run two of her better races on dirt, and she’s entered for main track only here. Her first of two tries at the Churchill meet came at a mile on turf. She broke alertly, enjoyed an advantageous pocket trip, and finished evenly to be fourth of 12 behind a filly who has since come back to win again. Cut back to a one-turn mile on dirt last out, she broke well once again and enjoyed a perfect pressing trip through moderate fractions over a racetrack that favored speed. She took full command off the turn and was solidly best.
#10 Battle Bling (10-1 ML) – Fade
Off a couple of solid efforts this past winter/spring at Oaklawn, this sophomore daughter of Vancouver competed twice on dirt at the Churchill spring meet. Facing a talented, yet compact field, on May 14, she stalked the pace while three wide, made a bid at the top of the stretch and then evened out late. Cut back to a one-turn mile over a wet-fast track in the follow-up start, she lost three lengths at the start, raced in the clear at the back of the pack, was six-wide on the turn and then failed to make any impact in the stretch in a race that completely fell apart. Off the $75,000 claim, the connections are hoping turf wakes her up.
#6 Seascape (20-1 ML) – Willing to fade
This sophomore daughter of Distorted Humor ran two times during the Churchill spring meet, both against $50K maiden claimers in one-turn races. In her initial outing under the Twin Spires, she broke alertly and battled a fast pace for the one-turn mile as the favorite before settling for second. Cut back to 6 1/2 furlongs in her follow-up start, she was taken off the front runner to spy an even pace. She got a clear run, had aim in the stretch, and proved clearly best late. Claimed out of that race by Robertino Diordoro, she’ll test turf for the first time here. Her staked-placed dam did win one of four starts on the weeds.
#4 Detroit City (8-1 ML) – Gimmick player; multi-race B
Sent off at 13-1 against eight rivals in his lone start, this freshman son of Dialed In broke two lengths slow, was covered up at the rail and made a mild bid on the turn before evening out. The recent works look promising and he has every right to take a solid step forward.
#3 Rattle N Roll (7-2 ML) – Win contender turf or dirt, but don’t accept a short price
Dismissed at odds of 16-1 against 11 foes in his lone start, this freshman son of Connect lost a couple of lengths at the start. He raced in the clear near the back of the pack, cut the rail off the turn into a fast pace, rallied through traffic with an efficient stride, and got up for third over a promising juvenile in Gunite. There are two-turn influences in the pedigree, and a Johannesburg mare makes you think turf, although Kenny McPeek doesn’t have great stats in the applicable categories.
#11 Chileno (3-1 ML) (MTO) -- Win contender on dirt, but don’t accept a short price
Bet down to even-money as part of an entry against nine rivals in his debut, this two-year-old son of Gun Runner was hung three wide the entire trip. Four wide on the turn, he threatened at the top of the stretch, only to even out late to be fourth. The winner that day closed from well off the pace at 13-1, and the runner-up returned to win a slowly run maiden special weight sprint at Ellis Park.
#5 Never Say Know (9-2 ML) -- Gimmick player on turf only; multi-race B
Sent off at odds of 25-1 sprinting on turf in his career debut at Churchill, this two-year-old son of No Nay Never was covered up at the rail and he failed to make an impact. Stretched out around two turns of grass in his follow-up start at Indiana Grand, he was sent off as the 2-1 favorite and finished a clear second behind a runaway winner. There were no two-turn grass races for juveniles at Churchill this spring, so the van ride made sense. Now he adds blinkers with two-turn experience.
#1 Happymac (3-1 ML) – Win contender turf or dirt
This speedy, sophomore son of Runhappy sprinted on dirt twice at the Churchill spring meet. On May 21, he broke alertly and set a fast pace over a track that slightly favored speed. He dug in once challenged but an 11-1 shot in Shadow Matter before that rival wore him down late. Hammered down to odds of 1-2 in his follow-up start, he broke very alertly from the extreme, outside post in a field of ten. He pressed a fast pace while three-wide, took full command off the turn, was kept to task late, and did enough to win a race he was supposed to win. The move to turf seems somewhat curious, but he’s out of a Yes It’s True mare, and amazingly, he’s broken on top in all six lifetime starts. I wouldn’t be shocked if he relished this trip.
#8 Gear Jockey (8-1 ML) – Live longshot
Forced to leave from the extreme outside post in a field of 11 going a turf mile at Churchill on May 1, this 4-year-old son of Twirling Candy was hung three wide throughout while chasing an honest pace. He loomed boldly while hung six wide on the turn for home, only to even out late. A two-turn turf horse most of his career, I’m very intrigued by the cutback based on pedigree and running style.
#4 Super Dormy (6-1 ML) -- Gimmick player on turf only; multi-race B
This four-year-old son of Into Mischief ran two solid races during the Churchill Downs spring meet. On May 16, he raced in the clear near the back of the pack while chasing fast fractions. Covered up at the rail on the turn for home, he got a dream run inside under a heady ride, rallied and just missed. Far back in last in his follow-up start, he raced closer on the turn behind an honest and contested pace. Hung five wide on the turn this time, he rallied to get up for second without seriously threatening the winner. You can count on him for a late run again here, I’m just not sure he’ll have enough pace to chase.
#3 Chimney Rock (10-1 ML) – Willing to fade
With over $400,000 already in the bank, no matter what he does the rest of his career, this $18,000 Louisiana-bred will have majorly overachieved. Off a year layoff last out at Churchill, he enjoyed a clear, pressing trip before shifting over to chase from the pocket. He had aim on the front runner late, but failed to seriously threaten over a turf course that favored speed.
#10 Mount Travers (20-1 ML) – Fade
Found it odd that this former Linda Rice trainee invaded Churchill at the very end of the meet. It was almost like they were dangling him for a claim, and they got Joe Sharp to bite for the $50K. In tight between early on, he simply ran around the track on closing day without threatening in the least. Now he tries sprinting on turf for the first time in a 19-race career.
#1 Beau Liam (3-1 ML) – Win contender; singling in multi-race wagers would be a BOLD move
Not super live on the tote board in his only career start on May 29, this sophomore son of Liam’s Map absolutely smoked his eight rivals at nearly 6-1. Away alertly from the outside gate, he stalked a fast pace from the catbird’s seat, loomed in hand while four-wide on the turn for home, took over without exerting any effort, and absolutely freaked in the stretch. There’s no telling how good he can be.
#8 Mr Sippi (20-1 ML) – Gimmick longshot; potential C in multi-race wagers
I saw this guy run a good second behind the talented Tulane Tryst at Fair Grounds in his sophomore debut on March 20 at Fair Grounds, and he bounced back with an even better performance in the Derby Day finale at Churchill. In tight early, he got shuffled back to the pocket while chasing a contested pace. He enjoyed a dream run up the rail, and quickly made the lead and drew off as much the best. In his follow-up start just 20 days later, he bounced to the moon. Off four lengths slow, he raced four wide, was hung five wide on the turn and he never made an impact as the 7-5 favorite. His works since are sharp on paper, indicating that he could bounce back at a big price.
#9 Angkor (20-1 ML) -- Gimmick longshot; potential C in multi-race wagers
In his first run back off a five-month layoff on June 13 at Churchill, this sophomore son of Anchor Down broke alertly. In tight between early, he worked his way over to the pocket to chase fast fractions over a racetrack that slightly favored off the pace types. He had aim late and finished willingly for third in what was a deep race for the level. He’s got some talent, but after four career starts, the jury is still out on what he does best.
#9 Headline Report (5-1 ML) – Win contender
Hammered down to odds of 1-5 in his only start way back in late April at Keeneland, this freshman son of the first-crop stallion Gormley broke two lengths slow at the start before rushing up to press the pace. Confidently ridden, he proved much the best late. By an unproven $5,000 sire, he was purchased for $550,000 as a March 2 two-year-old in training.
#2 Candy Landing (7-2 ML) – Win contender
Dismissed at odds of 17-1 in his only start, this freshman son of Twirling Candy broke alertly and enjoyed a perfect pressing trip through hot fractions. He had every right to pack it in, but instead he drew off, albeit greenly, to win going away. Note that James Graham is coming in for the mount.
#7 Ottoman Empire (10-1 ML) – Longshot contender; B in multi-race wagers
Dismissed at odds of 17-1 in his only start, this freshman son of Classic Empire was stuck in tight between horses early on while stalking an honest pace. Off heels while five wide on the turn, he sustained a long run in the stretch and rolled by late. The race didn’t come back very fast, but you had to be impressed with the way he did it.
#11 Seize the Night (20-1 ML) -- Longshot stretch; C in multi-race wagers
Dismissed at odds of nearly 14-1 in his only start, this freshman son of Carpe Diem was reluctant to load the starting gate. In tight between horses early, he rallied while five wide on the turn for home, and kept coming late to get up in time.
#9 Laughing Boy (6-1 ML) – Win contender
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.
#7 Ducale (7-2 ML) – Win contender
Bet down to lukewarm 5-2 favoritism against 11 foes in his career debut, this sophomore son of Twirling Candy sat an advantageous pocket trip, split horses gamely off the turn and rallied relentlessly before dead-heating for second. Brad Cox and Manny Franco are potent when they team up.
#2 Cool Quest (8-1) – Live price shot; B in multi-race wagers
Sent off at odds of 6-1 in his career debut, this sophomore son of Frosted battled a hot pace from the rail before finishing fourth, but less than a length from second. He fired a Saratoga bullet in preparation for this, and should be in the thick of this battle from go to whoa.
#1 Crump (20-1) – Potentially live longshot; B in multi-race wagers
Bet down to odds of 7-1 in the only start of his two-year-old campaign, the Godolphin homebred was bumped at the start, raced in the clear, and failed to make an impact. Something must of went array, as we haven’t seen him in 10 months. He’s extremely well-bred and gets a fresh start here for a hot trainer who has fantastic starts in the applicable categories.
#6 Abaan (12-1 ML) – Willing to fade
This four-year-old gelded son of Will Take Charge ran three times at Churchill last summer/fall, with his final two starts coming around two turns. He ran second in his route races, and tried hard, but they weren’t the strongest events for the level. Now we get a barn switch to Todd Pletcher and a cutback for his first start since the day before Halloween.
#3 By Bye Bertie (8-1 ML) – Fade
I saw this five-year-old mare wire an average field at Fair Grounds when stretched out for a rare, two-turn try on Feb. 3, and she’s run three decent races since. In a dirt route on May 31 at Churchill, she broke very alertly and was quite rank early before working her way to the pocket. The odds-on winner wired the field that day, and this gal finished a chasing third. Claimed for a lofty $50,000 that day, Mike Maker ships her off to Del Mar, drops slightly, and pops her back on turf where she’s 4-0-0-0.
#1 Drop Anchor (4-1 ML) – Tough to trust, but may have found his friends
A promising debut winner at Ellis 11 months ago, it’s been all downhill since for this newly-turned gelding. He wanted no part of nine furlongs, or Ohio Derby (G3) winner Masqueparade, on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill. Cut back to 6 1/2 furlongs and dropped in for $16,000 just two weeks later, he was stuck in tight between horses early and raced three-wide before finishing last of six in what was a dull effort. He drops far below the claiming price and faces a weak group here.
#8 Manitowish (4-1 ML) – Fade
Following a decent effort over a sloppy one-turn mile at Churchill on opening day of the spring meet, this sophomore son of Carpe Diem through in a pair of big-time clunkers. He was hard ridden with zero response on the backstretch of the two-turn turf race, and last out going seven furlongs on fast dirt, he was absolutely all in on the turn and faltered badly. He’s entered for less than one third of the $50K claiming price here.
#8 Stage Ready (8-1 ML) – Win contender
This guy is super sneaky here. Two back he lost all chance when he broke very slowly at the start, losing some eight lengths. Dumped in for $20K last out, he was very live on the tote. Once again compromised by a slow start in which he lost four lengths, he was heavily urged out of the gate and covered up near the back of the pack on the rail. Steadied along on the turn for home when absolutely loaded, he kicked in with a huge rally to get up in time.
#7 On a Spree (8-1 ML) – Win contender
A four-time winner last year, he’s 0-for-5 in 2021 and he does have a little hang in his recent game. Dropped to this level last out at Churchill, he sat near the back of the pack, covered up, while chasing pedestrian fractions. He rallied off heels, but fell just short of the 21-1 shot who stole it on the front end. Despite of his perceived recent lack of a will to win, I’d be very surprised if he approached his 8-1 ML odds.
#5 Luck of the Draw (4-1 ML) – Gimmick player
This versatile, five-year-old Louisiana-bred gelding has does everything well – turf, dirt, one turn and two. I’ve watched him virtually his entire career at Fair Grounds and in Kentucky, and all of his recent races have been typically solid. He has two turn wins from seven tries, but despite a pedigree that would suggest otherwise, I do think he’s a better horse on dirt.