Five graded stakes, including a trio of Grade I events, highlights a star studded Saturday program at Saratoga. The upstart Uncle Chuck tackles divisional leader Tiz the Law in the Travers (G1), Gamine and Venetian Harbor square off in the Test (G1) and Serengeti Empress, Bellafina and Come Dancing all hope to rediscover past magic in the Ballerina (G1).
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.
#5 Compliant 7-2 ML
On October 19 at Keeneland, Compliant stalked a slow pace while 3-wide and raced evenly to the wire as the 4-5 favorite in the field of ten. We haven’t seen him since, and his recent works have been at Monmouth. He appears to want more distance and he may not be that good. Willing to fade.
#1a Chocolate Bar 8-1 ML
Off a nine-week break on June 26 at Churchill, Chocolate Bar sat in the catbird’s seat behind a fast pace. He drew even on the turn and led off of it, but couldn’t kick with the top three late. Just two weeks later at Keeneland, he drew the extreme outside post in a field of 12 and lost three lengths at the start. He rushed up to contest a fast pace in a strung out field, and tired badly nearing the turn. Maker could have easily dropped him down off that poor performance, but instead he shows some confidence by giving him another crack at special weight foes. Perhaps removing the blinkers will help provide a much-needed spark, and you do get two for the price of one with a recent claim in Glynn County, who appears to be on the upswing. Secondary contender only worth using on a deeper spread.
#5 Guana Cay 6-1 ML
In what was her career debut on July 10 at Keeneland, Guana Cay sprinted on a good turf course that slightly favored speed. She enjoyed a perfect, pressing trip early, then lost some ground. She came again while 4-wide on the turn, but evened out late. It was a spotty performance. Entered and scratched as a “main track only” on August 2, she resurfaces in a dirt sprint here. This is Air Force Blue’s first crop, by War Front, his pedigree is certainly turfy, yet Ward has been intent on getting this one on the main track, so much so that he’s running a filly against the boys. Guessing one or both of the Into Mischief debuters can run, but if you’re waiting to take a stand against, this filly is useable, I guess.
#8 Incitatus 8-1 ML
On July 9 in what was his career debut t Keeneland, Incitatus broke slowly from the gate, losing three lengths. In what was a typical, lesson-learning debut for Wilkes, this gray colt saved ground and finished willingly while failing to threaten. Bred to stretch out, he gets that opportunity today. He’s a half to Wilkes’ classy turf marathoner Gentle Ruler, who has earned over $800K. Others may be more intriguing, but this colt should certainly offer value.
#1 Serengeti Empress 5-2 ML
Off a nine-week break on June 27 at Churchill, Serengeti Empress broke alertly and set a fast pace while loose on the lead in the Fleur de Lis (G2). Quickly headed by Midnight Bisou on the turn, she gave way readily thereafter. Yes she set a hot pace, but she should have shown more fight. She ran a monster race over seven furlongs at Saratoga in last year’s Test (G1) losing a memorable battle to Covfefe. Of the three favorites, I like her best and would be inclined to use her with #5 and #6, fading both Bellafina and Come Dancing.
#4 Another Broad 7-5 ML (MTO)
In the Fleur de Lis (G2) on June 27 at Churchill, Another Broad was out the back early while in the clear, chasing a hot pace. She was no match for the top two, but surged late for show. The chances of this race coming off the grass are less than zero, so look for her to return down the line.
#4 Wicked Whisper 20-1 ML
In her sophomore debut on July 10 at Keeneland, Wicked Whisper pressed the fast pace set by the eventual winner Four Graces and was disposed of midway through the turn. Following a promising 2-year-old campaign, she had been in training for several months before finally making a start. Can’t see how she improves enough to get within ten lengths of the winner here.
#6 Venetian Harbor 8-5 ML
Off a ten-week break on July 11 at Keeneland, Venetian Harbor set a very comfortable pace in the Ashland (G1), but proved to be no match for Speech late in the short-stretched event, finishing on the wrong lead late. If you like Gamine, single her like I will. If you’re against Gamine, single Venetian Harbor. None of the others have a chance.
#5 Shivaree 30-1 ML
In the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland on July 11, Shivaree broke alertly and battled through honest fractions before giving way on the turn and fading through the field. He should be a pace factor again today, but has no chance to win. Even though he likely has enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, a cutback to a race like the Pat Day Mile would make a lot more sense.
#6 Sweet Sneak 5-1 ML
On October 9 at Keeneland, Sweet Sneak raced in the clear while stalking an even pace and finished evenly to the wire without threatening. She returns off nearly ten months off. She did show slight improvement with each start last year, looks ready off the works, and faces restricted New York-bred company for the first time. That being said, this looks like a springboard to a stretch out to me, but she could win what looks to be a weak race by accident. Tough call, but lean towards fade.