Last summer was the best summer of my career as a published handicapper. I led all members of the local media with 142 top-pick winners, those top-pick winners generated a positive ROI ($2.04, if you’re curious), and I turned a $277.10 profit in this bankroll section over the course of the meet.
In addition to the picks and analysis you can find in The Pink Sheet and online at AndrewChampagne.com every day, I’ll be playing with a $1,000 bankroll and offering daily wagering insight. As usual, all wagers assume races carded for turf stay there. Surface changes void all plays.
Finally, one quick note before we get started. Juan Vazquez has two horses entered on today’s card. Pennsylvania just suspended him through Jan. 26, 2025, and used words like “grossly negligent, cruel, and abusive.” Why is he allowed to run here? NYRA needs to fix this, and fix this quickly.
THURSDAY’S PLAY: With the blessing of an editor working on deadline, we’ll focus on the Opening Day nightcap, which houses my best bet of the day. #5 FAST COREY drops in for a tag and has shown blazing early speed. I’ll keep it simple, play a $30 win ticket, and hope she makes every pole a winning one at or near the 7/2 morning line price.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30.
Best Bet: Fast Corey, Race 10
Longshot: Angitude, Race 7
#7 GIOCARE: Has precisely the right running style to perform well in a lid-lifter that seems loaded with early speed. This deep closer has run well at this level multiple times, got claimed back by Orlando Noda, and should be running well late when others may be pleading for the wire; #6 BEAR ALLEY: Comes in off of two straight wins at Churchill Downs and goes first off the claim for Bill Morey, who excels with new acquisitions. He makes sense, but it’s worth noting he’s 5-for-6 beneath the Twin Spires and 0-for-13 everywhere else; #9 KERSHAW: Drops in for a tag for the first time since February, when he won easily in a two-turn race at this level at Oaklawn. He’s another that should benefit from the likely race shape, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride.
Half a Chance
Two Minute Drill
#1 HALF A CHANCE: Is the lone runner with experience in the first 2-year-old race of the meet, and she did everything but win last time out. She was beaten less than a length, was five lengths clear of the third-place finisher, and has since worked well twice at Keeneland; #6 CHOCOLATE GELATO: Hammered for $475,000 earlier this year and has been training steadily for Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher. The outside draw is a plus, and it wouldn’t be shocking if these connections had their first debutante of the season ready to go; #5 TWO MINUTE DRILL: Sold for $210,000 (seven times the sire’s stud fee) and is out of a Grade 1-winning sprinter. The works seem solid enough, and she may be a big enough price to provide value in vertical exotics.
No Burn (MTO)
#4 HIGH TIDE: Takes a significant class drop after a strong spring downstate. He topped starter allowance foes twice before finishing a fast-closing fourth against optional claiming foes. Jose Lezcano knows this one well and should get plenty of pace to chase; #9 GRAND JOURNEY: Topped $25,000 claimers last time out and climbs up the ladder here. This is a tough spot for the level, but he fits on figures, boasts considerable back class, and has enough early speed to work out an ideal trip; #2 BE HERE: Has won two in a row with a pair of wildly-different trips. He wired them last time out at Delaware Park after making up as many as 15 lengths two back. This high-percentage outfit must be respected.
Cheeky Tico (MTO)
#3 REMOTE: Makes the most sense in a puzzling turf marathon. He was second at this distance downstate last time, Joel Rosario sees fit to ride back for Christophe Clement, and he should at least have enough tactical speed to be reasonably close early; #5 GRAND CAY: Adds blinkers for Shug McGaughey and was a bit wide last time when fourth behind a much-the-best winner. The rider switch to Irad Ortiz, Jr., is noteworthy, and perhaps the blinkers will get him a bit more engaged early; #1 TIZ A GIANT: Is bred to run all day long and makes his first marathon start here. He’s by Tiznow, out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, and has every right to improve at a price against a group that doesn’t seem to include any world-beaters.
#3 MAJORITY PARTNER: Hasn’t started since April but has been working very well here and runs for a claiming tag for the first time. He showed speed against a better group last time, and he stands a big chance if he’s ready to fire; #4 TOMMY GUNN: Adds blinkers in his first start as a gelding. He’s another dropping into the maiden claiming rank for a sharp outfit, and Irad rides back; #2 CATCHING CUPID: Probably needed his last-out effort, which doubled as his first try since November. Charlton Baker trainees tend to move forward second off the bench, and such an improvement may be enough in this wide-open sprint.
Life Changer (MTO)
Just Say When
#9 KING MOONRACER: Merits respect as a closer in a race full of early speed. His 2022 debut off a long break was sharp, as he just missed when second at this level downstate. Castellano fits him well, and he’s the one they’ll have to hold off late; #4 JUST SAY WHEN: Has a win and two seconds from three starts and runs two straight races without a layoff line for the first time. He was second in a pretty fast turf sprint two back at Gulfstream and has shown he doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well; #1 STARRYSTARRYKNIGHT: Benefited from a race that fell apart late to get out of the maiden ranks. This is a steep class hike, but the abundance of early zip in here may mean this one has a shot to pick up the pieces for a minor award at a big price.
#4 ANGITUDE: Stretches out after a first-level allowance score at Churchill and has a running style that hints she’ll like this route. Smart money says inside speed will do well out of the new Wilson chute, and it’s tough to imagine this speedy daughter of Violence being taken back early; #7 TARABI: Has yet to run a bad race in her four-start career, one that includes a pair of minor awards in Grade 1 races. On talent, she more than fits here, but the outside draw could present a real obstacle given the extremely short run into the turn; #2 GINA ROMANTICA: Has a record that looks miles better if you draw a line through the Grade 3 Beaumont, where no horse was beating Matareya. The third-place finisher from her last race has since come back to win, and while I unfortunately doubt we’ll get the 8-1 morning line price given the connections, she merits respect in the first stakes race of the 2022 season.
#6 CUSTOMER LIST: Was probably entered in the Penn Oaks just to make sure the race went. That event was won by the classy Haughty, and there are no such monsters here. She gets Lasix for the first time second off the bench, has posted two straight bullet drills, and looks well-meant for powerhouse connections; #1 CANISY: Just missed last time out after rating in an event completely devoid of early speed. There seems to be some pace to chase in here, and she’s got a big chance if Javier Castellano can work out a trip from the inside draw; #13 SANTA GIULIA: Needs a scratch to draw in but merits a look if she runs. She gets Lasix in her stateside debut after breaking her maiden overseas and, like my top pick, has posted back-to-back bullet works for Chad Brown.
#9 SUMMER PROMISE: Never looked like a loser in her debut, where she won by five lengths and ran to her lofty $500,000 price tag. Her lone recorded drill since that race was a smashing four-furlong move at Churchill, and she looms large for D. Wayne Lukas in the Grade 3 Schuylerville; #1 JUST CINDY: Showed some maturity at first asking, when she rallied from fourth to win going away. That’s not an easy thing for a debuting runner to do, and she may have developed quickly enough to overcome the rail draw against a speedy group; #4 VEDAREO: Was bet like she couldn’t lose in her debut at Parx, which she won easily enough. The most recent works indicate that wasn’t a fluke, and when this barn comes up from Philadelphia with 2-year-olds, those runners are usually well-meant.
#5 FAST COREY: Has posted insane early fractions in all three of her starts to date and runs for a tag for the first time. These are aggressive connections, so the drop doesn’t concern me, and I just cannot see any other runner coming close to this one early on. Such a scenario would make her very tough to catch late; #4 RIGBY: Nearly capitalized on the drop into the claiming ranks when a close second last month at Belmont. She wound up on the lead that day, but she’s also shown she can rate, which gives Luis Saez plenty of options; #9 QUEENS DANCER: Will be a big price after shipping in from Finger Lakes, but her lone turf start to date is probably the best race of her career. They went pretty fast early on that day, and it’s logical to think a return to the lawn will be to her benefit. Perhaps a win is too much to ask, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she hits the board at a large number in the Opening Day finale.