Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 7/22/18


Check back Saturday night!


Best Bet: Tied Up, Race 1
Longshot: Stealth, Race 5


Tied Up
Pure Praise

#2 TIED UP: Has been off since an easy score against similar competition at Keeneland. A repeat of that effort would make her incredibly difficult to beat, and it’s tough to see anyone here challenging her early on; #7 PURE PRAISE: Rated well behind a slow pace last time out in her first start for Jeremiah Englehart. Her lone win came over a sloppy track, so she could benefit from any rain that hits the area; #6 NORTHERNSTREETGAL: Drops in class, comes back to the dirt, and has run her best races over wet tracks. She could hit the board at a bit of a price.


Casse entry
Two Dozen Roses
Mott entry

CASSE ENTRY: #1A CHOCOLATE KISSES seems better meant than #1 TOY MOON, but either can win. The former is a half to top-notch turf horse Synchrony, and her dam won stakes races on both turf and dirt; #4 TWO DOZEN ROSES: Has a series of turf works, and her second dam threw Beholder, Into Mischief, and Mendelssohn. The five-furlong drills indicate she may want today’s distance; MOTT ENTRY: #2B GLAZE is bred to love this distance and could improve off of her debut, while main-track-only entrant #2 ROTATE has a chance if this is rained off the turf.


No Need to Appeal (MTO)
La Moneda

#1 LA MONEDA: Has turned into a sharp turf horse and won two in a row downstate in impressive fashion. Javier Castellano regains the mount, and anything close to her last-out effort would make her formidable; #2 COMPLICIT: Has improved with every start and followed up her two-back maiden score with a win last month at Belmont. She overcame a very slow pace in the most recent race, and this barn’s certainly formidable with turf routers; #6 DOLCE LILI: Looks much better if you draw a line through the Grade 3 Valley View, which was followed by a six-month layoff. She may benefit from a return to a two-turn route of ground. DIRT SELECTIONS: NO NEED TO APPEAL, RILEY’S CHOICE, LA MONEDA.



#4 ADULATION: Drops in for a tag for one of the most well-known owners in Saratoga. The last two races weren’t great, but he’s been competitive against much better in the past and Javier Castellano hops aboard; #1 CAVALLOTTO: Prevailed against weaker company last time out at Belmont Park and may be going in the right direction. He’s 2 for 3 in dirt sprints, and he may be a bit of a price; #2 BENEFACTOR: Is another dropping way down in class, and he’s been gelded since trailing a much better group. He’s got plenty of early speed, and a repeat of his effort three back would likely get him a piece of this.


Point to Remember

#5 DOMAIN: Has finished second in a pair of swiftly-run races at Belmont Park and has a pedigree that says two turns should not be a problem. His 85 Beyer Speed Figure from the most recent race is the top last-out number in the field; #8 POINT TO REMEMBER: Is bred up and down for distance and should improve in his third start of the season. He may be a bit more forwardly-placed in this spot; #3 STEALTH: Completely missed the break in his debut and has earned two bullets for workouts since then. Ian Wilkes charges tend to move forward with experience, and this one could present real value in exotics.


Ventry Bay
Fuel the Bern
Bam Bam Blu

#3 VENTRY BAY: Loves Saratoga and exits a strong race for the level where the winner and second-place finisher both won at next asking. Wesley Ward’s on a bit of a cold streak in New York, but this one has back form that more than fits; #8 FUEL THE BERN: Has found his form of late and cuts back in distance for the strong Danny Gargan barn. It helps that he doesn’t need the lead to run well, and he could get first run turning for home; #5 BAM BAM BLU: Romped in the slop at Monmouth last time out and tries turf here. His pedigree says he could like turf, and he certainly merits respect if this race gets moved to the main track. DIRT SELECTIONS: BAM BAM BLU, CHANGE OF VENUE, WIN WITH PRIDE.


Golden Award
Big Birthday

#5 GOLDEN AWARD: Stepped forward in her second start, when she held on for second despite setting a very fast pace. She’s worked well since then, and she could benefit from the cutback in distance; #9 BIG BIRTHDAY: Ran well in her first start off the bench, finishing third in a sprint at Belmont Park. She could step forward in her second start back, and the outside draw could allow her to work out a trip; #4 COMMUNAL: Was second in a race that features many runners that also show up in this spot. This barn’s horses tend to need a race to get going, so it’s a good sign that she was ready right off the bat.


Critique (MTO)
Dancing Breeze

#5 DANCING BREEZE: Ran third behind La Moneda last time out in her first start since November. She was a good second in a $150,000 stakes race before going to the sidelines, and a return to that form would make her tough; #2 STAINLESS: Is Grade 3-placed and could benefit from what seems like a lot of early speed. This barn does well with horses coming off of long layoffs, and she may be going best of all late; #4 QUEEN MUM: Has never finished worse than third in four starts to date. She tries turf for the first time, and her 353 turf Tomlinson number says she could love it. DIRT SELECTIONS: CRITIQUE, STAINLESS, QUEEN MUM.


Monomoy Girl
Midnight Bisou
Gio Game

#4 MONOMOY GIRL: Seems like the lone frontrunner in a small field, which is almost always a tough combination to beat. She seems to be getting better as she goes along, which is a scary thought since she’s a neck away from being 8 for 8; #2 MIDNIGHT BISOU: Aired by six lengths in the Grade 2 Mother Goose, which doubled as her first start for trainer Steve Asmussen. It was good to see her win while close to the pace, but these waters are much deeper; #5 GIO GAME: Was third behind Monomoy Girl in the Grade 1 Acorn, an effort validated when the second-place finisher came right back to win the Indiana Oaks. Her lone misfire came in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and she may be on the improve.


East Moon

#9 COMPETITIONOFIDEAS: Just missed last time out in a fast race for the level. The outside post is a bit of an issue on the inner turf, but she’s shown enough talent to indicate she could overcome it; #2 COMPRESSION: Was third in that same race despite not having much running room turning for home. She could easily improve enough to win this race, although she’s found trouble twice in as many starts, which is a concern; #10 EAST MOON: Finished an OK second in her first start going long and tries turf, which her pedigree says she could take to. If this race gets rained off the turf, she figures to be the one to beat. DIRT SELECTIONS: EAST MOON, KIDORO, THAT’S SPEIGHTFUL.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 7/21/18



Earlier this week, news broke that owner Ron Paolucci is leaving the game following a series of run-ins with people and organizations he called “the racing elite.” Paolucci (whose horses run under the moniker Loooch Racing Stables) was second among all North American owners with 159 wins in 2017, so this is not a small-time operation that’s being dissolved.

I’m partial to strong personalities and owners who aren’t afraid to run their horses in big spots (it was the shoe of his horse that wound up in Gun Runner’s tail during last year’s Whitney!). That latter point hits home in an age where field sizes at the top end of the sport seem to be getting smaller with every passing year. I’ve never met Mr. Paolucci, but it seems like he’s done a lot of good for the sport of horse racing, and I sincerely hope he reconsiders his decision.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Monteleone could not have broken worse in the third at Saratoga and lost all chance immediately. We dropped $22.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to try to extract some value from my best bet of the day, which is #2 NITROUS in the sixth. I’ll play $10 doubles that start in the fifth (which strikes me as a fun betting race) and use #8 SHAPE SHIFTER and #9 OUR GIRL ABBY.



Best Bet: Nitrous, Race 6
Longshot: Whiskey Echo, Race 9


Dubb entry
Full Salute

DUBB ENTRY: I prefer FORGE, who ran a clunker last time out but reeled off three wins in a row before that. He drops down in class for aggressive connections, and while J S BACH isn’t poorly meant, the former’s the reason the entry will be a short-priced favorite; HELOOKSTHEPART: Makes his 50th career start in this spot, and has proven himself as a hard-trying veteran that can come running late. There’s plenty of pace in this race, and he may be going best of all in the final furlong; FULL SALUTE: Didn’t break well last time out and was out of his element as a result. He was claimed by Rudy Rodriguez that day and figures to be a pace factor with a clean start.


Digital Footprint
One Mission

DIGITAL FOOTPRINT: Is bred up and down for grass and put forth a solid local drill on the training track’s turf course. He’s by Giant’s Causeway, out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare, and trained by Chad Brown, one of the best first-out turf trainers in the country; SEANOW: Didn’t do much running in his debut, but is bred to want every bit of this two-turn route. Improvement is logical at second asking, and one could do worse than trusting the Pletcher/Velazquez tandem; ONE MISSION: Merits a look at a big price. He broke terribly in his debut, but adds blinkers and distance for Bill Mott, whose horses often get better with experience.


Awesome Slew
Wonderful Light
Behavioral Bias

AWESOME SLEW: Has been chasing some of the top one-turn horses in the country and merits respect in this loaded allowance event. The seven-furlong trip should hit him right between the eyes, and there should be plenty of pace for him to rate behind; WONDERFUL LIGHT: Just missed in a similarly strong allowance at Belmont, where he beat graded stakes winner Stallwalkin’ Dude (among others). He’s never missed the board in seven lifetime starts, and Franco’s piloted him to two of his three wins; BEHAVIORAL BIAS: Has finished in the money in 10 of 11 starts and broke his maiden here last summer. He was beaten less than two lengths in the Grade 3 Commonwealth and adds blinkers for a barn hitting at 29% this year.


Gentle Ruler
Plans to Prosper

WINDJAMMER: Is a pace play in a wide-open turf event where I’d suggest hitting the “ALL” button in multi-race exotics wagers. The slight cutback in distance should help her, and I’m hoping she gets brave on the front end; GENTLE RULER: May have bounced a bit last time out off a big effort two back in what was her first start in almost six months. If she repeats the two-back effort (where she was narrowly beaten by two next-out winners), she could provide some value; PLANS TO PROSPER: Was beaten less than a length at this level last time out and gets a positive rider switch to John Velazquez. I’m not sure about the horses she faced that day, but she could improve given the new jockey and a return to a two-turn route of ground.


Shape Shifter
Our Girl Abby
Tee Up

SHAPE SHIFTER: Raced greenly last time out at Laurel Park, but was a runaway winner two and three back in her first two dirt starts. A return to that form would make her tough to beat, especially given the class drop; OUR GIRL ABBY: Responded to the drop in class with a runaway win last time out at Gulfstream Park. She was claimed by Danny Gargan that day, and while she does take a step up, it’s possible she may have finally found the appropriate level; TEE UP: Hasn’t won in a while, but showed improvement in her last two outings, when she was second against similar foes downstate. She should be prominent early, and could hold on for a share at a price.


Fed Fever

NITROUS: Did everything but win first time out at Churchill Downs, when he was beaten a neck and topped the third-place finisher by more than five lengths. A repeat of that race will make him tough, and we may get an acceptable price given the large field; COAST: Merits a look if he draws in off the AE list. He fetched $500,000 at auction earlier this year and has worked well for Todd Pletcher, but needs a scratch to make his debut in this spot; FED FEVER: Has worked well of late for George Weaver, whose barn is quietly one of the best on the circuit with first-time starters.


Call Provision
Hello Don Julio
Patterson Cross

CALL PROVISION: Always seems to fire a big shot and did not disgrace himself when fourth in a pair of graded events earlier this year. He figures to get a pace to run at, and it helps that he’s won twice over this turf course; HELLO DON JULIO: Seems like the main speed in here, and is another that’s been running against some very strong turf horses. A repeat of his win here last August would make him a major player; PATTERSON CROSS: Looks much more formidable if you toss the Mac Diarmida effort, which was his first outing in more than 11 months. Draw a line through that race, and you have a runner that hasn’t run poorly since late-2016, one that could come flying late.


First Appeal
Really Proud
Battle Joined

FIRST APPEAL: Ran well here three times last summer, notching two wins and a third-place finish in 24 days. Horses that are proven to love this route of ground always get extra consideration, and she’ll be tough if she can channel that form in this turf sprint; REALLY PROUD: Ran well two back in a listed stakes race, but may have moved too early last time out at Belmont. The slight cutback should help her, and she could sit a perfect stalking trip; BATTLE JOINED: Put it all together last time out in winning a swiftly-run maiden race. A similar effort would make her competitive here, but she must work out a trip from a far outside post.


Whiskey Echo

SOMBEYAY: Has had gate issues, but is less than a length away from being 2-for-2 heading into this year’s Sanford. The rail draw is less than ideal for a horse that’s found trouble this often, but it sure seems like there’s lots of talent here; WHISKEY ECHO: Won like a 1/2 shot should in his debut and gets Lasix for the first time here. His July 9th workout was sharp, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., staying aboard is a plus; LEXITONIAN: Was professional in his debut, which he won by a length after rating just off the pace. He may be the less-fancied of Todd Pletcher’s runners, but he could still win with a logical step forward.


A Raving Beauty
Proctor’s Ledge

SISTERCHARLIE: Spotted the leader nearly 30 lengths in the Grade 2 New York, but still nearly managed to get home first. Her effort two back in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley was sensational, and she’ll be tough to beat with that kind of performance; A RAVING BEAUTY: Is 2 for 2 since coming to America and won the Grade 1 Just A Game last time out. This is her first try going two turns since coming across the pond, but nothing says she can’t get that trip; PROCTOR’S LEDGE: Loves Saratoga and merits respect based on the races she ran here a season ago. She won the Grade 2 Lake Placid and Grade 3 Lake George, and she was less than a length behind my second selection last time out.


Monster Bea
Team Colors

HIEROGLYPHICS: Won here twice last summer, including when he took a $100,000 stakes race over some very solid runners. He hasn’t won since and takes a big class drop to run for a $50,000 tag, which could wake him up in a big way; MONSTER BEA: Hasn’t won in a long time, but has chased graded stakes-caliber horses for most of that stretch. He’s another for whom this race represents a drop in class; TEAM COLORS: Beat similar competition last time out at Belmont in his first start for Jimmy Jerkens. A repeat of that effort could win, but navigating a trip from the 11-hole on this turf course is no easy task.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 7/20/18

BANKROLL: $1,000

Before we kick things off, I ask for a small favor: Take some time today to think about the friends and families of Mike Jarboe, Matt Graves, and Manny Ycaza, all of whom we’ve lost since last year’s closing day card. All three men loved Saratoga, and they’d have loved to be here on opening day.

Now, a quick introduction for those who are unfamiliar: In addition to the pick box, I’ll do a daily bankroll section with a few paragraphs of commentary and plays for the day. If you’ve got a question, a comment, or something you’d like to see me address here, tweet me at @AndrewChampagne. Finally, if you want to follow me all meet long, content will be posted to 36 hours or so in advance of each card.

FRIDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the third race, which houses my best bet of the day. That’s #6 MONTELEONE, who takes a sizable class drop and has run well against much better competition. I’ll put $10 on him to win, and also key him in $2 doubles that start and end there. Those doubles use #1 TOO FOOFOO FOR YOU, #4 DRYNACHAN, and #9 MIKE’S GIRL in the second, and #4 DOMINANT STRATEGY, #6 AZZEDINE, and #9 TERYN IT UP in the fourth.



Best Bet: Monteleone, Race 3
Longshot: Fightress, Race 8


Bad Student
Nobody Move
Halloween Horror

BAD STUDENT: May not have liked the quirky surface at Parx last time out, when he sat close to a solid pace and faded late. He showed strong two-turn form earlier this year at Oaklawn and should be prominent early; NOBODY MOVE: Showed a new dimension last time out when wiring the field at Belmont Park. A repeat of that effort would make him very competitive in this spot, though such a picture-perfect trip is unlikely; HALLOWEEN HORROR: Merits a look in the exotics at a price. His dirt race here last summer was OK, and he drops way down in class after running against much better company in his last three starts.


Too Foofoo for You
Mike’s Girl

DRYNACHAN: Has a stellar turf pedigree and is working well ahead of her debut for the formidable Chad Brown barn. If she runs to her works, she could be tough in her unveiling; TOO FOOFOO FOR YOU: Was second behind a next-out winner last month downstate. That early speed could make her the one to catch, although the rail draw is less than ideal; MIKE’S GIRL: Is by Scat Daddy and out of a mare that has produced a pair of winners. She’s worked well for a trainer that doesn’t always show off his runners’ talents in the mornings.


Fortythreeoeight N
Sicilia Mike

MONTELEONE: Lost all chance at the break last time out, so it’s easy to draw a line through that race. He hit the board in four straight starter allowance events before that and drops down in class significantly for aggressive connections; FORTYTHREEOEIGHT N: Comes back to the dirt second off the claim by Chris Englehart. His dirt races at Tampa this past winter were OK, and he could sit a perfect stalking trip at a nice price; SICILIA MIKE: Has made a heck of a living despite a 1 for 25 career mark to this point, with 10 seconds and five thirds to his credit. With a mark like that, it’s foolish to ignore him in vertical wagers.


Teryn It Up
Dominant Strategy

AZZEDINE: Has run second three times in four tries against maiden special weight foes and drops in for a tag for the first time. Javier Castellano climbs aboard for Chad Brown, whose numbers with similar droppers are astounding; TERYN IT UP: Adds blinkers on the drop in class for Brian Lynch and exits a swiftly-run maiden special weight at Belmont Park. It helps that John Velazquez rides back, and he figures to be in the mix early; DOMINANT STRATEGY: Comes to the turf and drops down in class in an attempt to wake up this $520,000 auction purchase. His turf work a few days ago was sharp, and he’s shown some zip in his prior efforts.


Wild Type
Lyrical Lady
Pletcher entry

WILD TYPE: Didn’t break well in her debut last month but has worked lights-out since then. Improvement is logical at second asking for a barn that’s hitting at a 28% clip with second-out maidens; LYRICAL LADY: Fetched $625,000 at auction earlier this year and has some strong gate drills on her tab. Her dam was Grade 3-placed at two, so precocity runs in the family; PLETCHER ENTRY: Blahnik and also-eligible Always Shopping can’t be ignored, but they’re both bred to go much longer than this 5 ½-furlong distance.


Miss Mimosa
Palladian Bridge

MISS MIMOSA: Bounced back last time out with a close-up second at Belmont Park. The last two workouts show she could be coming into this event in peak form for a barn whose horses tend to get better as they go along; CYPRIANA: Ran a good second in a six-furlong event last month. A repeat of that effort would give her a big shot, but that clunker two back still presents some questions; PALLADIAN BRIDGE: Likely needed her last race, which was her first outing since February. Before that, she had a productive winter, winning twice and running second in a stakes race, and she could provide some exotics value given her last-out performance.


Hollywood Cat

HOLLYWOOD CAT: Merits a big chance for one of the hottest barns in the country if she draws in off the AE list. She was third in a stakes race here last summer, and there should be plenty of pace for her to rate behind; CUMBRIA: Hasn’t done much wrong since being switched to the turf three back. She hasn’t been worse than third since then, and she may get first run at the early leaders when the real running starts; DANCINGWITHPAYNTER: Will likely be a big price, but if you toss the two-back effort (her first start off a layoff), she hasn’t run a bad race in four starts on turf. She’s shown some flexibility, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she got a piece of it.


Tapping Pearl

FIGHTRESS: Splashed home to a win in her debut at Churchill Downs, but the real draws here are the two workouts since that win. It certainly appears that she’s moved forward of late, and we’ll almost certainly get a nice price; TAPPING PEARL: Went wire-to-wire in her debut and boasts a strong local workout ahead of this event. She may want to go a bit longer given her pedigree, but unlike others in here, she’s not stretching out at all, which could help; CATHERINETHEGREAT: Romped by more than 10 lengths last time out, but that was at Gulfstream Park, over a sloppy track, and against a suspect field. That last-out Beyer Speed Figure (80) is lofty, but I’m skeptical she can reproduce such an effort, and she may need to in what appears to be a wide-open renewal of the Schuylerville.


Daddy Is a Legend

DADDY IS A LEGEND: Has been chasing some of the top 3-year-old turf fillies so far this year and is one of many in here that was victimized by a very slow early pace in the Grade 3 Wonder Again. This seems like a softer spot, and she’s shown she can be closer to the pace if need be; PUNKED: Was second in the Wild Applause Stakes downstate and is one of two Chad Brown trainees in the field. The rail draw and relative lack of pace in the race could mean she’s up close early on; ALTEA: Merits respect because of her connections, but is winless in North America and has only won once in eight career starts. The addition of blinkers is noteworthy, but she may need to be up closer to the pace early than she has been of late.


County Court

COUNTY COURT: Takes a big drop in running for a tag for the first time after being victimized by two slow early paces in a row downstate. There’s some speed signed on here, and that plus the class relief makes this one formidable; PROGNOSTICATION: Has never missed the board in five career turf starts, but also hasn’t run since October and drew a dreadful post position. He’s got a few strong recent works, though, and he could be good enough to win if he’s ready; LUSITANO: Is another dropping in class, and he may benefit from a return to a two-turn route of ground. His two races earlier this year at Tampa were solid, and the presence of Javier Castellano is certainly a plus.

CHAMPAGNE’S CAMPAIGNS: The Hall of Fame Cases of Lady Eli and Shared Belief

This past week, I put together a four-way poll on my Twitter page. I’d felt a desire to do some historical legacy-type pieces, so I asked about horses you, the reader, whose Hall of Fame credentials you’d want analyzed.

Naturally, instead of having a clear-cut winner, we had a tie. Rather than wuss out and pick only one (or do a run-off and be subject to yet another tie and/or shenanigans akin to what happens in some countries’ presidential elections!), I’ve decided to combine both opinions in this column, one that I hope gets people thinking and/or talking.


Okay, here’s the first unpopular opinion of the column, and it centers around the fact that Lady Eli is one of the most popular horses of the past decade for reasons that have little to do with her talent on the racetrack. She stepped on a nail coming back from her scintillating performance in the 2015 Belmont Oaks and eventually contracted laminitis. Of course, she conquered that and came back to the races, where she would win four of her final eight starts (including three Grade 1 events at as many venues).

Get the pitchforks ready: When it comes to Hall of Fame consideration, I don’t care about anything except what a horse does within the confines of its arena. Yes, Lady Eli’s story is a phenomenal one, and credit must be given to the people around her (owner Sol Kumin, trainer Chad Brown, and Brown’s staff). With one exception (which carries a logical excuse), she showed up every single time, even after coming down with a condition that can be fatal. All of that is fantastic, but my Hall of Fame ballot has very little to do with emotion, and very much to do with what a horse accomplishes in its career on the track.

In using the oft-quoted Bill Parcells philosophy, “you are what your record says you are,” here’s what we’ve got as it pertains to Lady Eli.

Record: 14-10-3-0
Earnings: $2,959,800
Stakes Wins (Grade 1 Wins): Nine (Five)
Breeders’ Cup Wins (Appearances): One (Three)

What we have here is a really strong resume, though one that is not without its flaws. First, the good: After breaking her maiden first time out, she raced exclusively in stakes company. She recorded Grade 1 wins in four different seasons, in an era where the most promising horses in the game sometimes struggle to finish a second year of competition. I put a pretty heavy emphasis on longevity and consistency when looking at the horses on the annual ballot, and she checks those boxes emphatically.

Her Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf win was electric, and she nearly added a second such victory when falling by a nose two years later in the Filly and Mare Turf. Her lone clunker came in her final career start, but a reason for the poor effort was evident right away, as she suffered an ugly (though far from life-threatening) injury in last year’s Filly and Mare Turf at Del Mar.

Now, the bad points: Turf horses, by nature, are up against it when it comes to Hall of Fame consideration. There’s a long-held stigma that dirt horses are superior to turf horses, and because of that, some of the best turf horses we’ve seen have to wait a while before being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Lure, for instance, wasn’t enshrined until 20 years after completing a career that included two wins in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. For better or for worse, this hurts Lady Eli.

Additionally, her lack of a race against males is not ideal. Turf mares like Miesque, Goldikova, and even Tepin had multiple wins over the boys on big stages (Miesque and Goldikova are both Hall of Famers, while Tepin will likely get in at some point). None of Lady Eli’s 14 outings came against males, and while such a race isn’t necessary in determining her talent, it would’ve gone a long way at a point where voters are instructed, perhaps even encouraged, to nitpick. If she wins, say, the Grade 1 Fourstardave in 2017 instead of that summer’s Grade 2 Ballston Spa over fillies and mares, or even runs well in defeat in the former race, I don’t think there’s nearly as much question about her eventual Hall of Fame viability.

Ultimately, the question is this: If you take away the phenomenal, made-for-Hollywood story behind Lady Eli’s physical ailments and her recovery, is her on-track resume enough to enshrine her in Saratoga? There will undoubtedly be some that feel her credentials aren’t solid enough, or that she didn’t shine quite as brightly as Tepin (who Lady Eli somehow never ran against, in an oversight of epic proportions by racing offices with high-level, eight to nine-furlong turf races for older fillies and mares at their tracks!).

After minimizing the emotional element, perhaps she’s not a slam-dunk…but I think she did enough to merit induction. I simply cannot ignore a Breeders’ Cup winner that boasts four straight seasons with at least one Grade 1 victory, even if she may not have run against some of the top turf horses of her era.



Before we cannonball into the deep water, here’s a look at Shared Belief’s career, nutshelled in the same way Lady Eli’s was earlier in this column.

Record: 12-10-0-0
Earnings: $2,932,200
Stakes Wins (Grade 1 Wins): Eight (Five)
Breeders’ Cup Wins (Appearances): None (One)

And now we get to the tough part. The discussion of Shared Belief’s career has to start with the antics that happened at the start of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Shared Belief had skipped the Triple Crown due to setbacks at the start of the year, but the son of Candy Ride came back with a vengeance, reeling off four straight wins to come into the Classic undefeated.

Many anticipated a showdown with dual classic winner (and future Hall of Famer) California Chrome. Unfortunately for racing fans, the 3-year-old Shared Belief had to worry about the most was Bayern, who took a hard left turn out of the gate and sent horses inside of him (including Shared Belief) pinballing into one another. When the dust settled, Bayern was left alone on the lead and held off Toast of New York and California Chrome, with Shared Belief left spinning his wheels in fourth.

Shared Belief rebounded from his first career defeat with three straight victories, each more impressive than the one before it. After a workmanlike win in the Grade 1 Malibu, he beat California Chrome on the square in the Grade 2 San Antonio before putting forth one of recent racing history’s most underappreciated brilliant performances in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap.

Think about all of the talent that was on the racetrack in early-2015. American Pharoah would win the Triple Crown. Beholder would destroy the boys in the Pacific Classic. California Chrome was headed to Dubai (followed by a planned start at Royal Ascot), and Bayern was still kicking around in Bob Baffert’s barn. Following the Santa Anita Handicap, though, you’d be hard-pressed to say that any of those horses, on their best days, would’ve been able to beat the Shared Belief that waltzed home in 2:00 and change and seemed capable of so much more.

Alas, fate intervened. In addition to star-crossed California Chrome getting sent to the sidelines, Shared Belief would race just once more. He did not finish the Charles Town Classic after suffering a minor injury that could’ve been much worse if not for the expert skills of Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who pulled him up immediately. Shared Belief was sent to Washington for rehabilitation, and a return was planned, but he suffered an attack of colic in December and was euthanized.

What I’m about to say may seem like a weird tangent, but go with it. I’m a big fan of Bill Simmons’s magnum opus, “The Book of Basketball.” In it, he refers to a theory that applies to a number of players that bordered on greatness, but could’ve been even greater. It goes something like this: If we’d had the ability to simulate a career 10 times, what we got was the worst possible outcome. Athletes that could’ve been great were hampered by injuries, or bad situations, or by things completely outside their control, and if some celestial force were to come and offer a one-time “do-over” as it pertained to one such career, we’d take it without a second thought.

That theory can more than adequately be applied to the career of Shared Belief. He showed brilliance as a 2-year-old, but did not contest the Triple Crown. When he came back, he routed older horses in a pair of Grade 1 races before the Classic, where a series of events produced more outrage than just about any other imaginable scenario (try to think of one that would’ve made people angrier and doesn’t include the words “sniper on the roof;” don’t worry, I’ll wait). After the Classic, he won three times, but was injured in his final career start and never got a chance to come back.

There’s an alternate universe where Shared Belief and California Chrome race each other multiple times at ages three, four, and five. Shared Belief wins a few. California Chrome wins a few. Horse racing gets a rivalry the likes of which it hasn’t seen since the days of Skip Away, Formal Gold, and Wills Way, with longtime horsemen and friends Jerry Hollendorfer and Art Sherman at the forefront, playfully uttering one-liners at each other like, “Well, if I don’t win, I hope you don’t, either.” Add in a rotating cast that includes the likes of Beholder, and perhaps even Arrogate near the end, and how exciting do some Saturdays become?

Feel cheated by the racing gods yet? I know I do. The fact is that there’s absolutely no telling how good Shared Belief could have been. He could’ve been the dirt version of Wise Dan, running his competition into the ground for years due to his status as a gelding rather than a full horse. Instead, he was a comet streaking across the sky, imperfect but undeniably memorable in a way many very talented horses of recent years are not.

Is he a Hall of Famer? That’s about the toughest question the nominating committee will be faced with in a few years, and I’m pretty happy I don’t have to make the decision. At his peak, he may have been the best horse in the world. However, I don’t think he had the opportunity to do as much with his talent as he should have. This is not his fault, nor the fault of those around him. Circumstances conspired to give us the unluckiest possible outcomes with regard to Shared Belief, all the way down to his early passing.

Will I protest if Shared Belief is eventually enshrined in Saratoga? No. Horses without his immense ability have been voted in before, and they’ll be voted in in the future. However, based solely on what he achieved on the track as compared to similar horses from his era, he likely won’t be on my ballot.


ANALYSIS, SELECTIONS, AND TICKETS: Stars and Stripes Day, Belmont Park (7/7/18)

Saturday is Stars and Stripes Day at Belmont Park, and it marks the beginning of the end of Belmont’s spring-summer meet. Some of the best horses on the grounds will be in action, and several stakes races drew shippers from as far away as Europe. I’ve got several multi-race tickets, and there’s a chance we’ll be able to build a nice stake ahead of the upcoming Saratoga meet. Let’s get to it!

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 4
R2: 2,5,6,7,9
R3: 8
R4: 1,3,5,6
R5: 5,6,7,8

80 Bets, $40

This ticket is built around a pair of horses that will likely be consensus singles. However, if we can get a price or two home around them, this could return a healthy sum.

The first single comes in the opener, a maiden race for 2-year-olds. That’s #4 SOCIAL PARANOIA, the lone entrant in this field with experience. He was a close-up second last time out behind Fully Loaded, who came back to win an allowance event Friday at Gulfstream Park. Any improvement off of his debut would make the 6/5 morning line favorite tough to beat.

The second race is an optional claimer that could double as a minor stakes race almost anywhere else in the country. #6 BREAKING THE RULES is the tepid morning line favorite, but he’s no cinch, and there are a few mid-level prices with big shots. #2 LIFE IN SHAMBLES ran against some tough competition at Aqueduct last winter, while #9 STREET VISION is 2 for 2 since being claimed by David Jacobson. I think both are must-uses in what strikes me as a fascinating event.

The third race, however, seems much more clear-cut. #8 AMERICAN GURU will likely be a heavy favorite, and for good reason. He’s a nose away from being undefeated, and based on the numbers, he’d have to regress pretty significantly off of his last two starts for the others to have a shot.

The fourth is a turf route contested at the 10-furlong route we’ll see in two Grade 1 races later on in the program. #5 RED KNIGHT seems logical, but all of his wins came against state-breds, so I can’t simply single him and move on. A horse that intrigues me at a bit of a price is #1 COUNTY COURT, who won impressively two back before rating in a paceless event in May. A return to the two-back form would make him a contender, and at 6-1 on the morning line, he could knock out plenty of tickets.

The payoff leg is a tricky allowance race, and you’ll want to go as deep as you can. #6 NIGEL’S DESTINY is the morning line favorite, but steps up in class off of a win over a weak field. I’ll use him, but I prefer #8 MR. DOUGIE FRESH, who was a close-up second in a fast race for the level last time out. Additionally, #7 FALLINGINLOVEAGAIN is worth a look at a big price. He won first time out (albeit against weaker foes), has been working well since coming to New York, and attracts Javier Castellano.

$0.50 Pick Five/Pick Four: Race #6/#7

R6: 3,6
– – –
R7: 1,2,4
R8: 1,3,4,5,6,10
R9: 8
R10: 3,4,7

108/54 Bets, $54/$27

There’s no lag time, as we end one Pick Five before quickly starting another. Important note: The Pick Five is only available through one ADW website. If you prefer to play a Pick Four, simply act as though the sixth-race selections don’t exist (which chops the ticket price in half).

The sixth race is the Grade 3 Dwyer, and I’m not getting cute. #6 MENDELSSOHN is my top pick, as I simply think the Kentucky Derby is an absolute throw-out. He was eliminated at the start, and he will be tough if he breaks cleanly here. I’ll also use #3 RUGBYMAN, who adds blinkers after a tough beat in the Easy Goer on Belmont Stakes Day.

The seventh is the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship. #1 LIMOUSINE LIBERAL and #2 WHITMORE are world-class sprinters, but the horse to bet may be #4 SHAFT OF LIGHT, who cuts back after a tough beat in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile. For such a high-profile sprint, there isn’t much early speed signed on. If Shaft of Light gets out early, he could be tough to catch when the real running starts.

The eighth is the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks, and this struck me as the best betting race on the card. You’ll get a price on whatever horse(s) you like, and I felt the need to go deep. The longshot of the group is #3 PAVED, who’s 12-1 on the morning line but runs like a horse that will appreciate the 10-furlong distance. She’s got enough tactical speed to not be too far back early, and if she shows the late kick she displayed in the Grade 2 Honeymoon, she’ll have a big shot.

My single comes in the ninth, the Grade 2 Suburban. Bob Baffert has two in here, but while #5 DR. DORR is the morning line favorite, I prefer #8 HOPPERTUNITY, who’s 2 for 2 at Belmont and won the 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup at this route of ground. His lone loss this season came over a speed-favoring track in the Grade 2 Alysheba, and even if he’s lost a step at age 7, I think he’s the horse to beat if he fires his best shot. He’s 9/2 on the morning line, and I’m hoping we get that price.

The payoff leg is the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, and I’m going three-deep. #7 CATHOLIC BOY and #3 ANALYZE IT finished 1-2 in the local prep for this race, and both could win, but European shipper #4 HUNTING HORN looks very dangerous. He’s improved with every start to this point in his career, and his recent Group 3 win was incredibly impressive. I’m always partial to European shippers adding Lasix, as he does, and I need to have him on my tickets.