This week’s edition of “Champagne and J.D.” featured one of our best friends in the game. Barry Spears co-hosts the “Going in Circles” podcast, and you may have seen his stuff all around horse racing’s social media platforms. He’s a great ambassador for the game, and we analyzed Saturday’s late Pick Four in detail.
We have a lot of fun with this show, and I’d put its quality up against any other podcast/video show in the community. Here’s hoping you enjoy it!
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: The scratch of my best bet changed a lot in the seventh race. In the pick box, I inherited a class-dropper that showed little interest, and in here, much of my action was wiped out. After that scratch, I dropped $10.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus my action on the early part of the card, as I’m against the likely chalk in the opener. I’m punching $6 doubles starting with #2 GOOD CULTURE and #5 PRIME TIME PLAYER in that race and ending with #2 FREEDOMOFTHEPRESS and #9 TRACY FLICK in the second.
TOTAL WAGERED: $24.
Best Bet: Malathaat, Race 5
Longshot: Prime Time Player, Race 1
Prime Time Player
#5 PRIME TIME PLAYER: Broke his maiden last time out at Churchill Downs and comes in off a very strong work here on July 11th. He sold for $430,000 as a yearling in 2019, so someone obviously thought there was talent here, and perhaps he’s finding his footing; #2 GOOD CULTURE: Looks a lot better if you draw a line through his two-back dud at Pimlico. He was second against similar downstate and was claimed by Mike Maker, who has enjoyed plenty of success early in the meet; #7 ROYAL REALM: Takes a very suspicious drop in class and sheds blinkers for this event. Based on numbers, he’s the one to beat, but he was fourth against allowance foes last time out and originally sold for $250,000, so why is he in for less than 20% of that after just four starts?
#9 TRACY FLICK: Has a bad habit of finding trouble, but the outside post she’s drawn could really help her in that regard. She was classy enough to try stakes foes as a maiden last time out, and if she can stay out of trouble, she’s strictly the one to beat; #2 FREEDOMOFTHEPRESS: Ran second and third in two starts last season, and each of the runners that beat her also won their next starts. She gets Lasix for the first time, and if she’s ready to run off of her long break, she’s got a big chance; #4 PATHETIQUE: Missed the break in her debut and has every right to improve here. This daughter of Uncle Mo fetched $450,000 at auction, has turned in two sharp four-furlong works since she got here, and may be an inflated price given the last-out clunker.
Win With Pride
#3 CANTRELL HILL: Made his first start off the claim a winning one for Robertino Diodoro last month at Churchill Downs. He’s got six top-two finishes in seven starts this season, and his tactical speed and flexible running style should give David Cohen plenty of options; #2 WIN WITH PRIDE: Rallied to be fourth against higher-priced claimers downstate, and that’s not what he wants to do. He wants to be on or near the lead, and the presence of aggressive rider Luis Saez should benefit him; #5 ALCOOLS: Earned a career-best 87 Beyer Speed Figure when splashing home in the slop earlier this month. He’s since changed barns, but a repeat of that performance could put him right there in a tough race for the level.
#2 LYRICAL POET: Was a close-up second at this level at Belmont, and it helps his cause that that day’s third-place finisher won at next asking. Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride back for Wesley Ward, and he figures to be prominent from the first jump; #6 TALLAJ: Tries turf for the first time and is bred to love it. He’s by Lemon Drop Kid, out of a Tale of the Cat mare, and makes his first start off the claim for Linda Rice, who does well with new acquisitions; #3 COUNT DOWN: Put it all together with a wire-to-wire win over yielding going on Independence Day. This is his first try against winners, and I’m not quite sure what he beat least time, but Jose Ortiz returns to ride and maybe this gelding is starting to figure things out.
#1 MALATHAAT: Looms very large over an unfortunately short field in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. She’s 5-for-5, comes in fresh for the Pletcher/Velazquez tag team, and has enough speed to be prominent early; #4 CLAIRIERE: Is a very nice filly with a Grade 2 win to her credit. She was most recently third in the Grade 2 Mother Goose at Belmont, and perhaps stretching back out to two turns will help her; #2 MARACUJA: Passed a few rivals to be seventh behind my top pick in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. Ricardo Santana, Jr., picks up the mount, and she’d benefit from a faster-than-expected pace.
#7 WATASHA: Hammered for $450,000 at Keeneland last September and has been training well for Chad Brown. He’s a half-brother to stakes winner Our Caravan, and his second dam is multiple Grade 1 winner Jersey Town, so he has every right to be a real runner; #1 MIDNIGHT WORKER: Draws the rail in his unveiling for Pletcher. He’s another with a strong work tab, and few barns on the circuit have been as historically solid with first-time starters as this one; #10 FLUID SITUATION: Sold for $200,000 in April despite being by a sire that commands just a $5,000 stud fee. He’s kin to multiple Grade 3 winner Axelrod and stakes-placed sprinter Trelawny, among others, and Joel Rosario has won at a 35% clip when riding for John Terranova in recent years.
#6 MIRA MISSION: Chased a very classy runner home last time out and stretches back out to two turns. He’s 2-for-2 over such configurations, and top turf rider Jose Lezcano sees fit to ride back; #11 SPACE LAUNCH: Hasn’t run a bad one in three lifetime starts and certainly has the ability to win this. Rosario and Clement must be respected, but he won’t have it easy breaking from that far outside post; #3 SIFTING SANDS: Broke his maiden two back before not showing much interest against stakes company at Aqueduct. He’s been rested since, and these are certainly shallower waters than what he saw last time out.
Split Then Double
#3 RASTAFARA: Has been close in both of her career outings and gets a tepid nod here. She’s at least shown a hint of tactical speed, and she may be tough if she’s forwardly placed here given the lack of apparent early zip in this field; #1 SPLIT THEN DOUBLE: Is the other half of Chad Brown’s 1-2 punch and just missed behind a next-out winner in her first start since October. The rail isn’t an easy draw for a closer, especially in a race that seems to be lacking early speed, but perhaps she’s just better than this bunch; #9 EGO TRIP: Gets Lasix for the first time after running second in her debut overseas. That day’s winner went on to run in the Group 1 St. James’s Palace at Royal Ascot, and he beat the third-place finisher by four lengths.
#6 CARAMEL SWIRL: May have bounced or simply found Grade 2 company too tough in the Eight Belles. Her maiden-breaking win two back was very good, and she comes into this event off of two bullet drills over the Oklahoma track; #7 ZAINALARAB: Won her debut at Belmont as a 2-year-old and ran into Australasia in her return. Her local drills are very good, and she has every right to run well if she’s ready; #5 AMENDMENT NINETEEN: Chased a next-out winner in her debut before recording a professional score in the slop last time out. Linda Rice will add blinkers for this event, and Jose Ortiz lands here when one has to figure he had some options.
#2 ROBIN SPARKLES: Has won five of six turf starts and looms large in the Grade 3 Caress. She’s got a ton of early speed, has won over this route, and will invite us to the mall if she finds the winner’s circle (or build sand castles in the sand if she loses); #1 CARAVEL: Looms the main treat and comes in off of an impressive win at Monmouth Park. She’s never been out of the money in eight lifetime starts and would benefit from another runner going on a suicide mission and dueling with my top pick; #6 JAKARTA: Looks best of the rest and has enough back class to suggest she’s well-meant. She was second in this race a season ago, has won eight times, and may benefit from the outside draw in a compact field.
My Lips Are Sealed
Just Ok Is Not Ok
#7 MY LIPS ARE SEALED: Is a very logical favorite after finishing a close-up third behind two next-out winners in her last start. She’ll likely be on or near the lead from the jump, and if she gets comfortable, I think she’ll be tough to run down; #6 JUST OK IS NOT OK: Put it all together to break her maiden last time out and has improved in all three of her outings. I’m not quite sure what she beat that day, but Saez will be back in the saddle for Pletcher and maybe she’s figuring things out; #9 UNICORN SALLY: Has run far better around two turns than one and returns to her preferred configuration here. Maybe she’s just off form, but her races from this past winter at Aqueduct and Gulfstream weren’t bad, and repeats of those performances could put her right there at a nice price.