by Joe Kristufek
With Churchill Downs coming off perhaps its 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.
#5 Pete’s Play Call (main track only)
A force to be reckoned with in 2018, this hard-hitting six-year-old son of Munnings made a cameo appearance this spring at Churchill, landing in a salty optional claimer. Off slowly and in tight between horses while tugging, he was never seriously involved. The winner Mr. Crow is graded stakes caliber, and the second and third finishers are also of high quality. This guy ran like a horse who needed the race and he followed up with a sharp work over the Saratoga training track. He won his lone start locally, so if the race happens to wash off, watch the toteboard for clues and listen to what Maggie Wolfendale has to say.
Comment: Tough call but could be sneaky.
#8 The Sicarii (main track only)
He ran twice during the Churchill meet, with a runner-up performance in a slowly run first-level allowance at Thistledown sandwiched in between. He was hung wide in both of his Churchill starts, the first around two turns on turf, the second sprinting on dirt. He didn’t show much, and neither one of the fields he faced was anything to write home about.
Comment: Even if the race washes off, he’s a tough use.
#7 Just Fly
This $40,000 two-year-old in training buy by Justin Phillip trained well into her career debut and she finished a creditable second behind a 21-1 debuter Indy Takes Charge, who returned to run a non-threatening fourth in the Debutante. Switched over to the grass for her follow-up start, she got off to a sluggish start and failed to make an impact thereafter. A bullet work over the Saratoga training track signals a potential move forward. There are no big ticket items entered here and it would be no surprise to see her bounce back with a good effort.
Comment: Watch the toteboard on the bevy of first-timers. This gal isn’t great, but this field doesn’t appear to be either.
#9 Raggedy Annie
Comment: I have no idea how talented she might be, and the pedigree does suggest that two turns may eventually be her thing, but a shout out to the Churchill Downs Racing Club is certainly in order!
#12 Bail Out
He’s winless from eight starts with four seconds and a third. Has he been a victim of hard luck or does he just lack competitiveness? I side strongly with the former. In the Keeneland race back in October, he closed relentlessly, but was bothered late and was probably best. The winner could have easily been taken down. He didn’t have the cleanest of trips in either of his next two starts, and most recently at Churchill, he led late before being run over by the stakes-caliber Avigale, who flew home in visually impressive fashion.
Comment: Disadvantaged by the extreme outside post here, but must still be viewed as a top contender.
#2 Alfons Walde
Progressed nicely during the Churchill Downs spring meet, finishing second in his two most recent starts. On May 25, he lost a couple lengths at the start, but enjoyed an advantageous pocket trip thereafter. He rallied to the lead off the turn, but was simply outfinished by a solid winner in Kid Lemuel, who returned to run a good second in an “off the turf” first-level allowance in his follow-up start. In his June 29 follow-up start over a grass course that slightly favored speed, he was hung three then four-wide, drew even with the 5-2 pacesetter late, but was outkicked by that foe. He’s well drawn inside here, and could be in line for an advantageous, pocket trip.
Comment: He fits here, but others likely have more upside. A use in gimmicks, but not sure you need to stretch to him for multi-race purposes.
Tired on the lead going a one-turn mile over a “good” main track in the career debut on June 16 against just five foes. Set the pace amongst 10 rivals in a follow-up start over the Ellis Park green, dug in late and settled for third. The Ellis Park turf tends to favor early pace types, and Julien Leparoux got banged up pretty good after being tossed from his mount in Saturday night’s Indiana Derby. Can we trust him to be at his best?
Comment: Guessing the owner/breeder wants to make a summer trip to Saratoga and the recent run at Ellis Park justifies it. A contender? That’s another story.
#13 Panforte Di Siena (main track only)
An even fourth of 10 in his career debut in a salty maiden special weight race at Fair Grounds (eventual Louisiana Derby [G2] winner By My Standards was third) he resurfaced five months later going a one-turn mile over a “good” track at Churchill. He trained well leading into that race and ran a better than it looks fourth. After losing two lengths at the start, he rushed up at the rail, was tugging while in tight, switched off heels and finished willingly. He should benefit big time from that start and I like the work he posted since.
Comment: Likely to outperform his odds if the race is washed over to the main track.
#6 Talk Veuve to Me
One of the top three-year-old fillies in the country last year, she’s already far exceeded her $20,000 yearling sales price. The track slightly favored off the pace types, but she was a major disappointment when cooked in the pace in the Humana Distaff (G1) on Kentucky Derby weekend and we haven’t seen her since. She was disqualified from purse money after winning the seasonal debut in the race prior at Keeneland, adding to the concern, and she hasn’t exactly been lighting up the track in the mornings.
Comment: The likely favorite in what doesn’t appear to be the strongest race for the level, but she’s not easy to trust at the expected short price. Proceed with caution.
#1 Special Relativity
Very productive the past two years, she’s perfect from two starts at Saratoga, and she’s obviously been prepped for this meet. In her first start off a seven-week break on June 8, she ran one level above her eligible condition and managed to finish a very respectable second behind a talented Brad Cox trainee in Maybe Wicked (2-1). Chasing from the rail through moderate splits over a sloppy track, she was hung four-wide on the turn. No match for the winner, she did finish well for place. Sent to Saratoga shortly thereafter, she has two local works in preparation for Wednesday’s start.
Comment: She obviously loves Saratoga and was prepped for this race. Seems more like an underneath player, but worthy of multi-race consideration if you’re against the chalk.
A rare claim by Al Stall Jr. for $50,000 last June, this four-year-old daughter of Adios Charlie has been quite productive. In her first try sprinting on turf two starts back at Churchill, she broke alertly, sat the pocket trip, popped out, extended her stride and rolled by the pacesetter late. It looked good at the time, but that race has turned out to be a key one moving forward. In her follow-up start, she made a fantastic appearance visually, but she failed to run up to her looks, finishing fifth after enjoying a perfect, pressing trip. She adds blinkers and returns to dirt for this one with a useful work in between.
Comment: Earned her fastest fig on dirt three back at Oaklawn, but the addition of blinkers seems more like an experiment than a need. Seems more like an underneath player, but worthy of multi-race consideration if you’re against the chalk.
Saratoga Race Course (c) Adam Coglianese Photography