Thursday’s featured race at Saratoga is the New York Stallion Series for 3-year-olds on turf, and the Kentucky invader Jolting Joe looms as the horse to beat.

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

#4 Macho Jack   8-5 ML

On September 19 at Churchill, Macho Jack pressed a fast pace while three wide over a racetrack that favored speed, and ran on willingly behind a much the best winner. Five weeks later over a sloppy but fair-playing track at Keeneland, he battled through moderate fractions and gave way very late while finishing a clear second. He switches barns and drops in off a 9 1/2 month layoff for a group of owners that would love to win at Saratoga. The return works are solid. If he’s live on the tote, chances are he’ll be live in the race.

#8 Boss Life        7-2 ML

Over a track at Churchill that was more sloppy than “wet-fast” following a strong storm on May 28, Boss Life stalked a tepid pace while three wide, made a threatening middle move, was hung six wide on the turn and then faltered. Cut back five weeks later at Keeneland, he enjoyed a perfect pressing trip of an honest pace, was hung three wide on the turn, and simply couldn’t quite match strides late. He fits well with these and should find clear sailing from the cozy, outside post. My first inclination would be to single #4, but if you’re not sold, adding #8 and maybe #5 should lock it up.  

Race 5

#7 Lollygag         5-2 ML

In her career debut on July 10 at Keeneland, Lollygag broke slowly, losing two lengths. She rushed up, rallied off heels into a fast pace and sustained that bid to the wire, finishing fourth in what turned out to be a very average race for the level. She has some advantages here. The experience of a start and an opportunity to face restricted company. That being said, I’d have a tough time relying on her as the installed second choice.

Race 7

#2 Tizahra           6-1 ML

Off a 10-week break in what was an average race for the level on June 11 at Churchill, Tizahra enjoyed a perfect pressing trip of a slow pace. She took over while still in hand on the turn, and sealed the deal late. Four weeks later on July 9 at Keeneland, she sat a pocket trip in a compact field through even fractions, popped out cleanly, found dead aim in the stretch, grinded and got up in time. She enjoyed advantaged trips against average fields for the level in her recent Kentucky starts. She’s better than ever, but this is a much tougher task. I’d be willing to fade her here as a mid-priced commodity.

#8 Mighty Scarlett           3-1 ML

Off a seven-month layoff on May 24 at Churchill, Mighty Scarlett broke from post 11 of 12 and was hung three wide on the backstretch while stalking a slow pace. She may a mild bid on the turn while forced five wide and raced evenly to the wire behind a 73-1 shot in what turned out to be an average race for the level. Three weeks later on June 14, she broke alertly and sat behind the slowest early pace in history. She got a dream run and finished evenly to be third. Four weeks later on July 11 at Keeneland, she enjoyed a perfect, pressing trip into fast fractions and held well for second over a course that slightly favored forward types. The odds-on favorite was third. She’s proven over distance, is versatile and in top form. Would use, but not lean on.

Race 8

#6 Jolting Joe     9-5 ML

Off nearly an eight-month layoff on July 25 at Ellis, Jolting Joe was forced to break from the extreme outside post in a field of 12. He showed better speed than he ever has and made the lead while carving out even fractions only to lose a narrow decision to a legit winner. Based on timing, it’s a logical guess that he was pointed to this race all along. Even though the connections would have preferred to break the maiden, he still fits great against restricted New York-bred company, as evidenced by the 9-5 morning line. The second choice in the race has never run around two turns or on turf. I’d be willing to single.

Race 9

#1 Revenio         15-1 ML

On May 22 at Churchill, Revenio dropped to the lowest level of his career, put the blinkers back on, and showed much improved speed over the one-turn mile. He set an honest pace, was never menaced and extended his margin of victory to the wire in what was a surprising romp. Four weeks later over a sloppy track, he was hustled hard out of the gate but couldn’t make the lead, instead settling for a pocket trip before being overmatched on the turn and fading. He swung back less than three weeks later at Keeneland, once again over a sloppy track but this time around two bends. After losing four lengths at the start, he was never involved. Now he’s asked to try turf for just the second time. Interestingly enough, that’s what he’s bred for. Outside of the even-money favorite, this field looks suspect. #5 looks like a potential single, but If I decided to spread deep on a second ticket, I’d include this one in front of many of the others.

#5 Elusive Ruler                                1-1 ML

In what was his second race back off of a 10-week break on June 11 at Churchill, Elusive Ruler sat a catbird’s seat trip in a compact field while chasing a slow pace. He ranged up three wide on the turn to draw even, but proved third best behind a very talented top pair. Four weeks later on July 8 at Keeneland, he enjoyed a pocket trip behind slow fractions and ran on willingly to the wire but simply wasn’t good enough. This gelding is only 3 years old and he’s talented enough to eventually take down a first-level allowance, but owned by the estate of Marylou Whitney, who passed away a year ago, it’s not surprising that he’s in for $40,000. He’s squarely the horse to beat here and looks like a logical single.

#9 Tikhvin Flew                6-1 ML

In his second start off a 7 1/2 month layoff on May 28 at Churchill, Tikhvin Flew was hustled away from the starting gate to sit a perfect spying trip behind an even pace. He drew even on the turn, but raced on the wrong lead and was erratic in the stretch, finishing a flat fourth. Three weeks later over a sloppy one-turn mile, he was bumped at the start and was once again hustled away from the gate. He was three wide on the backstretch and four wide on the turn before finishing a distant fourth of five. Entered on July 26 as an MTO, he now is entered to run on turf with a preference of it coming off, obviously. On turf, he’s an easy toss. On dirt, he’ll likely be over bet.