We’re officially halfway through the 2019 Saratoga meet, as Wednesday’s program marked the 20th of 40 scheduled days. It’s always a shock when the halfway point hits, and it hits everyone differently. Given the short calendar length of the season, the meet goes by really quickly in some respects. In others, it’s a grind given the amount of races stuffed into the boutique meet.
We’ve got 20 more racing days (weather permitting, of course) to make a big score here. This happened last year, when we hit an $820 Pick Four in this section near the end of the meet, and I’ll be plugging away every day in hopes of a similar scenario unfolding. If you miss a day, check my website, AndrewChampagne.com, for picks, analysis, and bankroll plays.
WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: Lead Guitar had every chance to get by Crack Shot in the third and couldn’t get by. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that playing to win and place cut our losses to just two dollars.
THURSDAY’S PLAY: This is another day where I’m treading pretty lightly. I simply don’t feel incredibly strongly about much on the Thursday card. I’ll focus my action on the ninth race, which houses my longshot of the day. That’s #5 BELGRANO, who I’ll key above and below #1A FINANCIAL SYSTEM, #2 HIERARCHY, and #3 WALKOFF in $2 exactas. I’ll also play Belgrano to win and place for $4 each.
TOTAL WAGERED: $20
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BEST BET: Drawing Away entry, Race 3
LONGSHOT: Belgrano, Race 9
#1 CUDDLE KITTEN: Has won two in a row since going to the Jorge Navarro barn, and before that had a solid winter/spring at Oaklawn Park. Toss the turf races, and you have a horse that’s won seven of 20 starts; #4 ZENA RULES: Was a close-up second last time out at Ellis Park and makes her local debut here. This barn is a smaller one, but it has already won here once this meet; #6 STAY FOND: Makes her first start since February, but hasn’t finished out of the money since last May. Jose Ortiz hops aboard, and she’s a contender if she’s ready to run.
My Roxy Girl
#2 MY ROXY GIRL: Was claimed by Danny Gargan last time out, and few on the circuit are better with new acquisitions. She should appreciate the drop in class, and she’s worked well ahead of this race; #7 BERTRANDA: Drops back down to what seems like the right level after three failed tries against better horses. She was a good second against similar in May at Belmont, and she should go early; #5 MOONDANCE JOY: Merits a look at a bit of a price. She’s won here before, and while this race is a step up in claiming price, the one she exits was very strong for that level.
Drawing Away entry
DRAWING AWAY ENTRY: I prefer #1 RHODE ISLAND, who had a wide trip in his first start against winners. He drops back in for a tag, and a repeat of his two-back effort would make him tough against what seems like a subpar group; #3 BAD BOY: Responded to the class drop earlier this meet, when he rallied to top maiden claimers. The faster they go early, the better his chances would likely be; #2 JEROME AVENUE: Drops in for a tag and gets significant class relief off of his prior outings. His connections thought enough of him to try stakes company at Tampa, and his best race would put him right there.
#4 CALIFORNIA NIGHT: Tried stakes company last time out, and those waters were simply too deep. This seems like a much friendlier spot, and the last time he was in for this tag, he cruised to a wire-to-wire victory at Aqueduct; #2 POTOMAC: Cuts back to one turn and drops in class after flopping at 8/5 earlier in the meet. If he recaptures his early-season form going this shorter distance, he’s absolutely the one to beat; DIODORO ENTRY: I prefer #1A CONQUERER, who exits a fast race for the level at Churchill Downs. He’s won twice at this distance and would benefit from a speed duel.
Tiz the Law
#8 DANGEROUS EDGE: Fetched $150,000 at auction earlier this year and has worked well ahead of his unveiling. Early returns on sire Competitive Edge have been strong, and the outside draw is a plus; #3 TIZ THE LAW: Is bred to be a runner and has worked like a solid horse. He’s worth a long look, even though his trainer’s horses tend to need a race or two to get going; #7 DREAM BIGGER: Hammered for $205,000 at auction despite a pretty modest pedigree. John Velazquez doesn’t ride for Rudy Rodriguez very often, and it’s intriguing to see him aboard this runner (who has been working well here over the past few weeks).
#7 BRITTAS BAY: Ran well when beaten just a neck downstate. She topped the third-place finisher by three lengths that day, and she seems to get the benefit of a so-so field for the level; #8 ERIN MORE: Debuts for Todd Pletcher and has hinted at some potential in the mornings. She’s a half-sister to McErin, who won his debut and tried tough company at Royal Ascot early in his career; #2 PROSPERITY: Was a one-paced fifth in her debut, but this barn’s firsters are rarely fully-cranked. She gets a big rider switch to Joel Rosario and may take a big step forward at second asking.
#6 H MAN: Faltered at 2/5 after being outsprinted early in his last start. He got a bit of a rest prior to this event, and at his best, he’s absolutely the one to beat in what seems more like a state-bred stakes race than an optional claimer; #8 CERRETALTO: Almost certainly needed the race earlier this meet, which doubled as his first outing since December. This barn is quietly enjoying a stellar season, and this one could improve second off the bench; #2 BINKSTER: Was second here earlier in the meet and may have run the most impressive race that day. He was close to a fast pace and wound up beaten less than a length; the question is, can he find a way to best my top pick (who beat him twice earlier this year)?
#6 LUCKY MOVE: Rallied to win at this route earlier in the meet and may have relished the two-turn trip. Joel Rosario rides back, and there should be plenty of early speed for her to rate behind; #5 HELD ACCOUNTABLE: Came off the bench to run third in the mud just a short time ago. She didn’t have a great start that day, and this barn is due to get off the duck sooner rather than later; #2 FETCHING: Has won two of three starts on turf and tries dirt for the first time here. If her turf form translates to dirt, she could absolutely rally for a big piece of it.
BROWN ENTRY: #1A FINANCIAL SYSTEM has a habit of finding trouble, but he’s done his best running around two turns and could relish a return to that route here. Additionally, #1 GROWTH ENGINE will be tough if this is rained off the turf; #5 BELGRANO: Has won two of his last four starts, including a last-out victory at Belmont against starter allowance foes. He could sit a perfect stalking trip, and he may be a generous price; #2 HIERARCHY: Cuts back in distance in his first start for Joe Sharp. His plodding style hints that he wants to go longer, but he’s hung a bit of late, so maybe the change will wake him up.
Lucky Bet (MTO)
#9 TRICKY MAGICIAN: Drops down in class in his second start off the bench. He tried very tough company as a 2-year-old, and this two-turn route could be just what the doctor ordered; #6 BAFFIN BAY: Has been busy this year, with four wins in seven 2019 starts. He makes his first start for this barn here, and his best race would make him a major player; #10 DAKOTA’S DUDE: Got back in the winner’s circle after dropping in class last time out. He sat a great trip stalking a moderate pace that day, but a similar scenario could present itself again here.