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.


– – – – –

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.