Big news: ESPN’s Norman Chad will be joining my weekly show, “Champagne and J.D.,” in just a few days! He, of course, is one of the main voices of the World Series of Poker, and may be best-known by avid newspaper readers for his longtime “Couch Slouch” column, which has been picked up by papers from coast to coast.
We’ll be interviewing him Friday night, and it’ll be online either late Friday or early Saturday. J.D. Fox and I have worked hard to put together a high-quality weekly show, and we’d put it up against anyone else’s in the horse racing and/or gambling spaces. We’re excited to have Norman join us, and we hope you enjoy the show when it drops later this week.
WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: Playwright broke near the back of the pack in the sixth and stayed there. I dropped $25.
THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’m not the biggest fan of this card, especially given the uncertainty surrounding the condition of the turf course after Tuesday’s storm. I’ll keep this simple with a pair of $5 win/place bets on #5 WARFRONT FIGHTER in the opener and #6 PIPES in the fourth (turf-only).
TOTAL WAGERED: $20
Best Bet: Wicked Title, Race 6
Longshot: King’s Honor, Race 9
#5 WARFRONT FIGHTER: Was dueled into defeat when fourth behind a next-out winner downstate, and this seems like a softer spot. He’s shown some flexibility in his running style, and it helps that he passed a few horses in his return off the bench two back; #4 MACHO JACK: Hasn’t been seen since October, when he was a close-up second at Keeneland against far better. If he’s ready, he probably wins, but he might have some company on the front end and the layoff of nearly 10 months is a concern; #3 LOVE COE: Likely needed his debut, which came on turf at Belmont. He was claimed out of that race by an outfit that doesn’t reach in for many horses, and he’s worked well since coming to Saratoga.
Malibu Mischief (MTO)
#2 KEOTA: Came up a half-length short in her first start for Chad Brown, but she looms large in this spot assuming it stays on the grass. The likely early speed horses have shown tendencies to stop, and she could sit a perfect stalking trip; #5 WICKED AMBER: Hasn’t won in a while but could benefit from the likely race shape. She was a late-running fourth earlier in the meet despite a bad break and a trip rating behind a slow pace, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she rallied at a bit of a price; #6 JADES GELLY: Was third against similar at Belmont last month and turned in a bullet drill after shipping north a few weeks ago. She was just a half-length behind my top selection that day, and Javier Castellano sees fit to ride back.
Star of the West
My Sacred Place
I Saw It All
#2 STAR OF THE WEST: Flopped at 9/5 earlier tin the meet and will look for redemption against a much softer group. His win two back at Belmont was very good, and a return to that form would make him tough to beat; #7 MY SACRED PLACE: Exits a tough claimer on turf and goes back to his preferred surface while taking a huge drop in class. The Brad Cox barn has yet to really get going at the meet, but this one figures to take plenty of play at the windows; #6 I SAW IT ALL: Merits some consideration underneath after losing all chance at the break in his local debut. If they go fast early on, it could set up for him to come rolling for a piece of it at a big number.
Stoney Bennett (MTO)
#6 PIPES: Comes back to turf second off the layoff and drops in class for an aggressive outfit. He ran too well to lose going long on the lawn here last summer, and he has back races that would make him very tough; #4 CALCULATED RISKER: Has run reasonably well against higher-quality foes and comes back to the turf for the first time in a while. He’s won on the grass before, and he’ll also be dangerous if this event gets moved to the main track; #2 CATCH A CAB: Beat similar company two back and returns to the right level after fading to fifth against optional claiming foes. If there’s hesitation here, it’s because it seems like he’s better at one-turn routes than two-turn configurations.
Ruby Stiletto (MTO)
#7 LOLLYGAG: Is my top pick in what I found the most interesting race of the day. She raced a bit greenly in her unveiling at Keeneland before putting it all together in the stretch and making up lots of ground. This seems like a softer spot; #6 GUARDIAN MOON: Is bred up and down to be a strong turf horse. She’s by Declaration of War and out of a Malibu Moon mare, and she’s shown some promise in the morning for a strong debut outfit; #8 GOING GOING GONE: Has disappointed in two starts on the main track but could find new life switching to the turf. Orb has thrown a few solid turf runners, and she’s out of a Giant’s Causeway more, so she’s got every right to like the grass.
#4 WICKED TITLE: Won here a season ago and moves to the barn of Linda Rice first off the claim. She was third against slightly better horses last time out, and if you toss the turf outings, you’re left with a filly that seems to be worth much more than $16,000; #2 GESTURE: Wasn’t disgraced in her first try against winners at Gulfstream in June. She was second going a bit longer, and she’ll add blinkers in her local debut here; #3 LA NEGRITA: Stepped up to run second against similar last time out and earned a new career-best Beyer Speed Figure in the process. Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride, and he should have this one up close to the pace early on.
#6 ELIADE: Merits another shot second off the layoff for trainer Chad Brown. She ran in some big spots last season in France and got stuck rating well behind a slow early pace in her North American debut. I expect a step forward second off the bench; #3 DYNA PASSER: Has lots of back class and is the likely favorite. She was third in a rich event at Belmont last September, and her usual race would make her a major player here; #2 TIZAHRA: Has won two in a row for Ian Wilkes, whose horses have been running very well so far this meet. The distance is a bit of a question mark, but the pedigree says it shouldn’t be too much of an issue and she’s never been better form-wise.
#1 FRESCO: Broke her maiden in a stakes race last time out, which isn’t something you see very often. She didn’t face the best field that day, but it’s not like the waters are all that much deeper here and she may still have room to improve; #4 TURBO DRIVE: Pulled off a 17-1 shocker in rallying from 11th earlier in the meet. He may need more pace than he’ll get here, but if nothing else, his last-out performance shows he’s got the talent to compete at this level; #5 DREAM BIGGER: Is in my top three solely in the event this gets moved to the main track. He’s won three stakes races on dirt, but turf is very much an unknown.
#5 ELUSIVE RULER: Looks very imposing dropping in class for the Wilkes barn. Luis Saez will hop aboard, and anything close to his last three performances against better company would make him formidable; #8 KING’S HONOR: Is worth a look at a price. He hooked some genuine buzzsaws last summer, broke his maiden, found stakes company too tough, then needed a race off the bench. Castellano hopping aboard on the class drop leads me to believe there’s something here; #6 CATORAT: Won here last year and was third against similar downstate in his first start in more than 10 months. The stretchout to two turns should help him, and he’d benefit from a fast early pace.