SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/21/21; ALABAMA DAY)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $1,002.90

The Alabama is one of my favorite races of the meet. It’s the only Grade 1 for 3-year-old fillies at a mile and a quarter on dirt, and some of the best performances I’ve ever seen at Saratoga have come in that race. I was there in-person for Questing’s romp in 2012 and Princess of Sylmar’s easy score in 2013 (she, by the way, got royally hosed in an indefensible Eclipse Award vote that season), and the list of winners includes horses like Songbird, Royal Delta, Go For Wand, Shuvee, and Gamely.

Saratoga is a place that harkens back to the glory days of racing, and it presents many things that simply don’t exist anywhere else anymore. In this case, that includes the Alabama, which provides ways for horses bred for stamina, rather than whatever the heck “brilliance” is, to strut their stuff on a big stage. It’s always a fun race to watch, and I’m excited for the 2021 renewal and the loaded undercard that will come with it.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: For the second time this week, we were washed out due to a weather-induced surface switch.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus early in the card and attempt to extract value out of some heavy favorites. First, I’ll play a $15 cold Pick Three starting in the opener that singles #6 TRIPLE ELVIS, #2 ZAINALARAB, and #1 ROBIN SPARKLES in their respective races. I’ll also play a 50-cent early Pick Five that looks like this: 6 with 2 with 1 with 2,4,7,9,10,11 with 1,4,5. Finally, I’ll punch a cold $6 double starting in the second that singles Zainalarab and Robin Sparkles.

TOTAL WAGERED: $30.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Malathaat, Race 10
Longshot: Charlie Five O, Race 8

R1

Triple Elvis
Pletcher entry
Fan the Fire

#6 TRIPLE ELVIS: Hammered for $700,000 at auction last year, and for good reason. He’s by Into Mischief, out of a mare who herself is out of the great Serena’s Song, and he’s been working very quickly. If he runs to the works, I think we’ll see a head-turning performance in the Alabama Day opener; PLETCHER ENTRY: Both #1 NAPA VALLEY and #1A MAJOR GENERAL have every right to run well here. Pletcher’s exploits with first-time starters are well-documented, and he’s enlisted a pair of top-tier riders to pilot these two; #2 FAN THE FIRE: Wasn’t disgraced in his debut, when he was second in an off-the-turf event behind a well-meant runner. The pedigree says he’ll get better with experience, and having a start under his belt could be a big plus (only one other runner in here has raced).

R2

Zainalarab
Portilla
Primacy

#2 ZAINALARAB: Looms large against a short field of just four others in this allowance event. She won first time out back in September, was a good second behind the talented Australasia in April, and any sort of a move forward would make her a formidable favorite; #4 PORTILLA: Cuts back to one turn after a failed two-turn experiment here last month. She won at first asking and was fourth in a fast race at this distance two back, and she figures to do her best running late; #3 PRIMACY: Adds blinkers for Chad Brown and, at a minimum, will be a bigger price than her stablemate. She’s run figures that show she fits here, and if a faster-than-expected pace materializes here, she’ll be heard from late.

R3

Robin Sparkles
Lead Guitar
Piedi Bianchi

#1 ROBIN SPARKLES: Tired to finish third behind Caravel in the Grade 3 Caress last month. However, she sure looks like the controlling speed here in the Smart N Fancy. I think she leads every step of the way and prompts trips to the mall for fans of “How I Met Your Mother”; #2 LEAD GUITAR: Won four in a row to end 2020 and had an adventurous go of it in the Grade 2 Royal North at Woodbine. She was declared a non-starter that day, and she may have needed the race anyway. If another runner goes with my top pick early on, this is the one that’ll benefit the most; #4 PIEDI BIANCHI: Has earned some big checks in some big spots and is an easy horse to root for. She was second in the Grade 3 Intercontinental two back at Belmont, and while this may be a bit shorter than her best distance, her talent could be enough to get her a piece of this one.

R4

Tangerine Dream
Escapology
Maria’s Gift

#11 TANGERINE DREAM: Is a bit of a gamble given that she hasn’t been out of the barn since November of last year. However, her lone start here was pretty good, she gets Lasix for the first time, and her last two works have been very good. Luis Saez sees fit to ride, and the outside draw should give him plenty of options; #4 ESCAPOLOGY: Returned from a three-month freshening to run fourth in the slop earlier in the meet. She was rushed up after a poor start and probably lost all chance at that point. This barn connects at a solid clip with horses second off the bench, and I can’t ignore her; #2 MARIA’S GIFT: Has had plenty of chances, but ran into a runaway winner last time out and has races before that which would put her right there in this spot. I’m not sure how many more chances I can give her, but she should be prominent early and have every opportunity to work out a trip that gives her a shot.

R5

Too Early (MTO)
Ghost Giant
Regal Speaker

#4 GHOST GIANT: Has been very popular at the claim box and makes his first start for Rob Atras, whose barn has been firing on all cylinders this summer. He may not have appreciated the yielding going last time, and a repeat of his winning effort two back over firm ground at Belmont would make him tough; #1 REGAL SPEAKER: Has won three of his last six starts and delivered as the 6/5 favorite in a lower-level event downstate back in June. He’s shown he can go two turns, and he won over this route of ground when graduating out of the maiden ranks a season ago; #5 MATTY’S EXPRESS: Made his local debut a winning one when he prevailed by a neck as a 10-1 longshot last month. This is a tougher spot, but he’s been very consistent since being claimed by Kelly Breen last August, and his usual race would likely earn him a minor award.

R6

Betsy Blue (MTO)
Kokopelli
Awsum Roar

#8 KOKOPELLI: May have bounced last time out, when she stretched out to seven furlongs over a yielding turf course at Belmont. The cutback to 5 1/2 furlongs should help her, and I think she’ll be the one the rest of the field has to worry about late; #3 AWSUM ROAR: Was compromised by a slow pace here earlier in the meet, and it didn’t help that the winner was a well-meant runner that came right back to earn another victory at next asking. Her races earlier this year at Gulfstream were pretty sharp, and I’m willing to give her another shot (at least in the exotics); #4 SILKY BLUE: Has been very competitive at this level downstate and could sit a great stalking trip. This barn doesn’t saddle a ton of horses, but it’s hit at a 20% clip in 2021 and merits plenty of respect whenever a runner is led over.

R7

My Prankster
Reserve Currency
Skate to Heaven

#2 MY PRANKSTER: Sold for $600,000 at auction last year and has been training forwardly for Pletcher. The two half-mile gate drills jump off the page, and he’s bred to be a runner, being by Into Mischief and out of a mare that won multiple graded stakes races; #8 RESERVE CURRENCY: Must’ve been quite impressive earlier this year, because he sold for $375,000 despite a very modest pedigree. He’s worked steadily for Chad Brown, the last two drills show a tightening of the screws, and he draws well in his first lifetime start; #4 SKATE TO HEAVEN: Has turned in some solid five-furlong gate drills for Robertino Diodoro, who popped at a big price with a first-time starter last week. Diodoro’s hit at a 22% clip with firsters and boasts a very strong ROI, so it wouldn’t be a shock if this son of Laoban was ready to go.

R8

Identity Politics
Charlie Five O
Restoring Hope

#4 IDENTITY POLITICS: Is a reluctant top pick in the first leg of the late Pick Four. He hasn’t won in quite a while and is a Chad Brown trainee with many Monmouth works, and both of those facts are red flags. However, he’s the lone closer in what looks like a race with lots of speed, and that’s something I just cannot ignore; #5 CHARLIE FIVE O: Crushed an overmatched field of lower-level claimers in his last start, after which he was claimed by Linda Rice. He’s been working well ahead of his return, attracts Jose Ortiz for this event, and has enough speed to be prominent from the jump; #1 RESTORING HOPE: Is one of the most star-crossed horses in racing and takes a big drop in class. At various junctures Justify’s Belmont Stakes fullback and a sign that Jason Servis’s barn may not have been on the up-and-up, he has an excuse for his last-out dud, which came in his first start since August against a much better group.

R9

Spanish Loveaffair
Technical Analysis
Ego Trip

#6 SPANISH LOVEAFFAIR: Misfired in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks but has enough talent and the right running style to spring a mild upset in the Grade 2 Lake Placid. She’s got plenty of tactical speed, was impressive winning at this distance in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride before being taken down in an indefensible DQ, and could inherit the early lead by default. If she does, look out; #2 TECHNICAL ANALYSIS: Was an overlay at 7-1 in the Grade 3 Lake George and made the betting public pay with an impressive score. She did have a perfect trip that day, but the smaller field puts a similar scenario in play here, and when Chad Brown gets turf horses on the right track, they tend to stay there; #3 EGO TRIP: Was running well late in her North American debut, which doubled as a pretty salty maiden race here earlier in the meet. I think it’s a sign of confidence she’s entered here, not at that level, and she could very well improve in her second American outing.

R10

Malathaat
Army Wife
Maracuja

#6 MALATHAAT: Suffered her first career defeat in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, but she ran very well that day. She set a legitimate pace, and that’s not necessarily her best game. There’s other speed in the Grade 1 Alabama, and she should be able to sit back in the first flight and pounce turning for home; #7 ARMY WIFE: Has developed into a very good filly and is in search of her third straight graded stakes score. She runs like a horse that should enjoy racing’s classic, 10-furlong distance, and the Mike Maker barn has been as successful as any at this stand; #4 MARACUJA: Pulled off a 14-1 upset in the CCA Oaks last time out and won’t be anywhere near that price here. She ran very well, to be sure, but she also received one of the best rides we’ve seen this summer, and she may need to take another step forward here.

R11

Perfect Grace (MTO)
Split Then Double
Gauff

#4 SPLIT THEN DOUBLE: Has never run a poor race on the lawn and was third in the same maiden race that featured Ego Trip, who’s set to run in the Lake Placid. Based on speed figures, she looms large as the one to beat, and the Saturday finale looks like it’s her race to lose; #1 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; #6 INGRESS: Didn’t run badly in her debut earlier this meet, when she was fourth and a bit more than a length behind my top pick. Her two half-mile drills since that effort have been sharp, and she has every right to improve.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/15/20; ALABAMA DAY)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $829.50

Horse racing Jack-of-all-trades (and personal friend) Nick Hines stopped by the “Champagne and J.D.” podcast this week, and we had a really fun conversation that touched on a lot of different topics within the industry. We spoke about his role picking out horses at sales, as well as the recent passing of Mel Stute and what he wishes more fans knew about the sport. My personal highlight, meanwhile, is me retelling one of my favorite stories involving a private clocker and trainer Neil Drysdale (complete with my best Drysdale impression, which is actually not terrible).

The show is up on YouTube, and it’s also been picked up in a piece on the Paulick Report website as well. I’m grateful to Nick, affectionately known as “The Sarge” by his many friends, for taking the time to chat, and I hope you all enjoy it.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Thank you, Hurricane Hill. My longshot of the day prevailed in the seventh and paid $29.80 to win. While double and Pick Three tickets did not cash, a $15 win ticket on Hurricane Hill did to the tune of $223.50.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus primarily on the early Pick Four, which starts in the second race. My 50-cent ticket goes as follows: 4,6 with ALL with 2,3,5 with 10. My goal is to extract some value out of #10 BRAZEN, who figures to be a very heavy favorite in the fifth race of the day. I’ll also single my longshot of the day, #5 QUICK RETURN in the fourth, to kick off a $4 cold double ending with Brazen.

TOTAL WAGERED: $25.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Brazen, Race 5
Longshot: Quick Return, Race 4

R1

Bebe Banker
Invest
Somebody

#4 BEBE BANKER: Takes a big drop in class and cuts back to one turn, and both changes should be beneficial for him here. His effort two back was very strong, and he’s run reasonably well against allowance foes going seven furlongs, which bodes well; #3 INVEST: Comes back to the right level after running for a higher tag last time out at Belmont. That race was also off a very quick break, and he got some more time to recharge before this event; #5 SOMEBODY: Runs fresh for H. James Bond, whose horses have been firing at the Spa this summer. Luis Saez sees fit to ride, and he could sit a prime stalking trip just off of a moderate pace.

R2

Mo Mischief (MTO)
Public Sector
Rip It

#4 PUBLIC SECTOR: Has the highest turf Tomlinson figure I’ve ever seen, and for good reason. His pedigree is as European as it gets, and that 427 number jumps off the page. He’s worked steadily for Chad Brown, who employs Irad Ortiz, Jr., here; #6 RIP IT: Lost all chance at the break in his debut, one I was eagerly anticipating. He may have needed that effort, and if he lives up to the lofty potential provided by his pedigree, he could be a serious racehorse; #5 POLINESIA: Hammered for $800,000 here last summer and is bred to be a good one. This son of American Pharoah may be favored, but he was down at Monmouth with Chad Brown’s second-stringers, and that’s sometimes a red flag.

R3

Reed Kan
Lusitano
Skyler’s Scramjet

#3 REED KAN: Has won two in a row against similar company and has shown he doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well. That could be a huge asset here, as this race has come up heavy on early zip; #1 LUSITANO: Cuts back in distance and drops in class for an astute barn. He’s got plenty of back class, and the presence of aggressive gate rider Luis Saez may tip trainer Joe Sharp’s hand when it comes to tactics out of the gate; #4 SKYLER’S SCRAMJET: Found the winner’s circle for the first time in a long time earlier this meet. This is a slight step up in class, but it wasn’t long ago he was second in the Grade 1 Carter and perhaps he’s going in the right direction.

R4

Quick Return
Papa Luke
Farragut

#5 QUICK RETURN: Has run second twice when in for a tag and takes a slight step up in class. However, this field didn’t seem to come up all that strong for the level, and I love it when a speed horse gets blinkers for the first time. He’s a threat to wire this group at a price; #3 PAPA LUKE: Looms the one to beat off of two runner-up finishes at this level. Based on Beyer Speed Figures, he’s a formidable favorite, but he had every chance last time out earlier in the meet and couldn’t get the job done, which is a red flag; #2 FARRAGUT: Was third in the race my second selection also exits. If my top two picks cook each other on the front end, this is the one they may have to hold off, and I like the pattern of improving Beyers.

R5

Brazen
No Lime
Fevola

#10 BRAZEN: Takes a huge drop in class down to the $16,000 claiming level in his first start since being gelded. It wasn’t long ago he was 9-1 when running against highly-touted prospect Cezanne at Santa Anita, and between his early speed and the cushy outside post, I think he’s a very likely winner; #2 NO LIME: Was second in his seasonal debut, which doubled as his first outing in nine months. The recent sharp half-mile work indicates he came out of that race well, and he should be rolling late once again here; #3 FEVOLA: Takes a big drop after fading against starter allowance foes downstate in his first try against winners. His effort two starts ago was very good, and it’s possible he needed his last-out effort after a layoff of more than four months.

R6

Engrave
Restored Order
Calibrate

#1 ENGRAVE: Gets a tepid nod in a wide-open, prospect-filled 2-year-old race. This son of Flatter hammered for $900,000 at Keeneland last year and has been working well for Chad Brown. I’m not crazy about the rail, but if he runs to the workouts, he could be special; #10 RESTORED ORDER: Is one of only a few in here with experience, as he ran third in his unveiling at Gulfstream. He’s been off since May, but a recent big drill from the gate suggests he’s moving forward nicely for Todd Pletcher; #6 CALIBRATE: Fetched $340,000 at auction and seems to be coming to hand ahead of his unveiling. Steve Asmussen has already had a strong summer with 2-year-olds, and this could be another good one. If there’s hesitation here, it’s only because the pedigree suggests he’ll do his best running on turf.

R7

Big Thicket (MTO)
Mo Ready
Sanctuary City

#6 MO READY: Had a nightmare trip in his first start since December when he didn’t have anywhere to run until the final sixteenth of a mile. Between that journey and this being his second start off the bench, I think significant improvement is in the cards; #2 SANCTUARY CITY: Was second in the race my top pick exits and got the trip that one didn’t. He’s run well in both of his 2020 outings, and his last-out effort showed two-turn routes won’t present problems for him; #8 JIMMY JAZZ: Is a consistent sort that usually gets a check. His last two races in particular have been fine, and his trainer has quietly finished in the money with seven of his 12 starters at the meet as of this writing.

R8

Decorated Invader
Field Pass
Gufo

#2 DECORATED INVADER: Is one of the most talented horses in his crop and looms large in the Saratoga Derby. He’s won three in a row this season, the pedigree says this distance won’t be a problem, and he’ll be a logical short-priced favorite; #7 FIELD PASS: Has won four of five this year, with the lone defeat coming when he broke slowly in the War Chant three back. This is a class test for him, but a repeat of his effort in the Grade 3 Transylvania would give him a shot; #5 GUFO: Is the other half of a powerful 1-2 punch for Christophe Clement, who also trains my top pick. This one, however, can’t be ignored given his four-race win streak and the presence of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.

R9

Swiss Skydiver
Spice Is Nice
Harvey’s Lil Goil

#5 SWISS SKYDIVER: Stretches out to a mile and a quarter in the Grade 1 Alabama after running second against the boys in the Grade 2 Blue Grass. The winner, Art Collector, may be the second choice in the Kentucky Derby. If she takes to the added distance, she’ll be tough to catch; #2 SPICE IS NICE: Ran well to top allowance foes last time out and is bred to love the 10-furlong route she’ll get. This daughter of Curlin has some early speed and should sit a prime stalking trip, and trainer Todd Pletcher has remarked she looks like a horse that will adore this distance; #6 HARVEY’S LIL GOIL: Became a dual-surface stakes winner last time out when she won the Grade 3 Regret on turf at Churchill. Perhaps that’s her preferred surface, but given the pedigree (by American Pharoah, out of a Tapit mare), this distance shouldn’t be a problem, and that may be enough to get her a piece of it.

R10

Maxwell Esquire
Qian B C
New York’s Finest

#1 MAXWELL ESQUIRE: Was impressive in victory earlier this meet and steps up to a higher condition here. However, he’s run well against stakes company in the past and this race should set up well for his late-running style; #7 QIAN B C: Is another consistent closer that figures to get a strong setup with so much early speed signed on. His lone poor effort since the start of 2019 came in his first start off the bench two back, and he may be a pretty big price; #5 NEW YORK’S FINEST: Is 4-for-6 over this turf course and seems to have found his prior form in the barn of Rudy Rodriguez. His best race can win this, but he may have to work hard to establish early positioning and this seems like a strong field for the level.

R11

Bricco
Sidd Finch
Mommie’s Jewel

#4 BRICCO: Has run well twice this season against similar and should have a big chance here. It didn’t seem like he had any excuse last time out, but it’s tough to be too enthusiastic about much in this field and the Bond barn is firing on all cylinders; #12 SIDD FINCH: Goes second off the bench for George Weaver and likely needed his return, which doubled as his first start since March. His two and three-back efforts weren’t bad, and the last-out clunker may mean we get a bit of a price; #8 MOMMIE’S JEWEL: Was third in the race my top pick exits, but had every chance setting a moderate early pace and couldn’t get the job done. There seems to be more pace signed on, but she gets a slightly better post and may be able to lead them a long way beneath returning rider Joel Rosario.

GUEST COLUMN: Andrew’s Dad Comes West (Plus Andrew’s Plays of the Day: 1/22/20)

RECORD: 13-7

Editor’s note: The reason I haven’t been posting daily blogs here is because my father’s been in town and we’ve been busy. I’d been posting on Twitter up until Tuesday, when I neglected to put forth a play. As a result, I’ll have two down below…but first, allow me to show you what turned me into the writer I became.

My dad flew west Friday, and the convergence of several horrible circumstances and lots of rotten luck hit him hard. Like a Champagne does, he wrote about it on Sunday, and I’m putting his chronicle here as a guest column. If you say he’s a better writer than I am, I won’t be offended!

“In late December I found some GREAT fares on Southwest to the west coast, so I scheduled an impromptu visit to my son for the long MLK Day weekend. I paid for the outgoing leg with points and thought that was great. Little did I know…

Departure on Friday was delayed. As the Southwest rep announced it, “We are waiting for one last passenger to exit the aircraft.” She neglected to mention that the guy was exiting on a stretcher after an apparent heart attack. Then we began to board – briefly. We were once again delayed with an announcement that they could not depart until the canister of oxygen the heart attack victim used up was replaced, and they had to wait for another aircraft to arrive to grab one. God forbid the maintenance people should have spares. So then we boarded and sat on the tarmac for another half hour (paperwork… BS, I was taking it personally by this point), blowing through the departure time for my initial connecting flight in Baltimore.

Now the fun starts. I got a text from Southwest telling me they’d re-booked me on a flight through Austin which would get me to the west coast about 5 hours later than my initial itinerary laid out. When we arrived in Baltimore they coasted us into the gate right next to the gate the Austin flight was leaving from – so we had a great view of MY flight pushing back.

Another text arrived immediately, informing me I had again been re-booked on a flight through Denver. The texts were coming fast and furious now, as I was told soon after that this flight had been delayed 3 hours.

And then it was cancelled.

There were no options to get out of Baltimore Friday on Southwest at this point since most of the Midwest connect points were socked in with the storm and all existing flights were sold out to people who’d been screwed before they got to me. The last text I got said they were re-booking me through Salt Lake City: 48 hours later. I don’t think so.

Enter my son, who found me a nonstop redeye on United Airlines that left late Friday evening (from Washington) and would get me to San Francisco an hour after midnight, so off I went to Southwest baggage claim to get my suitcase (such as it was, as I was to find out 2 days later). After an hour and a half, they told me they’d given up trying to find it, and off I went on a 60 mile Lyft ride to Dulles Airport. For those keeping score at home, the Lyft (with tip) cost $94. The flight (with $39 extra for a couple more inches of leg room) was $563. So off I went on a six hour nonstop flight headed west in the middle seat surrounded by screaming children – and at this point I was about ready to join them.

While I was flying, my son was shopping. A pair of dress pants, a polo shirt, and some toiletries later, we can add another $75 or so to the extra costs of this mess. But I DID get to where I was going.

So Saturday, off we went to the FABULOUS Golden Gate Fields with an eye toward recouping some of this money – broken up by several unfruitful calls to Southwest’s Oakland Airport baggage claim. They kept telling me that the last time my bag was scanned was in Baltimore and that it would eventually catch up with me – then, my last call produced a new tidbit, that the bag was now in Salt Lake City. This meant it got there more than 24 hours before I would have, had I kept the last re-book they set up for me.

After dinner the call from Southwest came. My bag was now in Oakland. Per the poor guy who had to call me, “It has some damage.” So Sunday morning brought another airport excursion. I dealt with a very nice lady who brought my bag out of their storage room IN A TRASH BAG – and told me the damage happened in freaking BALTIMORE. This meant I was intentionally not given what was left of my bag there.

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I ended up having to go through everything that was in the suitcase to identify specific damage. They gave me sort of a zip bag to move stuff into after telling me they usually replace suitcases but they didn’t have any of those (of course). Casualties were a pair of shoes, a pair of jeans, some socks, and a couple of golf shirts. Surprisingly, much of my stuff survived the trip – especially since the bag looked like it had been attacked by the tiger who says “Hello, Lunch!!” in the Dr. Doolittle ad.

So… a $175 travel voucher, refund of the points I paid for the trip with, refunded Early Bird boarding charges, and a check for $200 (they originally didn’t have any of those, either) later, I’m back in Concord…for now… the baggage lady at Oakland encouraged me keep bothering them… and after receiving ANOTHER text TODAY re-booking me for January 29, I am NOT in a forgiving mood.

The saga continues.”

– – – – –

WEDNESDAY’S PLAYS: Because I didn’t have anything Tuesday, I’m putting forth two plays for Wednesday. In SEC action, Alabama, a team that’s won three of its last four (including a victory over Auburn), goes to Vanderbilt, a squad that’s winless in conference play. The nine-point spread hits me as too small, and I think the Crimson Tide covers it with ease. Additionally, in small-college hoops, Navy travels to Boston University, and both teams can score. Because of that, I’m taking the over on the total, which is at 127.5 as of this writing.

Andrew’s Play of the Day: 1/1/20

RECORD: 0-0

In 2019, I decided to try my hand at picking four NFL games every week on Twitter. I missed a few weekends for various reasons (some good, some bad), but ultimately I wound up 33-23 on the season for a success rate just shy of 59%. That doesn’t sound earth-shattering to some, but it’s enough for a flat-bet profit if you played all of my picks.

With that in mind, and also with the understanding that writers need to write, I’m debuting a new daily segment on my website. It’s modeled after Mighty Quinn’s long-running blurb in the New York Daily News, where he’d wax poetic on something and offer a sports play of the day. I’ll be tracking my results as I go, and hopefully I can keep the success of the NFL season going for a long, long time.

As always, reader input is welcome and appreciated. Tweet me at @AndrewChampagne or get in touch by utilizing the “contact” function on the site. I see everything that comes in, and I respond to most of it.

WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: I’m a Michigan fan, and I’m fully expecting the Wolverines to get rolled by Alabama in today’s Citrus Bowl. They simply don’t match up, and I’m gobsmacked that the point spread is single-digits. Alabama is an 8.5-point favorite, and I’m taking the Crimson Tide to cover.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 8/18/18

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $534.20

Today’s card at Saratoga may be the best one of the meet to this point. Several of the top 3-year-old fillies in the country will be in action, and the card also boasts a number of intriguing races for 2-year-olds. There are plenty of great wagering opportunities on tap, and it’s a pleasure to handicap programs like this that reflect what Saratoga should always be: One of the last remaining cathedrals in horse racing.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Shang Shang Shang scratched scratched scratched, so our $20 cold double was refunded.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to take a stand against #3 MIDNIGHT BISOU in the Alabama. She’s a very nice horse, but the distance is a big question mark, and I can’t endorse her at her likely price. I’ll play doubles starting and ending in that race that use #4 SHE’S A JULIE and #8 TALK VEUVE TO ME. My $8 doubles starting in the eighth single #6 RUSHING FALL, and my $4 doubles ending in the tenth use #3 NEOCLASSIC, #4 REFLECTED STAR, and #11 EXPECTED RULER (assuming, of course, that the race stays on turf). Additionally, I’ll play a $1 Pick Three starting in the eighth that uses those horses.

TOTAL WAGERED: $34

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Rushing Fall, Race 8
Longshot: Noble Nebraskan, Race 2

R1

Azzedine
Causeur
End of an Era

#2 AZZEDINE: Drops further down the ladder after falling as a 7/5 favorite earlier in the meet. This doesn’t seem like a distinguished field, and it seems like one he’ll beat with his usual race; #8 CAUSEUR: Had an eventful trip last time out, so it’s easy to draw a line through that race. He has back races that would make him a contender here, and we may get a price given the recent clunker; #9 END OF AN ERA: Adds blinkers for his local debut after an OK performance at Delaware Park. The blinkers could get him more involved early, and the presence of speed rider Kendrick Carmouche could also signal that he’s going early.

R2

Standard Deviation (MTO)
Noble Nebraskan
Medina Ridge

#10 NOBLE NEBRASKAN: Is bred up and down for turf and has a solid series of works ahead of his debut. George Weaver can win with first-time starters, and we may get a price in what seems like a wide-open event; #9 MEDINA RIDGE: Is another bred to be a strong grass horse. He’s by War Front, out of a Smart Strike mare, and goes out for a barn that’s had success with firsters on turf; #6 SOUTHERN BRIDGE: Was fifth in his debut earlier in the meet, and was beaten just two lengths that day despite a wide trip. Improvement is logical at second asking for a patient barn. DIRT SELECTIONS: STANDARD DEVIATION, GOOSE DRANK WINE, PERCEIVED.

R3

Forge
Nigel’s Destiny
Helooksthepart

#1 FORGE: Did everything but win last time out in a very fast race for the level. He was claimed by Mike Maker that day, and he retains the services of jockey Javier Castellano; #7 NIGEL’S DESTINY: Is the only runner in this race with multiple wins at the seven-furlong distance. He was third behind a next-out winner in an allowance event downstate, and his last start for a tag was a win; #5 HELOOKSTHEPART: Didn’t fire last time out in a race several of today’s foes also exit, but is a closer in an event with plenty of early speed signed on. He may be past his peak, but the race shape will almost certainly benefit him.

R4

Ahead of Plan
Principled
Cromwell Avenue

#7 AHEAD OF PLAN: Has a purchase price ($475,000) that jumps off the page given his very modest pedigree. He’s worked well of late and figures to be tough if he runs to those drills; #2 PRINCIPLED: Is the other logical first-time starter. He’s by Medaglia d’Oro and out of Grade 2 winner Teen Pauline, who set the five-furlong track record here at Saratoga in her 2012 debut; #8 CROMWELL AVENUE: Didn’t do much running in his debut, which was won by an impressive 2-year-old named Nitrous. He didn’t have a great trip that day and could improve here at a price.

R5

Our Girl Abby
Tee Up
Richie’slilwildcat

#3 OUR GIRL ABBY: Got the dirty end of a photo finish last time out but has a right to turn the tables on that rival here. There’s lots of early speed in this race, and she’s shown an ability to rate; #6 TEE UP: Was the winner of that photo finish following a perfect trip and smart ride by Joel Rosario. A repeat isn’t out of the question, but Rosario’s in California and there’s much more early speed signed on today; #4 RICHIE’SLILWILDCAT: Has won two small stakes races and ships in for a prominent Midwest outfit. She’ll likely make the lead, and it wouldn’t be a shock if she wires the field, but she may have to work hard out of the gate to get to the front.

R6

Wild Medagliad’oro
Most Mischief
Fed Fever

#5 WILD MEDAGLIAD’ORO: Close well to be second in his debut after racing very wide most of the way. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because he’s bred to go much longer (and ran like it in his unveiling), but this certainly seems like the weaker split of the same race (the fourth has the same conditions); #3 MOST MISCHIEF: Improved at second asking when third behind Nitrous despite a trip that didn’t do him many favors. He has an experience edge on this group, which could prove valuable; #7 FED FEVER: Was bet in his debut but raced very wide and likely wasn’t fully persevered with. He’s continued to work well and has every right to step forward with a start under his belt.

R7

Lovely La La
Hollywood Cat
Way Smart

#8 LOVELY LA LA: Was much the best in her maiden win downstate, and that day’s third-place finisher has since come back to win. The pedigree says two turns won’t be an issue, and speed’s always a plus on the inner turf course; #3 HOLLYWOOD CAT: Flopped when fourth as a 3/2 favorite earlier in the meet, but the turf course was very wet that day. If the ground is on the firmer side, she has a big chance to improve for a proven barn; #4 WAY SMART: May have moved a bit too soon last time out at this level, but still ran an OK third. She’s yet to run a truly bad race and has shown some flexibility in her running style.

R8

Rushing Fall
Thewayiam
Significant Form

#6 RUSHING FALL: Was very rank last time out and still only missed by a neck in what doubled as her first career loss. She wants to rate and should be able to do that behind several others in this field; #1 THEWAYIAM: Hasn’t run a bad race this year and was a good second in the Belmont Oaks. The rail draw isn’t ideal for a closer, but she was only a length behind Rushing Fall earlier this year at Keeneland; #4 SIGNIFICANT FORM: Was fourth in the Belmont Oaks in a race that may have been longer than she wants to go. The cutback in distance should help her, and she’ll likely be on or near the lead given her ample tactical speed.

R9

Talk Veuve to Me
She’s a Julie
Midnight Bisou

#8 TALK VEUVE TO ME: Chased Mia Mischief and Monomoy Girl earlier this year, but cruised in the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks and showed she could go two turns. This field isn’t heavy on tactical speed, and she’s worked really well here of late; #4 SHE’S A JULIE: Romped in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks and is another that shouldn’t be too far back early. Take out the Fair Grounds races, and you’re left with a much better resume; #3 MIDNIGHT BISOU: Was second in the CCA Oaks, but had every chance that day and just couldn’t stick with Monomoy Girl. It seems like she struggles going further than a mile and a sixteenth, and I’m not sure this is the trip she wants.

R10

Brimstone (MTO)
Reflected Star
Expected Ruler

#4 REFLECTED STAR: Gets a tepid nod in a wide-open finale. He’s shown early speed and was claimed out of his last race (a weirdly-run event) by a barn that’s done great work this year with a fairly small outfit; #11 EXPECTED RULER: Just missed at 25-1 last time out against much better, and is a major player if he draws in off the AE list. His effort two back has aged well, as he was third behind next-out Grade 3 winner Sandy’z Slew; #3 NEOCLASSIC: Has won two of his last three, and in those wins, he topped many of today’s rivals. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because he seems to prefer one-turn routes to two-turn trips, and he gets the latter here. DIRT SELECTIONS: BRIMSTONE, BITUMEN, CALIFORNIA SWING.