SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/13/22)


BANKROLL: $873.95

Legendary college basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian once said the NCAA was so mad at Kentucky, they put Cleveland State on probation. What came out Friday isn’t quite that, but it’s not far off.

Dylan Davis was suspended seven race days for his role in an incident Wednesday, one where Eric Cancel and his mount fell turning for home. Repeated viewings of that race bear out that the accident was a “wrong place, wrong time” situation. A short suspension would’ve been appropriate.

Seven days, however, seems overly harsh, especially considering the behavior that goes unpunished by stewards on a daily basis. I wrote a few days ago that riding is going beyond “aggressive” and into “reckless” with alarming regularity. Stiffer punishments are a deterrent, but this isn’t an instance in which one should’ve been applied.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Chiara did indeed scratch, which was unfortunate, and my remaining exactas fizzled. I dropped $4.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: My best bet of the day comes in the second race, and I’m against the morning line favorite in the third. As such, most of my action comes in the form of $10 doubles that single #3 MOUNT ATHOS in the second and use #1 NO PAYNE and #3 BLAZING STAR in the third. Additionally, I’ll play an early, 50-cent Pick Four starting in the second that reads as follows: 3 with 1,3 with 4 with 1,2,5,7,8.



Best Bet: Mount Athos, Race 2
Longshot: No Payne, Race 3


I’m Very Busy
Full Coverage

#3 I’M VERY BUSY: Debuts for Chad Brown in what hits me as a wide-open turf route for 2-year-old maidens. He fetched $135,000 at auction, is kin to four winners, and his dam is a half-sister to champion Answer Lively (plus a full sister to stakes winner Kiss Me Twice); #1 FULL COVERAGE: Boasts a world-class turf pedigree and has every right to be a runner. This son of Kitten’s Joy is out of a Grade 3 winner on turf, and his female family includes the dam of runners such as Ironicus and On Leave; #7 TORIGO: Debuts for a barn whose routers often need a race or two to get going. However, this son of Munnings is out of a stakes-winning turf runner, one who’s a half-sister to Grade 1-placed grass runner Tamahere.


Mount Athos
Rice entry
Cold as Hell

#3 MOUNT ATHOS: Has run well against starter allowance goes and drops in for a tag for the first time in a while. His last race for a tag was an impressive win at this distance, and it came with this rider on board; RICE ENTRY: I prefer #1 LEDDY, who gets wheeled back pretty quickly after a winning effort earlier this month. While he runs for a higher claiming tag, note the $25,000 claimer he won wasn’t restricted, while this one is for non-winners of three; #7 COLD AS HELL: Has lived up to his name, with no wins since May of 2021, but this is the weakest bunch he’s tackled in quite some time. The shallower waters could be to his liking, and the presence of Luis Saez can’t be ignored.


Mommasgottarun (MTO)
Blazing Star
No Payne

#3 BLAZING STAR: Hasn’t done much running in three stateside starts, but she drops in for a tag here and may not need to improve much from her most recent outing earlier this summer. Saez hops aboard, and I expect her to be prominent early; #1 NO PAYNE: Exits first-level allowance races for state-breds and runs for a tag for the first time. Her lone win came at this route last August, and perhaps a return to upstate New York will put her on the right track; #6 RIGBY: Was third at this level and route in the first few days of the meet, and she’s run well since dropping to this level two back. She’s shown some flexibility, which should give Irad Ortiz, Jr., plenty of options.


Damon’s Mound
Owen’s Leap

#4 GULFPORT: Has gone 2-for-2 with wins by a total of nearly 20 lengths and looms large in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special. He earned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure in taking the Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs, and he could be sitting on another huge performance here; #2 DAMON’S MOUND: Routed a field of maidens in his debut last month and has since been training forwardly at Colonial Downs. Gabriel Saez makes the trip to ride, and he stands to benefit if my top pick misfires; #5 OWEN’S LEAP: Was second in the Bashford Manor and seems best of the rest here. He adds blinkers for Tom Amoss, draws favorably, and has shown an ability to pass others late.


Sweet Mystery
Tosconova Beauty

#2 SWEET MYSTERY: Debuted in a key race behind two other next-out winners, and then made it a trio with a come-from-behind win at second asking. Jose Lezcano rides back, and there should be plenty of speed signed on to set up for her late kick; #1 TOSCONOVA BEAUTY: Has won three of four starts this year at Finger Lakes and ships in for this state-bred event. Her regular rider comes along for the journey, and she fits on speed figures, too; #8 CAPTAINSDAUGHTER: Hasn’t won since October but has hit the board in seven of her eight starts since that victory (with the lone misfire coming in a turf race). She was third going two turns earlier in the meet, and this seven-furlong trip should suit her a bit better.


Golden Hornet
Sheriff Bianco

#3 NEURO: Came back running when second in his first start since November earlier this summer. He beat several rivals that also show up in this spot, and Javier Castellano is riding as well as any jockey in the colony right now; #5 GOLDEN HORNET: Ships in for Larry Rivelli after a wire-to-wire score in his debut at Colonial. Turf is an unknown, but his dam is a full sister to 2-year-old turf stakes winner Miss Southern Miss, so it wouldn’t be shocking if he took to the grass; #7 SHERIFF BIANCO: Enjoyed a perfect trip to top claimers two back and was a close-up third in the same race my top pick exits. We know he’ll be prominent early, but the same can be said for many others in this field, and this one has genuine stamina concerns that prevent me from being too enthusiastic to play him at a short price.


Black Rain
General Jim
Surprise Payoff

#9 BLACK RAIN: Wasn’t an expensive auction buy at just $32,000, but dam Sustained was a runner, and she’s thrown a pair of stakes winners to date. This son of Connect boasts a few strong gate drills for Todd Pletcher, and the post towards the outside of this field is a positive; #7 GENERAL JIM: Hammered for $850,000 last September at Keeneland and is working well ahead of his unveiling. His dam is kin to a pair of graded stakes winners, and several local half-mile works hint that he’s got plenty of potential; #3 SURPRISE PAYOFF: Fetched $170,000 at auction with a pedigree that looks much better upon close examination. Second dam Weekend in Seattle is a full sister to champion A.P. Indy, and dam Bold Lady is a half-sister to Travers runner-up Mambo in Seattle. Add in a few strong works, and there’s plenty to like at a big price.


Portfolio Company

#1 PORTFOLIO COMPANY: Has been running exclusively against stakes company since breaking his maiden here last summer and should appreciate the class relief this spot offers. He ran the talented Annapolis to a head in last year’s Grade 2 Pilgrim, and he has the speed to make the rail draw an asset; #13 MACKILLOP: Needs a scratch to run but merits respect if he draws in off the also-eligible list. He’s a new gelding that won going two turns at first asking in March, and a return to such a configuration could be exactly what he wants; #8 OHTWOOHTHREEFIVE: Has been kept out of the winner’s circle for nearly a year but is another that’s been chasing some very good horses. He was fourth in a minor stakes race at Monmouth last time out, and he’s been working steadily since coming to Saratoga a few weeks ago.


Pletcher entry
Final Approach
Leading Contender

PLETCHER ENTRY: Both #1 UNLIMITEDPOTENTIAL and #1A EXPRESSMAN can win, and there’s strength in numbers. The former, however, sold for $750,000 last spring and is out of a mare that’s a full sister to Belmont winner Ruler On Ice and a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Champagne d’Oro; #8 FINAL APPROACH: Has earned several bullets ahead of her debut for the legendary D. Wayne Lukas. It’s safe to assume he’s had his issues, since he’s a 4-year-old that hasn’t run yet, but if he runs to his works, he should be a handful; #2 LEADING CONTENDER: Is another first-time starter with a strong work tab, and anything Chad Brown sends out merits a long look. He’s a son of world-class sire Gun Runner, and his dam was a stakes-winning turf sprinter that had plenty of talent herself.


Regal Glory
Get Smokin

#3 REGAL GLORY: Has won four in a row and will look to take down the boys in the Grade 1 Fourstardave. She doesn’t face any world-beaters in this spot, and anything close to her sensational win in the Grade 1 Just A Game would almost certainly be enough; #4 MASEN: Is a nose away from being 3-for-3 in the U.S. and most recently won the Grade 3 Poker downstate. He didn’t beat a tremendous field that day, but he’s got enough speed to work out a perfect trip beneath Flavien Prat; #5 GET SMOKIN: Came up empty after pressing a legitimate pace in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple a few weeks ago. However, the smaller field could mean a chance for him to get comfortable. If that happens, he’s good enough to lead them a long way and hang on for a piece of it.


Greg’s Honor
Calloway Peak
Left On Boylston

#7 GREG’S HONOR: Goes first off the claim for Mike Maker, whose numbers with new acquisitions are very solid. He was a fast-closing second in a similar spot at Belmont, and I think there’s a chance he’s figuring things out midway through his 3-year-old season; #9 CALLOWAY PEAK: Was fourth in the race my top pick exits and was even further back in the early going. Carlos Martin adds blinkers, which should keep him a bit more engaged, and it’s not like my top pick blew this one’s doors off that day; #5 LEFT ON BOYLSTON: Has shown this is the right level with a pair of third-place finishes in as many starts for this claiming tag. One of those came at Aqueduct, which boasts a similar two-turn configuration, and that day’s runner-up came back to win at next asking.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/14/21)


BANKROLL: $1,067.90

This week’s episode of “Champagne and J.D.” featured special guest Laffit Pincay, who’s spent his summer anchoring the tremendous “Saratoga Live” shows on the FOX Sports family of networks. I’ve known Laffit since our time at the dearly-departed HRTV, and it was awesome having him on to discuss the first half of the 2021 Saratoga meet. That conversation’s on YouTube if you’d like to check it out.

The show also featured me holding back tears of joy as I announced that I’ll be in attendance for the Saturday program at the Spa. My girlfriend and I are supposed to land in Hartford at about 8:30 am, and we’ll hopefully be at the track with my parents right around when the gates open at 11. Red-eyes and I don’t usually get along, but I’m welcoming this one with open arms. If you see me, come say hello!

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Doc Doc Rock was up the track in the sixth, so my exotics plays fizzled. I dropped $25 after scratches. As an aside, if you needed fourth race runner-up Air Show in anything, you have my sympathies, as that was one of the most brutal beats we’ll see this summer.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the early Pick Five, where I’ll be playing the following 50-cent ticket beginning in the opener: 2,7 with 1,7,9 with 1,5,9 with 3,5 with 3,6. Here’s hoping I’ll have something to celebrate on my one day in attendance!



Best Bet: Palamos, Race 4
Longshot: Soar, Race 2


War Smoke
Suit of Armor
King Angelo

#7 WAR SMOKE: Did everything but win last time out after breaking last, putting forth a desperate rally, and coming up just a neck short. Everything about that effort says he’ll get better at second asking, and such improvement would make him strictly the one to beat; #2 SUIT OF ARMOR: Debuts for Brad Cox, whose barn is going as well as any at this stand. He’s got several good workouts ahead of his unveiling, and while Cox’s overall first-out numbers are just so-so, he’s considerably better with firsters on the grass; #5 KING ANGELO: Has shown an abundance of early zip and will likely be out front early. Figures-wise, he more than fits, but there are certainly stamina questions here and it’ll be interesting to see how much gas he has left turning for home.


Askin for a Baskin
Laughing Boy

#7 ASKIN FOR A BASKIN: Has run well in a pair of dirt starts and most recently finished second behind the well-meant Ducale, who’ll be one of the favorites in a loaded allowance race later in the card. He was more than six lengths clear of that day’s third-place finisher, and it sure looks like they’ll have him to catch; #9 LAUGHING BOY: Dueled through a legitimate pace when third going a bit longer at Churchill. A repeat of the last-out effort would make him a contender here, and the cushy outside draw should give Jose Ortiz some options; #1 SOAR: Makes his second career start here, and the debut over yielding turf at Belmont is a total throw-out. It’s safe to assume the Bill Mott trainee needed that race, and several recent bullet drills indicate he’s sitting on an improved effort at a big price.


Three Diamonds entry
Cold Hard Cash

THREE DIAMONDS ENTRY: I most prefer #1X ATONE, who makes his first start for Mike Maker and showed enough back class to run in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay back in February. He’s shown plenty of talent going two turns on the lawn, and the presence of Tyler Gaffalione is a plus; #5 KLICKITAT: Has run some of the best races of his career at the Spa and won here twice last summer. He’s got plenty of tactical speed and can either make the lead or sit just off the pace beneath Eric Cancel; #9 COLD HARD CASH: Broke through last time out over going that was listed as good but was probably far softer. This is a step up in class, to be sure, but Linda Rice’s horses are running well this summer and three of his four lifetime wins have come in upstate New York.


Baby Blythe
Empress Theodora

#3 PALAMOS: Ran well when third downstate going a mile and a quarter, so we know this distance shouldn’t be an issue. She may have moved a bit early that day, and I think she looms very large in this spot against many horses either stretching out or trying turf for the first time; #5 BABY BLYTHE: Was one-paced in her return to the races last month but is bred to want this trip. Add in that she’s in the hands of patient Hall of Fame horseman Shug McGaughey and that Joel Rosario rides back, and there’s reason for some optimism here; #8 EMPRESS THEODORA: Was second all the way around in an off-the-turf event last month. It’s not easy to go two turns at first asking, but she acquitted herself well and gets the surface her connections wanted to run on last time.


Win With Pride
Baby I’m Perfect
Wagon Boss

#3 WIN WITH PRIDE: Takes a slight drop in class after showing some zip for a $25,000 tag earlier this summer. He’s got five top-three finishes in seven starts going seven furlongs and generally runs the same race every time, which gives him a tepid nod in a wide-open claimer; #6 BABY I’M PERFECT: Was claimed last time out by Rudy Rodriguez and probably faced better horses last time out when fifth downstate. He got quite good in the fall and winter, and he’ll have every chance to win this if the new surroundings wake him up; #9 WAGON BOSS: Tired to finish a distant third in the first race of the meet and was claimed out of that event by an astute barn that doesn’t claim too many runners. His two-back win at Churchill Downs was very good, and while I think he may be better going two turns, I also think his last-out clunker was an exception rather than the rule.


Power Agenda
Major General
General Strike

#2 POWER AGENDA: Sold for $120,000 last year at Keeneland and comes in off of two straight impressive gate works for Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher. His dam ran well in several big spots, sire Nyquist is off to a great start at stud, and all indications are that this one can run; #12 MAJOR GENERAL: Needs some luck to draw in off the AE list but will merit respect if he does. This son of Constitution hammered for $420,000 last September, also boasts a strong work tab, and will have the benefit of an outside draw that tends to help inexperienced horses get comfortable; #8 GENERAL STRIKE: Is another promising 2-year-old trained by Steve Asmussen and owned (in part, in this case) by Winchell Thoroughbreds. This Union Rags colt is out of multiple stakes winner Danzatrice, who herself is a half-sister to champion filly Jaywalk.


Restored Order

#4 RESTORED ORDER: Clearly didn’t take to the sloppy dirt track last time out and goes back to the turf here. He also drops in for a tag, which is sometimes a red flag, but these owners can be very aggressive, and I simply think it’s a case of trying to find an easier spot than a loaded allowance; #3 ASSIDUOUSLY: Will take money simply because he’s trained by Chad Brown, and his speed figures are competitive enough to make him a threat. However, he’s spent time at Monmouth with Chad’s second-stringers, and as anyone who’s read my stuff so far this meet knows, I see that as a big red flag; #5 AMISTAD: Was a longshot pick for me earlier this meet but was well behind a slow pace and had too much to do. I think he’ll get a friendlier setup here, and that he’ll have every chance to come running late for a piece of it at a price.


Shadwell entry
Speaker’s Corner

SHADWELL ENTRY: I prefer #1 MAHAAMEL, who was third in one of the toughest non-winners-of-one events you’ll ever see last month. He earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure that day, and as competitive as this field is, one can argue it’s actually a softer group than the one he ran against earlier in the meet; #4 SPEAKER’S CORNER: Looked like a promising horse last year when he broke his maiden at Belmont, but he hasn’t run since October and is just getting going again. He’ll get Lasix for the first time, and the last two works over the Oklahoma track hint that he may be ready to run off the 10-month break; #5 DUCALE: Pulled away late to graduate at second asking last month, and the 97 Beyer Speed Figure is certainly a plus. Pay attention to how Askin for a Baskin runs in the second race. If that one runs well, this one moves up.


Double Thunder

#7 DOUBLE THUNDER: Has done nothing wrong to this point and rallied from last to first to win the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill in June. I’m expecting him to be more forwardly-placed with a cleaner break, and I think he’s got a big shot in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special; #1 NAKATOMI: Won his debut race at Keeneland (as many Wesley Ward trainees are prone to do) before finishing eighth in the Group 2 Norfolk at Royal Ascot. If the workouts are any indication, he’s come back in good form, and it really helps his cause that first-out runner-up Happy Soul has crushed a pair of fields since that effort; #10 GLACIAL: Was part of a fast pace in the Bashford Manor, but had enough stamina to hold on for third that day. The blinkers come off, and I don’t think he’ll need to go quite so quickly out of the gate here.


Set Piece
Raging Bull

#8 BLOWOUT: Will likely attempt to wire the field in the Grade 1 Fourstardave and has more than enough talent to do so. She’s never finished off the board in 12 career starts, and if she’s able to get comfortable up front early beneath Joel Rosario, I think she could be tough to catch; #5 SET PIECE: Has won three in a row for Brad Cox and was much the best in the Grade 2 Wise Dan. The running line says he prevailed by just a half-length, but he altered course late while rallying in a race with a slow early pace. The faster they go early, the better his chances figure to be; #1 RAGING BULL: Is a monster when he’s right and is a deserving favorite as he looks for his third Grade 1 score. If there’s hesitation here, it’s because he’s a closer on the rail in a race on the inner turf. He’s going to be tough if he gets an ideal trip, but he may need a lot to go his way in order to make that happen.


Dr. Duke
Luna’s in Charge

#9 DR. DUKE: Looks like the controlling speed in the Saturday finale and returns to his preferred surface second off the bench. He wanted no part of a muddy dirt track last time out, and I think he’s a threat to lead this group every step of the way; #2 NEURO: Broke through in his 14th career start last time out and tries winners for the first time. That day’s runner-up, War Smoke, looms large in the opener, and if he runs as expected, that win looks far better; #7 LUNA’S IN CHARGE: Seems to have an aversion to winning, but if you’re playing vertical exotics, ignore him at your own peril. He’s run some of the best races of his career at the Spa, and he goes out for a trainer that’s won or run second with half of his 12 runners so far this summer.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/22/20)


BANKROLL: $701.50

An excellent piece written by Ray Paulick and Natalie Voss in The Paulick Report implicated trainer Wayne Potts as being in cahoots with Marcus Vitali. According to this article, Potts has been acting as a “paper trainer” for Vitali, whose rap sheet is as long as the newspaper this piece is printed in.

Potts has been barred from running at certain tracks, including Laurel Park, Charles Town, Delaware Park, and Parx. However, the New York Racing Association allowed him to run a horse on Friday’s program. Naturally, that entrant, Our Destiny, won the opener at odds of 9-1.

Optics matter in this sport, perhaps now more than ever. This is a bad look, and is one of many reasons we need some sense of uniformity among circuits around the country. Bad apples need to be thrown out entirely, and those who associate with those bad apples need to be made aware of the consequences of their actions.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: My Man Flintstone never made the lead and was wrapped up late while well out of it. I dropped $25.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll primarily focus on the early Pick Five. My 50-cent ticket starts in the opener and reads thusly: 1,3 with 2,4 with 5,6 with 1,6 with 3,7,9. I’ll also put a $10 win bet on my longshot of the day, #8 HAPPY HILL LIL in the sixth.



Best Bet: Sifting Sands, Race 5
Longshot: Happy Hill Lil, Race 6


After Five
My Sea Cottage

#3 AFTER FIVE: Has several very strong works leading up to his unveiling for world-class 2-year-old conditioner Wesley Ward. He’s by strong turf sire The Factor, and looms large as a very logical favorite in the Saturday opener; #1 FOLIAGE: Is bred up and down to be a runner. He’s by Speightstown and out of a mare by Galileo, and the most recent workout on August 13th was a head-turning half-mile drill; #7 MY SEA COTTAGE: Didn’t do much running in his debut downstate, but he’s bred up and down for turf and should improve on what’s likely his desired surface. Joel Rosario sees fit to ride back for Mark Casse.


Macho Jack

#4 AIRTOUCH: Is a puzzling case in his return to the races off a long layoff. Given the multiple breaks, it’s safe to assume he’s had his issues, and this is a big drop, but it’s also far from the strongest $25,000 claimer NYRA will card this summer; #2 MACHO JACK: Took a step forward when breaking his maiden off the bench earlier this month. This is his first outing against winners, but there’s a chance he’s starting to figure things out and, as mentioned, this isn’t a salty spot; #3 KILMARKNOCK: Put forth a career-best effort when topping state-bred maiden claimers a few weeks ago. This is a step up in class, but the barn has done well this meet and he could benefit from a fast pace.


Blindwillie McTell (MTO)
French Reef

#5 FRENCH REEF: Ran a very big race at this route last month to break his maiden. He bucked a trend of front-runners not finishing well by romping that day and earning a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. Any improvement from that race would make him very, very tough; #6 CRYOGENIC: Just missed at this level earlier in the meet and faces several foes he topped that day in this event. He was a bit closer to the pace than usual in that race, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him rate behind a speed duel here; #1 FAST GETAWAY: Did all the dirty work in the race my second selection exits, but was third beaten a head. The inside draw is a plus given his gate speed, but I doubt he’ll be alone on the front end going into the turn.


Heavy Roller
Super Dude

#6 HEAVY ROLLER: Stretches back out to two turns, drops in class, and lands in a race with plenty of early zip on paper. That seems like exactly the scenario this closer wants, and the faster they go early, the better his chances figure to be; #1 THEBIGFUNDAMENTAL: Is another dropper, and likely needed his return race off a long layoff earlier in the meet. His best efforts have come going long; the question is, is he past his prime as a 7-year-old?; #3 SUPER DUDE: Faded against better horses earlier this summer and is yet another taking a big drop down the class ladder. Based on numbers, he fits, but he’s won just once in the last 10 months and finished behind my top pick earlier this year at Churchill Downs.


Sifting Sands
Mo Mischief (MTO)
Snow’s Island

#3 SIFTING SANDS: Has a world-class turf pedigree, as evidenced by his sky-high 407 turf Tomlinson rating. Seeing turf numbers greater than 400 is very rare, and trainer Chad Brown unveiled a similar horse, Public Sector, with great success last weekend; #7 SNOW’S ISLAND: Is one of two first-time starters trained by Graham Motion, and they both appear well-meant. He’s out of Grade 2 winner Tuttipaesi and has been working consistently ahead of his debut; #9 EXCURSION: Hammered for $325,000 at Keeneland last year and is bred to be any kind. He’s a half-brother to Preakness winner Oxbow, and dam Tizamazing is herself a full sister to both two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow and multiple graded stakes winner Budroyale.


Happy Hill Lil
Love Me Tomorrow
Shenandoah River

#8 HAPPY HILL LIL: Looks far better if you toss her last-out clunker. She’s worked twice since being eased out of that race, and her two and three-back efforts both indicate she’ll come running late at a big price; #5 LOVE ME TOMORROW: Got what seemed like a perfect setup against similar company last time out but could only manage to hang on for third. She looks like the controlling speed, and she’ll be a pretty short price, but the “fade” pattern she’s established is a big red flag; #7 SHENANDOAH RIVER: Debuts for Kelly Breen and may not have to be much to pick up a check at first asking. Her recent workouts look pretty sharp, and this barn can get horses ready to run right away.


Lonesome Fugitive
Maker entry

#7 LONESOME FUGITIVE: Ran second in a weird race last month that saw a run-off leader set unsustainable fractions. He didn’t run badly in defeat that day and looms large assuming more unconventional events don’t transpire; MAKER ENTRY: I prefer #1 TURN OF EVENTS, who responded to a drop in class with a win last time out. This is a jump back up the ladder, but he’s got plenty of early speed and the rail draw could allow him to make the lead out of the gate; #8 KINGMEISTER: Was third in the race my top pick exits, and that was his first start in six months. Again, the race shape likely won’t repeat itself here, but there’s plenty to like second off the bench for Shug McGaughey.


Winston’s Chance
Repole entry
Growth Engine

#5 WINSTON’S CHANCE: Has never missed the board in four starts at Saratoga. He’s won here twice and was a very good second in a tough race for the level last time out. He could get first run on tiring pace-setters turning for home, and he may be a bit of a price; REPOLE ENTRY: #1 BLEWITT was third behind next-out graded stakes winner Cross Border in the Lubash on turf earlier in the meet. He has speed but doesn’t need the lead to run well, and that’s a good thing given the abundance of early speed in this field; #2 GROWTH ENGINE: Cruised home at Monmouth in her first start since last July and steps up in class here. He could certainly step forward, but Monmouth is usually where Chad Brown keeps his second-stringers and he’ll likely be a short price.


Raging Bull

#6 UNI: Almost certainly needed her return race in the Grade 1 Just A Game downstate. She rated well behind a slow early pace and settled for third that day, but I think she’ll be more fully-cranked here. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile winner looks like the one to hold off late in the Grade 1 Fourstardave; #1 RAGING BULL: Won the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile two back at Santa Anita and was a close-up third in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland last time out. He was second in this race a season ago and could certainly win on his best day; #5 HALLADAY: Inexplicably conceded the early lead in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch last time out, which made no sense considering his impressive front-running scores at Gulfstream two and three back. He’ll need to outbreak #4 GOT STORMY to make the lead, but he’ll be dangerous if he’s allowed to sit his preferred trip.


Scotty Brown

#9 RAKEEZ: Is a reluctant top pick in a tricky Saturday finale. He ran well to break his maiden last time out, but that was in January and he takes a curious drop in for a tag after weeks of works at Monmouth. Still, this isn’t a strong race for the level, and a repeat of his last-out effort likely beats these; #6 SCOTTY BROWN: Seems like the main speed in here and put it all together off a long break last time out at Belmont. That was his first start in more than a year, and he’s run well going two turns on turf in the past; #5 BATTALION: Was second behind a next-out winner early in the meet and drops into the claiming ranks for Bill Mott. He won his only other start against claimers and may not need to be so far back early on in this spot.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/10/19)


BANKROLL: $907.10

Like many in the racing business, I keep count of how many tracks I’ve been fortunate enough to visit. That number is growing to 21 Saturday afternoon, as I’ll be in attendance at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa.

As some of my followers know, I’ve become quite enamored with the Northern California fair circuit, and I’m looking forward to the trip. If you’re on social media, follow me on Twitter at @AndrewChampagne, as I’ll likely have several photos from the fair (and maybe a selection or two, too!). Fair warning, though: Chances are this barrage will include several pictures of food that is both delicious and terrible for you. I assume no responsibility for any cravings that may result.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: We got knocked out of the Pick Four early after 9-1 shot Bolita Boyz took the seventh. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that a scratch cut our losses to $18.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: My action focuses on a horse that may provide some value in the sixth race. I like #4 TURF WAR, who may have been best last time out off of a layoff and was compromised by a wide trip. I’ll play $4 doubles singling her that start with #1 IRISH FRONT, #2 KITTANSETT, and #7 TUMBLING SKY in the fifth, as well as $4 doubles starting with her in the sixth and ending with #2 OPTION VALUE, #7 GOZILLA, and #8 CARDIAC KID in the seventh. Finally, I’ll play a $1 Pick Three starting in the fifth that uses all of these runners.


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BEST BET: Uni, Race 9
LONGSHOT: Seven Is Heaven, Race 2


Englehart entry (MTO)
Wicked Freud
Startup Nation

#5 WICKED FREUD: Drops down in class for a strong barn and has run pretty well in all four of his starts this season. He’s certainly taken steps forward since being claimed in December, and he looks like the one to beat; #2 STARTUP NATION: Has not won in nearly five years and has not raced since late-2017. He comes back at the lowest level he’s ever run at, which hits me as a gigantic red flag; #7 CLOONTIA: Hasn’t won in a while, but likes Saratoga and stretches back out to a two-turn route of ground. He ran into a tough field for the level last time out, and that race was almost certainly shorter than he wants to go.


Quiet Out East
Seven Is Heaven
Bassman Dave

#9 QUIET OUT EASY: Has run second in three straight starts and is one of only a few in here that’s shown he can pass horses late. The faster they go early, the better his chances figure to be; #5 SEVEN IS HEAVEN: Cuts back in distance after being wrapped up in the lane last time out. His effort two back off of a layoff wasn’t bad, and a repeat of that race gives him a shot at a price; #6 BASSMAN DAVE: Was second against similar foes last time out at Belmont and figures to be stalking the pace. He owns the top last-out Beyer Speed Figure in this race, and a similar effort would make him a contender.


Lucky Curlin (MTO)
Decorated Invader
Summer to Remember

#7 DECORATED INVADER: Came flying late to be second in his debut at this route earlier in the meet. Improvement is certainly logical at second asking, though the rider change is a bit curious off of the strong effort; #1 SUMMER TO REMEMBER: Fetched $200,000 at auction in 2017 and is bred to love the lawn. He’s worked steadily for Todd Pletcher and may very well be good enough to win in his unveiling; #8 FAME TO FAMOUS: Ran fourth at a big price in his debut and attracts Luis Saez for his second career start. He’ll be a much shorter price than the 51-1 he was in that event, and for good reason.


Running Violence
Wicked Trick
Elios Milos

#5 RUNNING VIOLENCE: Has been gelded since his last start and drops down from an open $25,000 claimer to a $16,000 claimer for non-winners of two. He’s got plenty of speed and is a threat to wire this group; #8 WICKED TRICK: Put it all together after 15 straight winless starts earlier this meet and tries winners for the first time. It’s entirely possible he was a dirt horse all along; #1 ELIOS MILOS: Was one-paced when fourth against slightly better earlier in the meet. That effort came when the track was playing very kindly to early speed, though, and he figures to be going well late.


Tumbling Sky
Irish Front

#2 KITTANSETT: Hammered for $1.4 million last September at Keeneland, and for good reason. He’s by American Pharoah and out of a multiple Grade 2-winning mare, and he’s worked incredibly well ahead of his debut; #7 TUMBLING SKY: Debuts for Steve Asmussen, whose first-time starters here have been ready to run. Offspring of young sire Competitive Edge have looked impressive to this point; #1 IRISH FRONT: Draws the rail, which is often a concern with first-time starters, but comes in with a steady work tab of solid drills for Todd Pletcher. What concerns me more than the post, actually, is that he may be better-bred for turf than dirt.


Turf War
Saint Moon
Catch a Thrill

#4 TURF WAR: May have been best earlier this meet, when she was caught very wide off of a long layoff and rallied to be beaten just a length. She should step forward in her second stateside start, and it’s not a shock she gets a new rider here; #7 SAINT MOON: Was most recently second in a minor stakes at Monmouth and will likely be on or near the lead here. She’s taken a big step forward off of a freshening she got earlier this year; #5 CATCH A THRILL: Was second in the race my top pick exits and will likely be doing her best running late. Her only poor effort to date came in the Grade 2 Appalachian, which was likely further than she wants to go.


Option Value
Cardiac Kid

#7 GOZILLA: Has turned heads in the mornings for the Steve Asmussen barn ahead of his unveiling. The bullet work on July 28th jumps off the page, and if he runs to that, he hits me as the horse to beat; #2 OPTION VALUE: Sold for $210,000 as a weanling and is another with a strong recent gate work. Offspring of Into Mischief are usually precocious; #8 CARDIAC KID: Debuted going two turns, which is never an easy thing to do. He cuts back in distance for a trainer whose second-time starters are usually well-meant.


Green Light Go

#3 GREEN LIGHT GO: Earned an 84 Beyer Speed Figure in his debut and has been working lights-out for a trainer not known for pushing his 2-year-olds very hard. That race’s runner-up has since come back to win, which only serves to flatter him; #2 ZYRAMID: Improved to graduate at second asking earlier this meet and showed some maturity that day rating just off of the front-runner down the backstretch. His pedigree says the added furlong won’t be an issue; #1 NOOSE: Romped in a 12-horse field at Churchill back in June and comes in off of a bullet work there on August 2nd. The rail draw isn’t ideal for a closer, but this barn has quietly emerged as one of the better 2-year-old outfits in the country of late.


March to the Arch
Raging Bull

#3 UNI: Goes up against the boys here and certainly deserves the shot. She’s won five races in a row dating back to April of last year, and there’s more than enough pace here to set up for her late kick; #1 MARCH TO THE ARCH: Was a fast-closing fifth over yielding going in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple. He’s far better over firm going, and a repeat of his two-back effort in the Grade 2 Wise Dan would give him a big shot; #4 RAGING BULL: Has been chasing better horses of late and cuts back in distance for this event. He won two graded stakes races here a season ago, and he may appreciate a return to his favorite track.


La Chancla

#4 LA CHANCLA: Graduated when favored at second asking last month at Belmont and seems to be coming to hand for Rodolphe Brisset. She’ll be doing her best running late and seems like a logical favorite; #7 SLIMEY: Has won twice already this meet, although it’s unclear how much two muddy tracks helped her. She’s won over a fast track before, though, and she may just be peaking in the summer of her 3-year-old year; #3 ALISIO: Splashed home clear by more than seven lengths when last seen in December. She merits respect, although with her pedigree, I’m more inclined to think this may be a prep for a longer race down the line.


Wicked Grin

#5 ALPHALFA: Cuts back to a sprint distance and drops back into the maiden claiming ranks after a clunker going long against straight maidens back in June. His debut against similar foes was solid, and I’m inclined to think he’s the one to beat; #3 MAGNESITE: Will be running well late and has back form that makes him a contender. This barn is due to get rolling, and a repeat of his two-back effort may be good enough; #14 WICKED GRIN: Needs some luck to draw in off the AE list, but may be favored if he does. He’ll be dropping in class and would certainly be a threat to wire the field if he gets led over.

THE DARK DAY FILES: How Can We Appropriately Honor Fourstardave?

Saturday’s feature at Saratoga was the Grade 1 Fourstardave. Named for one of the most beloved horses in recent Saratoga history, the race was won by another local favorite, Voodoo Song. Voodoo Song was previously best known for winning four times at the 2017 Saratoga meet, and this quickly inspired some in racing to compare the two horses.

I like Voodoo Song. He’s a cool horse and a great story, having risen from the claiming ranks to become one of the better turf horses in the eastern part of the United States. In a sport that desperately needs cool stories, his is a cool story. However, comparing him to Fourstardave does the latter a great disservice.

Records in sports are made to be broken. They’re how we measure greats of varying eras, and there are some that, try as competitors might, will likely never be approached. For example, we’ll never see a pitcher throw three no-hitters in a row and break Johnny Vander Meer’s mark of two, and we’ll never see an NBA player go for 100 points in a game, like Wilt Chamberlain once did.

All of this leads up to this one indisputable fact: Fourstardave holds the most unbreakable record in horse racing. No horse will ever win a race at eight consecutive Saratoga meets, and horses outlined on the hood of Ferraris will drive them before one of their fellow equines wins one at nine in a row. Shoot, the only horses with careers that long nowadays are converted steeplechasers, and those races are probably even harder to win than ones on the flat!

From 1987 through 1994, Fourstardave made at least one appearance every summer in the Saratoga winner’s circle. He was never a top-tier thoroughbred. He was never beating the likes of contemporaries such as two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Lure, and an argument can be made that he wasn’t even the most accomplished offspring of sire Compliance and dam Broadway Joan (full brother Fourstars Allstar won the Group 1 Irish 2,000 Guineas). That lack of high-profile form is probably why, the further you get from upstate New York, the less people you find that fondly remember Fourstardave.

What he did have, though, was longevity unmatched by any horse that ever summered at the Spa. As a comparison point, let’s look at Wise Dan, the latest model of the “hard-knocking, hard-trying, ornery gelding” that the racing gods molded out of clay and gave to us for our betting and viewing pleasure. During his Hall of Fame career (and yes, Wise Dan bashers, he’s a Hall of Famer), he won a race at Saratoga in three straight seasons. He was in training for a 2015 return before he was officially retired.

Had Wise Dan won that season’s Fourstardave, it would have given him four straight years with a win at Saratoga. This is nothing to sneeze at, and would look great on a plaque across town at the Hall of Fame. However, and let this resonate…such a total would have only put him halfway to Fourstardave’s lofty total.

Unless scientists find ways to turn horses into indestructible robots, no top-tier horse will run long enough to even get halfway to Fourstardave’s record. It’s simply a different sport now, and horses that appear at four or five Saratoga meets are getting harder and harder to come by.

As the years roll on, Fourstardave’s accomplishments should be growing in magnitude because of that fact. However, it seems as though the opposite is happening, at least in some circles. While he was given an edible key to the city of Saratoga Springs upon his retirement, and even paraded inside local hot spot Siro’s, Saratoga’s Hoofprints Walk of Fame (in principle, a very good idea) does not have a spot for him as of yet.

Former Saratogian colleague Mike Veitch (one of the smartest, kindest men I’ve ever known) is on the selection committee. He and I have had a few conversations about Fourstardave’s credentials over the years, and from those, the information I’ve been given is that his resume does not have enough wins over top-tier competition for the committee’s liking.

This is a fair, accurate assessment of his body of work. As I’ve mentioned, Fourstardave wasn’t close to the top horse of his era. Having said that, if the purpose of the Hoofprints Walk of Fame is, as stated online in a recent NYRA release, to honor the most prolific and notable horses to compete at the track, how can one justify Fourstardave’s exclusion? It is physically impossible for any horse to be as prolific as Fourstardave was from 1987 to 1994. His wins spanned three Presidents, for crying out loud! And notable? The track the Hoofprints Walk of Fame sits outside of has a Grade 1 race named in his honor, and one of the side streets near the backyard bears his name, too.

If the purpose of the Hoofprints Walk of Fame is to honor prolific and notable horses, there is not a justification for Fourstardave’s exclusion. For the sake of this conversation, I don’t think it matters that he couldn’t beat the likes of Lure (to be fair, many others couldn’t, either). Over the course of his career, he accomplished something much, much greater. He gave fans a horse to follow and root for, one that wasn’t immediately retired at the first sign of trouble or handled with kid gloves because the connections couldn’t stand the thought of losing. We need more horses like that, and we need to appropriately honor the ones that have come and gone.

I don’t know if my voice carries to Saratoga from my little one-bedroom apartment in northern California. I’d like to think that it carries at least a few ounces of weight, and it’s my hope that the Hoofprints committee gives Fourstardave his due next summer.