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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, July 28, 2014 at 12:00 AM


A Race By Race Review Of Saratoga Races
Fri. 7/25 – Sun. 7/27

By Jim Hurley


Friday 7/25
Race 1 – Big drop from 75K maiden claimers to 35K level in short field of slow sprinters was all Silver Union needed to get 4½ length win at 4-5. The 3-year old filly was haltered by Mike Maker for Ken and Sarah Ramsey so will probably find a home vs mid-priced claimers and starter allowance runners. First time starter Lovely Elle was unprepared at break and spotted field at least 3 lengths before rushing into contention and showing some interest…was claimed by Alan Iwinski so check Monmouth and mid-Atlantic circuit.

Race 2 – Second drop down odds-on favorite in a row won at 4-5 as Todd Pletcher dropped Violet Hour from allowance level to 20K claiming foes to get 7 furlong sprint win in virtual wire-to-wire fashion by big margin. The filly was taken by Rich Schosberg. Second place finisher My Place also took big drop from entry level allowance/optional 62.5K claimer in prior and battle for lead with the winner before dropping back inside furlong marker. She in turn was taken from Bill Mott by David Jacobson. Little gabby Girl and Appearance tried to make late moves and were  within a head and ¾ of a length of My Place at the end with the latter having a much tougher trip from the rail.

Race 3Saffron Hall went to the lead and never relinquished it in 1½ mile second level allowance/62.5K optional claimer on the turf. The 7-year old lead the merry-go-round through a 1:16 3/5 six furlongs and 1:41 3/5 mile and the race was over. Consistent Grand Rapport stepped up from 20K starter allowance win on prior and closed ground but couldn’t overcome short filed and soft pace.

Race 4 – Longshot Big Deluxe tried to steal restricted NYSB second level allowance/optional 40K sprint by rapidly opening early margin in 6½ furlong test but was run down in the final stages by favored Noble Cornerstone, who has exhausted state bred conditions. The winner is in fine form and eligible for open non-winners of one other than. The Big Deluxe should break the level soon. Third favorite Jeter, who had been facing 20K open and state bred claimers stepped up, had a rough trip and was claimed for the 40K tab by trainer Mike Miceli.

Race 5 – 5½ furlong 25K turf claimer was helter-skelter from the start with all sorts of bumping and traffic problems. Decisive Move set a lively pace while under pressure from Upward throughout. Those two battled through a :44 half mile and began drifting a bit inside the furlong marker and the former was caught at the wire by a nose by Stormy Rocit who was bumped at the start and pushed to the rear, quickly got into stalking position at the 5/16ths pole and got up late. Upward dropped back to third after being steadied between rivals in deep stretch, but held off the rallying longshot Fourseventeen. 

Race 6 – After this 9 furlong  third level allowance scratched down to a 5 horse field Robbie Alvarado turned in a masterful effort as he established front end dominance through moderate fractions that allowed him to steer the 4-year old to his second straight conditioned win in his third race off a September layoff. The son of Distorted Humor was on the Derby prep trail a year ago for Todd Pletcher but although he wasn’t totally embarrassed in grade stakes tries early on he never got over the hump. Now in the barn of Bill Mott he is a much improved runner with age and could turn into a nice older horse moving forward. He is also bred to handle turf so there are a lot of options. Longest shot on the board, Stephanoatsee continued on from last to get the place in a good effort.

Race 7 – First three finishers in mile MSW turf test were 1-2-3 all the way around the track as they interchanged positions through soft :49 flat half mile and then battled to the wire as 9-2 Sumba Sunset nosed 6-5 favorite Hope Cross while it was a length and a half back to 5-1 show finisher Shift Colors. Longshot Place Card appeared to want to run but the Graham Motion trained filly was taken all over the track…first off the rail then taken inside and allowed to drop back to last before shifting out three wide entering the far turn under inexperienced at Saratoga jockey Trevor McCarthy before fanning out even wider entering the stretch. The daughter of Lemon Drop Kid still managed to improve position. More ground and a more experienced local rider could get her the initial win at a price.

Race 8 – Very capable trainer Michelle Nevin (28% over course of a year) spotted Writingonthewall in perfect spot in 7 furlong 20K starter allowance and the 9-year old gelding won for the 16th time and hit the board for the 30th time in 53 career starts and made in 3 of 6 in 2014 and 2-for-2 on the Saratoga main track. The gelding was a winner vs open 20K claimers at 2-5 two back and haltered by the conditioner to cement eligibility among starters. The first try was a failure on turf at the 40K level and the trainer dropped him back in and he tracked a sharp early pace and got up late to return $19.80. Runner up Regulus, after a win at 25K two back and a strong second here looks to have found his right level. Favorites M J Plus and Bug Juice had to go outside in stretch but had no real excuse and never impacted the race. 

Race 9 – 100K Curlin Stakes went to improving 3-year old V. E. Day. The 3-year old made it three straight as he went from turf to the main track to complete a MSW to allowance to stakes race sweep as he completed a relentless rally and just got up in the final strides of the 9 furlong test. The James Jerkens 28% trainee took top honors in a blanket finish among fellow improving Bill Mott trained colt Charge Now who rebounded from a troubled trip in the sloppy Iowa Derby in his prior and Protonico, a last out allowance winner from Todd Pletcher. In years past, while the Jim Dandy (run on Saturday) has been the key local prep for the Travers Stakes a runner or two have moved forward from this race. Whether any of the top three do so remains to be seen but it is worth noting that Jim Dandy winner Wicked Strong and runner up Tonalist ran 7 and 5 lengths faster at the same distance a day later. Fourth place finisher Viva Majorca was only beaten a length for it all with his late rally and might have the most upside as he shipped in from CD and in 4 previous starts had never raced further than 7 furlongs.

Race 10 – In mile turf MSW for fillies and mares longshot Angel Choir set the early pace from her outside post and was well clear down the backstretch. She continued on the lead, as she had under similar conditions in her prior and took them deep into the stretch before beginning to weaken and bear out inside the sixteenth pole. She bumped into eventual winner Feline, who survived to take the nose decision, causing that one to in turn bump soundly original third place finisher Jolene, who was beaten a nose and a nose in the blanket finish and the latter was put up second. The second and third place finishers are lightly race…it was the third try for each so they should be in the winner’s circle soon whereas the winner was most impressive in rallying for her win seeing that it was just career start number two and the first beyond 6 furlongs. She’ll win again soon.

Saturday 7/26   
Race 1 – Bombs away as Indy Millions rallied from dead last to break maiden in grassy mile and three-sixteenths MSW test. The bred to run long daughter of A.P. Indy was by far the most conditioned in the field with three straight tries at a mile and a quarter…three races in which she wasn’t far back at the finish in any. Jockey Taylor Rice did a nice job of waiting on the filly as the pace for the distance was pretty lively (:23 1/5…:47 3/5…1:12 1/5) for a group that was comprised of mile and mile and a sixteenth tested veteran maidens. Engaginglee and Smart Ashley also rallied for second and third but their premature moves set up the 16-1 winner. The former would benefit from moving back to 8½ to 9 panels while the latter is beginning to look like a career maiden as she now has an 8-0-2-5 career turf mark.

Race 2 – One and one sixteenth mile entry level NYSB turf allowance went to lightly raced colt Sanctify. It was career start number five, second on the grass and first around two turns and the well-bred for grass and distance son of Pulpit. The 3-year old got the perfect trip as he saved ground on the rail until they reached the stretch and moved out without interference when asked by jockey Manuel Franco. It was just the opposite for Jose Lezcano and runner up Ocala Jim who as a closer was taken in hand and allowed to settle at the back while saving ground inside. He had nowhere to go when urged entering the far turn, bided time and took back a few steps in order to find an opening and had to angle outside a number of rivals off the turn and through the upper stretch. He came on strong at the end and with as good a trip as Sanctify was probably the winner. Gets it done soon. Fifth place finisher Macagone set a much too quick pace as Jose Ortiz tried to wrangle him in but couldn’t while the colt sped through a 1:10 3/5 six panels. He has shown enough talent in his short career to indicate that if he can be taught to rate better he’ll be a player.

Race 3 – Not much of a surprise as Competitive Edge, a juvenile son of Kentucky Derby winner Souper Saver gets in off the AE list for Todd Pletcher, goes off as the odds-on favorite and romps by 10 ¾ lengths in 1:09 4/5. Runner up firster Today’s Agenda followed the winner all the way around the track and by virtue of not getting totally discouraged could prove a winner soon.

Race 4 – Field of NYSB professional maidens weak enough that in the MSW test (5½ furlongs turf) a runner moving up from state bred 40K maiden claimers was not only sent off the favorite but romped by 4 lengths in career start number 4. The Michael Matz trained son of Street Boss might have a future vs peers but the rest are forgettable.

Race 5 – 9 furlong entry level allowance race was essentially a NW2L lifetime test that went to dogged longshot Away Game. This is the kind of race that one of the entrants has to win and that is what the Richard Violette trainee did. After pace setter and favorite Rocket Time gave way in mid-stretch to pressers Bay Of Biscaye, who took the lead until the final strides and C J.’s Awesome before they gave way to the winner. Those three were the only ones to show anything in moderate pace race.

Race 6 – Full field of 12 turf runners went forward in mile and a half 35K marathon. These marathons generally lead to little moving ahead as Delaware shipper Razzle Jazil ($17.60) was determined enough to run down the field in the late stages for his 4th straight win. Favored Captain Futuro saved ground the whole way, came off the rail entering the lane and after putting a head in from just failed to hold on. Veteran Arc Above tracked in mid-pack and continued on for an unthreatening show finish. Pace setter Mr. Starr’s Report had the lead to the quarter pole before quitting all together but of the filed he might be best served at a mile and an eighth vs the next lower level. Other than the winner this is more a supporting role group than one of prospective winners.

Race 7 – From a limited number of runners Anthony Dutrow (heading into Monday 4 winners from 9 starters) is having a superior meet and sent out Big Beast to demolish entry level allowance 6 furlong sprinters by 6 widening lengths as the 8-5 favorite. The two stalkers chasing the wire-to-wire winner quickly gave way and 1 for 13 Gombey Dancer rallied for second at 11-1 and Scam showed some promise by rallying for the show in just his fifth career start and first since October. He broke slowly and without being pressured continued the rally on his own. His four races last year indicated he’ll like more ground so he is worth following.

Race 8 (Amsterdam Stakes)Coup De Grace made it two straight since moving to the Larry Jones barn with strong late rally after going three wide on the turn, four wide into the lane and tipping out a bit more in mid-stretch in the 6½ furlong stakes. Once he found his best stride he drew clear by 3 lengths and looks ready to finally fulfill the promise expected earlier in his career. C. Zee pressed the early pace, took a brief lead and dug in to hold the place over favorite Captain Serious who never got comfortable after bobbling at the break and finding himself off the pace in the early going and was likely further compromised by the quick early fractions, especially since he was shortening up after wiring the field in the mile and a sixteenth Grade III Dwyer 3 weeks earlier.

Race 9 – A familiar group of second level allowance NYSB fillies and mares did battle in this mile and a sixteenth turf test and Palace Dreams continued her consistent form and used it to wire the field and get over the hurdle. The David Duggan trained daughter of Freud now has a 7-3-2-1 career turf mark and looks good enough to handle entry level open allowance runners. Stick with her. Runner up Distorted Beauty also turned in a solid effort to get the place in just her 4th career start and first beyond 6 furlongs. She tracked in third, moved up a notch when asked to rally and though unable to run down the more experienced pace setter was beaten only a length while 3¾ lengths clear of the show runner. Her turn comes soon.

Race 10 – (Jim Dandy Stakes) – The race lost some of its already tightened value when Cousin Stephen was a late scratch and Wicked Strong, off a serious of sharp speed works and the addition of blinkers turned the tables on Tonalist, who beat him in the Belmont.  Wicked Strong was closer to a manageable pace early on and without pressure took over and held Tonalist at bay. The latter moved out to try and catch the winner, moved to him while 4 wide and after brushing with that one fell back a bit in the final stages while well clear of the show finisher Kid Cruz. Both Wicked Strong and Tonalist got everything they needed out of the race as they move forward towards their expected rematch in the Travers. Kid Cruz turned in another credible effort but as useful as he is he is a cut below the top ones in the division.

Race 11 – Fourth try vs restricted NYSB entry level allowance foes was the charm as Elroi managed to rally from last of 10 at the 5/16ths pole to get past the condition. He often leaves himself too much to do in the latter stages so although he will eventually win at the second level he might need a few tries there as well. Runner up Charity Reigns was way over his head in his prior two vs open company and didn’t come close to factoring. But the drop back in vs his peers in his first try for trainer Phil Serpe, who haltered him for 40K in the race before this and is 18% first off the claim had him prepared for a good run at 21-1. The son of War Pass was much closer to the pace than usual from his rail post, unleashed a strong move to quickly draw clear inside the quarter pole and seemed to wait around for the winner in the final stages. He’ll get past this level soon.  Fourth place finisher Poliziotto pressed the early pace for six furlongs, began to give way at the quarter pole and faded a bit late but was only beaten a total of 2½ lengths for it all in his first start since last July, which was his first since November of 2012 so definitely needed the race and could be worth a look if he races back within the next 3-5 weeks for trainer Chad Brown.

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