Horses To Watch In New York


Just over four weeks remain until the July 22 opening of the Saratoga Thoroughbred meet. That means it is time to ratchet up observation of Belmont Park races and horses which could prove influential over the 40 days at the Spa.

The early pace appeared very strong in race three on June 10. This was a five furlong dash for juvenile maidens. Yet despite the fractions and no apparent track bias, the horses which were 1-2-3 for the first half of the race finished 1-3-2. That left odds-on favorite FINALE in fourth.

Finale broke a step slowly with no obvious excuse. He traded a bump early, then was hustled to chase, passing a tired horse at the end. I'd give him just one more chance.

CRUSHING had what is known as an international bad trip in race two, June 11. The maiden was moving to the frontrunners like a winner when a seam closed along the rail. He was chopped off and forced to drop back. Crushing angled outside and tried to come again, but missed by two lengths. Keep in mind he has raced for a claiming tag.

RATTLESNAKE BRIDGE engaged in some early bumping in race four on the 11th, then settled well off the pace. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee launched a four-wide move, but could do no better than collect second on a sealed, muddy racetrack which favored early speed.

Jockey Javier Castellano lulled the field to sleep aboard C.S. SILK in the Just A Game Stakes on June 11. The mare went wire-to-wire laying down constant velocity fractions.

Among the victims of the pace were FANTASIA and the other closers. Fantasia rallied wide and finished well to secure the place.

ASPHALT may have been best in race one on June 16. The Chad Brown trainee was hemmed in traffic while eventual winner Blues Street sailed by on the outside. The one and one-quarter length margin could have been reversed.

New York-bred STREET GAME captured the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont June 18. The colt benefited from a slow pace, drawing out in the stretch. The Hill Prince was his third win in succession.

Street Game's past performances are almost certain to make him an underlay in his next start. The waters will get much deeper at Saratoga unless he's brought back versus restricted company. Favored AIR SUPPORT finished seven lengths back. He had no chance given the pace.

AWESOME MARIA demonstrated her class by winning the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap by three lengths Saturday. She attended a strong pace, left her pace rival behind, then had no trouble holding off the closers.

Runner-up PAYTON D'ORO is trained by Larry Jones. Jones conditions Havre de Grace, who is a much better filly than Payton d'Oro. That suggests Havre de Grace will be a tough customer for Awesome Maria if they meet at the Spa and both come with their best form.

The Bill Mott-trained RAISON D'ETAT is likely to be favored if facing allowance rivals on dirt at Saratoga. The colt broke his maiden in race three on June 18, winning by almost eight lengths. It should be noted he had a good trip.

ZA APPROVAL, from that same event, could prove intriguing at the Spa. The Ghostzapper gelding debuted on turf May 25, showing no speed early or late. Trainer Christophe Clement switched him to dirt Saturday, and the three-year-old set a strong pace while taking some shots from his rivals. Any improvement makes him tough.

KINDA SPICY was a dominant winner of her debut, race four on June 19. The filly had a good trip, stalking a contested pace and finding a seam after the briefest of waits in upper stretch.

A royally-bred filly, Kinda Spicy is a daughter of A.p. Indy, out of a multiple stakes-winning mare. She will be a very short price if placed against allowance rivals in her next start.

RACE TO URGA has a chance to take the leap from a maiden score into stakes company. The Christophe Clement-trained filly was the easiest kind of winner in race seven on June 19. Jockey Ramon Dominguez brought her home in hand.

ABACO finished second in the same race and won't long be a maiden. She was cutting back from one and three-sixteenths miles to a flat mile. As a result the filly was a bit sluggish early. After reaching contention she appeared to take a bad step or just hesitate in mid-stretch, then ran on for second.

The tenth event on the 19 is almost certain to become a key race. It was a maiden contest for New York-bred fillies and mares going a mile on the Widener turf.

SKIP'S PROSPECT won the race and had a relatively clean trip. STRIKEALINETHRUIT missed by a neck after rallying wide. She has had several chances but will find a field she can beat someday.

DANCING TIZ benefited from saving ground and moved strongly on the turn. She paid the price when stymied behind horses coming into the stretch, then finished well when clear. ENGLISH IVY was a length back of the front three. The filly uncorked a quick but wide rally on the turn, might have led between calls, then hung slightly.

SAINT KITTEN was about six-wide on the bend leaving the gate, then dropped inside. The Chad Brown-trained filly was steadied and shuffled back when among horses on the turn.

Keep in mind horses switching from one racetrack to another don't always hold their form. And remember, animals on any watch list are never automatic bets.

by Nick Kling


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