by Joe Kristufek With Churchill Downs coming off perhaps their strongest spring meet in history, the horses based in Kentucky should perform even better than they have in years past. Chances are, in many cases, they won’t get the respect they deserve. There is value to be had. That’s what I’m here for. For the entirety of the Saratoga meet, I will provide “scouting reports” for the Kentucky-based horses – good, bad and indifferent. Horses are listed in order of preference, with a short comment playability notation in the wrap. Race 1 #2 Senor Jobim Not sure why he ran so poorly last time out at Belmont, but his two races prior at Churchill would make him a top contender here. On June 1 he won under wraps after controlling the pace early and just eight days later he pressed the pace while three-wide, led late and dug in, only to be run over late by Holly Blame over a racetrack that favored off the pace types. That rival returned to run a salty third in a first-level allowance and the horse who ran third, El Asesino, finished second at a price in a Saratoga allowance last week. Comment: If Mr. Steve didn’t think he could be super competitive in this spot, he’d drop him. I expect he’ll bounce back in a big way. #5 Smile Bryan Finished behind Golden Tiger in their May 25 encounter, but ran the better race. In tight between horses early and shuffled back while chasing a controlled pace, he finished with authority late and was beaten less than a length. Following a stumbling start, he closed ground in the July 3 race at Belmont, and finished well in front of Senor Jobim. Comment: If you take his last to races at face value, he might be better than both Senor Jobim and Golden Tiger, which would make him a contender here. #4 Golden Tiger Off a trio of somewhat disappointing runs to begin his career at Fair Grounds, this $700,000 big ticket item scored a game win when dropped into a $50,000 maiden claimer. He ran a very similar race in the follow-up start, only to lose a narrow decision to Carrier Landing, who has struggled in a pair of follow-up since. Comment: Returns rested, the placement makes sense, and this doesn’t appear to be a very strong race for the level. Race 4 #6 Chief Know It All (main track only) This gray ridgling has run some creditable races on turf in the past, but he fits much better if this race is run on dirt. He overcame a world of trouble to win a $16,000 claimer over a one-turn mile two back, but failed miserably despite enjoying an advantageous, pocket trip in the follow-up start for double the price. He drops a notch off that claim for an operation that must be respected. Comment: It will be a short field if the race is washed off the grass, but even under those circumstances, I would rank him as a secondary contender. Race 6 #6 Girlfriend Rocket Off nearly five months, this $800,000 buy resurfaced in a Churchill sprint, and after losing three lengths at the start, she failed to make an impact. Raced evenly in her only previous try around two turns and now adds blinkers for today’s nine furlong attempt. Comment: She does have route influences in the pedigree, so perhaps this was the plan all along. Outside of potentially the Chad Brown filly, there just isn’t much in here. #7 Sara Sea Ice cold on the toteboard at 34-1 in her career debut in what looked to be a very average race for the level going in (and it was proven to be coming out), this well-bred daughter of Tiznow was shuffled back before dropping completely out of it. Her mom was a graded stakes type, and her full sister won three routes and banked nearly $100,000. Comment: She’s tough to like on paper, but if you’re not inclined to single the Chad Brown runner, then “all” in the multi-race wagers may be the way to go. Race 8 #4 Kid Lemuel Has shown solid progression in his five-race career. Two starts back over nine furlongs of turf, he stalked a fast pace while in the clear. Hung five-wide on the turn for home, he leveled off late and rolled by for the win. Last out in an “off the turf” event against just six rivals, he ran a strangely good race. After losing three lengths at the start, he enjoyed a perfect pressing trip before dropping back a bit on the turf and re-rallied resolutely late to just miss. Comment: Opry looks best on paper, but if you’re not singling him, this guy appears to be as good as any of the others. #11 Johnny’s Bobby Considering he chased a fast early pace over a one-turn mile last time out, this late runner actually laid a lot closer to the early fractions than expected. Hung six-wide on the turn, he was bumped at the top of the stretch, but carried on to score a solid victory. That was the best performance of his career, but he steps up to face a considerably tougher task in this one. Comment: The arrow is pointing up. If this race comes off the grass, particularly if it’s an off track, I expect him to outperform his odds. #10 Tapit Wise Off the pace type was advantaged by racetracks that favored his running style in both the maiden win at Fair Grounds on March 23 and the first-level allowance third at Churchill on May 4. Not sure what happened in the June 1 race, but after going three-wide on the first turn and racing four-wide on the backstetch, he was all in on the turf for home and failed to respond. Comment: If this race comes off the turf it will likely be a short field with not much pace on.