Three-horse fields in graded stakes races should not happen anywhere, let alone Saratoga, but here we are. Today’s Shuvee has only attracted three older fillies or mares, and with all due respect to the solid trio signed on, that’s just appalling. In an odd twist, today’s Molly Pitcher at Monmouth, which has the same graded status for the same division of horses and half the purse, has no such issues, with eight horses signed on. Is Chris Christie closing bridges again?
All kidding aside, it’s easy to point fingers and blame tracks, or horsemen, or any other group you want to yell at, but the problem goes much deeper than that. I’ll attempt to dissect it in this week’s edition of “The Dark Day Files,” which will be live on AndrewChampagne.com Monday night.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: I had a really good day in the pick box, but Hunter O’Riley gave the bankroll a kick to the gut with his 16-1 upset win in the Bowling Green. It knocked me out of the Pick Five, but losses were limited to $24 after A.P. Indian scratched out of the Vanderbilt.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to wait until the end of the card, as there are mid-priced horses I like in each of the last two races. I’ll put $5 to win and place on both #10 J.S. CHOICE (6-1, Race 9) and #6 NEW YORK’S FINEST (9/2, Race 10). I’ll also play a straight $5 double singling both horses. If one wins, we’ll likely squeak out a profit. If both win, it will be a very good day for this section!
TOTAL WAGERED: $25
Best Bet: Generous Kitten, Race 7
Longshot: J.S. Choice, Race 9
Paid Up Subscriber
TERRA PROMESSA: Figures to be the main speed in a Grade 3 that has inexplicably only drawn a three-horse field. The shorter fields are, the better early speed tends to be, and this one’s got plenty of quality; PAID UP SUBSCRIBER: Gave Songbird a challenge last time out in the Ogden Phipps, but this one may be better around one turn. Her lone two-turn victory of note was over a subpar field in the 2016 Fleur de Lis, and she may be outsprinted by her two rivals here early; APOLOGYNOTACCEPTED: Has improved with age and earned her first graded stakes placing last time out, but her lone race here was a complete dud.
GOTACHANCETODANCE: Hasn’t won in a while, but drops in for a tag for the first time after chasing better horses for most of her career. Her back class could carry her a long way; FROZEN HANNAH: Has won two of her last three starts and was third in a listed stakes race two back. She was second here twice last summer and hasn’t run a bad race on turf; BARGAINING TABLE: Has won two in a row and will be well-supported at the windows. It’s tough to argue with her recent form, but most of her best races have come going one turn, and this race came up pretty salty for the level. DIRT SELECTIONS: SERVIS ENTRY, ENDURING ERIN, FROZEN HANNAH.
Dunk a Din
AUGIE’S COMING: Steps up in class after a runaway win in his first start for trainer Rudy Rodriguez. He’ll likely be prominent early, and that could mean a perfect trip in a race I found very difficult to decipher; ENDURING HONOR: Rolled two back at Churchill and just missed last out in Indiana. His flexibility is a plus, and he’ll be a major player if he can bring his Midwestern form to Saratoga; DUNK A DIN: Takes a big drop in class for a barn that must be respected. His back class is substantial, but the two duds over this surface in the past present concerns.
AXTELL: Is an ultra-consistent turf sprinter that shouldn’t be hurt by the added sixteenth he gets today. There should be plenty of early speed to set up for his late kick; BOOKMAN: Has yet to run a bad race sprinting and should be prominent early. Joe Sharp is, well, sharp with new acquisitions; HELDATGUNPOINT: Had a nightmare trip here Wednesday and is run right back, which seems like a sign of confidence. He was second in a stakes race two back, and we might get a bit of a price. DIRT SELECTIONS: BOOKMAN, JUNKET, SIX SCHILLINGS.
Scary Not Scared
SCARY NOT SCARED: Is the latest first-time starter with strong works from this barn, which is prominent in Maryland and has made its presence felt up here. This one fetched $350k at auction, and she’ll be dangerous if she runs to her worktab; MEMORIAL DRIVE: Is another with a strong series of drills ahead of her unveiling. She’s bred to be a good one and traces back to Alabama winner Runup the Colors, her second dam; PARTY CLUB: Closed at first asking earlier this month at Ellis Park. That’s not easy to do, and she boasts a series of zippy works ahead of her second start.
Im the Captain Now
All About Voodoo
FOCUS GROUP: Ran into Oscar Performance in his debut last summer and likely needed his 2017 debut last out. That race has produced several next-out winners, and this one’s pedigree suggests he’ll embrace this marathon route; IM THE CAPTAIN NOW: Is one of only a few in here with experience going this far. He was third behind a next-out winner when last seen downstate, and this barn has racked up a few winners here of late; ALL ABOUT VOODOO: Encountered some traffic trouble when a close-up fourth in his debut. The distance is a lot to ask of a second-time starter, but if he’s anywhere close to as talented as his dam, Voodoo Dancer, he could be tough today. DIRT SELECTIONS: IM THE CAPTAIN NOW, STRONG SIDE, BUSHMILL’S LEGEND.
GENEROUS KITTEN: Takes a massive class drop, and anywhere close to his best should top this field fairly easily. He was 5-1 in a Grade 3 last time out, and unlike many others here, there’s plenty to suggest the distance won’t be a problem; WAR BOND: Is a longshot play underneath. He takes a step up in class, but was very close to a scorching pace last time out and still hung on for a piece of it. He’s in capable hands with jockey Jose Ortiz, and he could spice up the exotics; INDEBTED: Is a consistent sort with 12 in-the-money finishes in 19 career starts, and he takes a slight drop in class in his first start for Joe Sharp. DIRT SELECTIONS: MILLS, FOR GREATER GLORY, MARRIAGE FEVER.
Cause for Surprise
SYNDERGAARD: Ran his eyeballs out in last year’s Grade 1 Champagne when second behind Practical Joke, and it may be time to wonder if that race left a lasting impact. However, he’s been running against stakes competition since breaking his maiden, so if ever there’s a time for him to wake up, it’s in an allowance like this; CAUSE FOR SURPRISE: Has won two of his last three, and he and the runner-up were well clear of the rest of the field in his last outing. He’d benefit from someone hooking my top pick into an early speed duel; SARATOGA GIRO: Makes his first start since March for prominent Finger Lakes connections. The local rider coming here for the mount is often a good sign with such shippers, and he’s a contender if he’s ready to run.
J.S. CHOICE: Likely needed the race last time out, and it came up very tough. That race’s winner won a stakes at next asking, and the runner-up has since come back to win as well. 6-1 would be a heck of a price on a horse with considerable talent; LUCULLAN: Took to the turf well last time out, breaking his maiden in swift fashion. Two turns is a question mark, but given the pedigree, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue; KANTUNE: Has won two of his last three in front-running fashion and would benefit from getting an easy lead. If such a scenario materializes, he may be tough to run down. DIRT SELECTIONS: DOGTOWN, PLANET TRAILBLAZER, RACE ME HOME.
Saratoga Charlie (MTO)
New York’s Finest
NEW YORK’S FINEST: Crushed maidens at this route two back and may have needed his last start, which came off a long layoff. He drops in class here, and has been gelded since his last outing; TU EXAGERES: Was the beneficiary of a DQ last time out at Gulfstream, but hasn’t run a bad race in three tries. This barn has been a bit cold to start the meet, but this one’s a contender here; PIONEER SPIRIT: Exits a swiftly-run race at Monmouth and won a key maiden race two back. The presence of Irad Ortiz, Jr., is a major plus. DIRT SELECTIONS: SARATOGA CHARLIE, PIONEER SPIRIT, SPEEDY SLEW.