Horse racing Jack-of-all-trades (and personal friend) Nick Hines stopped by the “Champagne and J.D.” podcast this week, and we had a really fun conversation that touched on a lot of different topics within the industry. We spoke about his role picking out horses at sales, as well as the recent passing of Mel Stute and what he wishes more fans knew about the sport. My personal highlight, meanwhile, is me retelling one of my favorite stories involving a private clocker and trainer Neil Drysdale (complete with my best Drysdale impression, which is actually not terrible).
The show is up on YouTube, and it’s also been picked up in a piece on the Paulick Report website as well. I’m grateful to Nick, affectionately known as “The Sarge” by his many friends, for taking the time to chat, and I hope you all enjoy it.
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Thank you, Hurricane Hill. My longshot of the day prevailed in the seventh and paid $29.80 to win. While double and Pick Three tickets did not cash, a $15 win ticket on Hurricane Hill did to the tune of $223.50.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus primarily on the early Pick Four, which starts in the second race. My 50-cent ticket goes as follows: 4,6 with ALL with 2,3,5 with 10. My goal is to extract some value out of #10 BRAZEN, who figures to be a very heavy favorite in the fifth race of the day. I’ll also single my longshot of the day, #5 QUICK RETURN in the fourth, to kick off a $4 cold double ending with Brazen.
TOTAL WAGERED: $25.
Best Bet: Brazen, Race 5
Longshot: Quick Return, Race 4
#4 BEBE BANKER: Takes a big drop in class and cuts back to one turn, and both changes should be beneficial for him here. His effort two back was very strong, and he’s run reasonably well against allowance foes going seven furlongs, which bodes well; #3 INVEST: Comes back to the right level after running for a higher tag last time out at Belmont. That race was also off a very quick break, and he got some more time to recharge before this event; #5 SOMEBODY: Runs fresh for H. James Bond, whose horses have been firing at the Spa this summer. Luis Saez sees fit to ride, and he could sit a prime stalking trip just off of a moderate pace.
Mo Mischief (MTO)
#4 PUBLIC SECTOR: Has the highest turf Tomlinson figure I’ve ever seen, and for good reason. His pedigree is as European as it gets, and that 427 number jumps off the page. He’s worked steadily for Chad Brown, who employs Irad Ortiz, Jr., here; #6 RIP IT: Lost all chance at the break in his debut, one I was eagerly anticipating. He may have needed that effort, and if he lives up to the lofty potential provided by his pedigree, he could be a serious racehorse; #5 POLINESIA: Hammered for $800,000 here last summer and is bred to be a good one. This son of American Pharoah may be favored, but he was down at Monmouth with Chad Brown’s second-stringers, and that’s sometimes a red flag.
#3 REED KAN: Has won two in a row against similar company and has shown he doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well. That could be a huge asset here, as this race has come up heavy on early zip; #1 LUSITANO: Cuts back in distance and drops in class for an astute barn. He’s got plenty of back class, and the presence of aggressive gate rider Luis Saez may tip trainer Joe Sharp’s hand when it comes to tactics out of the gate; #4 SKYLER’S SCRAMJET: Found the winner’s circle for the first time in a long time earlier this meet. This is a slight step up in class, but it wasn’t long ago he was second in the Grade 1 Carter and perhaps he’s going in the right direction.
#5 QUICK RETURN: Has run second twice when in for a tag and takes a slight step up in class. However, this field didn’t seem to come up all that strong for the level, and I love it when a speed horse gets blinkers for the first time. He’s a threat to wire this group at a price; #3 PAPA LUKE: Looms the one to beat off of two runner-up finishes at this level. Based on Beyer Speed Figures, he’s a formidable favorite, but he had every chance last time out earlier in the meet and couldn’t get the job done, which is a red flag; #2 FARRAGUT: Was third in the race my second selection also exits. If my top two picks cook each other on the front end, this is the one they may have to hold off, and I like the pattern of improving Beyers.
#10 BRAZEN: Takes a huge drop in class down to the $16,000 claiming level in his first start since being gelded. It wasn’t long ago he was 9-1 when running against highly-touted prospect Cezanne at Santa Anita, and between his early speed and the cushy outside post, I think he’s a very likely winner; #2 NO LIME: Was second in his seasonal debut, which doubled as his first outing in nine months. The recent sharp half-mile work indicates he came out of that race well, and he should be rolling late once again here; #3 FEVOLA: Takes a big drop after fading against starter allowance foes downstate in his first try against winners. His effort two starts ago was very good, and it’s possible he needed his last-out effort after a layoff of more than four months.
#1 ENGRAVE: Gets a tepid nod in a wide-open, prospect-filled 2-year-old race. This son of Flatter hammered for $900,000 at Keeneland last year and has been working well for Chad Brown. I’m not crazy about the rail, but if he runs to the workouts, he could be special; #10 RESTORED ORDER: Is one of only a few in here with experience, as he ran third in his unveiling at Gulfstream. He’s been off since May, but a recent big drill from the gate suggests he’s moving forward nicely for Todd Pletcher; #6 CALIBRATE: Fetched $340,000 at auction and seems to be coming to hand ahead of his unveiling. Steve Asmussen has already had a strong summer with 2-year-olds, and this could be another good one. If there’s hesitation here, it’s only because the pedigree suggests he’ll do his best running on turf.
Big Thicket (MTO)
#6 MO READY: Had a nightmare trip in his first start since December when he didn’t have anywhere to run until the final sixteenth of a mile. Between that journey and this being his second start off the bench, I think significant improvement is in the cards; #2 SANCTUARY CITY: Was second in the race my top pick exits and got the trip that one didn’t. He’s run well in both of his 2020 outings, and his last-out effort showed two-turn routes won’t present problems for him; #8 JIMMY JAZZ: Is a consistent sort that usually gets a check. His last two races in particular have been fine, and his trainer has quietly finished in the money with seven of his 12 starters at the meet as of this writing.
#2 DECORATED INVADER: Is one of the most talented horses in his crop and looms large in the Saratoga Derby. He’s won three in a row this season, the pedigree says this distance won’t be a problem, and he’ll be a logical short-priced favorite; #7 FIELD PASS: Has won four of five this year, with the lone defeat coming when he broke slowly in the War Chant three back. This is a class test for him, but a repeat of his effort in the Grade 3 Transylvania would give him a shot; #5 GUFO: Is the other half of a powerful 1-2 punch for Christophe Clement, who also trains my top pick. This one, however, can’t be ignored given his four-race win streak and the presence of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
Spice Is Nice
Harvey’s Lil Goil
#5 SWISS SKYDIVER: Stretches out to a mile and a quarter in the Grade 1 Alabama after running second against the boys in the Grade 2 Blue Grass. The winner, Art Collector, may be the second choice in the Kentucky Derby. If she takes to the added distance, she’ll be tough to catch; #2 SPICE IS NICE: Ran well to top allowance foes last time out and is bred to love the 10-furlong route she’ll get. This daughter of Curlin has some early speed and should sit a prime stalking trip, and trainer Todd Pletcher has remarked she looks like a horse that will adore this distance; #6 HARVEY’S LIL GOIL: Became a dual-surface stakes winner last time out when she won the Grade 3 Regret on turf at Churchill. Perhaps that’s her preferred surface, but given the pedigree (by American Pharoah, out of a Tapit mare), this distance shouldn’t be a problem, and that may be enough to get her a piece of it.
Qian B C
New York’s Finest
#1 MAXWELL ESQUIRE: Was impressive in victory earlier this meet and steps up to a higher condition here. However, he’s run well against stakes company in the past and this race should set up well for his late-running style; #7 QIAN B C: Is another consistent closer that figures to get a strong setup with so much early speed signed on. His lone poor effort since the start of 2019 came in his first start off the bench two back, and he may be a pretty big price; #5 NEW YORK’S FINEST: Is 4-for-6 over this turf course and seems to have found his prior form in the barn of Rudy Rodriguez. His best race can win this, but he may have to work hard to establish early positioning and this seems like a strong field for the level.
#4 BRICCO: Has run well twice this season against similar and should have a big chance here. It didn’t seem like he had any excuse last time out, but it’s tough to be too enthusiastic about much in this field and the Bond barn is firing on all cylinders; #12 SIDD FINCH: Goes second off the bench for George Weaver and likely needed his return, which doubled as his first start since March. His two and three-back efforts weren’t bad, and the last-out clunker may mean we get a bit of a price; #8 MOMMIE’S JEWEL: Was third in the race my top pick exits, but had every chance setting a moderate early pace and couldn’t get the job done. There seems to be more pace signed on, but she gets a slightly better post and may be able to lead them a long way beneath returning rider Joel Rosario.