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.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 8/19/17

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $749.75

I’m not going to feed you marketing spin about how great this year’s Alabama is. From a quality standpoint, it’s a step down from previous years (especially the 2016 renewal, where Songbird won in a gallop). However, it is a spectacular betting race, and you’re likely to get a price on whatever horse you think will break through in the absence of divisional heavyweights like Abel Tasman. There are holes in the favorites and cases to make for bigger prices, and as a handicapper, that’s all you can ask for.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: We had the right idea with Missimpazi, who ran a very strong race in her debut. Unfortunately for us, the 4-1 shot got reeled in late, and our $20 win bet fizzled. We did get $10 back from our cancelled double play after the sixth was rained off the turf.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: As if you couldn’t tell by my intro, my action will focus on the feature, which goes as the ninth race. If the morning line odds hold up on #7 ELATE, I’ll take them and run. She seems to be getting better with experience and added distance, and she gave Abel Tasman all she could handle in the Coaching Club American Oaks. I’ll start off with a $5 win/place bet, and I’ll also use her in $3 exactas above and below #2 HOLY HELENA, #4 LOCKDOWN, #5 UNCHAINED MELODY, and #6 SALTY. Finally, I’ll single her in $3 doubles that use #1 ASSERTIVE/#1A WAKE ISLAND and #5 TIME TO FLIRT in the finale.

TOTAL WAGERED: $40

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: La Coronel, Race 8
Longshot: Race Me Home, Race 6

R1

Turbo Street
Southside Warrior
Docs Legacy

TURBO STREET: Drops way down in class after four tries against much better horses. This barn has gotten off to a cold start to the meet, but this class relief is simply too much to ignore; SOUTHSIDE WARRIOR: Was third in a swiftly-run race earlier in the meet. Javier Castellano rides back, and given his history with other runners in this race, it’s safe to assume he had options; DOCS LEGACY: Prevailed at a big price earlier in the meet. He may want a bit longer than he gets here, but a repeat effort puts him right there.

R2

Congruity
Another
Hyndford

CONGRUITY: Fetched $210k at auction and has been working very well ahead of his debut. These connections merit respect, and the turf breeding is there; ANOTHER: Is one to include if he draws in off the AE list. He was second in his debut earlier in the meet for a barn whose first-time starters don’t often win; HYNDFORD: Was a $200k auction purchase and has a pedigree that indicates he should take to turf. The works leave a bit to be desired, but these connections can’t be ignored.

R3

Hexameter
Wildcat Belle
Paluxy Princess

HEXAMETER: Comes back to dirt after being beaten less than two lengths on turf earlier in the meet. Her dirt races earlier this year were all solid, and she could sit an ideal stalking trip; WILDCAT BELLE: Figures to be prominent early in her first start for this barn. She may not get an uncontested lead, but she figures to be the one they’ve got to run down late; PALUXY PRINCESS: Has taken a big step forward in two starts for Carlos Martin. She was second here earlier in the meet and merits a look underneath at a nice price.

R4

Flashy Jewel (MTO)
Manitoulin
Hello Don Julio

MANITOULIN: Was beaten less than two lengths in a Grade 3 last time out and won two in a row before that. He seems to be peaking this season, and it helps that there appears to be some early speed signed on; HELLO DON JULIO: Tried Grade 2 company earlier in the meet and drops back down into the optional claiming ranks here. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because he’s 0-for-2 at Saratoga and that he may not get an easy lead; AQUAPHOBIA: Really hasn’t run a bad race this year. He cuts back in distance after finishing third in a minor stakes race, and he should be running well late. DIRT SELECTIONS: FLASHY JEWEL, DOCTOR MOUNTY, MARENGO ROAD.

R5

Variant Perception
Allured
Super Sermon

VARIANT PERCEPTION: Appears extremely well-meant in his debut. He’s outworked his uncoupled stablemate on multiple occasions, and these connections are always tough; ALLURED: Is said stablemate, one who fetched $600k at auction earlier this year. Chad Brown could easily run 1-2 here; SUPER SERMON: Is a WinStar homebred that’s worked solidly for Todd Pletcher. The pedigree, though, suggests that this one may want longer than the six furlongs he gets here.

R6

Caviar Czar
Meantime
Race Me Home

CAVIAR CZAR: Has improved with every start to date, and his lone win came going a two-turn route of ground. Given the rail draw and his proven early zip, he should be prominent early; MEANTIME: Exits the Grade 1 Belmont, where he was rank early and had nothing left in the later stages of the marathon race. Before that, he was second in the Grade 3 Peter Pan, and a repeat of that effort would make him a major player; RACE ME HOME: Showed promise last yea when second in the Easy Goer. The last two races on turf are throw-outs, and a return to his 2016 form would make his 15-1 morning line a considerable overlay.

R7

Knarsdale (MTO)
Ellery Lane
Mom’s On Strike

ELLERY LANE: Makes her North American debut for Chad Brown off a long layoff. She showed promise in a limited 2-year-old campaign, which featured a fourth-place finish in Group 3 company, and she gets Lasix for the first time; MOM’S ON STRIKE: Came off the bench running last time out when second behind a much-the-best winner. Improvement is logical second off the layoff; CASSE ENTRY: I prefer GIADA VEGAS, who has improved as a 4-year-old and would benefit from a fast early pace. DIRT SELECTIONS: KNARSDALE, MOM’S ON STRIKE, JUST GOT OUT.

R8

La Coronel
Proctor’s Ledge
Uni

LA CORONEL: Returns to the U.S. after competing in a Group 1 at Royal Ascot against some of the best fillies in Europe. The first and second-place finishers both won at next asking, and this one’s races before that journey were very sharp; PROCTOR’S LEDGE: Was impressive in winning the Grade 3 Lake George earlier in the meet. She appears to be improving with experience, and Castellano returning to ride her is a plus; UNI: Rallied well to finish third in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks behind two stablemates. She did get a pace to run at that day, though, and this pace scenario may not be nearly as favorable.

R9

Elate
Unchained Melody
Salty

ELATE: Was beaten just a head by the divisional leader in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and has the look of a filly that will keep improving. This distance should not be a problem, and she could sit a great trip; UNCHAINED MELODY: Broke through with a wire-to-wire win in the Grade 2 Mother Goose. She earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure that day, but she may not have beaten much in that spot, and she’s never been two turns, let alone this 10-furlong distance; SALTY: Sat an unlucky trip in the Coaching Club, but gave Abel Tasman all she could handle two back in the Acorn. Her best effort would put her right there.

R10

Tapella (MTO)
Bass entry
Time to Flirt

BASS ENTRY: I prefer ASSERTIVE, who took to turf last time out at Belmont. She was a close-up third that day, and she gets a big rider switch in the Saturday finale; TIME TO FLIRT: Has lost back-to-back photos downstate and sports a recent bullet workout since shipping here. She may be better around one turn, but it’s not inconceivable to think she could break through here; MISERICORDIA: Hasn’t run badly in two starts to date and switches to Jose Lezcano, a strong turf rider. She merits an underneath look, especially at her morning line price. DIRT SELECTIONS: TAPELLA, BASS ENTRY, AOIFE.