If you’ve been following New York racing for any length of time, you know Gary Contessa. He’s won thousands of races from the Grade 1 level down to claimers, and he’s emerged as a true ambassador for the sport.
I got the chance to sit down with him on this week’s episode of “Champagne and J.D.” We spoke for 45 minutes and hit a lot of topics, including why he stepped away from training and his thoughts on the current state of the game.
It was a blast to sit down with Gary, and I really hope you all enjoy it.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Right idea, lousy execution. I didn’t like the favorites in the sixth, but I landed on the wrong longshot and dropped $20.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to play doubles and Pick Threes keying one of my best bets of the day. #10 STANDUP is a single for me in the fifth. I’ll single him in $5 doubles starting in the fourth with #3 LADY C, #4 GONE GLIMMERING, and #5 WEDONTBELIEVEHER, and in $5 doubles using #3 PREAMBLE and #6 COLTANDMISSISSIPPI in the sixth. I’ll also play a $1 Pick Three starting in the fourth that uses all of these runners.
TOTAL WAGERED: $31.
Best Bet: Sistercharlie, Race 3
Longshot: Preamble, Race 6
The Important One
Jc’s Shooting Star
#1 SPEIGHTSTOWN GAL: Held on to win a strong race for the level last time out in her first start since November. That day’s third-place finisher and runner-up came back to run 1-2 earlier in the meet, and this one should be running late; #5 THE IMPORTANT ONE: Came from out of the clouds to take her turf debut downstate, and that running style could help her here. Rosario rides back for Asmussen, and the recent turf bullet is intriguing; #4 JC’S SHOOTING STAR: Drops way down in class after chasing Intercontinental champion Newspaperofrecord, Come Dancing, and others during the past year. It wouldn’t be a shock if the shallower waters are what this mare needs to turn things around.
#7 MIDNIGHT SURPRISE: Has been working well of late for Todd Pletcher and doesn’t seem to have caught the toughest field in her debut. If she runs to her drills, I think she’ll be a handful; #5 MUNNINGS MUSE: Finished second in her career debut in June of last year before going to the sidelines for 13 months. She’s been working consistently ahead of her return, but this barn’s runners sometimes need their first races back; #2 VIVAZANO: Was a solid third in her unveiling and will look to rebound after misfiring in the slop two weeks ago. A return to the first-out form would make her a factor for part-owner and legendary turf writer Steven Crist.
Call Me Love
#5 SISTERCHARLIE: Makes her long-awaited return to the races and looms large in this spot. Even if she’s not fully-cranked, it will take significant improvement from one of her opponents to keep her out of the winner’s circle; #6 STARSHIP JUBILEE: Has won five of her last six starts, and several of those wins came in runaway fashion. She’s been working well at Woodbine and certainly deserves the shot at my top pick; #1 CALL ME LOVE: Seems best of the rest for red-hot connections. Her second behind Rushing Fall in the Grade 3 Beaugay two back was fine, and a cutback to this distance could help her.
#4 GONE GLIMMERING: Was ambitiously spotted by Tom Amoss last season and has dropped down to the claiming ranks. She stepped forward with a good second against similar last time out at Churchill, and Jose Ortiz sees fit to ride; #5 WEDONTBELIEVEHER: Showed versatility last month when rallying from well back against slightly lesser company. She was claimed by Linda Rice that day, and she’s got a strong record with new acquisitions; #3 LADY C: Has racked up the frequent flyer miles this season with races at Delta, Oaklawn, and Thistledown. She’s shown an ability to rate off the pace and rally, and this seems like the trip she’ll get here.
#10 STANDUP: Rallied for third while widest of all downstate against similar and should get a great setup here. There’s tons of speed signed on, and Joel Rosario should be able to take him back before making one big run; #6 UNPRECEDENTED: Had an eventful trip when second in his first turf sprint, and they may have found what this one wants to do. These are deeper waters, but this is another closer that could benefit from a meltdown; #1 OUR TROUBADOUR: Put it all together when graduating in a maiden claimer for state-breds earlier this month. This is his first try against winners, but he could stalk the pace from the rail and have first run turning for home.
#6 COLTANDMISSISSIPPI: Has changed hands a lot over the past year and goes first off the claim for Dominick Schettino. He has tactical speed, but will likely stalk a hot pace, and that could put him in a prime position when the real running starts; #3 PREAMBLE: Looked like a legit prospect when he reeled off three straight wins to start his career. He hasn’t won since, but the last-out third against slightly better is encouraging and he’ll certainly have pace to run at; #4 SKYLER’S SCRAMJET: Was second in the Grade 1 Carter last season but has seen his form go south over the past four starts. This is a concerning drop, but of the speed horses, I think he’s the most likely to emerge from an early duel with the lead.
#8 LONESOME FUGITIVE: Rallied to graduate over yielding going last time out and takes on winners for the first time. That race came back very fast on figures, and with closers doing well on turf this meet, he looks imposing; #7 PROVEN STRATEGIES: Chased Decorated Invader in the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge last out, and that one came back to win another Grade 2 last week. He certainly looks like the main speed, and if he gets left alone early, look out; #6 PERJURY TRAP: Hasn’t been seen since breaking his maiden in his turf debut last November at Aqueduct. He may need to take a step forward to contend first off the bench, but he’s in the right barn to do that.
PLETCHER ENTRY: Both halves can win, but I lean to #1A MONEY MOVES, who is 2-for-2 and tries two turns for the first time. He’s got the pedigree to love this trip, and the steady diet of five-furlong works likely put some stamina into him; #3 PARSIMONY: Has criss-crossed the globe this year and run up against some tough horses. He was most recently third in the Grade 2 Suburban behind Tacitus, and he may emerge as the main speed here; #7 LEITONE: Has plenty of back form and goes first off the claim for a barn that can pop at a price with new acquisitions. He has speed, but doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well.
Blackjack Davey (MTO)
#4 BARLEEWON: Has taken a step forward since coming back to New York and cruised to an easy score last month against maidens. He faced winners for the first time, but further improvement could make him tough; #7 MO READY: Hasn’t run since December but has worked steadily for Todd Pletcher and graduated here last summer. This isn’t the toughest return race in the condition book, and he’ll be a major player if he’s ready; #3 SIMPLY: Won going long at first asking and was a fast-closing third in his New York debut. He may need more pace to be at his best, but at least you know the two-turn route of ground won’t be a major issue.
#4 VOLATILE: Has emerged as one of the fastest horses in the country this season. His 112 Beyer Speed Figure from the Aristides is justified, and a repeat effort could mean a freaky performance; #2 WHITMORE: Is one of the most fun horses in training to root for. The 7-year-old has raced at a high level for his entire career, and among his wins was a score in the Grade 1 Forego here two summers ago; #5 MIND CONTROL: May have hated the slop in the Grade 1 Carter, which was won by next-out Met Mile winner Vekoma. He’s won two Grade 1 races in as many local starts, and while he may be at his best going an extra furlong, his usual form could absolutely get him a piece of this.
Eighty Seven North
#5 TIMELESS JOURNEY: Was one-paced in her debut, but that proved to be a live race. The third-place finisher came flying to graduate earlier this week, and Rosario climbs aboard for Christophe Clement; #7 BROVIA: May have needed her return race off a long break, but she didn’t run badly when beaten three lengths at this level. She gets a big rider switch to Irad Ortiz, Jr., and improvement is logical second off the bench; #2 EIGHTY SEVEN NORTH: Won’t be involved in win wagers of mine given her 0-for-14 lifetime mark, but she’s a closer that has hit the board many times at this level. She goes second off the bench here and could come rolling for a piece of it to spice up the exotics.