A Different Kind of Recap

“Writing is easy. Just sit in front of a typewriter, open up a vein, and bleed it out drop by drop.”

Red Smith, one of the best writers of all-time, said that, and anyone who’s ever tried to put their thoughts into prose can relate. It’s in that spirit that I’m sitting down to write this and feeling equal parts pride and exhaustion.

I’m going to do something I don’t do often. There’s no shtick here. There’s no over-the-top, wannabe-pro-wrestling-manager delivery with a message that flies over the heads of two-thirds of my audience but hits the other third right between the eyes (often with words they don’t want to hear). This is me, as stripped-down as I can possibly present myself, explaining the mental construction of my brain for two months of the year, why certain numbers matter to me that couldn’t matter less to a lot of people, and what my next steps are.

You might’ve seen it or heard about it by now, but I had a really good summer at Saratoga. With 142 top-pick winners, I led The Pink Sheet for the third consecutive season (and fifth overall), and that total paced all members of the media who picked every race, every day, for a variety of different outlets available to the public. If you think that’s an easy job, you’re incredibly ignorant. The people who do this are sharp, dedicated to the game, and enjoy informing and educating the public, and every man and woman in this group has my eternal respect.

If you were on Twitter Monday night, what you saw was me comparing myself and a few friends/family members to Ric Flair and his entourage. I can be a little twisted, and rest assured, living with the way my mind works is a heck of a cross to bear sometimes.

Here’s what you didn’t see: After Ocean Air and Don’t Wait Up won the sixth and seventh races of the day and clinched the all-media title for me, I excused myself from a Labor Day party at my girlfriend’s house, went into the bathroom, locked the door, and cried my eyes out.

That probably sounds crazy to some of you. I don’t blame you for thinking that, and contrary to what some may think, I’m not writing this to change anyone’s perception of me. The Champagne family curse is that, no matter what, we can’t be invisible, and people cannot have neutral opinions of us. I’ve found ways to live with it, and I can sleep at night knowing those who have taken the time to get to know me know who I am and (mostly) seem to like me. What this will do, however, is peel back the onion in a way I’ve never done before. At a minimum, I hope it pays an appropriate amount of respect to a few things I’ve dealt with this summer.

I grew up in upstate New York going to Saratoga with my family. I’m not in New York anymore, and I don’t see my family nearly enough. That’s why I took a spur-of-the-moment, cross-country trip last month that involved more time on planes and in cars than time spent doing meaningful things.

I worked for The Saratogian as a full-timer for a year and a half, and was part of a packed press box during the 2012 and 2013 summer meets. The press box now looks like Thanos snapped his fingers and wiped out half the population. When I made my appearance at Saratoga, I didn’t even bother going up there.

I wanted nothing more than to be part of the horse racing industry, and for six years, I did a lot of great full-time work for some of the most recognizable brands in the business. I’ve been out of it for three years, ever since my position at The Daily Racing Form was shifted to part-time as a money move three days after I worked 36 hours over Labor Day weekend.

I’ve busted my butt freelancing for several outlets, and I’ve done work I’m incredibly proud of (including for DRF, the source of several relationships I greatly value). Much of the industry, however, has put me in a pool with other incredibly passionate people that it keeps at an arm’s length.

My full-time job is as a Communications and Marketing Manager for SHELTER, Inc., a non-profit in Northern California’s Bay Area. I enjoy what I do, but after putting in eight hours a day, the thing I most looked forward to other than spending time with my girlfriend was going home, handicapping, writing up cards, and going on podcasts/shows to talk about what I saw and how I planned to attack the racing programs in question.

If you saw me use the hashtag #OutWorkEveryone this summer and thought it was a total ego trip, you were wrong. I spent 40 hours a week getting the word out about how my agency is battling the homelessness problem in Contra Costa, Solano, and Sacramento counties, and then went home and, on average, produced between 10,000 and 12,000 written words per week for The Pink Sheet, TwinSpires Sportsbook, and Oddschecker US. In addition, I co-host my own YouTube show, am a weekly guest on Gino Buccola’s podcast, produce several weekly video hits for DRF, and was a featured guest at seminars held at this summer’s Pleasanton meet, which shared a weekend with Saratoga in July.

I’m not in an office at a racetrack, or in a casino somewhere mooching free wi-fi. I’m a guy with a “normal” job that, two months out of the year, has as abnormal a job as possible on top of it. It isn’t because I need the money, it’s not because I crave attention, and it’s not even because of the competition that comes with doing what I do.

It’s because I love Saratoga, I love horse racing, I love turf writing, and I long for the days where EVERYONE took it as seriously as I do.

I sat behind Paul Moran and John Pricci, and next to Tom Amello and Mike Veitch, in 2012 and 2013. This was a summer after I worked for the Clancy brothers at The Saratoga Special, and those three summers gave me as good of an education as I could’ve hoped for. The stories I heard about packed press boxes and every writer/handicapper actively competing with one another for the best stories and handicapping records inspired me and lined up with how I’d approach days at the races as a kid. I’d tear out pages from The Daily News and The New York Post, grab whatever papers were available for free on the way in, and soak up as much as I could.

Russ Harris was the dean of New York handicappers, and the stuff he did allowed mine to exist. The Battle of Saratoga in The Daily News was required reading, for aspiring turf writers and handicappers alike, and I pay homage to that with The Pink Sheet’s daily bankroll blurb. 

The people who created that content are mostly gone now. They’ve either passed away, retired, or moved to freelance work. Paul Moran passed following the 2013 meet, John Pricci’s in Florida, and the Daily News and Post both eliminated most of their racing staffs in similar cost-cutting moves. Nick Kling, my Pink Sheet predecessor, retired after a stellar career a few years ago, and Harris passed in 2016. I’ll spend the rest of my career (or however long The Pink Sheet will have me) chasing the success rates they had.

It’s easy to take what you see on social media and extrapolate that into an image that isn’t the real McCoy. I sometimes do myself no favors in this regard, and I’ll be the first to admit it. Between several stories involving major entities within the game, and the fact that nobody is doing the sort of thing I’m doing the way I’m doing it, it sometimes feels like a “one vs. all” situation, and there are times that bites me in the butt. That was the case a few weeks ago when trainer Chad Brown took exception to a tweet of mine. I didn’t say what he thought I said, but I understood why he thought I said it (I sent his barn doughnuts a few days later, along with a note I hope he read, and I’m going to call us even).

Chad’s response didn’t bother me. What hit me hard was the fact that people automatically assumed I said something I didn’t say and believed things I didn’t believe. That’s a byproduct of the age we’re in, and my body of work, skill as a writer/horseplayer, and history of turning my passion into final products didn’t matter one bit.

This is who I am: I’m the guy who works a 9-to-5 shift, goes home, eats dinner, and is up until after midnight working a day in advance so his editor doesn’t have to worry about a dude who left the paper eight years ago to live three timezones away blowing a deadline. I’m the guy that isn’t supposed to be a big deal in the business, and one who, 10 months out of the year, generally isn’t. However, I’m also someone who drove nearly 22,000 hits to the little-promoted website you’re on right now with daily content that had the highest strike rate of anyone actively handicapping Saratoga and giving information out in this way.

I don’t do what I do for points or political capital within the industry. If something hits me as broken, I’ll say it and I’ll say it in ways everyone can hopefully understand. I’m probably never going to be a simulcast host, or someone trusted by a major circuit to convey points on television and drive fan interest and betting money. I’ll never shut the door on that sort of opportunity, and I firmly believe I’d excel in that capacity, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that the call’s probably never coming.

There aren’t many people in racing like me. Some people think that’s a great thing, and those are the people my success ticks off. A bunch more, though, see past the gimmicky, sarcastic exterior and have said very positive things about the breadth and depth of my work, and that’s always something I’ll greatly appreciate. If you like what I do, know that I deeply value your support. When I thanked readers in my final bankroll blurb of the season, I meant every word. If even one person is enjoying my stuff like I enjoyed the work of Russ Harris and the Battle of Saratoga crew, that’s a win.

Now that Labor Day is over, though, we’re in the 10-month period where, to many, I’m just another guy who knows how to read a form. I’ll still be around, hosting my show and helping anyone who’ll have me, not because I’m some attention hound or someone who needs a spotlight, but because I want the industry to be at its best and I want to produce content that helps it get there.

My mind works in unconventional ways. With how much I work and how much of myself goes into each product, you bet I’ll celebrate when great things happen. If you think I’m an arrogant showoff, that’s your right, but it’s my right to tell you how hard I work and how much passion goes into what you see in articles, podcasts, and shows. Without that passion, I’m useless, so that’s a trade-off I’ll take 100 times out of 100.

142 winners is a big part of the story. However, it’s nowhere close to the full story…and THAT is called foreshadowing, kids.

Stay tuned.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/6/21; CLOSING DAY)


BANKROLL: $1,204.60

It’s closing day, and that means it’s time for me to thank a bunch of people. First of all, thanks to everyone at The Saratogian for once again allowing me to contribute to The Pink Sheet. Special kudos go out to Joe Boyle, one of the hardest-working folks in sports journalism. He’s editing multiple sports sections, and if you think that sounds easy, try it sometime.

In addition, the New York Racing Association deserves credit for putting forth another spectacular Saratoga meet. I’m hard on them when it’s merited, but Saratoga is Saratoga for a reason, and the work that gets put into each summer meet isn’t unnoticed. On a similar note, the “Saratoga Live” crew deserves a ton of credit. The on-air and production teams put together a product that’s second to none and brings the Spa into living rooms as effectively as possible.

Finally, of course, I’d like to thank you, the reader. Whether you’ve read my stuff in print or on my website every day, know that I appreciate your time and attention and that your support is as big a factor as any in why I continue to do this. It’s been a really fun summer to this point, and I’m hoping we’ve still got some tickets left to cash!

SUNDAY’S RESULTS: My ninth-race exacta box fizzled, and while I hit the double ending there, it wasn’t enough to offset the total investment. I dropped $13.20.

MONDAY’S PLAY: There’s one I really like in the sixth, and that’s where I’ll focus my action (which is sizable since I can play a significant sum and be guaranteed a profit on the meet). #6 OCEAN AIR drops into the claiming ranks after running well against starter allowance foes several times, and 3-1 hits me as an overlay. I’ll start with a $50 win bet on her, and I’ll add $10 exactas with her on top of #3 ENTWINE, #7 PRINCESS PINKY, and #11 PERHAPS TONIGHT and $5 exactas with those runners atop Ocean Air.



Best Bet: Ocean Air, Race 6
Longshot: Ghost Giant, Race 11


Equal Pay
Someday Maybe
I’m Perfect Too

#1 EQUAL PAY: Gets one more shot after a strange beginning to her career. She unseated Irad Ortiz, Jr., in her debut, then abruptly dropped anchor in the mud last time out. She’s still flashed talent in the mornings, though, and if she’s right, I think she’ll have a chance to put it all together; #7 SOMEDAY MAYBE: Debuts for Bill Mott, who’s finishing the meet with a flourish, and she’s been working well downstate. The outside draw should help her, and the way she’s been working, I don’t think the seven-furlong distance will be an issue; #4 I’M PERFECT TOO: Came flying late to be beaten just a half-length in her debut earlier this summer. This barn’s first-time starters aren’t usually fully-cranked, so her rally was noteworthy, but this seems like a stronger group that may require a step forward.


Call Sign Charlie

#4 BELARUS: Debuts for Horacio DePaz, who has done well with first-time starters and found the winner’s circle several times this meet with a small string. This daughter of Sky Mesa has been working well, and the presence of John Velazquez doesn’t hurt, either; #6 CARAGATE: Ran third in her debut going six furlongs despite a pedigree that says she’ll want to go way longer. I’m a bit surprised she runs back going short, but the most recent four-furlong drill indicates she’s moved forward since her unveiling; #7 CALL SIGN CHARLIE: Is set to make her first start for trainer Jorge Abreu, whose first-out numbers are as strong as those of any barn on the circuit. She sold for just $20,000 as a weanling, but she’s worked well and may be ready to run at first asking.


En Wye Cee
Tell Your Daddy

#2 EN WYE CEE: Didn’t have a great trip in his return off a long layoff, when he salvaged third despite racing in tight quarters late. He’s shown plenty of versatility, should improve second off the bench, and attracts leading rider Luis Saez in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch; #3 L’IMPERATOR: Won the race my top pick exits and certainly has a shot in here. He also returned from a very long layoff that day and didn’t have a perfect journey, but he did have room to roll late while my top pick was stymied; #1 TELL YOUR DADDY: Hasn’t won in a long, long time, but he sure looks like the main speed and draws the rail for Tom Morley and Johnny V. He ran a good second in the Lure last time out behind Flavius, and he should have every chance to lead them a long way.


My Roxy Girl
No Deal

#6 FRILLS: Is a tepid top pick in an event that looks extremely wide-open. She did everything but win last time out, when she set scorching fractions for the level and was beaten just a half-length. I think she’s the speed of the speed here, and Linda Rice does excellent work with horses first off the claim; #2 MY ROXY GIRL: Comes back into the claiming ranks after two starts against state-bred optional foes, and the last time she ran at this level, she won. I don’t love that she’s 1-for-10 at Saratoga, but she’s shown an ability to run well from just off the pace, which may help her; #3 NO DEAL: Was freshened up after being claimed by Wayne Potts in January and enters this one without a claiming tag, as the barn utilizes a rule that allows for one free shot first off the bench. I love that move, as I think it’s a sign they don’t want to lose the horse, and she’s got races from 2020 that show she can be competitive here.


American Law
Realm of Law

#8 AMERICAN LAW: Was strangely taken back in his turf debut, where he still ran second despite rating a bit off of a slow early pace. I think he’ll be a bit sharper in this event, and if Luis Saez boots him to the front out of the gate, I don’t think he’ll have much company; #4 ABAAN: Was a close-up second in his turf debut against maiden claiming company, and I think it’s telling he’s coming back in a race where he can’t get claimed. If there’s hesitation here, it’s because Saez saw fit to hop off, but we do get the Pletcher/Velazquez tag team; #6 REALM OF LAW: Has burned a lot of money in his four-start career, having failed as the chalk in all four opportunities. He may have been compromised by the race shape last time, but he’ll face a similar one today, and at his likely price, I cannot endorse him on top.


Ocean Air
Hollywood Gina (MTO)

#6 OCEAN AIR: Drops into the claiming ranks after collecting three checks in as many starts against starter allowance fields that seemed far, far tougher. She won her lone claiming race to date, and I think she’ll find these shallower waters to her liking; #3 ENTWINE: Merits a long look at a big price going back to the turf. Her races on grass haven’t been bad, and her last two outings have come in races that were moved to main tracks she clearly didn’t prefer. A return to her early-2021 form gives her a shot; #8 LINNY KATE: Drops in for Chad Brown and will likely take plenty of money because of that. However, she’s spent a lot of time down at Monmouth and hasn’t won since February of 2020. It’s entirely possible she capitalizes on the drop in class, but this is another instance where I simply cannot back the morning-line favorite at the likely price.


Don’t Wait Up
Torpedo Run

#4 DON’T WAIT UP: Got beaten by a dirty nose in his debut last month, and he runs for a trainer whose horses tend to improve with experience. His lone work since that effort was sharp, and any sort of improvement from his first-out form would make him a handful; #6 DRAKON: Hammered for $200,000 in April and sports several flashy gate drills ahead of his unveiling. His dam is a half to a multiple stakes winner, and it wouldn’t be shocking if Brad Cox has him ready to run on debut; #9 TORPEDO RUN: Sold for $450,000 earlier this season, and offspring of young sire Gun Runner have done very well to this point. John Kimmel is no first-out juggernaut, but the improving work pattern is encouraging and 12-1 hits me as a considerable overlay.


Silvery Rill
Consumer Spending
Dancin Dee

#7 SILVERY RILL: Exits a maiden race that hit me as extremely live, and she was beaten just a head that day. She was set to come back in the P.G. Johnson, but that race was rained off the turf, and this spot, while no cakewalk, seems considerably softer; #2 CONSUMER SPENDING: Ran second behind talented stablemate McKulick in her debut, and she rallied from last to complete the exacta in that spot. She merits plenty of respect, and it wouldn’t be surprising if she’s set to take a step forward for Brown; #3 DANCIN DEE: Was one-paced in her debut, where she ran fourth in the same race my top pick exits. As I’ve mentioned, I think that was a very tough spot, and if I love the runner-up, surely I need to respect another horse that wasn’t beaten by much that day.


Honey Money
Awesome Debate
Betsy Blue

#8 HONEY MONEY: Has run one bad race since being claimed by Wayne Potts, and that came over a muddy track she clearly didn’t care for. She was a good second last time out despite a stumble at the start, and a cleaner journey would give her a big chance in a wide-open event; #6 AWESOME DEBATE: Drew off to win the Union Avenue by more than four lengths earlier this summer. Perhaps she’s a bit better over wet racetracks, but at 6-for-13 over fast surfaces, it’s not like she’s a slouch in those circumstances, either; #7 BETSY BLUE: Has hit the board in all eight of her career outings, including three earlier this meet. She’s shown an ability to sit off the pace and pounce turning for home, and she may have a say in the outcome if she gets that desired trip.


High Oak

#8 HIGH OAK: Won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special over a pretty nice field and earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure. He’s shown he doesn’t need the lead in order to run well, and it’s uncommon for a 2-year-old to show that kind of maturity at such an early stage; #6 WIT: Stormed away to win the Grade 3 Sanford in the opening days of the meet and is certainly a deserving favorite. He’s worked well since that effort and has every right to run his record to 3-for-3, but I was just more impressed by the opponents my top pick beat last time out; #2 DEFEND: Zipped home clear by eight lengths at Delaware Park in his unveiling and gets the riding services of leading jockey Luis Saez here. This is a huge class test, to be sure, but he’s fired nothing but bullets this month and has every right to be a very talented horse.


Air Show (MTO)
Ghost Giant

#4 GHOST GIANT: Has been very popular at the claim box this season and will start for his fourth different trainer in 2021 here. He was third last time out at Belmont over yielding going, but I loved his two-back effort and I think he’ll have a big chance at a square price if he can recapture that form; #12 KLICKITAT: Has recorded two of his three career wins over this turf course and may be well-meant enough to overcome a far outside draw. He’s got plenty of early speed, and he may be able to clear many of his rivals going into the first turn; #6 COLD HARD CASH: Has found a new home on the turf of late and was a close-up third beaten just a neck last time out. Two back, though, this Linda Rice trainee got into the winner’s circle, and this barn has sent out a bunch of live runners this season.


New York Supreme
Norman Queen

#6 NEW YORK SUPREME: Has been competitive twice at this level this summer and looms a major threat in the final race of the meet. She was third behind a next-out winner two back before compromising her chances with a very wide run last time out. Smoother sailing could be all she needs to break her maiden; #5 NORMAN QUEEN: Debuts for Wesley Ward in a turf sprint, which automatically prompts many handicappers to take a second look. Her last two workouts appear very fast, and while this pedigree doesn’t exactly scream turf, she may simply be faster than a less-than-inspiring group; #10 ORMA: Was third last time out in the race my top pick exits, and she’s another that didn’t have a clean journey that day. Saez sees fit to ride back, and he’s certainly talented enough to find ways to save some ground from the outside post.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/5/21)


BANKROLL: $1,217.80

As one boutique meet winds down, another ramps up. Saratoga’s Sunday card is the penultimate one of the summer, and it comes on the same day that Kentucky Downs welcomes folks in for its opening day. If you want world-class turf racing for big purses, with big fields, that’s where you’ll want to look, and you only need to be right once or twice in order to come away with a big score.

This week’s episode of “Champagne and J.D.” featured handicapper Kaitlin Free, and the three of us looked at the late Pick Four sequence. We offered a trio of tickets with wide-ranging opinions, and if you’re handicapping the card, you won’t want to miss it. Check it out on YouTube, and make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss any of our weekly updates!

SATURDAY’S RESULTS: I had a mispunch, as the listed total wagered accounted for a $1 Grand Slam ticket, not $2. My actual investment was $56, not $38, but that benefited me, as I hit $16 worth of wagers when War Like Goddess won the Flower Bowl. Thanks to that, I cashed out for $94.40.

SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the ninth race, which I think will set up for a closer. I’ll box #2 BASELINE DRIVE, #8 THEODORA GRACE, and #10 CLADDAGH’S RUN in $3 exactas, and I’ll also use them to close out $3 doubles that start with #2 MALIBU KENDALL and #3 JESTER CALLS NOJOY in the eighth.

TOTAL WAGERED: $36 (and this time, I’ve made sure it’s accurate!).


Best Bet: Classy Edition, Race 7
Longshot: Scotty Brown, Race 12


Hope Over Fear
Sweet Lady Ivanka

#7 HOPE OVER FEAR: Debuted going two turns on turf before fading to fourth behind several well-meant debutantes. She’s turned in several strong works of late, including a four-furlong bullet on August 30th, and I think she’s sitting on an improved effort at second asking; #4 SWEET LADY IVANKA: Debuts for Chad Brown and is bred to be any kind. She’s by Candy Ride and out of a mare named Lady Serena, who is a half-sister to champion and sire Honor Code and two other stakes winners; #8 ALSANAH: Debuts for Todd Pletcher and has a distinguished female family. Her second dam is multiple Grade 1 winner Spun Sugar, and everything about her says the seven-furlong distance in Saturday’s opener won’t be a problem.


Hollywood Gina (MTO)
Madam Maclean
Little Dutch Girl

#5 MADAM MACLEAN: May have needed her last-out effort after a bit of a break, but she was beaten less than three lengths by Time Limit and Risky Mischief, who are both talented turf sprinters. She drops in class second off the bench and attracts top turf pilot Jose Lezcano; #6 LITTLE DUTCH GIRL: Has stepped forward in speed figures in each of her three starts to date, including a good third last time out at this level and route. There’s certainly plenty of early zip in this group, and further improvement would certainly make her a major player; #11 SASSY MELISSA: Came flying late to be beaten just a neck last time out and certainly has the talent to run well here. The outside post is a bit of a problem, and this is a decent field for the level, but at a minimum, she’ll be going the right way late.


Coalition Building
Never Content

#7 COALITION BUILDING: Has taken a lot of money this season and is 0-for-5 despite being favored in all five outings. However, this is a significant class drop, and her lone poor effort this year came when she clearly didn’t take to the dirt in an off-the-turf event back in July; #8 CHECKSANDBALANCES: Hasn’t run in nearly a year but showed enough last season to make me think she’s got a shot at a price. She’s been working consistently for Linda Rice, and she was third in a pair of maiden claiming events for this price last summer; #4 NEVER CONTENT: Gets a mulligan for the last-out clunker, as she was left in when the race was moved off the turf. She ran several decent turf races over the winter and spring and may have enough speed to establish positioning going into the first turn.


Spin a Yarn
Lady Traveler
Jades Gelly

#1 SPIN A YARN: Has won seven of nine career starts and gets Lasix for the first time here. For a rich allowance race, there isn’t a ton of other early speed signed on. I think she’ll break on top and get comfortable, and such a trip would make this Finger Lakes invader tough to catch; #5 LADY TRAVELER: Hasn’t won in a while but has run in several big spots. She hit the board in a pair of graded stakes races earlier this year, and while the layoff is a bit of a concern, she’s been working very quickly ahead of her return to the races; #2 JADES GELLY: Romped in an off-the-turf race last time out and earned a career-best 82 Beyer Speed Figure. This is a much tougher spot that represents a significant class test, but she’s in good form for a barn that does strong work with last-out winners, and she’ll likely be a decent price.


Klaravich entry

#5 IMWAYTOOCOOLFORYOU: Finally gets to run on the turf after competing in a pair of off-the-turf races on the mid-Atlantic circuit. This is also her first start for a claiming tag, and she seems like the speed of the speed in this event; KLARAVICH ENTRY: #1 MILESTONE PAYMENT and #1A PARTY LINE VOTE will take plenty of money, and it’s not like they’re impossible. However, the former ships up from Monmouth (which is a red flag for lower-level Chad Brown runners) and the latter has been working very slowly ahead of her debut. At their likely price, I need to try to beat them; #4 THEGODDESSOFSNAKES: May have needed her last-out effort off of an 11-month layoff and tries turf for the first time. Sire Street Boss is a strong turf influence, and at least she showed a little early zip in her return effort.


Clever Fellow
Risk Manager

#9 CLEVER FELLOW: Broke through when dropped in for a tag last time out and tries winners for the first time, but does so against a group that lacks any monsters for the level. Irad Ortiz, Jr., rides back for Chad Brown, and it’s entirely possible the lightbulb has gone off now that he’s gotten the money once; #10 RISK MANAGER: Found starter allowance company a bit too tough last time out and drops back into the claiming ranks in his second start off a brief freshening. He was second for a slightly higher tag last time out, and the faster they go early, the better this closer’s chances figure to be; #5 ACTUARY: Drops in for a tag after two underwhelming starts against allowance foes. However, the winner of his last race is a legitimate stakes prospect, and perhaps he’ll benefit from the cutback in distance.


Classy Edition
Summer Snow

#2 CLASSY EDITION: Hammered for $550,000 at auction earlier this year and has been working very well for Todd Pletcher ahead of her unveiling. She’s a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Newly Minted and stakes-placed New Girl in Town, and she’s got every right to be a runner; #11 BELARUS: Needs some luck to draw in off the AE list but may be a factor if she does. She’s got several flashy works on the tab for a trainer that does well with debuting runners, and her dam was a stakes-winning sprinter that has thrown two multiple winners from as many foals to race; #6 SUMMER SNOW: Debuts for Mark Hennig, whose horses tend to need a race or two to get going. However, she’s shown potential with several sharp gate drills, and her dam is kin to multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter Merry Meadow.


Malibu Kendall
Jester Calls Nojoy

#2 MALIBU KENDALL: Fetched $335,000 at auction last year, and for good reason. She’s by Curlin, out of an Awesome Again mare, and she flashed serious speed at Keeneland earlier this year. Her works here have been a bit slower, but Steve Asmussen doesn’t always ask his workers for much, and if she runs to her earlier works, look out; #3 JESTER CALLS NOJOY: Ran a good second in her debut a few weeks ago and must be respected at second asking. Leading rider Luis Saez sees fit to ride for Pletcher, and she’ll likely be an unsurprising favorite in this spot; #4 TEXIAN: Didn’t do much running first time out, but Shug McGaughey’s first-time starters are rarely fully-cranked. She’s bred to get better as she gets older, and she comes in off of a strong gate drill downstate at Belmont.


Trumpet Lilly (MTO)
Baseline Drive
Theodora Grace

#2 BASELINE DRIVE: Makes her first start for Mark Hennig after running well at Gulfstream Park in the first half of the year. Hennig does great work with new acquisitions, and this one has shown plenty of talent and versatility to this point in her career; #8 THEODORA GRACE: Is worth a look at a big price despite a last-out clunker. She ran very well two starts ago to break her maiden at Belmont, and perhaps the last-out effort was a bounce second off of a very long layoff. A repeat of her two-back effort would give her a shot; #10 CLADDAGH’S RUN: Might have needed her last-out effort off of a three-month break, and she was still a decent fifth that afternoon. The likely race shape favors closers, and she got very good earlier this year at Tampa Bay Downs, where she won three of four races during the winter/spring meet.


Danny California
First Constitution

#3 DANNY CALIFORNIA: Was wheeled back on very short rest in the Evan Shipman and salvaged third behind a loose-on-the-lead winner. He’s gotten a bit more of a breather prior to this event, and there’s no denying he loves going two turns over the Saratoga main track; #8 FIRST CONSTITUTION: Makes his American debut after a strong 2020 campaign in his native Chile, where he won one Group 1 race and ran third in another. His work tab hints at some serious talent, and he could move forward getting Lasix for the first time; #9 SUPERFECTO: Set a legitimate pace in his local debut last time out before being reeled in by my top selection. He earned a career-high 95 Beyer Speed Figure that day, and he and Luis Saez will almost certainly be on the lead again here. If Saez can ration his considerable early zip, he could be tough to catch.


Echo Zulu
Girl With a Dream
Dream Lith

#3 ECHO ZULU: Dazzled in her debut, when she romped by more than five lengths and earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. She’s bred to only get better as the races get longer, and anything close to her lone prior effort would make her tough to beat in the Grade 1 Spinaway; #2 GIRL WITH A DREAM: Came home very quickly to win a five-furlong dash at Ellis Park in late-July. Florent Geroux sees fit to come to New York and ride for Brad Cox, and that’s not a small statement. She’s shown a lot of speed and may be the one they have to catch; #7 DREAM LITH: Lit up the tote board at 36-1 when she won at first asking earlier this summer. That race hasn’t come back super strong, but she’s worked forwardly since her unveiling and is another that shouldn’t have a problem with the seven-furlong distance.


Scotty Brown
Veterans Beach
King Angelo

#5 SCOTTY BROWN: Goes to the Wesley Ward barn and is a tepid top pick in a wide-open Sunday finale. He ran well in a trio of turf sprints at Gulfstream during that track’s championship meet, and the cutback to a 5 1/2-furlong trip should suit him; #1 VETERANS BEACH: Is probably the one to beat based on speed figures, but he’s been at this level for more than three years after breaking his maiden in August of 2018. He was a good second last time out, but he’s been “a good second” a lot and is very difficult to trust on top; #6 KING ANGELO: Broke his maiden in wire-to-wire fashion last time out and tries winners for the first time here. He did get a perfect trip in that score, but there isn’t an abundance of early speed signed on here, and if he gets a dream trip again, he could easily capitalize with another victory.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/4/21)


BANKROLL: $1,179.40

Wedding #2 of my “four weddings in six weeks” stretch takes place Saturday afternoon in beautiful Mammoth Lakes, California. It’s extremely remote and not close to anything in particular, but I’m delighted to have the chance to take a five-hour road trip there with my better half and celebrate two fantastic people (congrats, Mike and Monika!).

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “self, how is Andrew going to have the time and focus to handicap Sunday and Monday?,” know that this is a very, very valid question. I anticipate being yelled at for either going to sleep late or waking up very early, with my defense being, “I’m sorry, honey, but I need to look at the Hopeful!”

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: The best day I’ve ever had in the pick box (eight winners) was accompanied by a nice score here. My ticket scratched down to $30, and it hit for a robust $385.50.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll lean on two strong opinions. The more insane one is that #1 FAITH RUNNER has a big chance at a gigantic price in the sixth, so I’ll have a $10 win/place bet on that longshot. Additionally, and in far more conventional thinking, #3 WAR LIKE GODDESS should not lose the Flower Bowl. She’s a single to end $2 Grand Slam tickets that start in the eighth and look like this: 1,4 with 1,6,10 with 1,3,6 with 3.



Best Bet: War Like Goddess, Race 11
Longshot: Faith Runner, Race 6


Stonecoldwarrior (MTO)
War Smoke
Citizen K

#5 WAR SMOKE: Did everything but win in his debut, when he rallied from 10th of 11 and was beaten just a neck. If his most recent drill is any indication, he’s bounced out of that unveiling well, and he looms large as a logical favorite in the Saturday opener; #3 CITIZEN K: Has not run since October, but he tries turf for the first time and is bred to love it. He’s by Mizzen Mast, out of a Proud Citizen mare, and gets first-time Lasix for a barn that’s connected at a 20% clip this summer; #7 GIRAMONTE: Has had plenty of chances and has run second or third in all five of his career turf outings. He was most recently second against similar company, and his usual effort would likely get him a piece of the purse here.


Supreme Aura
Roaming Union
Universal Payday

#2 SUPREME AURA: Was claimed for $40,000 after a last-out score at Belmont and drops in for half that price here. This barn’s horses have been running well, with 17 top-three finishes in 40 starts, but only two of those are wins, and I’m guessing this is a “get us to the winner’s circle” drop; #4 ROAMING UNION: Cruised to a victory over a lower-level group last time out, and his record looks considerably better if you toss his Belmont races. He’ll likely be on or near the lead early, and Joel Rosario sees fit to ride back; #7 UNIVERSAL PAYDAY: Hasn’t won in a while but did show improvement when stretched back out to two turns last time out. He has a win at this route and has every right to take another step forward in his third start off of a long layoff.


Cody’s Wish
North Carolina

#6 CODY’S WISH: Lost all chance at the start last time out, and it’s pretty remarkable that he salvaged third in that outing. He was a very heavy favorite that day off of a solid debut downstate, and I’m willing to give him another shot; #1 NORTH CAROLINA: Has been working very, very quickly ahead of his first start since June of last year. That’s atypical of Barclay Tagg trainees, as he’s a very patient horseman. If he runs to his works, I think he’s got a chance to spring a mild upset; #7 PIPELINE: Fell by a head in the same race my top pick exits, and that day’s winner came back to win a first-level allowance several days ago. That was a pretty significant step forward for him, though, and I’m curious as to why he’s being cut back to one turn for this event.


Risky Mischief
Lilly Simone

#7 RISKY MISCHIEF: Came up just short in her 2021 debut last month, which was her first outing since late-November. She’s run several strong races at this route, and the faster they go early, the better her chances figure to be; #1 LILLY SIMONE: Came up a head short in a starter allowance race earlier this summer, and that day’s winner came back to win over allowance foes earlier this week. The rail draw is less than ideal, but a repeat of her last-out effort would give her a chance at a nice price; #4 FETCHING: Hasn’t won in quite a while but is extremely consistent and was second behind a next-out winner back in July. Karl Broberg saw fit to claim her out of that race, and her usual effort would put her right there.


Souper Sensational
Li’l Tootsie

#6 SOUPER SENSATIONAL: Was impressive in winning the Grade 3 Victory Ride two starts ago and ran into a buzzsaw when second to Bella Sofia in the Grade 1 Test. She draws a cushy outside post and will likely get plenty of pace to chase in the Grade 2 Prioress, which would make her tough to go against; #1 OXANA: Has shown serious talent in a pair of runaway victories at Parx and gets a significant class test here. She fits on speed figures and attracts Irad Ortiz, Jr., who almost certainly had several options in this spot; #3 LI’L TOOTSIE: Took a pair of shots in the last two starts and likely gets back to what she wants to do here. Her dirt sprint form looks very solid, and trainer Tom Amoss isn’t one to take crazy shots in big races. I think she’ll have every chance to outrun her odds and hit the board at a big number.


Immokalee (MTO)
Faith Runner

#1 FAITH RUNNER: Is a gigantic price on the morning line, but I think there’s a lot to like. He’s bred to be any kind, sold for $300,000 at auction last year, and stretches out to two turns after a bullet five-furlong drill. His likely price hits me as a gigantic overlay; #6 ANNAPOLIS: Debuts for Todd Pletcher and is one of the best-bred 2-year-olds we’ve seen all summer. He’s by all-world sire War Front, out of Grade 2 winner My Miss Sophia, and has been working steadily going long ahead of his unveiling; #9 OHTWOOHTHREEFIVE: Led briefly last time out before fading to third behind a well-meant Shug McGaughey trainee and may find this spot a bit softer. The outside post isn’t ideal, but he did show some tactical speed last time out and that could allow him to get the jump on this group.


Brigadier General
Classic Causeway
Ten Gauge

#10 BRIGADIER GENERAL: Tired after setting a contested early pace last time out and may have bounced off of a strong second in his debut. He’s since posted a pair of very impressive workouts, and I’m expecting an improved effort at a better price than the one we got last month; #2 CLASSIC CAUSEWAY: Debuts for Brian Lynch and boasts a curious workout pattern. It’s not often you see an unraced 2-year-old with back-to-back six-furlong drills, but this one has them, and that should at least mean he’ll be fit; #3 TEN GAUGE: Dueled in the mud at Monmouth and was beaten just a length in his debut. Offspring of Gun Runner have proven to be runners, and the presence of broodmare sire Empire Maker hints that he’ll only get better as the distances get longer.


Risk Taking (MTO)
Public Sector
Never Surprised

#1 PUBLIC SECTOR: Has two wins and two seconds in four starts this season and captured the Grade 2 Hall of Fame last time out. His record looks far better if you draw a line through his puzzling clunker in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and he looks like the class of the field in the Grade 3 Saranac; #4 NEVER SURPRISED: Hasn’t run since January, when he was a beaten 1/5 favorite in the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream Park. He showed plenty of talent as a 2-year-old, when he won a stakes race at Aqueduct, and it’s entirely possible he’s matured in his time away; #5 FOUNDER: Rallied to win an ungraded stakes race on the lawn at Monmouth last time out and may have benefited from a very fast pace. He was a very impressive first-out winner here last summer, and he may be figuring things out in the back half of his 3-year-old campaign.


Just Ok Is Not Ok
English Breeze
Friedman entry

#6 JUST OK IS NOT OK: Had a terrible trip last time out in her first start against winners, and I have no problem tossing that effort. Her win two starts ago was solid, and we may get an inflated price given a last-out clunker that probably isn’t reflective of this filly’s ability; #10 ENGLISH BREEZE: Won first time out two summers ago and has been searching for her second score ever since. She exits a very competitive race for the level at Belmont, and that day’s winner and second-place finisher have since come back to win; #1A CARA’S DREAMER: Just missed at this level two starts ago, when she was beaten a dirty nose at 17-1. She’s a closer that will need a lively pace in front of her, and she’ll certainly be going the right direction late when the real running starts.



#6 OLYMPIAD: Was very highly-regarded as a 2-year-old last season and broke his maiden near the end of the meet when he topped eventual stakes winners Caddo River and Greatest Honour. He hasn’t run since, but he’s trained forwardly for Bill Mott and gets Lasix for the first time ahead of his return; #3 DUCALE: Earned a lofty 97 Beyer Speed Figure when topping maidens early in the stand and tries winners for the first time. He’ll likely be a short price and could be good enough with further progression, but this is far from an easy first-level allowance race, and I’d prefer more value than we’re likely to get; #1 TUGGLE: Came back running when second in his first start since April of 2020 downstate. Toss the two turf outings back in 2019, and you have a colt that’s never been worse than third in five dirt starts and one that hit the board in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special as a 2-year-old.


War Like Goddess
My Sister Nat
Great Island

#3 WAR LIKE GODDESS: Has turned into one of the country’s top turf horses and looms very large in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl. She was extremely impressive in taking the Grade 2 Glens Falls for her third straight graded stakes score, and she’s tough to go against here; #4 MY SISTER NAT: Is one of two upset hopefuls trained by Chad Brown, and she’s an ultra-consistent mare with 14 in-the-money finishes in 18 lifetime starts. She was second behind my top pick in the Glens Falls, and she won the Grade 3 Waya over this turf course a season ago; #6 GREAT ISLAND: Is the second Brown runner and comes in after taking the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth Park. She tries a marathon distance for the first time, but her pedigree says that shouldn’t be a problem.


Forza Di Oro
Happy Saver
Night Ops

#1 FORZA DI ORO: Came back running off of a long layoff with an easy win over optional claiming foes and gets a major acid test in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. However, he’s shown he has immense talent and may be in a position where he’s put it all together as a 4-year-old; #4 HAPPY SAVER: Won this race a season ago and will look to rebound from his first career defeat in the Grade 2 Suburban downstate. The sloppy track may have been a factor that day, and at a minimum, we know that the 10-furlong distance will not be a problem; #5 NIGHT OPS: Has come frustratingly close on a number of occasions this season and was most recently second in the Alydar. That day’s winner, Art Collector, won the rich Charles Town Classic in his next start, and perhaps the stretch-out to a mile and a quarter will be what he needs to break through.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/3/21)


BANKROLL: $823.90

I’ll need to be very careful with how I word this, but here goes: It’s downright weird seeing the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Flower Bowl being run at Saratoga.

I get the logic. Horses simply do not run nearly as much (trainers, be sure to take note: This is a criticism of the breed, not your skill as conditioners or judgment with regard to the horses in your barns), and the New York Racing Association wants to maintain the importance of races that were very prominent in past years but have been skipped by many thoroughbreds aiming for the Breeders’ Cup.

That doesn’t, however, mean I can’t miss the days when our best horses ran both fast and often, as opposed to one or the other. It meant something when the same horses came back for races like the Whitney, the Woodward, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup in succession. I was also a huge fan of the Saratoga Breeders’ Cup, a race won in my youth by the likes of Evening Attire and Aptitude. That race was one of the first casualties of the modern era, and while I can’t blame NYRA for making adjustments it felt it had to make given the state of the game, it’s a shame we’re moving and modifying these great races without attacking the industry’s bigger issues in meaningful ways.

THURSDAY’S RESULTS: Our action was cancelled for the second straight day, as turf races were moved off the grass.

FRIDAY’S PLAY: Whether or not we’ll be on the turf is a mystery as of this writing, and six of the day’s 10 races are scheduled for the lawn, which means this may get washed out again. However, assuming we’re on the turf, I’ll tackle what looks like a fun late Pick Four sequence. My 50-cent ticket starting in the seventh reads as follows: 4,5,6,8 with 1 with 2,3,4,5 with 2,3,4,8,9. I’m trying to beat #8 MAVEN in the Lucky Coin, and if that happens, I think this has the potential to pay very well.



Best Bet: Risk Profile, Race 3
Longshot: Ruse, Race 4


Mo Rewards
Coastal Chaos

#1 MO REWARDS: Is one of two in here trained by Rudy Rodriguez, and I think that conditioner has this field in a very precarious spot. This son of Uncle Mo has been working pretty well ahead of his unveiling and may be quick enough to compensate for the rail draw; #3 LANZONI: Is the other Rodriguez runner, and he turned in a very fast work on August 24th. Leading rider Luis Saez sees fit to ride, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a 1-2 finish for the barn in either order; #4 COASTAL CHAOS: Debuts for Todd Pletcher and may go favored because of that, but I have my doubts. He spent lots of time down at Monmouth Park, and Pletcher’s first move when he got here was to breeze him on turf. That’s a red flag, and at his likely price, I’ll try to beat him in the Friday opener.


Speedometer (MTO)
Bubble Rock
Old Pho

#3 BUBBLE ROCK: Ran well to finish second in her debut and looms large at second asking for an outfit whose trainers usually improve with experience. She earned a 79 Beyer Speed Figure in her unveiling, and any step forward would make her a handful; #6 OLD PHO: Hammered for $210,000 at auction last September and makes her debut for a world-class horseman in Al Stall, Jr. Offspring of American Pharoah tend to love the turf, and her dam was quick enough to be a stakes-winning sprinter; #2 NAY SAY: Is one of two Wesley Ward trainees in here, and this one hits me as the most live. She exits a recent bullet drill at Keeneland and attracts Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez.


Risk Profile
Repo Rocks
Cousin Andrew

#3 RISK PROFILE: Drops in for a tag after finding starter allowance company downstate a bit too tough. He romped two back to break his maiden, and he has several back races that show that effort was no fluke. Luis Saez’s presence here is also a plus, as he likely had a few options; #5 REPO ROCKS: Didn’t have a smooth start last time out in a starter allowance event just a few weeks ago and is another dropping in class. His two-back effort here was solid enough, and he has enough speed to sit close in the early going; #6 COUSIN ANDREW: Earned the diploma last time out at this route and was claimed by a sharp horseman that excels with new acquisitions. These are far deeper waters, to be sure, but draw a line through the adventurous trip he had two starts ago and you have a gelding that hasn’t done a heck of a lot wrong.



#5 RUSE: Is a tepid top pick in a race with a 10-horse field and seven or eight runners that could conceivably win. This one gets my selection because he may find himself alone on the front end. He capitalized on that trip last time out, and he’s never finished worse than third going long on the turf; #8 PANSTER: Rallied to take a pretty tough start allowance race last time out and comes back into the state-bred ranks for this event. It can be argued this race is a drop in class for him, and he’s won two of his three starts this season since coming back to the track for Christophe Clement; #3 AUSTRIAN: Disappointed when third as the 2-1 favorite at this level and route early in the meet. However, that was his first start in three months and he rated behind a pretty slow pace. He may be sharper here, and a logical step forward would give him a big chance.


Dee Bo
Papa Smooth

#2 DEE BO: Found $25,000 claimers too tough last time out and drops back into the $16,000 non-winners-of-two condition in this spot. He was a good third two back at this level and route, and I think he could sit an ideal stalking trip just off the speed; #5 PAPA SMOOTH: Was claimed out of his last race by Orlando Noda, who’s one of the better trainers on the circuit when running horses back off the claim. His wire-to-wire win two back at Belmont was solid, and he attracts Irad Ortiz, Jr., for this event; #8 LITTERBOX: May provide some value in the exotics due to the likely race shape. Not many runners here want to pass others, and this one’s shown he does his best running late. The faster they go early, the better this longshot’s chances figure to be.


Call Sign Charlie (MTO)

#2 HOWDYOUMAKEURMONEY: Showed speed in her debut on the main track and goes to the turf, a surface she’s bred to love. She’s by Freud, out of an Elusive Quality mare, and runs for a trainer that has done well with second-time starters and runners trying the grass for the first time; #14 ROOSKI: Needs lots of luck to draw in, as she’s the last runner on the AE list. However, she made a bit of a move in her debut despite a very wide trip, and if the recent workout is any indication, she got quite an education in her initial outing; #3 DOC DOC ROCK: Was a heavy favorite in her debut last month but faded after briefly contesting the early pace. She tries turf here, and perhaps that will wake her up, but after that first-out clunker, I simply cannot endorse her on top, especially at what’s likely to be a pretty short price.


Fort Peck (MTO)

#8 EMARAATY: Has been going up against some pretty good horses since coming over from Europe several years ago. He was beaten a length by Grade 2 winner Olympic Runner two starts ago, and this is nowhere near as tough a spot as the ones he’s been running in; #6 HIEROGLYPHICS: Loves Saratoga and must be given a long look due to the races he’s run over this turf course. This is a step up in class, but he fits on speed figures and should get a pace to run at, so his likely price hits me as an overlay; #4 VOODOO ZIP: Has won two of his last three starts and showed a new dimension when rating effectively in July at Belmont. His win that day earned him a 92 Beyer Speed Figure, and it’s easy to root for a horse that’s never missed the board in 10 career outings.


Gold Panda
Big Bobby
Luna’s in Charge

#1 GOLD PANDA: Never looked like a loser in his maiden-breaking score and gets wheeled back quickly by a barn that’s heated up in the back half of the meet. Joel Rosario rides back, and he should be quick enough out of the gate to avoid getting shuffled back in the early going; #4 BIG BOBBY: Chased a much-the-best winner in his first start against allowance company earlier this summer, but it’s not like he ran poorly that day. He matched the 83 Beyer Speed Figure he earned in victory two back, and his recent drills look sharp; #5 LUNA’S IN CHARGE: Is unlikely to win but has shown a strong closing kick in several local dirt sprints. The seven-furlong distance is an unknown, but he may be presented with a scenario that could allow him to hit the board at a pretty big price.


Maxwell Esquire
The Connector

#4 PULSATE: Goes back to the turf after a failed dirt outing, and that should move him forward considerably. He ran the ultra-fast Fiya to a head two starts ago at Belmont, and he ran second in this very race a season ago (along with a competitive fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Troy that same year); #5 MAXWELL ESQUIRE: Will likely sit back and make one big late run. He’s never been worse than second in three local starts, and there certainly seems to be enough early speed signed on to set up for what he wants to do; #2 THE CONNECTOR: Merits a look at a big price, as he’s been very competitive at this level on the mid-Atlantic circuit. Among others, he ran into The Critical Way several times this summer, and that one went on to win the Parx Dash earlier this week.


Sitting Pretty
Federalist Papers

#3 GAUFF: Debuts for Brad Cox, and while it’s tough for some horses to go two turns at first asking, she’s bred up and down for this route and has worked well. She’s a half-sister to a Group 3-placed runner, and her second dam is a stakes-winning turf sprinter; #2 SITTING PRETTY: Was one-paced in her debut earlier at this stand, but if several works since that unveiling are any indication, she’s sitting on a significantly-improved effort here. The jockey switch to Joel Rosario is noteworthy, and perhaps she just needed a race to get going; #9 FEDERALIST PAPERS: Was very far back in both of her two prior starts and gets blinkers in her New York debut. We haven’t seen her since March, and that’s not the best sign, but she hasn’t run badly to this point and maybe the blinkers will get her a bit more interested early on in the Friday finale.