I’ve been fortunate enough to work from a lot of cool places in my professional career, including Saratoga (of course), a renewal of the Winter Olympics, the Little League World Series, and several other world-renowned locales. However, some of the best stories I’ve got have come about while working from, shall we say, unconventional places. I’ll tell some of those stories, including some that feature places and people in upstate New York, in this week’s edition of “The Dark Day Files,” which will be online at AndrewChampagne.com Monday night.
SUNDAY’S RESULTS: The bane of a win-place player’s existence reared its head, as best bet Dwizard ran pretty well in the fifth but had to settle for third. We dropped $40.
MONDAY’S PLAY: I’ll take a stand in the opener with a middle-priced horse that I think is well-meant. That’s #4 EVERYTHING MAGIC, whose best effort would make her tough to beat. I’ll put $5 to win and place on her, and key her in $3 exactas above and below the two likely betting choices, #1 CHAMPAGNE RUBY and #6 NON FINISCE MAI.
TOTAL WAGERED: $22
Best Bet: Literata, Race 8
Longshot: Eucalyptus, Race 9
Non Finisce Mai
EVERYTHING MAGIC: Reeled off three wins in a row not too long ago and drops down in class. Her record looks much better if you toss out the off-track efforts, and we may get a price; CHAMPAGNE RUBY: Routed foes at this level earlier in the meet and certainly merits respect. A repeat effort probably wins this, but she was aided by a favorable pace setup (and possibly the track condition); NON FINISCE MAI: Drops way down in class in an effort to find her first win since March of last year. She’s run well in each of her last two starts and should be prominent early.
VIGOR: Is hamstrung by the rail draw but has the experience and early speed to overcome it. She was a solid third behind a well-meant Chad Brown runner when last seen, and the recent bullet workout is a plus; SPANKER: Makes her 3-year-old debut after a 2-year-old campaign that reflected the confidence of the connections. She tried stakes company twice and was second in such a spot at Presque Isle; HOLLYWOOD ROYAL: Fetched $250k at auction and debuts following a series of strong workouts. She’s a half to Grade 2-placed sprinter Laurie’s Rocket, so she’s got a right to show some zip in her unveiling. DIRT SELECTIONS: SAME.
Baby Bear’s Soup
BABY BEAR’S SOUP: Comes in off a win downstate and won here last year. When he’s right, he’s very good, and a repeat of his most recent effort would make him the one to beat; HOLDING ACES: Broke through earlier this month when crushing a weaker group. He dueled through fast fractions that day, and while a bounce is possible, it’s also possible that this 5-year-old is figuring things out; HAPPY FARM: Has won two in a row and steps up out of the claiming ranks to run here. I’m not sure what he beat last time out, but he looked good doing it.
POCKET BOOK: Did everything but win in her debut, when she set very fast fractions and got nailed in the final strides. She could easily improve at second asking, and if she does, she could lead every step of the way; GIDU: Is the latest son of Frankel to debut here, and the bottom-side pedigree is solid as well. He’s a half to Grade 3 winner Marbre Rose, and his dam is a half to Grade 1 winner Zoftig, so there’s plenty of class in this one’s blood; PARIS CRUISE: Was a solid second in her debut at Keeneland and tries turf for the first time here. She’s worked well of late, and this barn must be respected. DIRT SELECTIONS: PARIS CRUISE, SNAPPER SINCLAIR, BLUE LUTE.
NOVIQUE: Is a perfect 2-for-2 at this seven-furlong distance and makes her second start off a long layoff. Her tactical speed is a plus, as is the switch to jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr.; SHE’S STUNNING: Drops way down in class following a strange trip at Parx where she was extremely wide throughout. She was beaten less than two lengths, and she’s certainly eligible to improve with a better trip; MILAYA: Hasn’t won in a while, but spent most of last year running against stakes company and was a good second last time out on turf. Her experience going longer than this tricky distance should help her.
Win With Pride
New Jersey John
WIN WITH PRIDE: Was briefly on the Kentucky Derby trail and drops in for a tag for the first time. These connections are aggressive, so I don’t question the drop too much, and the recent turf efforts at Monmouth were solid; NEW JERSEY JOHN: Closed with a rush in his turf debut to finish fourth, beaten less than a length. All three runners in front of him won at next asking, and Linda Rice is extremely strong with horses stretching out in distance; ANY QUESTIONS: Makes his first start for trainer Jeremiah Englehart after a few OK runs downstate. Runhappy’s little brother certainly fits here on his best day. DIRT SELECTIONS: WIN WITH PRIDE, NEW JERSEY JOHN, SURTAP.
Bigkat and Camille
HEAVENLY SCORE: Was a close-up fourth in a stakes race earlier in the meet behind a pretty sharp sprinter. This is a much softer spot, and she could sit a perfect trip on or near the pace; BATTLEMENT: Has not won in more than a year, but ran a stellar race in defeat last time out at Belmont. The faster they go early, the better this filly figures to finish; BIGKAT AND CAMILLE: Was beaten just a neck at this level and route earlier in the meet and will almost certainly be a price. A repeat effort, though, could get her a minor award and shake up the exotics. DIRT SELECTIONS: HEAVENLY SCORE, ANNATHELA, BATTLEMENT.
Jcs American Dream
Jc’s Shooting Star
LITERATA: Won a confidence-builder last time out at Finger Lakes. She went 0-for-2 here last year, but unlike many in here, she seems to be in her best form and not trending downward; JCS AMERICAN DREAM: Was third in a decent allowance race at Monmouth and generally seems to run the same race every time out. That type of effort is almost certainly good enough for a check; JC’S SHOOTING STAR: May be past her peak, but loves Saratoga. She was third in this race last year and cannot be ignored.
Perro Rojo (MTO)
River of Dreams
RIVER OF DREAMS: Simply did not want to go 11 furlongs last time out, so draw a line through that race. His efforts going this kind of distance are solid, and it’s encouraging that Jose Lezcano rides back; EUCALYPTUS: Has not run in more than a year, but ran into some very good horses a year ago. This is a much softer spot, and that kind of form could be good enough to win this; MUSICAL AMERICA: Is another that didn’t want to go three turns last time out. He hasn’t won in a while, but the class drop could wake him up. DIRT SELECTIONS: PERRO ROJO, KARMA DELIGHT, HONOR THY FATHER.