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, but on the flipside, some of the Kentucky invaders might not be as good as they look on paper.
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.
I’ll also provide brief analysis and selections for the seven graded stakes.
Race 3 – LADY ROSALIE (Ire) (#11) (15-1)
Hustled away from the gate from the rail off a 10-week layoff at Ellis Park, she enjoyed an advantageous, pocket trip through even splits. She was blocked behind a wall of horses turning for home, allowing others to seize the momentum away from her. She split horses late and finished fairly well.
Comment: Needs to take a step forward here and she might. Looks more like an underneath type and only useable in the multi-race wagers if you’re spreading deep.
Race 4 – TIGHT TEN (#3) (15-1)
One of more precocious Steve Asmussen-trained two-year-olds of 2018, he flourished in a pair of sprint efforts in advance of a trio of route failures. He set a slow pace and just missed when finishing on the wrong lead in the Iroquois at Churchill Downs, and then finished up the track in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Lecomte (G3). He should have run better, but there were excuses for both of those clunkers.
Comment: Off seven months, he returns in a sprint off a series of forward drills. He’s going to need to run faster than he did as a two-year-old in order to be competitive here. Looks more like an underneath type and only useable in the multi-race wagers if you’re spreading deep.
Race 7 – TWELFTH LABOR (#3) (50-1)
Hung three-wide stalking a fast pace over a wet fast track at Churchill on May 12, he rallied five-wide off the turn, took full command and drew off. On May 31 over a bone-dry track, he stalked a hot pace while three-wide, but inexplicably failed to fire. Stretched out to a one-turn mile last out, he broke alertly, raced four-wide behind a contested pace, drew even on the turn and grinded out the win.
Comment: Shancelot will be a single on many tickets and for good reason. Even if you have an alternative opinion and want to take a stand against him, it’s tough to envision this guy pulling off the massive upset.
Race 5 – Forego (G1)
On paper, this looks like a match race between Promises Fulfilled and Mitole. The former is perfect from two starts at Saratoga, while the latter was third last out in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) in his only previous appearance over the track. Mitole has won both hoof to hoof match-ups, but which horse is better right now?
Top Pick: Promises Fulfilled (#1) (5-2)
Main threat: Mitole (#3) (4-5)
Best Longshot: Air Strike (#2) (15-1)
Race 6 – Ballerina (G1)
Prior to her second in the Ogden Phipps (G1) behind Midnight Bisou over a one-turn 1 1/16 mile distance, Come Dancing could have been pegged as an Aqueduct specialist. Seven furlongs should suit her to a tee, and she appears on edge to fire a fresh shot off a sharp work tab. Separationofpowers is a big threat, but she’s likely to be over bet. Minit to Stardom wasn’t respected in her front running Honorable Miss (G2) upset. If allowed to set reasonable fractions, she might forget to stop once again.
Top Pick: Come Dancing (#2) (6-5)
Main threats: Separationofpowers (#4) (9-5), Minit to Stardom (#6) (8-1), Mia Mischief (#5) (5-1)
Best Longshot: None
Race 7 – H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1)
Just how good is Shancelot? Undefeated from three starts while taking massive steps forward each time, he most recently overcame post 12 to win the Amsterdam (G2) by more than a dozen lengths. Alert breaks have been part of his game, so the potentially detrimental rail post position shouldn’t pose a problem. The main threat could come from Rowayton. Excuse the two-turn run in the mud in the Curlin, and he did have a troubled trip in Dwyer before that.
Top Pick: Shancelot (#1) (1-2)
Main threat: Rowayton (#8) (6-1)
Best Longshot: Mind Control (#6) (15-1)
Race 8 – Ballston Spa (G2)
This isn’t a very strong race for the level and the lack of early pace makes it an even tougher puzzle to piece together. Indian Blessing ran extremely well in all three of her U.S. starts last year, and if not for excuses in all of them, she may have actually finished better. Despite not having the cleanest trip, Secret Message actually held her own in a super-tough edition of the Diana (G1) and she might be on edge to run the best race of her life in this one. Mascha did what she needed to do first off the boat to win a first-level allowance, but chances are she has even more to give.
Top Pick and Best Longshot: Indian Blessing (#5) (8-1)
Main threats: Secret Message (#3) (3-1) and Mascha (#9) (9-2)
Race 9 – Personal Ensign (G1)
Midnight Bisou defeated Elate twice this past spring at Oaklawn, but the latter was ridiculously impressive in her two starts since and I like her chances to turn the tables here. Off since her runner-up performance in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), Wow Cat finished second as the favorite in her return run. She should take a step forward here.
Top Pick: Elate (#4) (7-5)
Main threat: Midnight Bisou (#1) (6-5)
Best Longshot: Wow Cat (#5) (5-1)
Race 10 – Sword Dancer (G1)
Channel Cat upset many of these in the Bowling Green (G2) and he might be able to win right back. He’s really taken solid steps forward since taking the blinkers off in June, and his recent effort is even better than it looks on paper. He fended off several challenges and really dug in late. Channel Maker got shuffled back just a bit in the Bowling Green and a wide run off the turn may have hindered his chances just enough. On the Chad Brown front, Ya Primo got a dream run at the hedge in the Bowling Green and actually led late before being out-gamed to the wire and I’m not sure Annals of Time wants 12 furlongs against this level of competition.
Top Pick: Channel Cat (#4) (5-1)
Main threat: Channel Maker (#8) (3-1)
Slightly against: Ya Primo (#6) (7-2) and Annals of Time (#7) (5-2)
Best Longshot: Pillar Mountain (#5) (10-1)
Race 11 – Travers (G1)
The Travers might lack star power, but it’s a fascinating betting race. Off less-than-advantageous trips in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and Jim Dandy (G2), Tacitus will be the favorite, but he’s no slam dunk to even hit the board. Focus doesn’t really seem like an issue for him, so the blinkers could actually have an adverse effect on his performance. Game Winner didn’t make the Travers, but Bob Baffert’s replacement could win the race anyway. Mucho Gusto gave Maximum Security all he could handle in the Haskell (G1), his arrow is pointing up, and he should be in line for a sweet trip in a race that lacks speed. I don’t trust Tax, especially from the extreme outside post, and I’m not sure Code of Honor wants 10 furlongs. Owendale may have been best in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and his Ohio Derby (G3) win was better than it looks.
Top Pick: Mucho Gusto (#7) (6-1)
Main threats: Owendale (#1) (6-1), Tacitus (#6) (5-2) and Code of Honor (#2) (4-1)
Slightly against: Tax (#12) (6-1)
Best Longshots: Highest Honors (#3) (10-1) and Endorsed (#11) (15-1)
PHOTO: Saratoga Race Course (c) Adam Coglianese Photography