There are times where I wonder if I’m doing things wrong, and horse racing Twitter doesn’t do anything to quiet those doubts. We’re three-quarters of the way through the meet, and the tweets I’ve put out that have had the most engagement involve the price of breakfast at San Francisco International Airport, Christophe Clement’s magical salmon pants, and newspapers on benches (more on those Saturday; that’s called foreshadowing, kids!).
But then there are times where I think I’m onto something. As I tweeted Monday, my site, AndrewChampagne.com, set a record with 22,000 visitors last summer, when I had the Saratoga meet of my life. With 11 racing days to go, we’ve eclipsed that total, and 30,000 is a total that’s within sight.
I’m weird. I think there’s value in hard work and pushing out the best content one can on a daily basis. Times have changed, and there aren’t as many people doing what I do anymore. To those of you that have taken the time to read my stuff: Thanks.
SUNDAY’S RESULTS: Devamani got no pace to close into, and I had the race after that one wrong, too. I dropped $30.
WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: Let’s add another variable to my action and, for the first time this summer, play a steeplechase race. I’ll focus on the early double, which starts with the Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes. My $4 tickets start with #1 FREDDY FLINTSHIRE and #7 SCORPION’S REVENGE, and end with #3 GAMBLING GIRL and #7 AUGUST BLOOM.
TOTAL WAGERED: $16.
Best Bet: Roderick, Race 5
Longshot: Drakon, Race 7
#7 SCORPION’S REVENGE: Came from way back to win a listed stakes race last time out, and he’s 3-for-3 going 2 1/4 miles or longer over fences. This 2 3/8-mile trip should hit him right between the eyes, and I think he’ll be tough to hold off; #1 FREDDY FLINTSHIRE: Made it two in a row with a solid score over allowance foes earlier this summer. He goes out for one of the top barns on the steeplechase circuit, gets one of the top riders, and is a major player provided he takes to the added distance; #3 DECISIVE TRIUMPH: Hasn’t won in a while but has hit the board four times in as many starts this season, all in stakes races. Most recently, he was second in the Kiser a few weeks ago, and he figures to be prominent from the jump (no pun intended).
#3 GAMBLING GIRL: Has had two pretty rough trips in both of her outings and gets one more chance from me here. She’s shown late interest twice now, and this Todd Pletcher trainee runs like a horse that’ll appreciate this seven-furlong journey; #7 AUGUST BLOOM: Debuts for Joe Sharp, sports a few solid drills, and may benefit from a cushy outside draw. This daughter of Arrogate attracts Luis Saez, who likely had several options here; #5 MADDIE’S GRACE: Was an OK third in her debut race, and that day’s runner-up has since come back to win. This barn has been ice-cold all meet long, but improvement is logical at second asking, and of the ones that have run before, she seems to have the most early speed.
Tommy Gun (MTO)
Built to Last
#4 BUILT TO LAST: Almost certainly went too fast early on last time when fifth against maiden special weight foes. He drops in for a tag for the first time, and while it’s not as big a drop as it may seem given the shared state-bred condition, he sure looks like the one to catch; #5 SHARP SENSATION: Settled for second behind a much-the-best winner at this level and route earlier in the meet. He crossed the wire first in a similar race downstate before being disqualified, and Luis Saez sees fit to ride back; #1 SOUTHERN CIVILITY: Comes back to turf, which is probably his preferred surface, and would benefit from a pace meltdown. It’s not like he’s gotten routed in his two prior turf sprints, and he figures to be a big price.
#2 BRAWNDO: Was third in his first start off a freshening down at Laurel Park and comes up from Maryland for this event. What intrigues me most is that he brings that day’s pilot along with him for just one single mount. This makes me think he’s well-meant against what hits me as a suspect field for the level; #4 COLE SPUR: Has a record that looks far better if you toss the two-back clunker against a far better starter allowance group. He was second when last seen at Churchill back in June, and he’s got the speed to be a factor from a very early stage; #3 CATHEDRAL BEACH: Capitalized on a big class drop earlier this summer with a runaway score. He was claimed out of that race and tries open claiming company after thrashing that field of non-winners of two.
#5 RODERICK: Has shown early speed against far better horses and takes a drop in class to this restricted claiming event. Trainer Phil Bauer has been sending out live horses all summer long, and I think this one gets very comfortable dictating terms early on; #6 KINETIC SKY: May have needed his 2022 debut, which came off a very long break. He’s another class-dropper, and it helps that the last-out second-place finisher came back to win impressively last week; #3 GOOD CULTURE: Was third last time out in a race without a lot of early pace, which didn’t exactly play to his strengths. He generally runs the same race every time out, and he’d benefit from another rival going with my top pick as the field exits the Wilson chute.
Thin White Duke
#5 KING ANGELO: Is certainly a “horse for course” that does his best running going short on turf at Saratoga. He earned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure in his wire-to-wire score last time out, and while this is a pretty good field, it’s tough for me to go against a horse that likes this track and seems to be in peak form; #3 UNDER OATH: Ran too poorly to be true last time out in his first race since the spring. He tries turf for the first time, but is kin to a three-time turf winner that contested last year’s Grade 3 Virginia Derby, so there’s reason to believe he’ll like the lawn; #6 THIN WHITE DUKE: Came flying late to be beaten a neck by the freakishly-fast Golden Pal, and my guess is he’ll go favored here. A repeat of that effort may win this one, but he sure seems to go out of his way to find trouble, and I hate picking horses like that on top (especially in sprint races that don’t leave much time for a runner to recover from poor racing luck).
The Prince’s Spur
#9 DRAKON: Certainly looks like the lone early speed, which is always dangerous on Saratoga’s inner turf course. Kendrick Carmouche is one of the most aggressive gate riders on the circuit, and the game plan seems apparent: Get to the lead, get comfortable, and try to steal it at a bit of a price; #8 THE PRINCE’S SPUR: Drops in for a tag after a rough trip earlier this summer against maiden special weight foes. He was still fourth that day, beaten less than four lengths, and he should certainly appreciate the shallower waters; #5 PROVEN HOPE: Comes back to turf and tries two turns for the first time, and I think this is what he wants to do. Sire Street Boss is an excellent turf influence, and broodmare sire Smart Strike is one of the top stamina influences in the game.
#5 LIL COMMISSIONER: Makes his first start for a small barn that’s enjoyed plenty of success at this stand. He woke up on a big class drop last time out, has a race history that includes some pretty heavy hitters, and may be tough if he runs his usual race; #2 CRYPTO CASH: Has hit the board in each of his last six starts and has bounced around between barns on this circuit. A few of his races downstate were very good, and he’d benefit from a fast pace that could very well materialize; #3 BOLDISH: Scratched out of a race earlier this summer where I tried to beat him, but I think he isn’t without a chance here. He’s been off since January but got very good late last year, when he won three in a row for this outfit (including one race at this route).
Tide of the Sea
#3 TIDE OF THE SEA: May not be the horse he was a year or two ago, but he sure seems like the lone early speed in the John’s Call. If he’s allowed to get comfortable and dictate terms in this 1 5/8-mile turf marathon, I’m not sure anyone will be able to come get him; #2 BLUEGRASS PARKWAY: Showed a bit more early interest last time, when he was beaten less than four lengths in a similar spot at Colonial Downs. This is his third start off the bench for Mike Maker, and he showed enough late last year for his connections to run him in the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine; #4 OCEANS MAP: Ships up from Monmouth, where he most recently ran a fast-closing second going a bit shorter. However, he won a stakes race at Delaware Park going 1 1/2 miles last summer, so this sort of trip isn’t entirely foreign to him.
#8 CONTROL FUNCTION: Hasn’t run since January, but is working consistently ahead of her return and showed some potential before going to the sidelines. These are aggressive connections that could’ve found a much softer spot, and a return to her winter form would make her tough; #10 QUARIA THUNDER: Has improved since shipping up to New York, and sports two wins and two seconds since making that journey. This is a class test, and the outside post doesn’t help, but Jose Camejo does fantastic work with new acquisitions and she may have the speed to clear most of these going into the first turn; #5 STELLA MARS: Didn’t get up last time out, and in doing so made my all-time nightmare reel (I needed her pretty badly that day). Maybe it’s scorn, but it’s worth noting that while her usual race gives her a chance, both of her wins came sprinting downstate. This begs the question: Does she want two turns?