NFL Picks, Plays, and Daily Fantasy: Sept. 27, 2020 (Week Three)

The theme of this week’s column is one of the oldest standby tactics in improv comedy. They’re two very simple words with unlimited possibilities when used correctly, and in the right hands, they can be used with deadly efficiency.

I’m referring, of course, to “yes, and…,” which is often used to keep routines going and open the door for more hilarious antics. In this case, though, the reasoning behind my picks and plays for week three can be easily summed up with those two words (and, of course, the analysis that comes with them).

We moved to 7-1 last week, with our lone loss coming when the Chiefs prevailed in overtime but did not cover the spread (due in no small part to the play of Justin Herbert, who was not supposed to start but did an admirable job taking the defending champs to the limit). As always, spreads are courtesy of America’s Line, and DFS costs are courtesy of DraftKings.

Here’s hoping we can keep the good mojo going!

PICKS/PLAYS

Titans -3 over Vikings

The Titans aren’t the flashiest team in the league.

Yes, and they’re still 2-0.

I said in week one that I felt the Titans would be a team to watch early in the season. They play in a small market, their quarterback was sent packing from Miami a few years ago, none of their receivers are household names, and the defense is the ultimate “whole is more than the sum of its parts” unit. They’ve won ugly twice this year…but have you seen the Vikings?

Minnesota, a team that many thought would be a legitimate contender at a deep run in the playoffs, has looked woefully overmatched in both of its games this season. Kirk Cousins no longer has a legitimate #1 receiver, and the defense has been unable to keep up with the Packers and Colts. I think they get overpowered again here, and that the Titans move to the most underreported 3-0 start in the league.

49ers -3.5 over Giants

Jimmy Garappolo, George Kittle, and Nick Bosa will not play.

Yes, and the Giants are still the Giants.

New York has lost Saquon Barkley for the season due to a torn ACL (rest in peace, Andrew’s hopes of a fantasy football repeat). They’ve gone out and signed Devonta Freeman, but he will almost certainly not have an active role in this contest.

San Francisco, meanwhile, still has enough weapons on both sides of the ball to be formidable. This is another East Coast game, but they stayed in that time zone after last week’s throttling of the Jets, so that won’t be an issue at all. Give me every bit of San Francisco this week, even without some of their biggest playmakers in the huddle.

Carolina/LA Chargers: OVER 43.5

Carolina will be without Christian McCaffery, and their offense was held in check by Tampa Bay last week.

Yes, and the Panther defense is still terrible.

Tom Brady could’ve had an even bigger day last week had his receivers not committed several drops on longer passes. This week, Carolina faces a rejuvenated Charger offense led by Justin Herbert, who at this point is playing for a shot at the long-term starting job.

Add in that I’m not concerned about Carolina backup running back Mike Davis or other parts of the Panther offense, and this total looks way too low. 24-21 puts us over the total, and I think we’ll soar past it here.

Chiefs +3.5 over Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens may be the most complete team in the league.

Yes, and Patrick Mahomes should not be getting more than a field goal from any opponent.

The Ravens are fun to watch. Lamar Jackson is electrifying, and their backfield-by-committee is a nightmare to prepare for. They’re sharp defensively as well, having held the Browns and Texas to just 22 combined points this season.

Still, the Chiefs offense played as poorly as we’ve seen them play in a long time last week, and they found a way to win in overtime. Mahomes will likely have many opportunities to work his magic, and I think we’ll see a true shootout on Monday night.

In this case, the half-point is crucial. The Ravens may very well win, but the Chiefs are the reigning champs for a reason, and if last week is any indication, they’ve learned how to win ugly. For that reason, I’ll take the points as my fourth and final play of the week.

DAILY FANTASY PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Cam Newton, NE ($6,700)

I’m obviously not going out on a limb here, as Newton has been in the midst of an epic career revival in New England. However, I’m shocked he’s not more expensive in a tremendous matchup with the Raiders.

Newton has completed more than 71% of his passes this season while averaging nearly five yards per carry. We’re seeing a premier dual-threat performance right now, and when I saw him at $6,700, I jumped on it. I think he’ll have every opportunity to make plays against a Las Vegas defense that has given up 54 points in its first two games.

RB Mike Davis, CAR ($5,100)

Carolina’s offense is built around its starting running back. That focal point, of course, is Christian McCaffery, but Davis reeled in all eight receiving targets he saw last week and should see a heavy workload against the Chargers.

This is a case where the asking price just seems way too low. The Charger defense isn’t bad, but based on the likely workload and game script, I think Davis is a steal.

WR Michael Gallup, DAL ($5,500)
WR CeeDee Lamb, DAL ($5,400)

The Dallas Cowboys once again get a prime matchup, as they’ll take on the Seahawks. Seattle’s offense has been flying high to start the year, but their defense has gotten shredded by both Atlanta and New England. This makes Gallup and Lamb, key pieces in Dallas’s passing attack, very intriguing.

Gallup has been a bit of a disappointment so far, while Lamb is still getting up to speed as a rookie (though he’s shown there’s plenty to be excited about). I’ll happily give both guys shots in a terrific matchup. I have one team with these two, Dak Prescott, and Amari Cooper, and I won’t complain if this is a 45-42 game with lots of deep balls.

TE Jordan Reed, SF ($4,000)

Reed is an unbelievable story. He’s been hampered by injuries throughout his career and considered retiring before signing with San Francisco. George Kittle got hurt last week, and Reed responded by reeling in two touchdown passes as the Niners steamrolled the Jets.

The quarterback situation is a bit of a problem, and that’s baked into this cost. However, San Francisco doesn’t have many weapons on the outside, so I’m expecting Reed to get plenty of targets. His asking price is 17th among tight ends, and that’s just too low given his high ceiling.

NFL Picks, Plays, and Daily Fantasy: Sept. 20, 2020 (Week Two)

Last week was a pretty big one for me against the spread. I got off to a 4-0 start to the season, no thanks to Stephen Gostkowski, who blew several kicks against the Broncos before putting the game-winner through the uprights.

Week two is now upon us, and in several of these games, I’m going against one of my bigger gambling axioms. I usually don’t like betting teams from the west in games that begin at 1 pm Eastern time. While 10 am Pacific time is a good starting time for games for viewers, it’s often not the case for players, as those teams can often come out sluggish. Still, there are a few games where the spreads are too appetizing to pass up.

As usual, spreads are courtesy of America’s Line. I’m switching it up for daily fantasy, though, and moving to DraftKings. Why? Well, I made some money there in week one after being given $10 in their season-opening promotion, so it makes sense to churn there.

Enough small talk; let’s get down to it!

PICKS/PLAYS

49ers -7 over Jets

Yeah, there’s no sugar-coating this one: The Jets are rotten. Their offense looked positively inept in a season-opening loss to the Bills, and their defense looked outgunned by an offense that’s far from bad, but isn’t a top-tier unit. Add in that San Francisco will likely be playing angry after blowing a lead against Arizona, and I can’t go anywhere else.

If you’re a Jets fan, the one saving grace is that San Francisco will likely lean on the running game heavily, which will keep the total points down. I contemplated playing the under for that reason, but the total drifted down a few points late in the week, so I’m staying away from that. Still, the 49ers should roll here.

Rams +1.5 over Eagles

In my weekly spot on Gino Buccola’s podcast, Darin Zoccali asked me where I’d go in a survivor pool this week. I probably should’ve said San Francisco, but I went with the Rams against the Eagles. Even with the home-field advantage, I’m stunned the Eagles are favored in this spot.

Philadelphia’s offensive line was manhandled by Washington last week. Carson Wentz had very little time to throw, and I can’t see those circumstances getting better with Aaron Donald lining up on the other side on Sunday. Add in that the Rams went on the road to defeat a talented Dallas team last week, and my confidence gets even higher.

I’d consider a money-line play here as well, and I’d likely back the Rams if they were giving this spread instead of getting it. Until the Eagles have something resembling a healthy offensive line, I can’t endorse them against a talented defense.

Carolina/Tampa Bay: OVER 47.5

I liked Carolina’s offense and detested Carolina’s defense even before last week’s shootout against Las Vegas, which soared over the total. This week, they face off with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, who lost a shootout in New Orleans but return home here.

This may not be the most fun game to watch. Tampa Bay is favored by 8.5 points, and that’s a legitimate spread. Still, 31-17 puts a game over the total, and I think this game could be a shootout. Perhaps Tampa Bay’s defense is better than they showed in the opener, but I doubt the same can be said for Carolina. I think at least one side has no trouble putting up points, so this is a fairly easy call for me.

Chiefs -8.5 over Chargers

There’s a sizable gap in confidence between my first three picks and this one, which closes out my action for the weekend. I would’ve loved Kansas City giving 5.5, as they were to start the week, but the number has moved up considerably, and for good reason.

The Chargers survived a season opener with Cincinnati. Joe Burrow did everything he could despite his offensive line being horribly overmatched, only to see Randy Bullock push a potential game-tying field goal. LA’s offense, meanwhile, didn’t exactly set the world on fire behind new quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and I just can’t see how they’ll keep up with the high-flying Chiefs in this one.

Kansas City just seems to have too many weapons, even for a competent defense like the Chargers have. I don’t think this is a blowout, but it seems like a game the reigning Super Bowl champions win by two touchdowns or so.

DAILY FANTASY PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Dak Prescott, DAL ($6,800)
WR Amari Cooper, DAL ($6,300)
WR Michael Gallup, DAL ($5,600)

I love when I can lump multiple players into one entry for the same reason. In this case, that reason is simple: The Falcons defense showed in week one that they still have significant issues.

I want as many Cowboys as I can afford this week, and the above three are all reasonably-priced. If you want to put Ezekiel Elliot in here as well, you can do that, but he doesn’t come cheap ($8,200). My guess is the Cowboys are in line to put up a lot of points this week, so I’m maximizing my chances at a big total if they see fit to throw the ball up and down the field at will.

RB J.K. Dobbins, BAL ($5,100)

Dobbins found the end zone twice in his NFL debut and certainly seems to have earned a role in Baltimore’s backfield. This week, the Ravens get the Texans, and this hits me as another game where a lot of points will be scored.

It’s tough to have too much confidence in a running back that hasn’t shown he can catch the ball, so there’s some risk here. Still, if Dobbins is the goal-line back, he’s going to get some opportunities to punch it in.

TE Logan Thomas, WAS ($3,600)

The Washington tight end with two first names saw eight targets in week one and turned one of them into a touchdown. He’s a fascinating story as a former Virginia Tech quarterback finding professional success at a different position, and I think he draws a solid matchup against Arizona.

The Cardinals have plenty of offensive firepower, and if the Washington that fell behind 17-0 early against Philadelphia shows up, they’ll likely have to throw a lot from a very early juncture. Terry McLaurin will see plenty of targets outside, but Thomas has gotten the attention of Dwayne Haskins as well. At his price tag, he hits me as one of the biggest bargains of the week.

NFL Picks, Plays, and Daily Fantasy: Sept. 13, 2020 (Week One)

Many years ago, college-aged Andrew huddled over a keyboard while following an ESPN.com live chat with fantasy analyst Matthew Berry. As a TV/Radio major in college with a heavy emphasis on sports media production, I eagerly asked (probably more than once) what advice he would give aspiring people looking to go down this road as a career path.

Proof that this happened (Willie Garson also verified the second story).

His response: “Circle me like a vulture and wait for me to die.”

In a lot of ways, I’ve kind of done that. I went to college in central New York (Ithaca College, though, not Syracuse). I moved to California to work in television, and have kept my hands in a lot of projects over the years in an attempt to keep myself busy and “build a brand,” as the cool kids say.

Last year, I tried something new on my Twitter account. I set about picking four games a week against NFL point spreads. I posted a solid 33-23 record, good for just shy of 59%. This came while also winning my main fantasy football league (thank you, fellow GM’s in this keeper league, for allowing me to take Patrick Mahomes and Saquon Barkley in the same draft).

I thought to myself, “maybe I know a little something here.” I’ve got a website, I’ve got a bit of a following, and with the 2020 Saratoga season in the books, I’ve made like Styx, have too much (clap clap) time on my hands, and it’s ticking away at my sanity (good luck getting that out of your heads, everybody).

With that in mind, I’m going deeper into NFL football coverage this year, from both a betting and fantasy standpoint. In short, I’ll be writing more stuff, and I’ll be doing more videos. My goal with this is the same as it is with my horse racing content. I want to create content that appeals to a wide variety of fans and players, with the goal of giving that audience something they’ll enjoy and maybe even learn from.

I’ll dip my toe into the water with plays on four NFL games this weekend, plus a few players to watch if you’re diving into daily fantasy action during the first week of the season. Note that all odds, spreads, and player costs are as of Saturday afternoon, courtesy of America’s Line and Fanduel. Also, my plays go in chronological order, not in order of confidence.

If you’ve got something you want to see, or if you’re from a company and looking to work with a handicapper, I’m an easy guy to find. You can tweet me at @AndrewChampagne or use this site’s “contact” page. That’s connected to my email address, and I read everything that comes in.

Enough exposition; on with the show!

PICKS/PLAYS

Packers +3.5 over Vikings

In this case, the half-point is key. I like the Vikings as a team, even after the loss of Stefon Diggs. They’re balanced on offense, and they’ve got legitimate playmakers on defense. However, Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers, and with the Packers seeming to send a very clear message to him in the offseason, I’m banking on him playing with a chip on his shoulder.

With very little in the way of time to prepare for the season, I’m going with experience under center. The Vikings might win, but the Packers getting more than a field goal here makes them the play.

Seattle/Atlanta: OVER 49

This is one of two games that hits me as a track meet waiting to happen. Both teams have explosive offenses, and the dome setting means there won’t be any weather interference. I think Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan will both have big days, and this total just seems too low. 28-21 is a push, and I think that’s a worst-case scenario.

This is one of two games in the early window that hits me as a shootout. Give me lots of points in the Peach State, and I’ll be a happy bettor.

Las Vegas/Carolina: OVER 46.5

This is the other potential shootout, and in this case, I think the total is way too low. Both offenses have surprising firepower and motivated quarterbacks, and both defenses have major question marks. While I’m not sure how “good” these teams are, I think this might be the most entertaining game to watch on the first Sunday of the season.

Not only do I think you want the “over” here, I also think you want a few players in daily fantasy lineups, as they’ll be relative bargains. For now, though, just give me points, regardless of where they’re coming from.

Titans +3 over Broncos

This line seems wrong to me. Tennessee is coming off a season in which they found their quarterback (the revitalized Ryan Tannehill) and advanced to the AFC Championship game. Their 2020 campaign starts with a trip to Denver, where they’ll face a Broncos squad that just lost Von Miller for the year and may be without Courtland Sutton after a mid-week injury.

I love the Titans getting three points here, and I’d also consider a money-line play as well. I believe they’re better than most people think, and I’m going to keep a close eye on their point spreads in the early part of the season in hopes of a few cheap scores before lines adjust accordingly.

DAILY FANTASY PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Teddy Bridgewater, CAR ($6,800)
WR Hunter Renfrow, LV ($5,200)

Remember what I said about how I see the Las Vegas/Carolina game? I think you want to load up on Raiders and Panthers, and not just Christian McCaffery, either.

Teddy Bridgewater will have McCaffery, DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Robby Anderson at his disposal this year, and Carolina’s porous defense will ensure he gets the green light to take shots downfield with surprising regularity. He’s one of the cheapest quarterbacks available this week, and buying low on Bridgewater allows you to spend elsewhere.

Renfrow, meanwhile, worked his way into a slot receiver role with the Raiders as a rookie and saw 18 targets in the last two games of the 2019 season. His figure hits me as a steal, and I think he’ll see plenty of looks against a suspect secondary.

WR Terry McLaurin, WAS ($6,500)

At this point, who else does Washington have? I think McLaurin will be peppered by targets in a game where his team could be playing from behind early. I had figured his asking price would be far greater than this number, one that could allow you to also pick up a legitimate stud (someone like Michael Thomas at $8,800) or a playmaker in a situation to do damage (perhaps Chris Godwin at $7,700).

McLaurin’s floor is high, and his ceiling is as lofty as almost anyone else at the position. He may see some double-teams, but I simply think his likely volume makes him too attractive to ignore.

RB Raheem Mostert, SF ($6,200)

San Francisco does have options at running back, but Mostert should get the lion’s share of the carries in a run-friendly offense. He flashed plenty of talent last season when rushing for nearly six yards per carry, and second-leading rusher Matt Brieda is now in Miami. Jerick McKinnon will take some of those carries, but questions remain about how healthy he is after missing the last two seasons due to injuries.

Mostert should be in line for a big year, and that starts with a friendly matchup against Arizona. I’m banking on the Niner defense giving Kyler Murray and company major problems while the offense runs the ball early and often. This is another case where a talented player has a high floor and a favorable situation, and I need to buy as much Mostert stock as I can.

Detroit DEF ($3,700)

In general, betting against Mitchell Trubisky seems like a smart strategy. The Lions have done significant work to overhaul their defense, and they’ll be at home for the 2020 opener. Will home-field advantage matter as much during the COVID-19 pandemic? We don’t know that yet, but we do know Detroit’s asking price is in the lower half of the league. That seems way too low, and I think they’ll outperform that figure.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/7/20; CLOSING DAY)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $565.20

As is tradition, I’m using my last bankroll blurb of the season to thank people who truly deserve it. First of all, editor Joe Boyle spearheads production of The Pink Sheet on top of daily sports sections in The Saratogian and The Troy Record, plus a weekly section in The Community News. Managing one daily section alone is a full-time job. I’d wager Joe is one of the hardest-working people in sports journalism, and it’s been a lot of fun working with him.

I’m quick to take the New York Racing Association to task for certain things, but I need to give NYRA credit where it’s due. The racing office did all it could to make the best of a bad situation. It looked different, the stakes schedule was jumbled, and field sizes weren’t ideal, but Saratoga was still Saratoga. Special thanks also goes to the fantastic on-air and live production team working the daily FOX Sports broadcasts. The shows have captured the essence of Saratoga as well as they possibly could have under the circumstances.

Finally, I’d like to thank you, the reader. Whether you’ve been seeing this in print or going to AndrewChampagne.com, I want you to know I appreciate you taking the time to read my stuff. Saratoga is the one stretch of the year where I get to dig in and go head-to-head with some of the best handicappers in the world. Hopefully, I’ve given you a few winners and helped you cash a few tickets. If not…well, we’ve got one more day!

SUNDAY’S RESULTS: I scratched out of most of my action when Caramel Swirl didn’t run in the opener. Majestic West, meanwhile, set the early pace and tired in the third, so I dropped $15.

MONDAY’S PLAY: Okay, if I’m going down, I’m going down in flames. There’s a mandatory payout in the Empire 6, so I’ll have a 20-cent ticket starting in the ninth that reads as follows: 3,4,6,8,9 with 1,4,5 with ALL with 3,7,8 with 6 with 2,3,5,9,10,12. I’ll use the other $25 of my bankroll on the early Pick Five, which begins in the second. My 50-cent ticket goes like this: 2,3 with 4,5,6,7,9 with 2 with 4 with 1,2,3,7,8.

TOTAL WAGERED: $565.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Proven Strategies, Race 12
Longshot: Wild Banker, Race 11

R1

Iranistan
Bodes Well
Cracker Factory

#2 IRANISTAN: Responded to the class drop last time out with a gritty victory, one where he re-rallied late after doing all the dirty work on the front end. He’s got plenty of back class and may be rediscovering the 2018 form that saw him place in two Grade 1 events; #6 BODES WELL: Did the dirty work when third behind the talented Snap Decision in the Kiser earlier this meet. He gets weight from several other contenders in here, and his best race could win this; #1 CRACKER FACTORY: May have needed his return to the races a few weeks ago, when he was fifth behind Iranistan. He could improve at a price second off the bench, and this barn has had a very strong season to this point.

R2

Fort Worth
Build to Suit
Rice entry

#3 FORT WORTH: Came back running off the long layoff with an easy score, one that hinted he still had plenty of gas left in the tank. That day’s runner-up has since come back to win impressively, and any improvement would make this Pletcher trainee extremely tough; #2 BUILD TO SUIT: Has plenty of back form and has run very well over this surface. If he can channel his 2019 form, he’ll be a major player, but given the last-out clunker and the entry for a claiming price, it’s fair to wonder if this is a dump; RICE ENTRY: I prefer #1A THE CARETAKER, an honest horse with 23 in-the-money finishes in 32 career outings. He was second at this level early in the meet, and sharp first-off-the-claim trainer Linda Rice should have a fresh horse ready to roll.

R3

Domain Expertise
Editor At Large
Mrs. O’Connell

#9 DOMAIN EXPERTISE: Hammered for $200,000 at Keeneland in 2018 and is bred up and down for turf. She’s by Kitten’s Joy, out of a Limehouse mare, and she’s got several very good works for strong first-out trainer Chad Brown; #4 EDITOR AT LARGE: Has plenty of European pedigree and is the other half of Brown’s powerful 1-2 punch in this event. While I prefer the former horse to this one, she’s certainly got plenty of potential; #6 MRS. O’CONNELL: Runs for a barn whose horses often need a race or two to get going, but she’s bred to be a good one. Sire American Pharoah and broodmare sire Distorted Humor are both strong turf influences, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she ran well at a price.

R4

Road to Meath
Kabob
Liam’s Fire

#2 ROAD TO MEATH: Takes a big drop in class for an aggressive barn looking to win the training title. He’s almost certainly better on turf, but it’s not like he’s a slouch on dirt, and it seems like he’s found a soft spot; #6 KABOB: Rallied to break his maiden at a price early in the meet. That race didn’t come back particularly strong, but Ray Handal’s horses tend to get better with experience and this one should be running well late; #8 LIAM’S FIRE: Ran well to be third against $40,000 claimers two back and takes a big drop off a race that’s too bad to be true. A repeat of his two-back effort could give him a big shot at a bit of a price.

R5

Per Capita
Heirloom Kitten
Hunt the Front

#4 PER CAPITA: Has crossed the wire first twice in a row since coming back from an extended hiatus and makes his first start for new trainer Todd Pletcher. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for his win last time out at Churchill, and two turns shouldn’t be a problem given his running style; #3 HEIRLOOM KITTEN: Has won two in a row since going to the dirt, both in easy wire-to-wire fashion. This is a class test for him, but he certainly looks like the main speed in this field and he’ll be dangerous if he’s left alone up top; #2 HUNT THE FRONT: Rallied to finish third at this route earlier in the meet, and that came after his connections saw fit to run him in the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland. He may need more pace than he’s likely to get, but a speed duel would open the door for him to come flying from out of the clouds.

R6

Kantarmaci entry
Life in Shambles
Repole entry

KANTARMACI ENTRY: Both #1 TOPPER T and #1A CLENCH have shown they don’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well. That seems like a vital asset in a race with several very fast horses that will likely go all-out from the moment the gates open; #7 LIFE IN SHAMBLES: Mildly rallied to finish fourth against similar earlier in the meet. He was claimed by Rob Atras that day, and the likely race shape could set things up for this one-run closer; REPOLE ENTRY: #2B WEGOTOLDYOUGOTSOLD is the only one likely to run, as #2 WIN WITH PRIDE raced Saturday. The former hasn’t won in a while, but is a consistent sort that’s done enough to attract Irad Ortiz, Jr.

R7

Army Wife
Mrs Frankel
Freedomofthepress

#9 ARMY WIFE: Was one-paced in her debut going shorter, but her pedigree says she’ll take a big step forward with added distance. She has an experience edge over much of this group, and the recent four-furlong bullet drill jumps off the page; #6 MRS FRANKEL: Chased an impressive next-out stakes winner in her first turf route, and she’s got enough early speed to be prominent from an early stage. Mark Casse has had plenty of hard luck at this meet, but this regally-bred filly certainly seems live; #5 FREEDOMOFTHEPRESS: Sold for $170,000 at Keeneland two years ago and has several strong local workouts ahead of her unveiling. If there’s hesitation here, it’s because young sire Mshawish is still unproven, so we don’t quite know what to expect from a pedigree standpoint.

R8

Breaking the Rules
Largent
Ballagh Rocks

#5 BREAKING THE RULES: Has won two in a row since coming off the bench and looms large in the Lure. He topped eventual Grade 1 winner Digital Age two back at Belmont before rallying from far off the pace here earlier this summer; #2 LARGENT: Has four wins and two seconds in six lifetime starts and goes second off the layoff for Todd Pletcher. He won a similar stakes race at Colonial Downs last time out, and he’s got enough tactical speed to sit an ideal trip beneath Luis Saez; #4 BALLAGH ROCKS: Was one of the top turf milers in the country at his peak and he’s still good enough to make plenty of money in his 7-year-old season. He just missed downstate on Independence Day and stands to benefit if the early pace is faster than expected.

R9

Speaker’s Corner
Demon
Savoy

#3 SPEAKER’S CORNER: Has turned in a pair of eye-catching drills ahead of his debut for Bill Mott, who doesn’t usually work his horses very fast. He’s bred to go longer than this, but the works say he’s plenty quick enough to win his unveiling; #4 DEMON: Showed speed from the gate in his most recent half-mile drill, and he’s bred to be precocious given the presence of sire Into Mischief. Todd Pletcher’s work with 2-year-olds speaks for itself, and the 8-1 odds seem like an overlay; #9 SAVOY: Has worked consistently and draws well in his debut for Chad Brown. This $160,000 auction purchase originally worked at Monmouth with Brown’s second string, which can be a red flag, but he’s done enough up here to make me think he’s got a shot.

R10

Binkster
Ima Pharoah
Maximiliano

#4 BINKSTER: Hasn’t won in a while but has spent 2020 chasing better horses than the ones he’ll line up against here. He’s got plenty of early zip and was most recently third in a swiftly-run stakes race for state-breds; #1 IMA PHAROAH: Cruised home to break his maiden in his local debut. He earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure that day, and he’s inexperienced enough to where he may still be improving; #5 MAXIMILIANO: Hasn’t been seen since running fifth in last year’s Springboard Mile at Remington Park. He’s worked well of late, though, and he did his best work last season in shorter races. If he’s ready, this Wesley Ward trainee may be a threat at a bit of a price.

R11

No Lime (MTO)
Wild Banker
Scanno

#3 WILD BANKER: Likely needed his return to the races last month at Monmouth Park, where he sat far back before rallying to finish third. This is a step up in class on paper, but it seems like a weak race for the level, there’s some early speed signed on, and Joel Rosario sees fit to ride; #10 SCANNO: Has run well twice at this meet and earned the diploma last time out. The outside post position is certainly a problem, but he’s shown some versatility in his last several starts, and that should give Luis Saez plenty of options; #6 MR. KRINGLE: Has placed in three stakes races and may go favored here. However, he flopped when third at 3/5 odds against similar last time out and didn’t seem to have any tangible excuses. He may just be a pack animal that likes running second and third, and I can’t endorse him on top.

R12

Proven Strategies
Lonesome Fugitive
Succeedandsurpass

#7 PROVEN STRATEGIES: Seems like the lone speed in this route on the inner turf and gets top gate rider Luis Saez. It seems overly simple, but too many turf races this summer have been won by horses like this, and the fact that he may be a bit of a price is very interesting; #3 LONESOME FUGITIVE: Was second in his first start against winners last time out, and that day’s victor came back to finish a hard-luck second in the Grade 3 Saranac. That was an oddly-run race, but he’s done very little wrong to this point in his career and is a logical favorite; #8 SUCCEEDANDSURPASS: Makes his first start for new trainer Graham Motion and looks to snap a year-log winless streak. He has tons of back class, having chased Grade 1 winner Mo Forza twice in California last year, and he figures to be rallying late beneath Jose Ortiz.

R13

Jackie’s Warrior
Mutasaabeq
Reinvestment Risk

#6 JACKIE’S WARRIOR: Led every step of the way in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, and that day’s second-place finisher picked up another big check when second in the Iroquois Saturday at Churchill Downs. He seems like the speed of the speed and a horse that can steal the Grade 1 Hopeful on the front end; #3 MUTASAABEQ: Had no problems in his debut last month, when he cruised home as an odds-on favorite. This is a far tougher spot, to be sure, but this $425,000 auction purchase has every right to step forward for Todd Pletcher; #5 REINVESTMENT RISK: Turned heads by drawing away to win his debut by nearly eight lengths. He earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure, but he did so while sitting a perfect trip on the rail and capitalizing when room opened up. At his likely price, I’ll try to beat him.

R14

Gunman
Bold Gem
Vicarage

#12 GUNMAN: Will need to navigate a very tough outside post in the meet finale but has shown enough to merit favoritism. He was a close-up fourth earlier this meet, and that was his first start since October. A step forward could get him the money against a suspect group; #5 BOLD GEM: Seems to like running second and third, but also appears to be the main early speed in this race. It wouldn’t surprise me if he got out to an easy lead, and that may be dangerous in a field of horses that may not want to pass others; #3 VICARAGE: Comes back to the lawn for the first time since his debut, which came going two turns at Tampa. It’s tough to go that route early in one’s career, and he may have needed that race for seasoning. He’s bred up and down for turf and is worth a shot on deeper tickets.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/6/20)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $580.20

Tiz the Law had every chance in the Kentucky Derby. He got the perfect trip, had first run on the pace-setter after that one set solid early fractions, and looked like a winner with a quarter-mile to go.

He just couldn’t get by Authentic, who proved to be the genuine article. He had a terrible start, but made the lead going into the first turn and challenged other horses to come get him. Nobody could.

There’s no shame in running second in the Kentucky Derby, and it doesn’t discredit Tiz the Law’s brilliant campaign to this point. I think I echo the sentiments of everyone in racing when I say I hope there’s a rematch coming, either at Pimlico in next month’s Preakness Stakes or at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

SATURDAY’S RESULTS: I keyed Tiz the Law on top and had Enforceable hitting the board, so I was wrong on everything (although Enforceable ran reasonably well given his price). The late scratch of Thousand Words reduced the losses to $38.

SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to focus on the early part of this program and two runners I like a fair bit. I’ll put $15 win wagers on #6 CARAMEL SWIRL in the opener and #5 MAJESTIC WEST in the third, and I’ll also play a $1 Pick Three ticket using those two as singles and punching the “ALL” button in the second race. In a rare twist, I’ll be punching that ticket regardless of if the second race stays on the turf or moves to the main track.

TOTAL WAGERED: $39.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Keota, Race 6
Longshot: Calidad, Race 7

R1

Caramel Swirl
Fouette
Jordan’s Leo

#6 CARAMEL SWIRL: Has been working with intensity ahead of her debut for Bill Mott, who doesn’t often work his 2-year-olds quickly. Her dam is a half-sister to Met Mile winner Frosted, and we may get a bit of a price due to the presence of juvenile-heavy barns; #3 FOUETTE: Went from “home free” to “barely hung on for third” very quickly in her debut. She’s one of just two runners in here with any experience, and that could be a big plus; #1 JORDAN’S LEO: Debuts for Todd Pletcher and comes in off of several very strong drills at Belmont Park. If there’s a negative here, it’s that the pedigree hints she’s a turf horse, but if she runs to the work tab, look out.

R2

Fevola (MTO)
Bourbon Currency
Cardiac Kitten

#5 BOURBON CURRENCY: Was beaten a length at this route a few weeks ago, and Jose Ortiz sees fit to ride this gelding back. It seems as though there’s plenty of early pace signed on, and that may set things up for him to come pick up the pieces; #10 CARDIAC KITTEN: Drops back into the claiming ranks in his second start of the season. His lone other prior start for a tag saw him win by four lengths at Keeneland, and he’ll be a major player if he can work out a trip from his outside post; #6 WILD WILLIAM: Wired a lesser field last time out and is wheeled back fairly quickly by trainer H. James Bond, whose barn has been firing on all cylinders all summer long. Luis Saez rides back, and chances are this one will be prominent from a very early juncture.

R3

Majestic West
Blood Moon
First Rate

#5 MAJESTIC WEST: Stretches back out to two turns and earned his lone win to date at a similar configuration at Fair Grounds. He earned an 81 Beyer Speed Figure that day, and that’s the highest such number of any horse in this field; #3 BLOOD MOON: Gets wheeled back quickly by new trainer Linda Rice, and she’s done that with great success in the past. He hasn’t won in a while, but perhaps a change of scenery will move him up in his fourth start of the summer; #2 FIRST RATE: Was second against similar horses at this route earlier this summer. He’s got the talent to run well here, but he may be stuck rating behind a slow early pace, which wouldn’t be an ideal trip.

R4

Klaravich entry
Ethos
Dreams of Tomorrow

KLARAVICH ENTRY: #1 PRICE TALK crossed the wire first in his debut, but was disqualified due to interference. Any sort of a step forward will make him very tough, and the recent bullet drill suggests such improvement is on the horizon; #4 ETHOS: Has every right to run a career-best race second off the bench and stretching out to two turns. His dam is a half-sister to both Grade 1 winner Ironicus and multiple graded stakes winner On Leave, and those two did their best running going long; #2 DREAMS OF TOMORROW: Makes his turf debut and should relish the new surface. His dam is a half-sister to top-class turf runner Imagining, and he runs like a horse that will also appreciate the added distance.

R5

Mo Dean
Lutescoot N Boogie
Jane Grey

#5 MO DEAN: Had an adventurous journey in her debut, when she ran second beaten just a neck. She’s worked consistently since that event, and she’ll be a handful with smoother sailing and/or a logical second-out step forward; #8 LUTESCOOT N BOOGIE: Showed speed in her unveiling, when she was third against state-bred competition. Steve Asmussen has cleaned up in 2-year-old races this summer, and Joel Rosario sees fit to hop aboard; #2 JANE GREY: Is bred up and down to be a good one and comes in off of a bullet drill on the Oklahoma track. This is a patient barn, but if she’s ready to run, she’ll have every chance to grab a piece of it at a nice price.

R6

Keota
Brass Ring
A Little Faith

#8 KEOTA: Cruised home to an easy win at this route against starter allowance foes last month. She’s got enough tactical speed to be forwardly-placed, but she doesn’t necessarily need the lead, either, and that should give Irad Ortiz, Jr., plenty of options; #10 BRASS RING: Did a lot of the dirty work when third against similar company last time out. She’s done her best running at this route, and while the outside post doesn’t help, she may be talented enough to outbreak this field and clear her rivals into the turn; #1 A LITTLE FAITH: Hasn’t run a bad race sprinting on turf and exits a win over state-breds in her first start since November. This is a tougher group, to be sure, but the inside draw is a good thing and Jose Ortiz will hop aboard.

R7

Calidad
Madison Parc
Dancing Kiki

#5 CALIDAD: Is a reluctant top pick in a puzzling race to handicap. She gets that designation due to a strong turf pedigree, one that hints she’ll enjoy this surface in her first start on the lawn. Improvement from her dirt efforts would make her tough; #8 MADISON PARC: Adds blinkers after a one-paced showing earlier this summer. She ran well in her debut going two turns on turf, so I’m willing to give her one more shot (especially against what seems like a suspect group); #9 DANCING KIKI: Has run well at this level many times, but is 0-for-11 and, as a result, tough to trust on top. Still, she can’t be ignored if you’re playing vertical exotics.

R8

Tiz He the One
Creative Style
Lusitano

#5 TIZ HE THE ONE: Takes a significant drop in class for aggressive connections and looms large. It wasn’t long ago he was 9/2 against Firenze Fire in the Grade 3 General George, and he’s been chasing far better horses since coming off the bench earlier this summer; #9 CREATIVE STYLE: Ran second against slightly-lesser company last time out and cuts back to one turn in his first start for new trainer Rob Atras. This route should suit him better, and Atras hits at a very strong clip with new acquisitions; #8 LUSITANO: Overcame a rough start to win his local debut in come-from-behind fashion. This is a tougher group, but he’s won going longer distances than this, so at least you know the extra furlong won’t beat him.

R9

Beautiful Memories
Guana Cay
Irish Constitution

#5 BEAUTIFUL MEMORIES: Never had a chance in the Grade 3 Schuylerville when she was pulled up as the 1/2 favorite. She’s turned in several strong drills ahead of her return, and a clean journey would make her tough in the Grade 1 Spinaway; #6 GUANA CAY: Looks like the lone closer in a race full of early zip. She’s a maiden, but Wesley Ward spots his horses aggressively, and the faster they go early, the better her chances figure to be; #1 IRISH CONSTITUTION: Prevailed in her debut for a trainer whose juveniles often need a race or two to figure things out. This is a far tougher field than the batch of state-breds she beat in her unveiling, but she’s bred to be a good one and could take a step forward at a price.

R10

Lady’s Island
Come Dancing
Blamed

#7 LADY’S ISLAND: Certainly looks like the speed of the speed in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss. She’s won 16 of 31 career starts and earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure over this surface last year. A similar effort would give her a big shot at a bit of a price; #1 COME DANCING: Was fourth in the Grade 1 Ballerina behind Serengeti Empress, and this spot represents a bit of a class drop. She makes sense, but the cutback in distance is a bit of a concern, as is the rail draw for a horse not reliant on early speed; #2 BLAMED: Was a hard-luck second in the Shine Again earlier this summer and will want to be on or near the lead early. This is another case where six furlongs seems a bit short, but she’s got plenty of back class and has won nine of 16 lifetime starts.

R11

Gidu
Shekky Shebaz
Pulsate

#9 GIDU: Cuts back to a turf sprint and may get the firm ground he clearly relishes in the Lucky Coin. He’s spent most of his career running against some of the better turf horses in the country, and betweem the class relief and his ample early zip, I think he’s the horse to beat; #1 SHEKKY SHEBAZ: Was placed second in the Grade 3 Troy last time out and has run several strong races over this turf course in the past. He may not be the same horse he was for Jason Servis last year, but he may not have to be in order to run well here; #8 PULSATE: Had a troubled trip in the Troy, when he was making up ground late before steadying in traffic. Luis Saez gets the mount here, and he’ll at least be going in the right direction when the real running starts.

R12

La Negrita (MTO)
Tatterazzi
Leeway

#3 TATTERAZZI: Sure seems like the lone speed in here, and that combined with the presence of Luis Saez is enough to get my top pick in the Sunday finale. She drops in for a tag second off the bench and may prove very tough to catch; #2 LEEWAY: Almost certainly needed her return to the races in July, which came off a layoff of more than nine months. Her maiden-breaking score at Belmont wasn’t bad, and the Clement/Rosario tag team merits respect; #9 BLICHTON LADY: Ran into a good horse two back before breaking her maiden over the Saratoga main track last month. Her turf Tomlinson number of 309 is solid, and it indicates that perhaps her disappointing debut on the lawn may have just been due to her needing a race. She may be worth another shot at a price.