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Dr. Miranda previews the 2023 Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) from Saratoga, then gives her top picks & long shots. Following his impressive maiden win at Ellis Park, Rhyme Schemes has been made the morning line favorite in the local prep for the Hopeful Stakes (G1).
Is the Norm Casse trainee the best win bet to make in this field of 6 juvenile colts? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Pura Vida Investments’ impressive maiden winner Rhyme Schemes will look to take it to another level in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Herb Moelis Memorial Saratoga Special, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for juveniles at Saratoga Race Course.
The Saratoga Special is slated as Race 8 on Saturday’s 11-race card which also features the $150,000 Galway in Race 7 and the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile, in Race 9. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.
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Trained by Norm Casse, the Ghostzapper chestnut garnered a field-best 94 Beyer Speed Figure when graduating with a frontrunning 9 1/2-length romp at second asking on June 15 at Ellis Park in a key race that produced next-out winners Pass the Hat, Timberlake, and Beaudacious Colton.
Casse said he was expecting a good effort from Rhyme Schemes following an even sixth-place finish in his May 18 debut at Churchill Downs won by Wilson Q, who was a next-out second in the Bashford Manor. The runner-up in Rhyme Schemes’ debut voyage, Gold Sweep, was a next-out winner of the Tremont, while the third-place Works for Me also graduated at next asking.
“We went in with a new game plan this year. The 2-year-olds that arrived early, we weren’t going to crank them up,” Casse said. “He ran a sneaky good race on debut and he came back and we knew he was ready for his second start and he ran really impressively that day.”
Casse said Rhyme Schemes doesn’t necessarily need the lead.
“I think that was a circumstance where he was the fastest horse in the race that day with gate speed and early speed,” Casse said. “The cool thing about Rhyme Schemes is he’s a professional. You would think he’s an older horse around the barn. He does everything right. I don’t think he has any boxes he has to check to run a good race. He can be wherever he wants to be and hopefully he’s talented enough to win.”
Rhyme Schemes has breezed back five times since his maiden score, including a half-mile in 49.33 seconds Saturday in his lone timed work over the Spa main track in company with older stakes-placed Mac Daddy Too.
“I thought he went really well. Here at Saratoga, I don’t think you want to ask your horse to do too much breezing. The track is pretty demanding,” Casse said. “We like to get him out there and give him a nice maintenance move over the track and I was really happy with the way that he went. He worked with a good allowance horse and went heads up with him. It was a perfect work.”
The $210,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase is out of the Distorted Humor mare Katherine. His third dam, Turbo Dream, produced dual Grade 1-winner Dream Rush.
Ricardo Santana, Jr. retains the mount from the outermost post 6.
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and St. Elias Stable’s first-out maiden winner Haul [post 4, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] will make his Spa debut for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.
Haul pressed the pace three-wide in his July 9 debut under the Spa’s leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., taking command in upper stretch and powering clear to a three-length win in a final time of 1:05.64 for 5 1/2-furlongs over a fast main track at Belmont Park. The victory earned a 68 Beyer.
Haul has breezed back three times with two of those efforts over the Spa main track, including a half-mile in 48.13 Saturday.
“He’s a professional colt who was able to win on debut and does everything right in the morning,” Pletcher said. “He took the race really well and has come back with a couple solid breezes. I’m very pleased with him.”
The Army Mule colt, a $260,000 purchase from the OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, is out of the Western Fame mare Western Kitty. His third dam, Tizso, produced 2012 Grade 1 Haskell-winner Paynter; while his fourth dam, Cee’s Song, produced Hall of Famer Tiznow.
Courtlandt Farms’ Edified [post 5, Joel Rosario], a $650,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, garnered a 69 Beyer for his 3 1/2-length debut maiden win on July 1 at Ellis Park.
Sent to post at odds of 9-1 from post 2 under returning rider Joel Rosario for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, Edified stalked along the inside from third through the half-mile before tipping out and taking charge at the stretch call to win in a final time of 1:10.97.
Edified, by Tapit, is a half-brother to Grade 1-winner Constellation. He is out of the stakes-winning Not For Love mare For Royalty, who is a half-sister to Grade 2-winner Kiss to Remember as well as El Viento, a multiple Grade 1-winner in Puerto Rico.
Qatar Racing’s Woodcourt [post 3, Jose Ortiz] was purchased for $95,000 at the Fasig-Tipton July Horses of Racing Age sale following a second-out maiden win traveling 5 1/2-furlongs on June 17 at Ellis Park. He will make his stakes debut in the care of trainer Brendan Walsh.
The Ransom the Moon colt, previously trained and co-owned by John Ennis with Niall Collum, tracked in second position as odds-on favorite Balta set swift splits of 22.17 seconds and 45.07 over the fast main track. Balta opened up a two-length lead at the stretch call, but Woodcourt persevered with a two-wide run and took command inside the final sixteenth to secure the 1 1/4-length score in a final time of 1:04.90.
Balta, a $685,000 OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase, graduated next out at the same course and is entered in Sunday’s Ellis Park Juvenile. Woodcourt has breezed back four times with three efforts over the Oklahoma training track, including a three-eighths work Tuesday in 35.20.
Rounding out a talented field are maiden winners Lasso [post 1, Edgard Zayas] for trainer Juan Alvarado; and Market Street [post 2, Jaime Torres] for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
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