SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/22/21)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $1,029

Marcus Vitali is running a horse Thursday at Saratoga. If you don’t know that name, Google it and read articles about him in outlets such as The Paulick Report. In particular, I would urge you to read about his activities at Delaware Park, where he once fled his barn on foot with suspected contraband in hand after track security showed up to conduct a search.

Last year, it was reported that Wayne Potts was acting as a “program trainer” for Vitali in Maryland shortly before a Potts trainee won a stakes race at Saratoga. Instead of being proactive, the New York Racing Association made no meaningful public statements and took no meaningful public actions. The presence of a Vitali-trained horse at Saratoga is a result of these unforced errors, and it’s an embarrassment, for lack of a better term.

NYRA: Do better, and don’t tell us your hands are tied. There’s a certain white-haired trainer you’ve recently attempted to block from the entry box for out-of-state behavior, and you could’ve done exactly the same thing here.

WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: Amistad didn’t seem like he took to the yielding turf course and was off the board in the seventh. After scratches, we dropped $26.

THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’m focusing on the late double and playing $3 tickets starting in the ninth. #3 ICE PRINCESS hits me as a beatable favorite in the first leg, and I’ll use #1 STOP SHOPPIN TAMMY/#1A PLAYED HARD and #5 PORTILLA with #2 ORMA, #9 SASSY BELLE, and #12 STELLA MARS in the nightcap. I’ll also put $2 across the board on Sassy Belle, who’s 30-1 on the morning line. If she runs well at a big price and I don’t make money, I’ll be pretty upset.

TOTAL WAGERED: $24.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Expand the Map, Race 5
Longshot: Sassy Belle, Race 10

R1

Galway Kid
Redicean
Gibralfaro

#5 GALWAY KID: Was eased against some of the best jump horses in America in the Grade 1 Iroquois, and I can’t hold that against him. He chased Snap Decision twice here last summer, and a repeat of his Group 3 score two back would give him a big shot; #4 REDICEAN: Earned minor awards in a pair of Grade 1 races here last summer and won a restricted stakes here back in 2019. He hasn’t won in a while and he’s the top weight here, but his best is certainly good enough; #6 GIBRALFARO: Is another without a recent win to his credit, but he just missed behind my top pick last time out. The presence of a 31% pilot is noteworthy, and Hall of Fame-bound conditioner Jack Fisher must be respected.

R2

Wicked Mad
Recidivist
Pregame

#3 WICKED MAD: Looks best of a mediocre bunch in the first flat race of the day. He mildly rallied last time out in his first start for a tag, adds blinkers in this spot, and at least his form seems like it’s trending upward; #7 RECIDIVIST: Makes his first start for Kelly Breen, whose horses have been running well in the early part of the meet. He showed speed against a better group in the spring at Keeneland, and that day’s winner came right back to win again; #6 PREGAME: Goes back to the dirt and drops in for a tag for the first time. His three-back effort at Keeneland was fine, and this barn has done well with similar droppers in the recent past.

R3

Rice entry
Potts entry
Persian Queen

RICE ENTRY: It’s likely only one will run, but either half can win. I prefer #2B FOREVER CHANGED, who has a significant amount of back class and was third in last year’s Union Avenue against far better horses at this route of ground; POTTS ENTRY: #1A VIOLENT TRICK was a close-up second earlier in the meet and would be wheeled back in less than a week. She hasn’t won in a while, but her tactical speed would be an asset against this group; #5 PERSIAN QUEEN: Hasn’t won in nearly a year but is worth a long look. She’s run well in two starts since a brief freshening, two of her three wins have come over this surface, and she’s shown an ability to pass other horses late. If there’s a meltdown, she could come running at a nice price.

R4

Dancing Kiki
Tenderness
Red Venus

#2 DANCING KIKI: Gets a tepid nod in a race I’m not excited about in the slightest. She takes a big drop back into the claiming ranks, and her form looks far better if you solely consider her races over fast dirt tracks; #5 TENDERNESS: Hasn’t run a bad one in her last four starts and just missed downstate. Wayne Potts does well with new acquisitions, and her flexible running style should give David Cohen plenty of options; #4 RED VENUS: Wouldn’t be a surprise based on numbers she’s run elsewhere. Still, it’s tough to be excited about Marcus Vitali being allowed to run here given his long record of violations and run-ins with regulating bodies in other states.

R5

Expand the Map
Gal in a Rush (MTO)
Pizza Bianca

#4 EXPAND THE MAP: Has strong European turf breeding on top and bottom and looms large in her debut for the Chad Brown barn. She sold for more than $313,000 at auction late last year and sure looks like the one to beat; #10 PIZZA BIANCA: Hasn’t worked particularly fast leading up to her unveiling but has the pedigree to be any kind. The Bobby Flay homebred is out of a Galileo mare, who herself is a half-sister to Epsom Derby winner and sire Pour Moi; #2 BALI BELLE: Is the “other” Christophe Clement trainee making her debut in this spot. She’s by young sire Bal a Bali, who did his best work on turf, and the bottom-side pedigree boasts a number of nice horses as well.

R6

Derrynane
Rooski
Enjoy Summer

#3 DERRYNANE: Boasts a strong recent gate work and has the pedigree to be a runner. Dam Portmagee was a stakes-winning turfer, and Joel Rosario sees fit to ride for Clement when he almost certainly had some options; #9 ROOSKI: Debuts for Jeremiah Englehart and sure looks like a turf horse. She’s by Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Tourist and out of a Freud mare that’s already thrown a pair of multiple winners; #6 ENJOY SUMMER: Is by Kitten’s Joy and out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, so it’s not surprising to see her show up on the lawn. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because I think she may want two turns given that pedigree.

R7

Chloe Rose
Red Pepper Grill
Quantitativbreezin

#10 CHLOE ROSE: Comes back to the right level and surface after showing speed on the turf against more expensive claimers last time out. She’s never run a bad race sprinting on dirt, and Javier Castellano got to know her a bit when riding her to a third-place finish two back at Belmont; #7 RED PEPPER GRILL: Is another going back down the ladder after trying tougher competition. Her form looks far better if you only consider the one-turn dirt races, and she’d benefit from a fast pace that would set things up for a closer; #6 QUANTITATIVBREEZIN: Goes turf to dirt for the Brad Cox barn, which popped with three of its first five runners at this stand. She wouldn’t shock me, but her lone win came in an off-the-turf event. I just don’t think she beat much there, and I can’t endorse her on top at her likely price.

R8

Lovely Lucky
Mia Martina
Cat’s Pajamas

#5 LOVELY LUCKY: Drops in after three tries against graded stakes company, and her best effort against those types came at this route, when she was fourth in the Grade 2 Glens Falls last summer. She’s been off since January, but anything close to her best would make her tough; #6 MIA MARTINA: Stretches out to a marathon distance for the first time, but is another getting some class relief. She started off her career with two wins in Florida before four straight runs in stakes races, and the shallower waters could be to her liking; #2 CAT’S PAJAMAS: Is another stretching out to a long distance and does so after two second-place finishes on the mid-Atlantic circuit. This barn must be respected, however, and perhaps this trip will allow her to find the form she showed last spring and summer.

R9

Bauer entry
Portilla
Ice Princess

BAUER ENTRY: #1A PLAYED HARD has shown plenty of talent and put it all together in her first start going two turns last month. This type of route may be what she’s always wanted to do, and it’s encouraging to see Tyler Gaffalione aboard once again; #5 PORTILLA: Won her debut in April and didn’t run poorly in her first start against winners. This is her first try going two turns, and her recent local drill hints that she’s doing well following the trip to upstate New York; #3 ICE PRINCESS: Isn’t the worst favorite in the world and has seven top-two finishes in 11 career starts. However, she’s winless going two turns, and while she ran second in two stakes races last season, she also ran second twice at Aqueduct in races where she didn’t have many excuses. I simply need more value than I’m likely to get here.

R10

Orma
Stella Mars
Sassy Belle

#2 ORMA: Gets a big rider switch to Luis Saez for this wide-open finale. Her last-out effort downstate saw her move a bit early, and between the shorter distance, the top jockey, and the barn she comes from, I think there’s plenty to like; #12 STELLA MARS: Draws a terrible post but may well be talented enough to overcome it. Her turf sprints are solid and she nearly won when second against similar off of a four-month layoff at Belmont; #9 SASSY BELLE: Will be a big price, but she was just 7-1 in her debut last summer, when she was pulled up and vanned off. She’ll run with Lasix here, her 329 turf Tomlinson figure is solid, and there are some workouts hinting that she can run. Perhaps a win is a bit too much to ask, but I wouldn’t be shocked if she hits the board at a gigantic price.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/21/21)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $1,055

One bit of advice to any kids/struggling adults who read this: Bet on yourselves. You’ll win far more than you lose.

Five years ago, AndrewChampagne.com was born after one person at my then-employer told me, in no uncertain terms, that my handicapping contributions were not appreciated. Since then, it’s provided an outlet for me to write anything from analysis to satire, including an epic, 50-pronged clap-back at a bloodstock agent who thought he could push me around and was proven wrong very quickly (hi, Bradley).

Through four racing days, with no publicity other than my social media and plugs in this space, my little site got nearly 2,000 hits. Sustaining that clip would crush all records for Saratoga, and I’m grateful to all of you for reading my stuff and supporting me each year. Let’s see if we can keep this good start going!

SUNDAY’S RESULTS: We were washed out of our $27 late Pick Four ticket when the Coronation Cup was moved off the turf. Remember, all wagers in this space assume races carded for the lawn stay there.

WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: The back half of the card excites me more than the front, so we’ll focus on the seventh. I think #5 AMISTAD has a big chance at a square price, and I’ll start with a $10 win bet plus $2 exactas using that one above and below #4 JUSTINTIMEFORWINE, #7 ABSAM, and #9 PREFECT. Finally, I’ll single Amistad in $2 doubles that end with #4 ALPHALFA, #5 SWASHBUCKLE, #6 SHIRAZ, and #10 THREE OUTLAWS in the eighth.

TOTAL WAGERED: #30.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Brown entry, Race 3
Longshot: Amistad, Race 7

R1

The Mean Queen
Fast Car
Bodes Well

#3 THE MEAN QUEEN: Is 3-for-3 over fences and looms large in the first steeplechase race of the summer. Not only has she not lost in these races, she’s never truly been tested, and she’s a legitimate favorite; #4 FAST CAR: Almost certainly needed his return last month and won over fences here last summer. He was 3-1 in a race at this level in August when he was eased, and a return to his mid-2020 form would make him logical; #7 BODES WELL: Hasn’t won in quite a while but sure looks like the lone early speed in this race. He’s not without form, and he could lead them a long way at a nice price.

R2

Copa
Democratic Values
Frosted Indian

#6 COPA: Comes back into the claiming ranks after showing speed against far better horses going a mile at Churchill. He went wire-to-wire two back at Keeneland, and that sort of effort would make him tough to beat here; #4 DEMOCRATIC VALUES: Moves back to the dirt after a failed turf experiment last time. A throwback to his early-2021 form would make him a legitimate favorite, but it’s worth noting he’s winless away from Aqueduct; #3 FROSTED INDIAN: Goes back to the right level second off the claim for Linda rice and is better than he showed last time out against a classier group. His wins two and four back were pretty good, and while he probably needs to improve in order to win, it wouldn’t shock me if he hit the board at a nice number.

R3

Brown entry
Peacebethejourney
Evvie Jets

BROWN ENTRY: One of the meet’s top trainers seems to have this field surrounded. #1 COALITION BUILDING drops in for a tag and has run up against a number of next-out winners in the maiden special weight ranks, while #1A FEDERALIST PAPERS adds blinkers for her New York debut; #5 PEACEBETHEJOURNEY: Didn’t run poorly in her debut, when she was second and claimed by a solid outfit. The pedigree says she’ll stretch out, and improvement could be on the horizon at second asking; #9 EVVIE JETS: Gets Lasix for the first time second off the bench and was fourth behind a next-out winner in her first try since November. Javier Castellano sees fit to ride back for Tony Dutrow, and those two don’t team up much.

R4

Ready A. P.
Run Curtis Run
Coinage

#5 READY A. P.: Goes against the boys in the Rick Violette and strikes me as the one to beat. She was professional in her debut win, when she stormed home to win by more than eight lengths, and the recent July 15th workout jumps off the page; #1 RUN CURTIS RUN: Is one of two Mike Maker trainees in this field and overcame a bit of a slow start to win his debut. His recent bullet drill here was the fastest of 139 half-mile moves that morning, so it sure seems like he’s moving forward; #3 COINAGE: May very well go off favored given his pedigree, but I have my doubts. I simply don’t think he beat much last time, and he’ll likely be far too short a price for me to recommend. If he beats me, I’ll live with it.

R5

Raffinity
Gallina
Live in Five

#7 RAFFINITY: Takes a big drop in class and looms large in what looks like one of the weakest races you’ll see for this level. She was second last time out going a mile and a sixteenth downstate, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride back; #5 GALLINA: Responded to the drop to this level with a late-running second, and this barn is off to a strong start at this stand. Saez rides back, and she’d benefit from a faster-than-expected early pace; #4 LIVE IN FIVE: Makes her career debut here, and it certainly seems like she couldn’t have asked for a softer spot. She’s worked steadily downstate, and while this barn’s runners usually need a race, I just can’t see a reason to trust those who have run before other than the top two.

R6

Let’s Be Clear
Take the Backroads
G Money Liv

#6 LET’S BE CLEAR: Was 4/5 in her debut at Churchill and did everything but win, as her late rally came just a head short. She showed some maturity that day, and Brad Cox can certainly move second-time starters forward; #10 TAKE THE BACKROADS: Exits that same race and was third, just a neck back of the winner. The outside draw can be a real boon to younger horses, and if you like my top pick, you sort of have to pay attention to this one, too; #1 G MONEY LIV: Has been working very well ahead of her career unveiling and may be good enough to overcome the inside draw. Her works at Churchill Downs were consistently in the upper tier of times on those days, and Luis Saez landed here when he probably had several options.

R7

Prime Time Player (MTO)
Amistad
Absam

#5 AMISTAD: Ran well enough two starts ago to merit a long look at a big price. He was second against a similar group, didn’t have a great trip last time out, and will be reunited with top turf pilot Jose Lezcano for this event; #7 ABSAM: Runs for a claiming tag for the first time and wasn’t disgraced in a pair of tries against allowance foes at Churchill. I don’t think he beat a lot in his lone victory, but he’s run well enough often enough to be a legitimate favorite here; #4 JUSTINTIMEFORWINE: Has been caught multiple times going two turns, but gets a massive jockey switch and sure looks like the main speed. The inner turf course often rewards those with early zip, and it wouldn’t stun me if this one got comfortable up front going into the first turn.

R8

Shiraz
Three Outlaws
Alphalfa

#6 SHIRAZ: Returns to Saratoga and has run very well at this route several times. He broke from a tough post last time at Belmont, but draws a bit more favorably and should sit a perfect stalking trip; #10 THREE OUTLAWS: Hasn’t run a poor race since going to the Rob Atras barn in the spring, and he exits a strong second against similar company. The far outside post isn’t ideal, but he’s won here before and is certainly in good form; #4 ALPHALFA: Ships back to New York for this state-bred event after spending most of this season in Illinois and Indiana. Indiana’s races have gotten considerably tougher over the past few years, and he won one of them two back with a solid 79 Beyer Speed Figure.

R9

Forza Di Oro
Core Beliefs
Highest Honors

#2 FORZA DI ORO: Makes his 2021 debut off a long layoff and has flashed considerable talent. He won the Grade 3 Discovery back in November with a 101 Beyer Speed Figure and has been working steadily for Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott; #4 CORE BELIEFS: Has multiple graded stakes wins on his resume and goes second off the bench here. He was one-paced in his 2021 debut, but he had every right to need that tightener and exits a five-furlong bullet drill on July 14th; #3 HIGHEST HONORS: Stepped forward after a two-back clunker to cruise home in an optional claimer downstate. He’ll get support off of that race, especially given his connections, but I just don’t think he beat much in that race and I feel like he’ll be overbet.

R10

Generazio entry
Fast Gordon
Distractandattack

GENERAZIO ENTRY: I prefer #1 MOMMIE’S JEWEL, who goes second off the bench and ran well in his first start since August. I’m expecting a move forward here, especially since Jose Ortiz sees fit to ride back; #4 FAST GORDON: Came on late in a race without much early zip and finished just a length behind the winner. I’d be more enthusiastic about his chances had the runner-up run a more inspired race during the meet’s first week; #9 DISTRACTANDATTACK: Comes back to the turf, and you can draw a line through the last-out clunker over Belmont’s sloppy main track. His two and three-back efforts were competitive, and it certainly seems like he’ll be prominent early in what appears to be a wide-open finale.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/18/21)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $1,055

Every summer for the past few years, I’ve done handicapping seminars at the Alameda County Fair. It’s a beautiful place with wonderful people who are passionate about the game, and that fact isn’t lost on those who are well-known around the area.

On Saturday, for instance, I left the seminar and walked the length of the stretch to the paddock. There, in a white cowboy hat and a Hawaiian shirt, was Steve Coburn, the former co-owner of future Hall of Famer California Chrome. I introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes, and I’m happy to report he seems like a wonderful guy.

Side note: If you ever get the chance to go to a Northern California fair track, go without hesitation. The passion is infectious, and the people who work there bust their butts to provide a fun experience for fans.

SATURDAY’S RESULTS: My exactas didn’t cash, but my $20 cold double did. Chattalot won the fifth, Portfolio Company won the sixth, and I pocketed $140.

SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’m taking a stab at the late Pick Four, which starts in the seventh and ends with a horse that should be a very heavy favorite. My ticket reads as follows: 3,9 with 4,6,8 with ALL with 10. I’m against the 2-1 morning line favorite in the opening leg, and if we get a price home in the wide-open Coronation Cup, this could pay pretty well.

TOTAL WAGERED: $27

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Before You, Race 10
Longshot: Group Hug, Race 2

R1

Mischief Mogul
Silver Samurai
Doin’ittherightway

#5 MISCHIEF MOGUL: Debuts for Todd Pletcher and looks like a formidable favorite. He’s by top sire Into Mischief, boasts several solid half-mile drills, and doesn’t seem to be running up against the strongest group for the level; #3 SILVER SAMURAI: Showed some speed in his debut, when he finished second behind a runaway winner. Kelly Breen has enjoyed plenty of success with second-out maidens, and we know he’s got the zip to be prominent early; #4 DOIN’ITTHERIGHTWAY: Went extremely wide in his debut at Lone Star last month and has since moved to the Rob Atras barn. He shines with new acquisitions, and he may be talented enough to rally for a slice of it.

R2

Group Hug
Tallis
Charleston Strong

#7 GROUP HUG: Returns to the turf after several dirt outings and has shown he can handle the lawn. He was a good second in his lone turf start to date, and he won’t be out of place if this event gets moved to the main track, either; #5 TALLIS: Drops in for a tag for the first time in his turf debut, and he’s bred to like this surface. Dam Isabella Sings was a very strong turf horse, and he sports several solid moves on the Oklahoma track’s turf course; #2 CHARLESTON STRONG: Goes from a sprint to a route second off the layoff and also adds blinkers. This is a lot of moves to keep track of, and the drop in for a $75,000 tag is alarming since he sold for $600,000 back in 2019, but he ran well last time out and a step forward would give him a shot.

R3

Breakfastatbonnies (MTO)
Get the Candy
Jill’s a Hot Mess

#5 GET THE CANDY: Wired a field of maidens last time out and tries winners here. It’s entirely possible she bounces, but I also think Lasix may have moved her forward, and it’s encouraging that Saez sees fit to ride back; #3 JILL’S A HOT MESS: Faded to fourth against open claimers, and this state-bred race is probably a step down in class. Her win two starts back was solid, and a repeat of that effort gives her a chance at a price; #9 SNICKET: Finds trouble as often as any horse on the circuit, but has still hit the board in eight of 11 lifetime starts. Rosario rides for Clement, and perhaps the outside post will allow her the clean journey she needs to be a factor here.

R4

Misty Veal
High Fashion
Honor Hop

#2 MISTY VEAL: Just missed last time out at Churchill in her first start for the Tom Amoss barn. Her two dirt routes are the two best races of her career, and she should be prominent early beneath Irad Ortiz, Jr.; #4 HIGH FASHION: Rallied to be beaten just a neck in her first try against winners and may be coming to hand for one of the most patient horsemen around. She needs a pace to run at to be at her best, but she should get one here; #6 HONOR HOP: Won going long in the slop two back and returns to dirt after finishing fifth on turf last month. An off track shouldn’t faze her, and the presence of John Velazquez is noteworthy.

R5

Lil Stevie
Senbei
Cozzy’s Attitude

#5 LIL STEVIE: Ships up from Maryland for a high-percentage barn and is bred to be a good one. He’s a full sibling to two other runners, and both of them have won multiple times. Irad Ortiz, Jr., signing on to ride sure seems like it signals positive intent; #1 SENBEI: Hammered for $280,000 in January of 2020 and comes in off a strong half-mile gate work on July 1st. The rail draw isn’t ideal, but if this son of Candy Ride runs to the pedigree, he’ll have a big chance; #6 COZZY’S ATTITUDE: Has fired back-to-back bullets downstate ahead of his unveiling, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s got talent. However, this barn’s runners tend to need a race or two to get going. Watch the tote board carefully after the fourth race goes official.

R6

Free Enterprise (MTO)
Summer to Remember
Blue Lou Boyle

#9 SUMMER TO REMEMBER: Runs in a straight claiming race for the first time and looms large as the one to beat. He ran third in three stakes races a season ago, and based on figures, he’s going to be formidable if this stays on the lawn; #3 BLUE LOU BOYLE: Won two in a row this spring and will look to make it three straight here. He showed a new dimension when rallying from way back last time out, and Rosario sees fit to ride back for Mark Casse; #8 HANDY: Hasn’t run a bad race since being claimed by Robertino Diodoro in April. He most recently ran a good second against a starter allowance group at Churchill Downs, and that sort of effort could be good enough to get him a share.

R7

Perfect Grace
Mezcal
Equal Pay

#9 PERFECT GRACE: Ran second in two starts this spring at Gulfstream Park and draws a cushy outside post. This daughter of Horse of the Year Havre de Grace should appreciate the slight cutback in distance, and it helps that the winner of her last start has since won again; #3 MEZCAL: Sold for $625,000 in 2019, and for good reason. She’s a daughter of Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia and has been working well for Todd Pletcher, who’s enticed first-call rider John Velazquez; #1 EQUAL PAY: Bizarrely steadied and threw her jockey in her debut downstate. She was in contention that day and will be bet because of it, but I just don’t think that was a strong heat, and if she’s still green, the rail is not where she’ll want to be.

R8

Timely Tradition
Awesome Debate
Diva Banker

#6 TIMELY TRADITION: Does her best running at Saratoga and takes a significant drop in class. The only time she’s finished worse than second here came when she had a horrible trip in a race last August, and anything close to her best would make 4-1 an overlay; #8 AWESOME DEBATE: Got very good this past winter at Aqueduct and was claimed out of her last race by Danny Gargan, who’s hitting at an absurd rate with new acquisitions. She’s won six of 13 lifetime races, and she’s got the early speed necessary to clear this field early; #4 DIVA BANKER: Comes in having won two races in a row, and the second-place finisher from her race last month at Belmont came back to win as well. She completes a strong hand in this race for Ray Handal, who also conditions my top pick.

R9

Bye Bye
Wink
Star Devine

#5 BYE BYE: Probably found a mile a bit too far last time out, when she led early and faded to seventh. Her two turf starts going shorter were both wins, and Rosario lands here when he likely had several options; #8 WINK: Won a similar-level stakes race two starts back before being wrapped up at Churchill Downs in the lone poor race of her career to date. It’s fair to wonder if she can make the lead here, but she’s way more talented than she showed last time and that may result in some value; #1 STAR DEVINE: Cuts back to a sprint after finishing third going longer at Belmont. She won her debut going six furlongs quite impressively before being beaten just a length in the Grade 3 Soaring Softly, and she’d be far from a shock in a wide-open renewal of the Coronation Cup.

R10

Before You
Shining Colors
Shirley Greene

#10 BEFORE YOU: Flopped in a pair of turf starts and takes a huge class drop in her return to dirt. Her two main track efforts dwarf those of the rest of this field, as she was second in her debut before finishing fourth behind three next-out winners; #7 SHINING COLORS: Has run second in two starts following a long layoff and probably represents the logical alternative to the heavy favorite. She’ll likely be on or near the lead early on, and that could position her for success, as few runners in this field have shown an ability to pass others; #6 SHIRLEY GREENE: Improved in her second career start, when she rallied mildly to be fifth at a big price at Churchill Downs. She’ll get blinkers for the first time here, and Rosario will have the mount for a small barn.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/17/21)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $955

I co-host “Champagne and J.D.,” a weekly YouTube show with guests from all around the horse racing world. This week, J.D. Fox and I were proud to be joined by handicapper and NYRA morning line man David Aragona. The three of us offered a trio of late Pick Four tickets for the first Saturday program of the meet after discussing some of the Opening Day action and what goes into the multiple positions David has within the sport.

It was a really cool discussion, and I’m grateful to David for taking some time out of his busy schedule to join us. If you’re interested in watching, you can do so here!

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Polished Gem ran fine, but was third behind the two favorites I tried to beat. I dropped $20.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll play a cold daily double in an attempt to extract some value out of two short-priced favorites in the middle of the card. I’ll single both #9 CHATTALOT in the fifth and #4 PORTFOLIO COMPANY in the sixth on a $20 ticket. I’ll also play $5 exactas in those races, using Chattalot on top of #2 SEAL BEACH and #7 MONTAUK POINT and using Portfolio Company on top of #9 ANSEL and #10 GREAT BRITAIN.

TOTAL WAGERED: $40

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Chattalot, Race 5
Longshot: Christopher, Race 2

R1

Sheriff Blanco
Majestic Tiger
War Smoke

#8 SHERIFF BLANCO: Ran second in back-to-back tries against similar foes downstate and once again looms the main win threat. He sure looks like the main speed in here, and while the field’s large, it isn’t the best one we’ll see at this level this summer; #4 MAJESTIC TIGER: Ran well to be beaten just a nose at first asking and may have bounced a bit in his second start. A return to the debut form would give him a shot at a bit of a price; #3 WAR SMOKE: Debuts for Jeremiah Englehart and has been working steadily ahead of his unveiling. Irad Ortiz, Jr., sees fit to ride, and his connections seem to have found a soft spot for his first afternoon try.

R2

Christopher
Repo Rocks
Baby Yoda

#6 CHRISTOPHER: Is a reluctant top pick in a race I’m just not crazy about. However, he seems to have found his best form in two recent starts at Monmouth Park, and he’s one of only two horses in here with multiple wins, which is worth something; #5 REPO ROCKS: Broke his maiden last time out and tries winners for the first time. Figures-wise, he’s the horse to beat, but I just don’t think the field he topped last time out was that good, and I can’t endorse him at his likely short price; #3 BABY YODA: Ships up from Pimlico and makes his first start for new trainer Bill Mott. He’s shown some ability, but just one published workout since his June 26th effort is absolutely a red flag, and his new conditioner might need some more time to figure him out.

R3

Trumpet Lilly (MTO)
Miss Delicious
Magisterium

#11 MISS DELICIOUS: Adds Lasix and John Velazquez for this event, and she sure looks like the main speed in here. She wired a field of maidens two back before running a good second in her first start against winners, and I think she may be able to sit a comfortable trip here; #7 MAGISTERIUM: Was claimed by Orlando Noda last time out, when she made a strong move to be beaten just a half-length. Noda’s one of the best on the circuit with new acquisitions, and while she hasn’t won in a while, she’s also run just one poor race in her eight-start career; #3 AMALFI PRINCESS: Is another that hasn’t found the winner’s circle in a while, but she’s placed in three stakes races this season and just missed in a $100,000 event last month. Blinkers going on is a curious move, but she’s got plenty of ability and has shown she can go a mile effectively.

R4

Austrian
Cotton
Grape Nuts Warrior

#8 AUSTRIAN: Got pretty sharp this past winter and spring after going to the Danny Gargan barn, and he comes in off a bit of a freshening here. He just missed against similar-level foes at Aqueduct back in April, and he did so despite having to close in a race without much of an early pace; #2 COTTON: Earned the diploma last time out in a race that doubled as his first start with Lasix. He’d run fairly well in all but one of his five prior outings, and two of the runners he topped last time out came back to run third and fourth on Opening Day; #7 GRAPE NUTS WARRIOR: Rallied to win at first asking two back before running third in his first try against winners. Chad Brown puts the blinkers on, and it’s not like he’d be a shocking winner, but I’m demanding more value than I’ll likely get and Brown and Castellano have been shockingly iffy on turf of late (just 2-for-29 since April 24th).

R5

Chattalot
Seal Beach
Montauk Point

#9 CHATTALOT: Showed immense potential in a series of gate drills at Keeneland last month and draws a cushy outside post in his debut. The Asmussen barn unveiled one promising 2-year-old on opening day (Echo Zulu), and this may be another to add to the list; #2 SEAL BEACH: Debuts for the Mike Maker barn, and this is an outfit that can be sneaky with first-out juveniles. He’s shown speed in the mornings and most recently earned a bullet for a five-furlong drill in 1:00 and change on July 6th; #7 MONTAUK POINT: Hammered for $550,000 last year and debuts for Shug McGaughey. This barn, however, has a history of not fully cranking up first-time starters, and I think he may need a race or two to truly get going.

R6

K Club (MTO)
Portfolio Company
Great Britain

#4 PORTFOLIO COMPANY: Is a very logical favorite in his first career start. He’s by Kitten’s Joy, which means he should take to this turf route configuration like a duck to water, and he’s been working steadily at the Spa for more than two months; #10 GREAT BRITAIN: Draws a tricky post but is bred up and down to be a very good turf horse. He’s by English Channel and out of a mare named Rutherienne, who won the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks and is a full sister to Grade 3 turf winner Ruthenia; #9 ANSEL: Is one of two in here trained by Bill Mott, and he sold for $150,000 last year. Sire Blame has thrown several strong grass horses, and it may be telling that this is the Mott trainee Junior Alvarado will ride.

R7

Battle Station
Dubb entry
Ghoul

#2 BATTLE STATION: Gets a tepid nod in a very difficult turf sprint. He’s run some of his best races over this route of ground, including a win in last summer’s Lucky Coin Stakes, and he was fourth in a stakes-caliber optional claimer earlier this month downstate; DUBB ENTRY: Of this trio, I prefer #1A SHEKKY SHEBAZ, who certainly regressed after Jason Servis’s arrest but is still a strong turf sprinter. He returned with a second-place finish behind my top pick in May, and he’s got top-end speed that should put him up front early; #11 GHOUL: May actually benefit from the outside draw given his running style. He’ll want to drop back and make one run, and perhaps a wide trip will allow him to keep his momentum late. If he does, he’s certainly got a shot.

R8

Beau Liam
Mahaamel
Crowded Trade

#1 BEAU LIAM: Won like a very good horse in his debut, when he stormed off to win by nearly eight lengths and earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. The inside draw isn’t ideal, but I think it’s a sign of confidence that he’s been entered against older horses in his first start against winners; #12 MAHAAMEL: Chased the promising First Captain in his unveiling two back before cruising home in the mud last month. The Pletcher/Velazquez tandem must be respected, and this $700,000 purchase may very well be putting it all together; #10 CROWDED TRADE: Ran in three straight graded stakes races after his debut victory and most recently finished fifth behind Rombauer in the Grade 1 Preakness. On ability, he certainly fits, but there’s one question worth asking: If Crowded Trade is sitting on a big effort, why is Chad Brown also saddling #7 WITSEL in this event?

R9

Candy Landing
Headline Report
Wit

#2 CANDY LANDING: Won his debut at Churchill Downs like a very good horse, and jockey James Graham sees fit to make the trip to upstate New York. He showed a lot of speed that day, and that could be an asset against one of the biggest Sanford fields in recent memory; #9 HEADLINE REPORT: Won his debut at Keeneland in very handy fashion and has trained forwardly since the first-out victory. Few in the game are better with 2-year-olds than Wesley Ward, and this $550,000 purchase may have plenty of potential; #1 WIT: Will almost certainly go favored after an eye-catching win on Belmont Day earlier this year. However, the rail’s a tough place to be for any 2-year-old, let alone one that hasn’t shown early speed yet. Perhaps he’s good enough to win, but at his likely price, I can’t endorse him.

R10

Summer Romance
Althiqa
Harvey’s Lil Goil

#6 SUMMER ROMANCE: Was second to a stablemate (more on her in a moment) in the Grade 1 Just A Game last time out, and Charles Appleby sees fit to run both back in the Grade 1 Diana. This one is 2-for-2 going longer than a mile, and I think her tactical speed makes her a real threat to wire this field; #8 ALTHIQA: Capitalized on a world-class ride from Mike Smith to win that day, and she’s never finished worse than third in 10 career starts. The question is, can she get today’s distance, one she finished third to my top pick at earlier this year?; #5 HARVEY’S LIL GOIL: Won the Grade 3 Beauty in her 2021 debut before being caught wide over yielding going in the Grade 2 New York. That may have been a bounce, and a return to form gives one of the coolest female horses in training a shot at a second Grade 1 win.

R11

Ducale
Laughing Boy
Southern Flag

#7 DUCALE: Debuted by dead-heating for second in a swiftly-run race at Churchill and has every right to improve in what seems like a wide-open finale. He’s worked very well since that event, and once Brad Cox trainees get on the right track, they tend to stay there; #9 LAUGHING BOY: Showed speed in his first start off the bench going a mile and cuts back to seven furlongs. If nothing else, the distance shouldn’t get him beat, and the presence of Jose Ortiz is a plus; #4 SOUTHERN FLAG: Had an adventurous trip last time out when third going a mile at Belmont. In fact, he’s found trouble in each of his first two starts, yet has still run races that make him a contender here. He’s certainly got the potential to be a factor provided he gets the clean trip that has eluded him to this point.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/16/21)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $975

The issue with Wednesday’s ruling involving exiled trainer Bob Baffert goes far deeper than, “will Baffert be allowed to run at Saratoga?” That’s the catchy, eyes-grabbing talking point. However, my question is this: After that ruling, what effectiveness will racing’s governing bodies have in handing down punishments with teeth?

The Baffert saga is far from over, and we don’t know how it’ll end. One thing that’s for sure is that racing has a major problem appropriately punishing trainers for violations. Rulings like this one could make that even more difficult. If there’s no incentive to not test the rules, and if whatever sanctions exist don’t fit the crimes associated with them, why wouldn’t win-hungry trainers go as far as they can?

Make no mistake, this doesn’t apply to all trainers, or even most of them. New York is home to some world-class horsemen and horsewomen who care deeply about the equines in their barns. However, at a time where optics matter more than ever before, I think I have a right to be more than a bit concerned.

THURSDAY’S RESULTS: Alba’s Star got exactly the trip I wanted her to get, but she dropped anchor fast when Kitten by the Sea ranged up outside. I was right in thinking that one wouldn’t win (she got reeled in by Five Alarm Robin), but I dropped $25.

FRIDAY’S PLAY: I’ll turn to the eighth race, where I’ll take a small stand. I think it’s possible likely favorites #6 EASY TO BLESS and #8 PATTY H duel each other into defeat. I’ll lean on #3 POLISHED GEM with a $5 win/place bet, and I’ll also key her in $3 exactas above the two favorites and $2 exactas below them.

TOTAL WAGERED: $20

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Quick Return, Race 2
Longshot: Polished Gem, Race 8

R1

Shashashakemeup
LC Racing entry
Mihos

#5 SHASHASHAKEMEUP: Was less than 12-1 in a Grade 1 two starts ago and hasn’t done much wrong since being claimed by Peter Miller late last year. He’s got a bit more early zip than he’s shown in his last few starts, and a clean stalking trip would make him tough to beat; LC RACING ENTRY: I prefer #1A SMOOTH B, who prevailed against weaker at Parx last time out. The outside draw should help him, and he may have enough early speed to clear the field going down the backstretch; #2 MIHOS: Makes his first start for new trainer Brad Cox and showed plenty of promise earlier in his career. He was fourth in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler last fall, and perhaps a change of scenery will allow him to recapture that form. 

R2

Quick Return
Clear Humor
Far Away Look

#8 QUICK RETURN: Did everything but win last time out in his first start since August and looms large from the outside draw. In theory, this is a class jump, but this is far from the strongest race for the level, and a repeat of his last-out effort almost certainly beats these; #6 CLEAR HUMOR: Drops in for a tag at second asking for a barn whose horses tend to improve with experience. Both the winner and runner-up from his debut came right back to win, so at least he chased solid competition; #5 FAR AWAY LOOK: Hasn’t raced since December, and the drop in class is a concern, but he’s worked very well ahead of his 2021 debut. Jose Ortiz sees fit to ride for Ken McPeek, and maturation from two to three would give him a shot at a piece of this.

R3

Courageous Girl (MTO)
Giacosa
Light in the Sky

#2 GIACOSA: Has been competitive in a pair of starts against similar downstate and could relish a return to this turf course. One of her best career efforts came here last summer going two turns, and she’s got enough speed to work out a dream trip; #4 LIGHT IN THE SKY: Has recorded both of her wins (and two seconds) over this turf course and actually ran pretty well in the off-the-turf Mount Vernon last time out. If she gets a faster-than-expected pace to run at, she could be a handful turning for home; #6 CHOCOLATE COOKIE: Will probably go favored given her connections and solid 2020 campaign, but I have my doubts, especially at her likely price. She hasn’t run since October, this field came up pretty salty for the condition, and it’s not like her figures dwarf those of her rivals.

R4

Tekila (MTO)
Angelou
Flaming Rouge

#7 ANGELOU: Ran well in her seasonal debut, when she was second after stalking a very slow pace downstate. Sire Curlin has no problem throwing horses who can run marathon-type distances, and she sure looks like one of the few forwardly-placed horses in this group; #5 FLAMING ROUGE: Stretched out to a mile and a quarter and was beaten less than a length last time out. The tag team of Clement and Rosario must be respected, but given that she’s now 0-for-7, it may be time to question if she wants to win; #3 FORTUNA: Ran well going very long a few times last season and may have needed the race last time out at Belmont. A repeat of either of her efforts from last summer would give her a chance at a square price.

R5

Absolute Love
Seeds of Time
Yes I’m Evil

#5 ABSOLUTE LOVE: Routed an overmatched field last month in Indiana and drops back into the claiming ranks here. He’s shown he does his best work going two turns, and trainer Joe Sharp has quietly enjoyed a strong year to this point, hitting at a 19% clip; #6 SEEDS OF TIME: Was claimed by the high-percentage Danny Gargan outfit last time and has worked well ahead of his local debut. He won twice going long at Oaklawn this past winter/spring, and that type of form plus a lively early pace would make him a contender; #2 YES I’M EVIL: Takes a curious drop all the way to the $12,500 ranks after running third for a $40,000 tag last time out at Keeneland. Her last two wins both came in off-the-turf races at Fair Grounds, but perhaps the class drop is enough to put her right there.

R6

Let Her Inspire U
November Rein
Tough Street

#2 LET HER INSPIRE U: Hammered for $500,000 earlier this year and has plenty of pedigree. She’s by promising young sire Practical Joke, the Pletcher/Velazquez tag team merits respect, and the most recent workout on July 10th was a head-turner; #7 NOVEMBER REIN: Did everything but win in her debut downstate, when she was second beaten a neck after setting the pace. Only one published work since then is a bit of a red flag, but if she steps forward off of that race, look out; #5 TOUGH STREET: Has been working consistently for Chad Brown ahead of her unveiling, but in a race with several promising young fillies, I’m going to try to beat her. Her works don’t tower over her competition, and while it won’t be a shock if she’s well-meant, her likely odds hit me as an underlay.

R7

Amendment Nineteen (MTO)
Too Sexy
Rivendell

#2 TOO SEXY: Hasn’t run a bad race since being shortened up to turf sprints last summer by Clement, and she exits a good second downstate where she rated a bit behind a slow pace. This trip should suit her better, and the faster they go early, the better her chances figure to be; #10 RIVENDELL: Draws an unfavorable outside post but was a decent second last time out after being much closer to the pace. John Velazquez gets the mount, and if the recent works at Belmont are any indication, she’s coming into this event in very good form; #3 MUMBAI: Is the “other” Clement in this race and ships up after running second at Monmouth. Prior to that, she broke her maiden at Gulfstream and topped a next-out winner in the process.

R8

Polished Gem
Easy to Bless
Patty H

#3 POLISHED GEM: Merits a long look at a nice price. She won a similar race at Churchill two back before running second for a slightly higher tag, and I love that she’s shown an ability to stalk and pass others late. Not needing the lead could help her in a race with lots of early zip; #6 EASY TO BLESS: Has won four in a row and drops in off a victory against starter allowance foes at Belmont. She’s got plenty of early speed, and it’s encouraging to see Rosario ride back when he probably had some options; #8 PATTY H: Has won three times in her last four starts and thumped a weaker bunch in Indiana last month, but I’ve got some questions. She’s in career-best form and sold for $125,000 in 2019, so why is top-class horseman Brad Cox dropping her in for $40,000 after she’s gotten on track?

R9

Value Proposition
Delaware
Rinaldi

#3 VALUE PROPOSITION: Is one of three runners from the Chad Brown barn in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple, and he hits me as the most likely winner. His most recent effort at Belmont was very strong, and logical improvement in his third start of the form cycle would make him the one to beat; #7 DELAWARE: Got zero pace to run at in the Seek Again last time out but rallied to take a similar race two back at Aqueduct. He may be somewhat pace-dependent, but there is some speed signed on, and that could set things up for him; #1 RINALDI: Draws the rail and sure looks like the one they’ll all be chasing into the first turn. He’s never won outside of the state-bred ranks, so perhaps he’s a bit outclassed, but if he’s able to dictate terms, he could hang on for a share.

R10

U Should B Dancing
Fancy Feline
Baudi Moovan

#4 U SHOULD B DANCING: Hits me as the one to beat in a “now or never” situation. She gets Lasix second off the bench, she’s run second in three turf sprints at this level, and quite frankly, there just isn’t much other proven form signed on; #9 FANCY FELINE: Rallied from last to be third in her debut, which was rained off the turf. This barn’s runners usually improve with experience, and if turf was the plan all along, she’s got a big shot to relish the new footing at second asking; #1 BAUDI MOOVAN: Makes her debut two years after selling for $260,000 as a yearling. She’s worked fairly well and is a daughter of top turf sire Twirling Candy, and in this sort of a field, that’s enough to give her a big chance if she’s ready to run.