SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/7/20)


Check back Thursday night!


Best Bet: Silky Blue, Race 8
Longshot: Kemba, Race 4


Spiritual King

#1 KLICKITAT: Is in a “now or never” spot, having gotten nailed on the wire as a 7/5 favorite in his return to the races downstate. He’s run well going two turns before and doesn’t seem to catch a strong field, so circumstances seem right; #8 SELFMADE: Was a good second in his turf debut, which doubled as his first start for trainer Bill Mott. His pedigree says two turns won’t be a problem, and he could step forward second off a six-month layoff; #6 SPIRITUAL KING: Showed little sprinting at Belmont but stretches back out to a route of ground. He ran well going long at Gulfstream earlier this year and should be prominent early.


Super Computer
Lookin for Trouble

#5 SUPER COMPUTER: Has been working very well ahead of his debut, and he’s bred to be a good one. He’s a full brother to stakes-placed sprinter Dial One, and if his morning form comes to the afternoon, the family may have another runner on its hands; #7 LOOKIN FOR TROUBLE: Showed plenty of speed before fading to fourth in his debut at Belmont. This barn sometimes needs its horses to get a race or two before they step forward, and I think his experience edge will help; #6 COTTON: Rallied to be second in the race my second selection exits. It’s not inconceivable for him to improve, but this barn is cold as ice, and that makes runners from there difficult to trust.


Puffery (MTO)
Music of Life
Bean Counter

#2 MUSIC OF LIFE: Came to hand this past winter and spring at Gulfstream and takes a drop in class for aggressive connections. She ran well here when third against far better last summer, and her usual race will make her tough to beat; #9 BEAN COUNTER: Finally broke through to record her first win in a while last time out at Belmont. She’s got plenty of tactical speed and may have improved since March, when she chased my top pick going two turns in Florida; #6 SUN SUMMERS: Was claimed out of a winning effort in June and steps up in class for this one. If there’s a knock here, it’s that she may want a bit longer than today’s mile distance, as some of her better efforts have come with extra ground she doesn’t get here.


Baseline Drive
Cherokee Song

#4 KEMBA: Seemed to like turf just fine when third against straight maidens at Belmont. She takes a slight drop in for a tag, and while she’s never gone two turns, progeny of Hard Spun can generally go a distance of ground, so she’s very intriguing at her likely price; #7 BASELINE DRIVE: Faltered at 4/5 in her debut at Gulfstream against Florida-breds and runs for a tag at second asking. However, state-bred to an open maiden claimer isn’t much of a drop, and despite a lofty pedigree, I just can’t endorse her on top, especially since value will likely be non-existent; #2 CHEROKEE SONG: Has done her best work going long and was a fast-closing fifth beaten just a length earlier in the meet. She comes back quickly for a barn winless on the Saratoga season, but if there’s action up front, she’s the one who stands to benefit.


Bridlewood Cat
Fair Regis

#1 BRIDLEWOOD CAT: Exits a failed turf experiment, but could be sitting on a big one second off the bench. She ran several big races going short on dirt late last year, and her most recent local drill indicates she likes it here; #3 FAIR REGIS: Hasn’t won in nearly a year but never seems to fire a dud. With 12 top-three finishes in 15 starts since the beginning of 2019, she’s as honest as they come and should sit a nice stalking trip; #6 JENNEMILY: Has won three of four since being claimed by the Steve Asmussen barn and ships up from Laurel for this event. She won here last season in wire-to-wire fashion and figures to be prominent early in a salty race for the level.


Royal Approval
Credit Enhancement
Army Wife

#5 ROYAL APPROVAL: Showed enough when second in her debut to earn a spot on Wesley Ward’s Royal Ascot team. She didn’t do much running that day, but on the other hand, it’s Royal Ascot, so I’m more than willing to give her a pass; #10 CREDIT ENHANCEMENT: Hammered for $180,000 at Keeneland last year and has every right to be a good one. She’s from the same female family as Grade 1 winner In Lingerie, and Chad Brown can get a turf horse ready to run as well as anyone; #8 ARMY WIFE: Is another bred up and down to be a strong horse. She’s by top turf sire Declaration of War, and the recent gate works are heads-turning enough to make me think there’s plenty of gas in the tank.


Excess Capacity
Lady by Choice

#3 ARCHUMYBABY: Has run well in two starts for Orlando Noda and stretches back out to her favorite distance. In five starts going seven furlongs, this hard-knocking mare boasts three wins and two seconds; #6 EXCESS CAPACITY: Hasn’t won in a while but takes a big drop in class that could wake her up. She did damage at this level last year and boasts a win at this route from her days with prior connections; #1 LADY BY CHOICE: Had every chance here earlier in the meet when she was given a great ride, but she hung in that race and could only manage a fourth-place finish. She was, however, just a half-length behind my top pick, so I can’t discount her completely.


Silky Blue
Jen’s Battle

#1 SILKY BLUE: Got her nose down in her first start on turf, and the horse she nosed, Fresco, has since come back to win a state-bred stakes race. She had every right to need that effort off of a long break, and any improvement would make her a formidable foe; #7 JEN’S BATTLE: Won two in a row before trying open starter allowance company last month, and those waters were simply too deep. She gets in with state-breds here, and it’s encouraging to see Rosario climb back aboard; #8 AMOS: Was reeled in last time out after leading in the stretch, but has run well going long on turf before. The 3-1 odds hit me as an underlay given her 1-for-12 lifetime mark, but she can’t be ignored in vertical exotics and may be favored if this gets moved to the dirt.



#6 CAZADERO: Has done everything right to this point and looms large in the historic Grade 2 Saratoga Special. He’s won his two starts by a combined 13 ½ lengths, and when Steve Asmussen gets a precocious horse on the right track, they tend to stay there; #7 MOMOS: May have turned in the most impressive performance by a 2-year-old so far this meet. He never looked like a loser in airing by more than six lengths, and Christophe Clement has been winning races left and right here this summer; #11 RODERICK: Surged well clear in the stretch at Belmont to dust a short field by more than eight in his unveiling. He’s worked well since that race, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride back when one had to figure he had multiple options.



#2 TILSA: Cuts back after showing speed going longer in her two prior starts. I’m not overly enthusiastic about anything in this field, but she’s shown some potential and drops in claiming price, so she hits me as the most logical winner; #6 YELLEN: Returned from the sidelines with a third-place finish against similar at Belmont. She ran second in a rich race at Kentucky Downs last year, and a step forward would give her a big shot; #10 MICROCAP: Debuts for Chad Brown and may go off shorter than her 7/2 morning line price, but I have doubts. She’s been training at Monmouth with his second-string runners, and those horses don’t always run well after they’re shipped up I-87.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/6/20)



Big news: ESPN’s Norman Chad will be joining my weekly show, “Champagne and J.D.,” in just a few days! He, of course, is one of the main voices of the World Series of Poker, and may be best-known by avid newspaper readers for his longtime “Couch Slouch” column, which has been picked up by papers from coast to coast.

We’ll be interviewing him Friday night, and it’ll be online either late Friday or early Saturday. J.D. Fox and I have worked hard to put together a high-quality weekly show, and we’d put it up against anyone else’s in the horse racing and/or gambling spaces. We’re excited to have Norman join us, and we hope you enjoy the show when it drops later this week.

WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: Playwright broke near the back of the pack in the sixth and stayed there. I dropped $25.

THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’m not the biggest fan of this card, especially given the uncertainty surrounding the condition of the turf course after Tuesday’s storm. I’ll keep this simple with a pair of $5 win/place bets on #5 WARFRONT FIGHTER in the opener and #6 PIPES in the fourth (turf-only).



Best Bet: Wicked Title, Race 6
Longshot: King’s Honor, Race 9


Warfront Fighter
Macho Jack
Love Code

#5 WARFRONT FIGHTER: Was dueled into defeat when fourth behind a next-out winner downstate, and this seems like a softer spot. He’s shown some flexibility in his running style, and it helps that he passed a few horses in his return off the bench two back; #4 MACHO JACK: Hasn’t been seen since October, when he was a close-up second at Keeneland against far better. If he’s ready, he probably wins, but he might have some company on the front end and the layoff of nearly 10 months is a concern; #3 LOVE COE: Likely needed his debut, which came on turf at Belmont. He was claimed out of that race by an outfit that doesn’t reach in for many horses, and he’s worked well since coming to Saratoga.


Malibu Mischief (MTO)
Wicked Amber

#2 KEOTA: Came up a half-length short in her first start for Chad Brown, but she looms large in this spot assuming it stays on the grass. The likely early speed horses have shown tendencies to stop, and she could sit a perfect stalking trip; #5 WICKED AMBER: Hasn’t won in a while but could benefit from the likely race shape. She was a late-running fourth earlier in the meet despite a bad break and a trip rating behind a slow pace, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she rallied at a bit of a price; #6 JADES GELLY: Was third against similar at Belmont last month and turned in a bullet drill after shipping north a few weeks ago. She was just a half-length behind my top selection that day, and Javier Castellano sees fit to ride back.


Star of the West
My Sacred Place
I Saw It All

#2 STAR OF THE WEST: Flopped at 9/5 earlier tin the meet and will look for redemption against a much softer group. His win two back at Belmont was very good, and a return to that form would make him tough to beat; #7 MY SACRED PLACE: Exits a tough claimer on turf and goes back to his preferred surface while taking a huge drop in class. The Brad Cox barn has yet to really get going at the meet, but this one figures to take plenty of play at the windows; #6 I SAW IT ALL: Merits some consideration underneath after losing all chance at the break in his local debut. If they go fast early on, it could set up for him to come rolling for a piece of it at a big number.


Stoney Bennett (MTO)
Calculated Risker

#6 PIPES: Comes back to turf second off the layoff and drops in class for an aggressive outfit. He ran too well to lose going long on the lawn here last summer, and he has back races that would make him very tough; #4 CALCULATED RISKER: Has run reasonably well against higher-quality foes and comes back to the turf for the first time in a while. He’s won on the grass before, and he’ll also be dangerous if this event gets moved to the main track; #2 CATCH A CAB: Beat similar company two back and returns to the right level after fading to fifth against optional claiming foes. If there’s hesitation here, it’s because it seems like he’s better at one-turn routes than two-turn configurations.


Guardian Moon
Ruby Stiletto (MTO)

#7 LOLLYGAG: Is my top pick in what I found the most interesting race of the day. She raced a bit greenly in her unveiling at Keeneland before putting it all together in the stretch and making up lots of ground. This seems like a softer spot; #6 GUARDIAN MOON: Is bred up and down to be a strong turf horse. She’s by Declaration of War and out of a Malibu Moon mare, and she’s shown some promise in the morning for a strong debut outfit; #8 GOING GOING GONE: Has disappointed in two starts on the main track but could find new life switching to the turf. Orb has thrown a few solid turf runners, and she’s out of a Giant’s Causeway more, so she’s got every right to like the grass.


Wicked Title
La Negrita

#4 WICKED TITLE: Won here a season ago and moves to the barn of Linda Rice first off the claim. She was third against slightly better horses last time out, and if you toss the turf outings, you’re left with a filly that seems to be worth much more than $16,000; #2 GESTURE: Wasn’t disgraced in her first try against winners at Gulfstream in June. She was second going a bit longer, and she’ll add blinkers in her local debut here; #3 LA NEGRITA: Stepped up to run second against similar last time out and earned a new career-best Beyer Speed Figure in the process. Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride, and he should have this one up close to the pace early on.


Dyna Passer

#6 ELIADE: Merits another shot second off the layoff for trainer Chad Brown. She ran in some big spots last season in France and got stuck rating well behind a slow early pace in her North American debut. I expect a step forward second off the bench; #3 DYNA PASSER: Has lots of back class and is the likely favorite. She was third in a rich event at Belmont last September, and her usual race would make her a major player here; #2 TIZAHRA: Has won two in a row for Ian Wilkes, whose horses have been running very well so far this meet. The distance is a bit of a question mark, but the pedigree says it shouldn’t be too much of an issue and she’s never been better form-wise.


Turbo Drive
Dream Bigger

#1 FRESCO: Broke her maiden in a stakes race last time out, which isn’t something you see very often. She didn’t face the best field that day, but it’s not like the waters are all that much deeper here and she may still have room to improve; #4 TURBO DRIVE: Pulled off a 17-1 shocker in rallying from 11th earlier in the meet. He may need more pace than he’ll get here, but if nothing else, his last-out performance shows he’s got the talent to compete at this level; #5 DREAM BIGGER: Is in my top three solely in the event this gets moved to the main track. He’s won three stakes races on dirt, but turf is very much an unknown.


Elusive Ruler
King’s Honor

#5 ELUSIVE RULER: Looks very imposing dropping in class for the Wilkes barn. Luis Saez will hop aboard, and anything close to his last three performances against better company would make him formidable; #8 KING’S HONOR: Is worth a look at a price. He hooked some genuine buzzsaws last summer, broke his maiden, found stakes company too tough, then needed a race off the bench. Castellano hopping aboard on the class drop leads me to believe there’s something here; #6 CATORAT: Won here last year and was third against similar downstate in his first start in more than 10 months. The stretchout to two turns should help him, and he’d benefit from a fast early pace.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/5/20)



I don’t like using this space to get heavy. It’s supposed to be fun, and very few things on this planet are more fun than betting on horses. As 2020 has reminded us with staggering efficiency, though, life stinks sometimes.

Right after my alarm clock went off Sunday morning, I went on Facebook and saw the same message plastered in multiple places: Robert Spreitzer, one of the first friends I ever had as a kid, had passed away following a lengthy battle with drug addiction. He’s the third elementary school friend I’ve had that has fallen victim to addiction and all that goes with it, and it never gets easier to deal with something like that.

In Robert’s memory, my message today in this space is a simple one: Be kind. There are enough horrible things going on in the world right now. We don’t know all of the battles everyone else is fighting every day. Open your minds, open your hearts, and let’s get more good into the world.

Rest in peace, buddy. Say hi to Jared and Rob for me.

SUNDAY’S RESULTS: The good news is I made some money. The bad news is, a late odds drift ensured my mathematical reasoning was flawed. $18 worth of Grand Slam tickets ending with Moretti returned $34, while an $18 win ticket on the Birdstone winner would have returned $39.60 after a late move from 4/5 to 6/5. Eh, such is life.

WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: I hope we get a bit of a price on #3 PLAYWRIGHT in the sixth. He almost fell flat on his face out of the gate last time, so I’m drawing a line through that poor performance. I’ll put $15 on him to win, and I’ll single him in $5 doubles starting in the fifth with #6 NO MO’ SPENDING and #9 ROSSA VELOCE.



Best Bet: She’s Got You, Race 9
Longshot: Sneads, Race 2


New Member
Naylor entry

#2 NEW MEMBER: Likely needed his return off of a nearly two-year layoff, so I don’t have much of an issue ignoring that clunker. He was one of the top jump horses on the grounds two summers ago, when he ran second in a Grade 1, and he could be sharper here; NAYLOR ENTRY: #1A ELUCIDATION comes in off of a win over several of these rivals. He was winless in 2019, but perhaps he’s found his best form as a 6-year-old; #3 IRANISTAN: Was favored in both Grade 1 races over fences at the Spa two years ago but hasn’t found that form in four subsequent starts. However, he does drop in class for legendary horseman Jonathan Sheppard.


Naughty Prince
Mine the Coin

#4 SNEADS: Is worth a look at a price in a race that would not be out of place at a far, far, far lesser circuit. His two-back effort came off the first break of his career, and the last-out effort was a strong race for the level on grass. A return to his late-2019 or early-2020 form gives him a big shot; #6 NAUGHTY PRINCE: Rallied to win his debut on the Beard course at Keeneland last month. He may be favored, but he’s never gone two turns before and I’m not at all sold on the field he beat in his unveiling; #8 MINE THE COIN: Tries two turns third off the bench and was an OK second at this level downstate. His lone win came going a mile, so the distance isn’t a giant concern, and he may be prominent early in a race without much true early speed.


Three Jokers (MTO)
Luna’s in Charge

#7 FREEWHEELER: Went to the sidelines after a flop in a stakes race at Aqueduct in November, but has trained well ahead of his 3-year-old debut. He chased eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Four Wheel Drive last year, and a return to that form would likely thump this group; #4 LUNA’S IN CHARGE: Took to this route well when second in his turf debut earlier in the meet. He was beaten by a good horse that day, and he’d benefit from a speed duel out of the gate; #1 VETERANS BEACH: Returns off a layoff of nearly a year in his first start for the red-hot Christophe Clement barn. He hasn’t won since 2018, but that win was over this turf course and this outfit has been moving horses up of late.


Golden Award
Nonna Madeline

#1 GOLDEN AWARD: Was eased in her first start off the layoff in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont and gets significant class relief. That wasn’t the first time she’d been pulled up prior to the wire, so that’s alarming, but the recent bullet inspires confidence and she’ll be tough if she’s right; #2 BELLERA: Chased Dunbar Road when third in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap and is one of three from the barn of Todd Pletcher entered in this race. Save for her one turf effort, she hasn’t done much wrong, and she’s another that could appreciate the shallower waters; #4 NONNA MADELINE: Hasn’t won since December but has two solid seconds in her last two starts. She was second in her lone two-turn try at Oaklawn, and her pedigree says that wasn’t a fluke.


No Mo’ Spending
Rossa Veloce
Summer Brew

#6 NO MO’ SPENDING: Is the only runner in here with any experience, and it came against open company at Churchill. This race is for state-breds, and Ian Wilkes trainees usually step forward with experience; #9 ROSSA VELOCE: Debuts for Ray Handal, whose horses aren’t always fully-cranked on debut. However, she’s been working very well of late, and the outside draw and presence of Jose Ortiz are both positives; #5 SUMMER BREW: Fetched $42,000 at auction last summer despite a modest pedigree and has worked consistently for a strong first-out barn. If she runs to those drills, she’s certainly got a chance.


Drawing Away entry
Control Group

#3 PLAYWRIGHT: Stumbled horribly last time out against several of these and could only manage a distant fourth. He was claimed out of that race by sharp claiming trainer Linda Rice, however, and his early-2020 form saw him earn a pair of impressive wins over similar-quality foes at Aqueduct; DRAWING AWAY ENTRY: I prefer #1 TWISTED TOM, who does his best work around two turns. That one is 5-for-10 at today’s distance, and one of those victories was a stakes win a few summers ago at this route of ground; #5 CONTROL GROUP: Had things all his own way when left alone on the front end against a weak group of bottom-level claimers earlier in the meet. These are steeper waters, but the Noda barn’s been firing and Irad sees fit to ride him again.


Black Magic Woman
Love On the Run
Harlem Heights

#1 BLACK MAGIC WOMAN: Has looked supernatural in the mornings for Todd Pletcher ahead of her career debut. The rail and seven-furlong distance mean this may not be smooth, but if she can overcome those obstacles, there won’t be many evil ways to worry about (if you didn’t like the word play, shut up, I’m having fun); #3 LOVE ON THE RUN: Showed plenty of speed in her debut, where she got cooked on the front end going longer at Belmont. I think the cutback to seven furlongs will help her, and Bill Mott horses tend to improve second time out; #5 HARLEM HEIGHTS: Was second in her first start since October last month, and that came at this distance. Her most recent local workout was pretty sharp, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see her take a step forward.


Intrepid Heart
Han Sense
Grumps Little Tots

#2 INTREPID HEART: Was a game winner last time out at Churchill against a stakes-quality group, so it’s a bit surprising seeing him in here for a tag. However, these are aggressive connections, so it’s not necessarily a red flag and I don’t have reason to think this is a dump; #8 HAN SENSE: Was a close-up second against similar last month at Belmont and goes back to a two-turn route of ground. He’s done his best work at tracks with similar configurations, and he could sit a nice trip on or near a moderate pace; #5 GRUMPS LITTLE TOTS: Won here last year for the Jason Servis barn, and is now running for Rob Atras after Mr. Servis was paid a visit by the feds. His return at Delaware wasn’t bad, and that leads me to believe he could have plenty of strong races left in him.


She’s Got You

#4 SHE’S GOT YOU: Looms large after nearly overcoming an unfavorable race shape in her U.S. debut. This doesn’t seem like as strong a race for the level, and she should be flying late once again beneath Javier Castellano; #2 TRAIPSING: Was favored in a minor stakes race last time out at Gulfstream but was up too close to a solid pace. Her two-back effort was strong, and she may be able to work out an easier trip here with a smaller field and less early speed signed on; #6 FOXTAIL: Takes an aggressive jump up the class ladder in her first start off the claim. However, she’s shown gate speed in the past and may be able to lead them a long way at a price if she’s ready.


Beyond Brown

#5 HERWAZE: Led briefly here earlier in the meet before fading to third behind two strong finishers. I don’t see many runners in here that have shown they can pass others late, and Luis Saez returning to ride inspires some confidence in a tough finale to handicap; #1 CAINUDOTHETWIST: Ran a good second at a price in her debut downstate despite going long at first asking, which isn’t easy to do. She was a bit green, and the inside draw means she could get shuffled back, but I wouldn’t be stunned if she won; #9 BEYOND BROWN: Takes a drop in for a tag after showing speed against state-bred maiden special weight foes in the past. Jose Ortiz should be able to establish forward positioning, and perhaps the drop is what she needs.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/2/20)



Sports editor Joe Boyle wrote a fantastic article profiling Pink Sheet handicappers that ran in Saturday’s paper. It was great sitting down to talk shop with my fellow handicappers. Amidst all the playful chop-busting, we respect and (most of the time!) like one another a great deal.

I do, however, take exception to one line in that piece, which read, “you’ll always get a favorite from Champagne.” As anybody who’s seen my content over the past eight years in this publication and with other national outlets will tell you, that’s not the case. The four-legged evidence file is dotted with high-profile names like Willy Beamin, Golden Ticket, and Arrogate, plus more obscure names like Bankroll Hall of Famer Fixed Point and hero of the 2019 season I’m Elmer J Fudd, who was indeed “vewy vewy live” at a big price and gave me the one winner I needed to edge Liam Durbin for last year’s title.

I did appreciate the way Joe ended the piece, and it’s a message to a lot of people (including some in high places who got very uncomfortable when I beat everyone from all media outlets a few years ago). If you don’t like the way I handicap or think there’s a better way to do it, there’s a way to shut me up. To quote the great American Ric Flair, to be the man, you gotta beat the man. To the great consternation of many, not a lot of people have done that.

SATURDAY’S RESULTS: Reinvestment Risk looked like a blue-chip prospect when dusting a field of fellow 2-year-olds in the opener, but he wasn’t on my doubles tickets. As such, I dropped another $24. (Online-only note: I took one for the team here. If I could’ve put down a win wager on Cariba, I would have, but deadlines made that impossible. Naturally, Cariba won at better than 4-1 odds and paid $10.40.)

SUNDAY’S PLAY: With a heavy favorite in the feature, this is a perfect time to take a swing at the Grand Slam (a wager I profiled in an edition of “The Dark Day Files” a few summers ago). I’ll look to increase my potential return on Moretti in the Birdstone with a $2 ticket starting in the sixth that looks like this: 2,5,6 with 2 with 3,6,11 with 6.



Best Bet: Dowse’s Beach, Race 7
Longshot: Ian Glass, Race 5


Mrs Frankel
Delaware Destiny

#5 BLEND: Possesses tons of class on both sides of her pedigree and has every right to be a good horse. She’s a half to a pair of Grade 2 winners, and while it’s tough to debut going long, she may be equipped to handle such a journey; #3 MRS FRANKEL: Was one-paced in her debut last month going shorter at Belmont. She’s bred to want a longer distance, and that’s the route she’ll get here; #7 DELAWARE DESTINY: Fetched $100,000 at auction as a weanling and debuts for red-hot connections. First-crop sire Exaggerator was a top-class router, so it’s not like his offspring getting two turns would be a shock.


Curlin Grey

#7 WALKOFF: Dueled and tired to finish second against slightly better company downstate, and was claimed out of that race by Mike Maker, whose barn has turned it up a notch over the past few days. The drop is an aggressive one, but it fits with the M.O. of this owner/trainer combination; #5 CURLIN GREY: Hasn’t won in a while, but take a big drop in class and has chased some solid horses this season. If there’s any hesitation, it’s because he may need more pace than he’ll likely get given the running styles of his competitors; #2 MILLS: Was a one-paced third at this route earlier in the meet and seems to catch a slightly weaker group today. The 10-year-old warhorse won two back at this level and could sit a solid stalking trip.


Maker entry
Shore Magic
Bluegrass Parkway

MAKER ENTRY: #1A TIDE OF THE SEA is the part of the entry most will be betting. He just missed in his first start for this barn at Belmont, and it’s a big plus that he won at this route of ground last summer; #2 SHORE MAGIC: Hasn’t run since January but did show some early interest last time out at Gulfstream. Such a trip would likely maximize his chances of running well here given the race shape, which seems light on early zip; #4 BLUEGRASS PARKWAY: is a consistent sort that ran well in a few minor stakes races a season ago. He hasn’t run since November, and the lack of a win since his 2-year-old season is a concern, but perhaps he’s taken a leap from age three to age four.


J P’s Song
Determined One

#7 KILMARKNOCK: Is a reluctant top pick in a race where I have no strong opinion. Having said that, someone has to win, and it may as well be a horse going third off the layoff and exiting a third-place finish behind a next-out winner; #1 J P’S SONG: Flashed some speed first time out for a trainer whose runners tend to need a race or two to get going. Luis Saez hops aboard, and he could lead them a long way at a bit of a price; #2 DETERMINED ONE: Was third at this level and distance at Aqueduct back in February and comes back to this condition. Aqueduct form doesn’t always translate to other tracks, but if it does, he’s got a shot in what hit me as a puzzling race to handicap.


Ian Glass
War Film

#2 IAN GLASS: Has one way of going, and that burned him last time off of a long layoff. However, he’s fresher in this spot and stretches back out to two turns. His two wins have both come going two-turn routes of ground, and Joel Rosario hopping aboard is a plus; #7 UNLEVERAGED: Takes a steep, steep drop in class off a layoff to run here for top connections. I know he’ll probably be favored, and it wouldn’t stun me if he won, but the 3/5 morning line hits me as a significant underlay given that seems they’re trying to get rid of the horse; #5 WAR FILM: Is a closer that’s been crying out for speed to chase. He gets that sort of setup here (at least on paper), and she should have every chance to come rolling down the lane.


Lady Lilly
Spun d’Etat
My Alluring Lady

#6 LADY LILLY: Comes in off of two straight bullet workouts and gets my nod in what seems like a strong 2-year-old maiden race. This daughter of Nyquist hammered for $280,000 last year at Keeneland, and if she runs to the work tab, look out; #2 SPUN D’ETAT: Didn’t run badly when third in her debut. Tom Amoss trainees can win at second asking, and that experience could prove helpful (although her pedigree says turf and I hope she tries it at some point), #5 MY ALLURING LADY: Has been working well here for Danny Gargan and may be precocious enough to win on debut. If she does, you’ll see this race everywhere given her sire, whose name I will not type because everyone else is getting paid Brinks trucks full of money to make it abundantly clear.


Dowse’s Beach
Discretionary Marq
Square Shooter

#2 DOWSE’S BEACH: Was compromised by a terrible trip last time out, one so bad that Irad Ortiz simply wrapped up on him in the lane. That’s not the real Dowse’s Beach, and I’m hoping we get a slightly-inflated price given the last-out clunker; #6 DISCRETIONARY MARQ: Hasn’t won in more than a year but has run well at this route in the past and goes second off the bench. He’s reunited with Kendrick Carmouche, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was on or near the lead turning for home; #9 SQUARE SHOOTER: Makes his 2020 debut for the Robertino Diodoro barn and has plenty of back class. If he runs back to the form he showed last season, perhaps he wins, but the post doesn’t help and this race came up pretty salty for the level.


Fort Worth
Gandy Dancing

#11 FORT WORTH: Hasn’t run since April of last year, but he’s been working very well for Todd Pletcher and seems to have found a pretty soft landing spot for his return to the races. Irad sees fit to ride, and anything close to his 2019 form would likely put him in the winner’s circle; #3 RIKEN: Steps up in class, but has won three in a row and seems to be going very well for David Donk. His early speed will likely put him up front early, and we’ll see if he can carry that speed away from Belmont; #6 GANDY DANCING: Lost all chance at the start of the Mike Lee Stakes and drops in to face allowance foes here. His debut win at Aqueduct was strong, and Javier Castellano sees fit to hop aboard.


American Tattoo

#6 MORETTI: Wants to go as long as possible and has gotten pretty good since finding these races. He was second behind Tacitus in the Grade 2 Suburban, and between the class relief and the added distance, he certainly looks like the one to beat; #4 ROCKETRY: Hasn’t won since late-2018 but goes second off the layoff for Jimmy Jerkens here. He’d benefit from some pace up front, and if he gets it, he might be the one they have to hold off late; #5 AMERICAN TATTOO: Stretches back out to a marathon distance, and I think he’ll enjoy this trip. He was third in the Grade 2 Marathon at Santa Anita, and a return to that form would make him a contender.


Kickin’ Kirby

#2 TACTICIAN: Was claimed by Robertino Diodoro last time out and stretches back out to two turns. His race two back at a similar route was pretty sharp, and a similar effort could get him home in the Sunday finale; #9 HEIGHT: Tries two turns for the first time but could enjoy that configuration. Sire Union Rags won the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes, and the second-place finish last time out could mean he’s figuring things out; #5 KICKIN’ KIRBY: Was fourth against similar at Churchill two back, and that was a two-turn event. If the main track is playing kindly to speed, he could lead them a long way at a price for Hall of Famer Nick Zito.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/1/20; WHITNEY DAY)



On this week’s edition of “Champagne and J.D.,” we sat down with one of my favorite people in the sport. Alicia Wincze Hughes works for the NTRA, and before that, she was one of the top turf writers in the country for the Lexington Herald Leader. We chatted about last weekend’s results of note and previewed several races coming up on the Whitney Day program, and it was great getting a chance to sit down and talk shop with her.

J.D. Fox and I are proud of what we’re building with this show, and we’ve got a number of really good guests coming up this summer. Search for “Champagne and J.D.” on YouTube, and if you like what you see, hit the “subscribe” button so you don’t miss any of our weekly updates!

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: My Pick Four ventures were both blown up in the first legs of their respective sequences. After scratches, I dropped $45.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: For the first time this meet, we’ve got a deadline conflict. I’d love to play #9 CARIBA in the 12th here, but that could go off as the sun is setting. I’m never going to be the guy to hold up print production, so I’ll focus my attention on races earlier in the program. I’ll play $4 doubles starting in the opener using #1 OLYMPIAD/#1A OUTLIER, #4 WINDCRACKER, and #8 TEAM MERCHANTS, and finishing in the second with #1 FOG OF WAR and #4 EN WYE CEE.



Best Bet: Cariba, Race 12
Longshot: Mystery Bank, Race 8


Grandview entry
Team Merchants

GRANDVIEW ENTRY: Either part of the entry could win this wide-open lid-lifter. #1 OLYMPIAD hammered for $700,000 and sports back-to-back bullets for Bill Mott, while #1A OUTLIER also sold for a considerable sum despite a modest pedigree and boasts a strong five-furlong gate work; #4 WINDCRACKER: Ran a good third in his debut at Churchill and could kick off a big day for trainer Tom Amoss, who saddles Allen Jerkens favorite No Parole. He showed some late interest that day, and it helps that the runner-up came right back to win; #8 TEAM MERCHANTS: Debuts for Doug O’Neill, who developed a fine first-out reputation in California. The son of Derby winner Nyquist has several big works on his tab, including a half-mile bullet from the gate over this surface last week.


Fog of War
En Wye Cee
Dream Friend

#1 FOG OF WAR: Returns off the bench for Chad Brown and will be tough to beat if he’s right. He won a Grade 1 as a 2-year-old back in 2018, and the recent bullet work indicates he may be back to his old self; #4 EN WYE CEE: Hasn’t been seen since finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Discovery in November, but boasts a top-notch turf pedigree and could love the lawn. He’ll likely get plenty of pace to rate off of, and we may get some value here, which isn’t always the case with Todd Pletcher trainees; #3 DREAM FRIEND: Set the pace before tiring in the Grade 3 Poker and is being dropped back down in class. He hasn’t won in a while, but of the two likely pace-setters, I prefer him to the enigmatic #5 HIDDEN SCROLL.


K. K. Ichikawa
Allied Invasion
Regal Speaker

#5 K. K. ICHIKAWA: Ran well when third against similar-level foes in his debut. Going long at first asking isn’t an easy thing to do, but this gelding handled it well and could step forward with some experience under his belt; #1 ALLIED INVASION: Debuts for Christophe Clement and has been working steadily ahead of his unveiling. Joel Rosario sees fit to ride, and few trainer/jockey combinations have been better at this meet; #9 REGAL SPEAKER: Showed some late interest when fourth in his debut at Delaware Park. Javier Castellano getting on for a high-percentage barn is a plus, but I’m skeptical about the field he ran against in his debut, and I can’t endorse him at his likely short price.


Ima Pharoah
Dreams of Tomorrow

#5 IMA PHAROAH: Has run second in all four outings to date, and this represents a “now or never” spot for him. It certainly seems like he’ll be on or near the lead here, and Saratoga’s main track has played very kindly to horses with that running style; #3 DREAMS OF TOMORROW: Came up a neck short last time out downstate and has a significant chance to graduate at third asking. He beat the third-place finisher by seven lengths that day, and that runner has since come back to win; #4 FUTURO: Debuts for Bill Mott after a series of strong drills at Belmont. Seven furlongs isn’t the easiest route for a first-time starter, but if the workouts are any indication, there’s some talent here.


Midnight Bisou
Point of Honor

#3 MIDNIGHT BISOU: Looms large in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign as one of the best older horses in training regardless of gender. Her comeback race at Churchill was exceptional, and if she’s anywhere close to her usual self, she should blast this group; #4 VEXATIOUS: Made Monomoy Girl work a bit in the Grade 2 Ruffian, and that’s not an easy task. She was nearly nine lengths clear of her closest pursuer, and while she hasn’t won in a while, I think she’s a must-use in vertical exotics; #6 POINT OF HONOR: Has run well in many big spots, including when she finished second in last year’s Grade 1 Alabama over this track. The problem is, she hasn’t won since May of last year, and she may be left with a lot to do late.


Stage Left
Foolish Ghost
Mister Winston

#6 STAGE LEFT: Gets a reluctant top pick in a race where I wish I didn’t have to give one. He steps back up in class after a nice win downstate, could improve second off of a long layoff, and won at this route last summer; #5 FOOLISH GHOST: Looks like the controlling speed in this race and keeps Irad Ortiz, Jr., despite the trainer switch. He looks like the controlling speed, and if the main track keeps penalizing closers, he could have a say at a price; #2 MISTER WINSTON: Gave Creed a fight last time out at Belmont when second beaten just over a length by that classy rival. This distance might suit him, but I think he’ll be left with a lot to do, and at his likely price in a wide-open event, that doesn’t make him feel like a smart play.


Modern Science
King of Miami
Sol Del Sur

#8 MODERN SCIENCE: Got stuck rating well behind a slow early pace in his debut, but he showed plenty of potential rallying for third. That barn’s first-time starters don’t often win, and the presence of Joel Rosario may mean this son of all-world sire Galileo has more in the tank; #7 KING OF MIAMI: Ran pretty well when second in his off-the-turf debut and gets the surface he likely wants here. American Pharoah’s offspring seem to love the lawn, and this one’s 351 turf Tomlinson rating is tied for the highest such number in the field; #5 SOL DEL SUR: Is by Medaglia d’Oro and out of a War Front mare, which gives him turf pedigree on both sides. The recent slow works hint that he wants to go as long as possible, and he intrigues me at a price for Bill Mott.


Mystery Bank
Holy Emperor

#5 MYSTERY BANK: Sure seems like the lone speed in this turf marathon, which could help considerably given the maiden condition. Orlando Noda has hit pay dirt several times at the meet already, and if this one gets left alone up front early, look out; #7 AMANO: Closed to be third last time out at Belmont and will likely be favored here for Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz. It wouldn’t shock me if he won, but I can’t shake the feeling he may need more pace than he’ll get; #1 HOLY EMPEROR: Was a good second against slightly weaker going a mile at Belmont. He’s bred to want to go long on the grass, and while he doesn’t strike me as a front-runner, he could sit close beneath aggressive gate rider Luis Saez.


Tom’s d’Etat
Code of Honor
By My Standards

#5 TOM’S D’ETAT: Comes in after winning four races in a row, including the Grade 2 Stephen Foster at Churchill. He’s emerged as a force as a 7-year-old, and his combination of talent and versatility make him a deserving favorite in the Grade 1 Whitney; #3 CODE OF HONOR: Ran better than it may look on paper when third in the Grade 1 Met Mile downstate. He was wide that day and had to chase Vekoma, which isn’t easy to do. This two-turn trip should be right up his alley, and he gets it returning to the scene of his score in the Grade 1 Travers last year; #1 BY MY STANDARDS: Was a distant second behind Tom’s d’Etat in the Foster but won a pair of Grade 2 events before that. Jose Ortiz gets the mount here, and his usual race gives him a shot against a field light on numbers but heavy on talent.


No Parole
Eight Rings
Three Technique

#6 NO PAROLE: Simply put, this Louisiana-bred looks like a freak. He’s 4-for-4 in races around one turn, and over a track that’s played very kindly to speed, I think he’ll be a handful. The recent bullet drill over this surface helps, too; #2 EIGHT RINGS: Has been training well for Bob Baffert in California, and he’s not a trainer who ships for the frequent-flyer miles. His effort in Arkansas last time out was a dud, but he showed enough promise as a 2-year-old to make me think he’s sitting on a big effort; #8 THREE TECHNIQUE: Seems like the best-meant closer in the bunch and one that may benefit if the speedballs burn out turning for home. He simply went too long in the Grade 2 Rebel last time out, and he’s 2-for-2 at today’s seven-furlong distance.


Cross Border
Dot Matrix
Pillar Mountain

#2 CROSS BORDER: Jogged against overmatched state-breds here last week and should have plenty in reserve for the Grade 2 Bowling Green. He’s gotten this distance before and should have a favorable trip on or near a pretty slow early pace; #4 DOT MATRIX: Is at his best on or near the front going a long distance, and he should get that sort of trip here. He just missed two back at this distance at Belmont, but Joel Rosario climbs back aboard and should have him in a good spot; #7 PILLAR MOUNTAIN: Merits a look underneath at a big price. He likes this turf course and almost certainly needed the race last time out, which doubled as his first effort since October. Pletcher and Velazquez don’t often provide this kind of value.



#9 CARIBA: Responded to the cutback in distance with a nice win downstate. Runner-up Peaceful won here impressively earlier in the meet, and the Clement barn has continued to send out well-meant horses after a scorching start; #2 I’LLHANDALTHECASH: Won here last summer and exits a win in a listed stakes race at Belmont. She was up close to a pretty moderate pace that day, but she’s also shown an ability to sit back and rally, which could prove helpful; #7 DALIKA: Was second behind my runner-up last time out and looms the danger if the race falls apart late. She won at this distance two back at Churchill, and the recent bullet hints she could be well-meant once again.