I had a good weekend, for a variety of reasons. Some did not care for how I celebrated it, and I feel the need to briefly explain a few things.
For 10 months, the big mouths/egos on Twitter can go back and forth about who the best public/semi-public handicapper is.
From mid-July to Labor Day, at one of horse racing's last cathedrals? If your conversation doesn't start with me, it's a bad one.#Saratoga #OutWorkEveryone pic.twitter.com/IZeXvvRb5h
— Andrew Champagne (@AndrewChampagne) July 31, 2021
Between my work for The Pink Sheet and other freelance outlets, I’m writing at least 10,000 words per week through Labor Day. This is in addition to videos and podcasts I do, and it all comes on top of a full-time job as the Communications and Marketing Manager at SHELTER, Inc., a non-profit in Northern California’s Bay Area that fights the homelessness crisis.
I do this because I’m extremely passionate about the game, and because I love producing content people enjoy and use as tools to make money. For me, there’s no better feeling than when good content becomes winning content, and that’s my biggest motivation, far above both “selfish pride” and “money in the bank.”
When that happens, you bet I’m going to show plenty of fire. Without that fire, my content wouldn’t be nearly as sharp, I’d be a far less proficient horseplayer, and you probably wouldn’t be reading my stuff, either in print or online. This sport can’t survive without passionate people. I’m proud to say I’m one of them, and if you enjoy my stuff and the way I do things, thank you.
SUNDAY’S RESULTS: Right idea, rotten luck. My stance against the favorite in the Sunday opener proved correct, but when an 0-for-24 maiden with a horrible post position got home first, my $36 worth of Pick Five tickets went up in smoke.
WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: My action comes pretty early, as I’ll focus on the second race of the day. If #6 MACH ONE’s turf form comes to dirt on the class drop for an aggressive outfit, I think he’s got a big shot. I’ll put $15 on him to win and single him in $5 doubles ending with #3 TAKE THE BACKROADS, #8 CEE ARE EM, and #13 I’M SO SORRY in the third.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30.
Best Bet: Empress of War, Race 6
Longshot: Mach One, Race 2
#2 PERFECT TAPATINO: Won his first start over fences in May before trying much tougher company last time out. He was fifth in a stakes race, and that day’s runner-up, Baltimore Bucko, came right back to take the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick earlier this summer; #7 CHETZERON: Was never challenged in a runaway score against maidens and faces winners for the first time. What he beat that day is anyone’s guess, but it sure seems like he’s got plenty of early zip, and if he’s got talent, he could lead them a long way; #3 RITZY A.P.: Graduated out of the steeplechase maiden ranks last time out at Colonial and chased my top pick two back in his first start over fences. He showed plenty of ability on the flat, where he was a stakes-placed runner.
#6 MACH ONE: Takes a big drop for an aggressive barn and goes from turf to dirt. His recent drills look very impressive, he sure seems like the main early speed in this event, and his turf form is certainly good enough if he can replicate it on the main track; #7 COUSIN ANDREW: Will certainly take plenty of money dropping into the maiden claiming ranks for Chad Brown. However, I have my doubts. This barn’s Monmouth shippers seem like the B-team, and it’s not like his figures tower over the competition here; #4 LEADING WEST: Hasn’t run since September but can’t be ignored, especially given the success of trainer Mike Maker this summer. The last two five-furlong works look sharp, and he could stand to benefit if there’s a speed duel up front.
Take the Backroads
I’m So Sorry
Cee Are Em
#3 TAKE THE BACKROADS: Tries turf for the first time and has the pedigree to love it. She’s a half to both Grade 3 winner Sistas Stroll and stakes-placed Accredit, who did their damage on grass, and her speed and experience edges over most of these could be big advantages; #13 I’M SO SORRY: Needs luck to draw in but must be respected if she does. She’s by Uncle Mo, her dam was a Grade 3 winner on both turf and synthetic, and she’s posted several strong drills here over the past month; #8 CEE ARE EM: Has a world-class turf pedigree, as she’s a half-sister to Grade 1 winner and sire Data Link. Her dam is also a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Vespers, who doubles as the dam of Grade 1 hero Hymn Book.
#4 COFFEE BAR: Makes her second start off the bench and didn’t run terribly in her return last month. She stretches out to two turns in this one, and her lone start over such a configuration saw her run a competitive second in a stakes race at Aqueduct; #6 ENOUGH LOVE: Ships up from Parx and runs in New York for the first time since last September. She’s better now than she was then, and she’s shown she can go two turns, which is a question mark for several of her competitors; #2 IFIHADACHANCE: Was second against similar going a mile last time out downstate, but she hasn’t won in quite a while and goes two turns for the first time since last September. She was a distant fourth at Finger Lakes that day, and her 9/5 morning line price hits me as an underlay.
Shaker Shack (MTO)
#5 SPORT MODEL: Has won both turf races she’s finished, including a similar New York Stallion Series race downstate. Her pedigree says two turns shouldn’t be an issue, and the tag team of Irad Ortiz, Jr., and Christophe Clement must be respected; #1 FUNWHILEITLASTED: Was second in that event and rallied from seventh to finish just a half-length back of my top pick. Based off of that effort, she fits, although two turns is a question mark; #6 BIG TIME LADY: Didn’t make the lead last time out and never fired as a result. There seems to be a little less early zip signed on here, and she was a solid third in an ungraded stakes race going two turns late last year.
Empress of War
#3 EMPRESS OF WAR: Ran very well in her debut over a muddy track at Belmont before an adventurous journey cost her all chance last time out. She’s since switched barns, and new trainer Michael Miceli has hit at a solid 19% clip with new acquisitions; #4 SHAMALAMADINGDONG: Stalked a very slow pace downstate and couldn’t get by the winner. Despite the fact that those two were more than 11 lengths clear of the rest, that’s a red flag, and I just can’t back her at or near her morning line price; #7 FANCY FELINE: Didn’t take to the turf last time out and may have bounced off of a decent third in her unveiling downstate. The outside draw seems like a plus, and Luis Saez seeing fit to ride back is certainly a plus.
#1 MONTAUK DADDY: Drew the rail and has the early speed necessary to take advantage of that post position. The Rob Atras barn has had plenty of success at this stand, and it’s easy to see him making the lead and being very tough to catch; #9 WILD WILLIAM: Had every right to need his last-out effort, which came off a six-month break. It’s safe to assume something went wrong in the two-back race as well, and given his strong local record, I think there’s reason to expect a step forward here at a nice price; #5 OUR DESTINY: Has won two in a row and ships to the Spa, where he owns a win in his lone prior start at this route. The question is, does he have enough speed to outpace my top pick, or will he be stuck dueling for the lead off the rail going into the turn?
#1 BAYERNESS: Has kept very good company and exits a second-place finish in a listed stakes race at Monmouth Park. She was third in a Grade 3 at Belmont two back, and that day’s runner-up came back to run a big second in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss here last week; #4 CASUAL: Merits respect for trainer Steve Asmussen and will likely do her best running late. Her best race would put her right there, although the recent work pattern seems atypical of horses from this outfit; #2 AUNT KAT: Reeled off three straight wins downstate and makes her first start against stakes foes here. The recent bullet drill over the Oklahoma track is encouraging, though I think she may need to expend more energy to hit the front here than she has in her last several outings.
Danny California (MTO)
En Wye Cee
#1 EN WYE CEE: Has clearly had his issues given the long layoffs, but has shown ample talent and will have every chance if he’s ready to run. He was last seen running third in the Grade 2 Knickerbocker, and his versatility should be a big advantage here; #2 L’IMPERATOR: Has only run in the U.S. once, and it came in a race contested over one of the softest turf courses in Saratoga history. That dud is a complete throw-out, and he merits respect for the Brown barn in his 2021 debut; #3 EVER DANGEROUS: Has plenty of back class and pulled off a 74-1 shocker in a stakes race on the Breeders’ Cup undercard. He’s since run several decent races at Gulfstream and Churchill and could have a say here in a stacked optional claiming event.
Trumpet Lilly (MTO)
#10 OCEAN AIR: Gets a tepid nod in a wide-open finale where it seems like half the field could conceivably win. She’s finished second in back-to-back tries at this level downstate, and her usual race would absolutely give her a big chance here; #13 VIBURNUM: Hasn’t won in a while but hits me as a contender if she’s able to draw in off the AE list. She was a tough-luck second going two turns at Delaware Park last time out, and the faster the early pace is, the better her chances figure to be; #8 EVIDENCE BASED: Comes back to her preferred surface after struggling in an off-the-turf event earlier in the meet. Her two-back effort at Belmont was very good, and while she switched barns after that race, a re-channeling of that form could be enough for her to make an impact at a price.