Saratoga Scouting Report: Kentucky Horses for Sunday, August 4

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 – WEEKEND FUN (#7) (3-1)

Stalking a fast pace from the two-path in her career debut, she was nudged to give more on the turn, had aim late, tried the leader, was thwarted, and then tired in the final sixteenth. The winner that day was 4-5 shot Josie, who has since returned to finish a distant second as the overwhelming chalk in an Ellis Park allowance race.

Comment: Probably not as good as she may appear on paper. I’d be willing to take a stand against her.

Race 2 – DATA DRIVEN (#2) (8-5)

Two back he enjoyed an advantageous rail trip and gamely won the place battle behind a razor sharp winner. Dropped in class, he was bet down to the 9-5 second choice in what was a very average race for the $25,000 claiming level last out. He sat a cozy, pocket trip behind a controlled pace over a racetrack that slightly favored speed, was three-wide on the turn, had aim on the eventual front-running winner and was slowly getting to that rival late.

Comment: Continues his slide down the class ladder, cutting his tag in half off the Danny Gargan claim. He obviously fits at this level, but I wouldn’t lean on him.


Form has tailed off noticeably since the $25,000 claim in late March at Oaklawn Park. Last out at Churchill Downs, the short comment says “troubled beginnings.” Don’t be fooled. If anything he was only marginally compromised, had a clear stalking trip from the rail thereafter and had nothing left to give on the turn in what was a very average race for the $25,000 claiming level.

Comment: Appears to be headed in the wrong direction, but he’s capable of better and the barn is having a nice meet with claiming types. If inclined to spread deep, you may as well use him. If you plan on narrowing here, no thanks.

Race 7 – BATTLE STATION (#9) (6-1)

In a graded-caliber money allowance last out, he enjoyed a perfect pressing trip over a turf course that slightly favored speed and simply couldn’t kick with the top pair late.

Comment: Prefer others, but this guy should get the trip he wants from the outside gate. Tough to leave out, but even tougher to lean on.

FUEL THE BERN (#3) (7-2) (main track only)

Haven’t seen this speedy horse since Kentucky Derby weekend, when he got discouraged chasing the quick pace of the longshot winner Cummings before tiring over a racetrack that slightly favored speed.

Comment: Trainer Danny Gargan is good off the bench, and should this race come off the turf, this guy should be viewed as a major player.

Race 10 – FRANK’S ROCKETTE (#2) (2-1)

Visually the most impressive two-year-old I saw all spring at Churchill Downs. Bet down to lukewarm 5-2 favoritism on debut, she was three-wide early before settling into a perfect, pressing position. Still in hand off the turn, she was never asked. It was basically a public workout and certainly a “WOW” performance.

Comment: She won that first race so easy, but we don’t know how she’s going to respond to adversity or to a battle. It’s going to be fun to find out. Must use, obviously.

MAGIC DANCE (#8) (7-5)

Reluctant to load the starting gate in her career debut, she raced three-wide, drew even on the turn, took over under a hand ride and drew away with lots left, leaving the favorite and next out winner Josie in her wake. Bet down to odds of 1-5 in the Debutante Stakes, she was surely tested. Three-wide early, she had aim while four-wide off the turn and wore down a stubborn foe late. That race was three-fifths of a second faster than the final time of the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3) for the boys.

Comment: Unlike Frank’s Rockette, this gal has proven she can win a battle. She’s well drawn outside and is a must use. You should be able to get away with using just her and Frank’s Rockette, or get bold and choose one of the two.

Race 11 – ALFONS WALDE (#13) (12-1) (AE)

Outperformed his 21-1 odds on May 25. After losing two lengths at the start, he sat an advantageous, pocket trip, came out and lead late, but was outfinished by a rival who took advantage of hot splits and a turf course that favored off-the-pace types. He proved the big effort was no fluke last out. Hung three-wide throughout, he moved four-wide on the turn for home, drew even late, but was outkicked by a more forwardly placed rival.

Comment: Would be a bit of a stretch in the multi-race wagers and appears to be more of an underneath type in the intra-race gimmicks, particularly from an extreme, outside gate.

PHOTO: Saratoga (c)

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saratoga Stakes Spot Plays for Sunday, August 4

Sunday rounds out a remarkable weekend of racing and wagering at Saratoga with another high-quality 11-race card. Sunday’s races at The Spa are headlined by four stakes races including two graded stakes plus another race worth $1 million. Here are some spot plays for the quartet of stakes races to be run Sunday at Saratoga.

RACE 3 – John Morrissey Stakes

Sunday’s Saratoga stakes action starts early in Race 3 with the running of the John Morrissey Stakes for New York-breds sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs.

The horse to beat is the Chad Brown-trained Build to Suit (#4) (3-1), who is somewhat of a curiosity after returning from more than a 1 1/2-year layoff last out to crush open allowance horses this January at Aqueduct with a blazing BRIS Speed figure at this distance. Since then he’s taken another six months off but won’t be beat if able to repeat that last effort. He’s two-for-two in his career at The Spa.

If you are looking for a horse who is more time-tested and proven in stakes competition, the likely favorite is Gold for the King (#6) (2-1), who certainly is a contender, but no standout. If the track is wet, all bets are off on everyone else except Eye Luv Lulu (#7) (5-2), a monster all throughout his career on off tracks.

RACE 5 – Waya Stakes (G3)

The 1 1/2-mile Waya Stakes (G3) for fillies and mares on the grass drew only a six-horse field and therefore gets placed early on the card in Race 5 to round out Saratoga’s early Pick 5 on Sunday. No major surprises expected here, with the favorite, Santa Monica (#4) (1-1) looking very tough for leading trainer Chad Brown coming off of back-to-back 1 3/8-mile wins in Gulfstream Park’s Orchid Stakes (G3) and Belmont Park’s Sheepshead Bay (G2).

The best upset chance belongs to Gentle Ruler (#6) (5-2), who comes into this race riding high on a four-race win streak beginning with her maiden win at Gulfstream Park in March, followed by a meteoric rise with allowance, stakes and graded victories at Keeneland, Churchill Downs and Delaware Park, respectively. The 1 1/2-mile distance in this one is right in her wheelhouse for trainer Ian Wilkes.

Race 9 – Saratoga Derby Invitational

This new race has been staked with a $1 million purse and is meant to keep the best three-year-old turf horses home in New York instead of shipping to the Secretariat Stakes (G1) at Arlington, which now has been cut back in distance to one mile. This race is run at 1 3/16 miles and has successfully drawn a field of 11, including two invaders for trainer Aidan O’Brien and the top five finishers from the corresponding Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) –Henley’s Joy (#1) (4-1), Social Paranoia (#2) (6-1), Rockemperor (#4) (7-2), Digital Age (#8) (9-2) and Seismic Wave (#9) (6-1).

Of that quintet, Digital Age and Rockemperor had the disadvantage of posts 13 and 14, respectively, and were closing fast from way too far back off the pace. Both should threaten from better posts this time around.

The distance of the Saratoga Derby is slightly shorter than the 1 1/4-mile Belmont Derby. That could help pacepresser Henley’s Joy score a repeat win, or enable likely front runner A Thread of Blue a chance to go wire-to-wire. Focus your betting on those four horses – Henley’s Joy, A Thread of Blue, Rockemperor and Digital Age – in the exotics, such as trifectas.

RACE 10 – Adirondack Stakes (G2)

Two-year-old fillies take center stage in the $200,000 Adirondack Stakes (G2) going 6 1/2 furlongs as a prep for Saratoga’s Spinaway Stakes (G1) later in the meet. These horses are still developing and mostly are coming in off their maiden wins.

The two notable exceptions are favored Magic Dance (#8) (7-5), trained by Steve Asmussen, who has begun her career two-for-two at Churchill Downs including a win at 1-5 odds in the Debutante Stakes on June 29; and the Mark Casse-trained Perfect Alibi (#3) (9-2), who destroyed Churchill Downs maidens and then ran a close second in Belmont Park’s Astoria Stakes last out in her second race.

The horse to beat, however, might very well turn out to be impressive Churchill Downs maiden winner Frank’s Rockette (#2) (2-1), who pressed the pace and crushed the field at five furlongs at first asking for trainer Bill Mott, who usually doesn’t even fully crank up his first-time starters. You can bet she’ll be ready for this stakes debut with first-time Lasix.

For exactas, along with Magic Dance and Frank’s Rockette, one legit sleeper candidate is Miss Peppina (#6) (8-1), who won her career debut at 5 1/2 furlongs by rallying past rivals from far off the pace to win going away for trainer Gary Gullo. When a two-year-old first starter passes seven foes en route to victory at first asking, you should take notice, especially when the horse returns at a furlong farther in his/her next start.

Enjoy a loaded Sunday card of racing and wagering at The Spa! Best of luck and I hope you win big at Saratoga.

PHOTO: Saratoga scenic (c) NYRA/Coglianese Photography

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Frank’s Rockette, Long Weekend juvenile debut winners to watch

A pair of stakes races for two-year-olds will take place on Saturday at Churchill Downs. The $125,000 Bashford Manor (G3) is for the boys, while the fillies will compete in the $125,000 Debutante. While they only ran in maiden events, we witnessed two youngsters over the weekend that would have been formidable foes in the upcoming stakes races.

In the 1ST Race on Friday, Frank Fletcher’s homebred FRANK’S ROCKETTE put on quite a show for conditioner Bill Mott. The daughter of Into Mischief went postward as the 5-2 favorite in a cast of well-bred fillies and left little doubt who was best.

The bay broke alertly and tracked the pace while in close range early on. Given her cue by jockey Julien Leparoux nearing the turn for home, Frank’s Rockette was on level terms at the top of the stretch and demolished her foes late to the tune of an 8 3/4-length waltz. The Kentucky-bred earned a strong 93 BRIS Speed figure for her work, and she could be a force in the two-year-old division this campaign with expected growth.

Frank’s Rockette is from the same female line as the routinely brilliant Indian Blessing. The two-time champion notched five Grade 1 victories and retired with a 16-10-5-0, $2,995,420 career line.

A two-year-old colt was unveiled in the 2ND Race on Sunday beneath the Twin Spires from the barn of Tom Amoss. The Kentucky-bred LONG WEEKEND was sent off at 8-5 in his debut, and the son of Majesticperfection gave his rivals little chance.

Breaking best beneath Miguel Mena, Long Weekend was two lengths clear at the first call, four lengths best at the top of the lane, and then cruised home a most facile winner. The bay colt registered a solid 81 BRIS Speed figure, but he had plenty left in the tank late and his conditioner spoke very fondly of him prior to his debut performance.

Long Weekend is bred to be a dynamic one, too. His dam, the stakes-placed Liza Too, counts herself as a half-sister to a pair of Grade-1 winning sprinters. Paulasilverlining made good in the 2017 Humana Distaff (G1) and Madison (G1), while Dads Caps took the 2014 and 2015 editions of the Carter H. (G1).

It is obviously too early to predict what each of these impressive juveniles will evolve into. But they are in the right hands to make their presence felt in 2019 and beyond. Don’t take either of this duo lightly when they face stakes foes in their next assignments.

Frank’s Rockette (c) Coady Photography

, , , ,

Two-year-olds of interest for Friday, June 21, 2019

A trio of intriguing juvenile races with some well-bred prospects caught my eye coming up on Friday. Races from Belmont Park, Churchill Downs and Santa Anita Park highlight the action of the youngsters who could be our stars of tomorrow.


Race 1

This five-furlong dash on the main oval attracted a field of eight. Steve Asmussen has unveiled a few sharp juveniles already in 2019, and he has two in this field with one of particular interest to me. Green Destiny (#2) (7-2) is out of a stakes winner who is a half-sister to 2015 Las Virgenes Stakes (G1) heroine Callback. The third dam of the Super Saver filly is the A.P. Indy mare Supercharger, the dam of 2010 Kentucky Derby (G1) hero Super Saver!

Also in the cast is Frank’s Rockette (#6) (8-1), who is from the family of two-time champion Indian Blessing, as well as the Ian Wilkes-trained Emily’s Oasis (#8) (4-1), a daughter of Triple Crown star American Pharoah from the family 1991 Kentucky Derby (G1) victor Strike the Gold.


Race 7

A cast of seven two-year-old colts and one filly will speed five-eighths on the green. Invader (#1) (5-2) draws inside for conditioner Wesley Ward. The $500,000 yearling purchase is a full brother to 2018 Summer Stakes (G1) winner Fog of War. The Kentucky-bred will have Irad Ortiz Jr. at the controls.

Kokokomo (#3) (5-1) makes his second lifetime run for Todd Pletcher. The son of Uncle Mo gets blinkers and has room for improvement coming from South Florida. His dam, the A.P. Indy mare Vuemont, is a full sister to two-time Canadian champion Marchfield.

Stuart Janney III’s homebred Cloudbased (#4) (8-1) is a half-brother to 2012 Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) victor Data Link. The Orb colt is bred to be a good one who could thrive on the turf.


Race 2

Unchain Her Heart (#1) (5-2) makes her first appearance for Brian Koriner in this 4 1/2-furlong sprint for California-bred/-sired fillies. The Shackleford filly was a $140,000 Barretts yearling buy who is cut out to be a runner. The bay is out of the winning Doneraile Court mare Courting Elaine, who is a half-sister to three stakes winners including the sublime Wise Dan who earned 11 Grade 1 wins topped by tallies in the 2012 and 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).

PHOTO: Churchill Downs (c) Coady Photography

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,