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.


– – – – –

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.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 8/11/18


BANKROLL: $622.50

Today’s big event on track is the Grade 1 Fourstardave, but it could very well be overshadowed by an annual event taking place at the Top of the Stretch. That’s the Saratoga Stumble, being run by our own Sam Hollingsworth. The premise is something like this: The entire town of Mechanicville shows up, buys matching t-shirts, and drinks itself into oblivion. Apparently, it’s a blast.

To those stumbling along today: Have fun and be safe. Most importantly, though, make sure Sam pulls through in one piece!

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: I bet Thirteen Songs thinking she’d close into a fast pace, not that she’d help make said fast pace. We dropped $20.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I apologize in advance to my editor, because my play comes late in the card. It sure seems like #5 MR CUB is the lone speed in the Lure Stakes (race 10), and I need to play him. I’ll put $10 on him to win and place, and I really hope we get the 6-1 morning line price.



Best Bet: Lyrical Lady, Race 3
Longshot: La Naturel, Race 7



#6 PROGNOSTICATION: Hasn’t run in 10 months, but is protected from being claimed, which is always an encouraging sign. He could benefit from the likely race shape and figures to be running well late; #1 LEMONIST: Has been gelded since his last start in December and sports a pair of flashy local workouts. This is the weakest field he’s faced since breaking his maiden in 2016; #8 GOSILENTLY: Has hit the board in each of his last 11 starts, most of which have come for today’s connections. He just missed here last summer and figures to be prominent early.


Chief Executive
Calumet entry

#4 CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Has several strong local works ahead of his debut for prominent connections. It’s tough to debut going seven furlongs, but he’s bred to be a good one and has worked accordingly; CALUMET ENTRY: #1A SOUTHERN PHANTOM could win at second asking, but he’ll be bet heavily for reasons that have very little to do with his ability. He may need to show more early speed here than he did in his debut; #8 EXCHEQUER: Fetched $150,000 at auction last fall and has worked well for red-hot connections. He may be bred better for turf, but his talent could be enough to get him home on dirt.


Lyrical Lady
Virginia Eloise
Mucho Amor

#3 LYRICAL LADY: Was one of the most impressive debut winners of the meet and figures to be favored in the Grade 2 Adirondack. She won by nearly six lengths and appeared to have plenty left in reserve; #5 VIRGINIA ELOISE: Finished well in her debut at Belmont and is bred to want lots of distance. She showed she could rate a bit that day, and that could come in handy here; #1 MUCHO AMOR: Graduated at Keeneland and sports a recent bullet workout on the training track. Wesley Ward is one of the top 2-year-old trainers in the country, and he cannot be ignored here.


Starting Point (MTO)
Teachable Moment
Noble Nebraskan

#8 TEACHABLE MOMENT: Closed to be third in his debut and has a pedigree that hints he could embrace more ground. Improvement is logical at second asking, especially for these connections; #12 NOBLE NEBRASKAN: Sports an impressive pedigree and merits respect if he draws in off the AE list. It’s tough to debut at this route, but he’s worked well and may be a nice price; #2 WINNING FACTOR: Was second in the race my top pick exits and stretches out after some solid local workouts. If there’s hesitation here, it’s because he’s not necessarily bred to want two turns. DIRT SELECTIONS: STARTING POINT, IAN GLASS, TEACHABLE MOMENT.


Payne (MTO)

#3 UNLOCKTHEPOTENTIAL: Stretches out after being beaten less than a length in his first start since October. He likely needed that race as a tightener, and that day’s winner ran well in the Quick Call earlier this week; #6 LUNAIRE: Hasn’t won in a while, but has shown an ability to run well late, and that’s valuable given the early pace signed on here. He could shake up the exotics at a price; #2 MOROCCO: Was almost certainly short last time out in his first start since the fall, and the blinkers come back on in his second start off the bench. That could get him more involved early at a big number. DIRT SELECTIONS: PAYNE, CLUTCH CARGO, MESOTHERM.


Road Home
Empire of War
Chase and Colorado

#5 ROAD HOME: Closed to be second in his debut for a barn that doesn’t often win with first-time starters. There’s reason to expect improvement here, and if that happens, he could be tough; #7 EMPIRE OF WAR: Has worked well on the training track ahead of his unveiling. Todd Pletcher’s runners must be respected, although this one may be better-bred for turf; #4 CHASE AND COLORADO: Is the other Pletcher-trained first-time starter. He’s by Tapit, which means he likely wants as much ground as possible.


Aunt Babe (MTO)
La Naturel
Conquest Tizfire

#5 LA NATUREL: Has yet to run a bad race in her career and is a closer in a race that seems to boast tons of early speed. She was third beaten less than a length earlier in the meet, and we may get a price given this trainer’s small barn; #2 CONQUEST TIZFIRE: Was second in the race my top pick exits, but has had ample chances to win and seems to prefer settling for minor awards. She looked like a winner in mid-stretch last time, but she let the eventual winner battle back; #4 MAJESTIC WON: Took to the turf well last time out, when she graduated by nearly three lengths downstate. Luis Saez signs on, and this one figures to be involved from the outset. DIRT SELECTIONS: AUNT BABE, DANYELLI, QUEEN MUM.


Delta Prince
Heart to Heart

#2 DELTA PRINCE: Has come out of the shadow of older sister Royal Delta and turned into a top-class turf horse. His win in the Grade 2 King Edward was strong, and he could sit a perfect stalking trip behind a hot pace; #5 HEART TO HEART: Is one of the most fun horses to root for given his longevity and the fact that he may be better than ever at age seven. He won two Grade 1 races earlier this year, but the presence of #6 VOODOO SONG means he almost certainly won’t be alone on the lead; #3 DIVISIDERO: Is a deep closer that will benefit from a fast pace. He may want a bit longer, but the quicker they go early, the more he’ll like it.


Breaking the Rules
Always a Suspect

#3 MASK: Cuts back to seven furlongs, which may be the trip he wants. He may not have turned into a top-class 3-year-old, but his best race could win this and he should be able to sit just off the pace; #5 BREAKING THE RULES: Was second in a swiftly-run allowance last time out and seems like a one-run sprinter that should get better as he gets older. A fast pace would benefit him, and this distance likely hits him right between the eyes; #4 ALWAYS A SUSPECT: Likes Saratoga and exits a win earlier in the meet (albeit against weaker foes). All three of his starts over this track have been solid, and Robertino Diodoro has a strong record with new acquisitions.


Mr Cub
Conquest Panthera

#5 MR CUB: Could be the lone speed in this race, which is always dangerous on the inner turf. He was beaten just a half-length in the Grade 2 Wise Dan last time out, and he could be talented enough to lead this field the whole way; #7 CONQUEST PANTHERA: Hasn’t won in a while, but chased Delta Prince in the Grade 2 King Edward and can show some early zip if he has to. Luis Saez hops aboard, and he’s riding as well as anyone at the meet; #9 ZENNOR: Has won three in a row, including this race last year, but he has not started in more than a year. If he comes back ready to run, he’s obviously a contender, but that’s a sizable “if.”


Shanghai Dreams
Hit a Provisional

#13 SHANGHAI DREAMS: Is emblematic of an oddity here, as several major contenders reside on the AE list and need scratches to run. She debuted with a fourth-place finish in a very solid race for the level and drops in for a tag; #12 HIT A PROVISIONAL: Rallied to be second at this level in her debut and is another that needs some luck to draw in. This barn has quietly gotten off to a solid start at the meet, and she could improve in her second outing; #10 FANCYCASE: Seems best of the main body of the field given the early speed she’s flashed of late. The body of the field seems light on horses that can pass others late, so the speed could be helpful.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 8/12/17


BANKROLL: $911.75

Longtime readers of The Saratogian will remember that I was a full-time sportswriter there for about a year and a half. Among the best perks of the job was where the office was. The front steps of that brick building on Lake Avenue were a full pitching wedge or less away from The Parting Glass, Gaffney’s, D’Andrea’s, and a number of other fun places, as well as the police station (which the news department certainly found handy!).

I’m not criticizing the decision to move, as the rationale for it makes sense. With that in mind, though, it was pretty tough to leave that building for the last time in October of 2013 after filing the recap of a Saratoga Springs-Shenendehowa football game. I imagine the friends and colleagues I have that work for The Saratogian felt similarly this week.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: We got blanked after neither of our key horses in doubles won (although longshot of the day Jewel Heist ran a huge race in defeat). As such, we dropped $24.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the fifth race, which houses my best bet of the day. That’s #4 AZAR, and I’ll key him in $5 exactas above and below #9 MADE IN DETROIT and #10 ITALIAN CHARM. I’ll also single him in $5 doubles that start in the fifth and use #3 CHANNEL CAT and #8 SPORTSWEAR in the sixth.



Best Bet: Azar, Race 5
Longshot: Promotional, Race 8


Scarly Charly
Will Did It
At Guard

SCARLY CHARLY: Takes a colossal drop in class, but if he’s anywhere close to his best, he’s strictly the one to beat. The recent bullet drill inspires confidence, and he ran well here twice a year ago; WILL DID IT: Makes his first start for Gary Gullo, who excels with new acquisitions. He hasn’t won in a while, but there’s some speed signed on and he’ll be running well late; AT GUARD: Beat weaker foes earlier in the meet and makes his first start for a new barn. The rail draw isn’t ideal, but a repeat performance may be good enough to win.


Base Command

AIRTOUCH: Fetched $450k at auction last summer, and for good reason. This dam threw Grade 1 winner Sweet Loretta, and this son of Tapit has been working very well ahead of his unveiling; BASE COMMAND: Made up a lot of ground in his debut, rallying from 11 lengths back to be beaten less than a length. This barn’s runners tend to improve with experience, and the added distance should be a plus; INDIMAAJ: Is by Tapit and out of a Grade 1 winner that’s produced a Grade 1 winner. He’s worked steadily, and while this barn’s runners tend to benefit from experience, it wouldn’t be shocking if he was ready to run right away.


Killybegs Captain (MTO)
Dr. Edgar
Driven by Thunder

DR. EDGAR: Stretches out on turf for the first time, which is unusual given his pedigree. He’s never been better than he is right now, and he merits my top pick in a confusing race with many horses stretching out; DRIVEN BY THUNDER: Ran well in his turf debut last time out. His best race came at a challenging, seven-furlong distance, so he could take to the distance; SIX SHILLINGS: Was a good second earlier in the meet going shorter. It’s unclear if he wants this sort of distance, but class-wise, he fits. DIRT SELECTIONS: KILLYBEGS CAPTAIN, DRIVEN BY THUNDER, PIONEER SPIRIT.


Pure Silver
Limited View
Sly Roxy

PURE SILVER: Has done nothing wrong in two starts, including a stakes win last time out. The rail draw is a concern, but she should have enough speed to overcome it; LIMITED VIEW: Scratched from the Schuylerville due to pre-race antics, but that may have been a blessing in disguise, as the winner freaked. This seems like a softer spot, provided she holds it together; SLY ROXY: Ran away with an off-the-turf race earlier in the meet. It’s unclear how strong that race was, but she’s bred to be a good one and could have untapped potential.


Old Upstart (MTO)
Italian Charm

AZAR: Spent most of 2016 against top-class competition, so it’s jarring to see him in for a $25k tag. Anything close to his best would make him very difficult to beat; ITALIAN CHARM: Makes his first start since March and has been gelded since his last outing. He reeled off three wins in a row last year and finished just two lengths behind eventual Grade 1 winner American Patriot two back; MADE IN DETROIT: Turned heads with a wire-to-wire romp downstate back in June. He had a dream trip that day, and these are deeper waters, but he seems like the main speed. DIRT SELECTIONS: AZAR, OLD UPSTART, RICH DADDY.


Variant Perception (MTO)
Channel Cat

SPORTSWEAR: Couldn’t possibly be bred any better. He’s by the undefeated Frankel, out of a Group 1 winner, and gets the two-turn turf route his pedigree screams for; CHANNEL CAT: Was a close second in his debut, which came last month at Gulfstream going much shorter. He’s bred up and down for more distance, and he should improve given that he gets it; HAVE AT IT: Is by Kitten’s Joy and out of a multiple Grade 3 winner. He’s worked consistently ahead of his debut. DIRT SELECTIONS: VARIANT PERCEPTION, SUPER SERMON, PETE MARWICK.


Wyatt’s Town
Song of the Nile

COLTANDMISSISSIPPI: Sold for $400k back in 2015 and has a strong series of five-furlong drills ahead of his debut. This is a tough distance to debut at, but the work tab tells the story of a horse who may want this trip; WYATT’S TOWN: Was third in his debut, but didn’t have the best of experiences that day. Improvement is logical at second asking, especially for a barn whose horses often improve with seasoning; SONG OF THE NILE: Fetched $575k last year at auction and has worked like a promising horse. This barn’s first-time starters don’t usually win, but he can’t be ignored in what looks like a loaded race.


Off Limits
Rachel’s Temper (MTO)

OFF LIMITS: Burned plenty of money in 2016, but seems to have figured things out in two 2017 starts. She was a good second in a stakes race last time out, and this seems like a much softer spot; PROMOTIONAL: Won here last year and has been facing top-class horses since then. She may want longer, and this may be a prep race, but if she’s right, she’s a contender at a price; ALL IN FUN: Hasn’t won in a while, but is another that’s been running against substantially better horses. She won here last year, and this barn merits respect. DIRT SELECTIONS: PUCA, RACHEL’S TEMPER, ALL IN FUN.


Gift Box
Lewys Vaporizer

GIFT BOX: Makes his 2017 debut and looks to pick up where he left off. He was fourth in the Travers behind Arrogate, and while this distance isn’t ideal, his talent may be enough to get him home; CERRO: Has won three of his last four and ran a big race last time out at Churchill Downs. John Velazquez rides, and it’s safe to assume his new owner claimed him with Saratoga in mind; LEWYS VAPORIZER: Is a proven sprinter with top-end early speed. His race here last year was forgettable, but his best effort would make him the one to catch turning for home.


Disco Partner
Time Test
American Patriot

DISCO PARTNER: Has reeled off three wins in a row, including a record-setting performance going six furlongs and a subsequent romp at a mile. He’s never been better than he is right now; TIME TEST: Cuts back in distance after two second-place finishes downstate. He won a Group 2 at this distance overseas, but the question is, is he past his peak?; AMERICAN PATRIOT: Flopped at Royal Ascot but won a Grade 1 at Keeneland two back over a top-class field. He appears ready to run, and his best race would make him a player in this top-class event.


Danny’s Rush
Source Control
Grand Valour

DANNY’S RUSH: Cuts back in distance after being badly beaten going much longer. His best races have come going short on turf, and a repeat of his effort two back (which came against better horses) could win this; SOURCE CONTROL: Rallied to be second at this level last time out at Belmont. The pace was fast that day, but with this large field, such a scenario could easily repeat itself; GRAND VALOUR: Is a bit of an unknown since he’s making his career debut, but this barn can get first-time starters ready, and Javier Castellano signing on is a big plus. DIRT SELECTIONS: DAB, QUAI VOLTAIRE, GREAT BLAKE.