SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/29/19)


BANKROLL: $653.60

I must use this space to comment on the antics of two people who have been very nice to me at various points in my racing career. On Wednesday, Laffit Pincay III and Jonathon Kinchen decided to swap wardrobes, leading to Laffit looking like a tourist (albeit one with hair that is somehow always perfect) and Jonathon looking unusually dapper.

I’m going to stay away from the “who wore it better?” discussion that has ensued. To be blunt, nobody can look good in Hawaiian shirts (sorry, guys). Having said that, it was a witty, clever idea that got a chuckle out of a bunch of horse racing fans, many of whom have the same tolerance for humorous fun as the dearly-departed Grumpy Cat. Well done, gents!

WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: Nic and Zoe got cooked on the front end in the seventh, and we dropped another $30.

THURSDAY’S PLAY: My action comes late in the card. I sincerely hope #6 CRYSTALLE doesn’t go favored in the ninth race (the P.G. Johnson), as I think she’s the horse to beat. In addition to a $10 win/place bet, I’ll single her in $5 doubles that end with #5 EIGHTY SEVEN NORTH, #9 MOLLY’S NIGHTHAWK, #12 GUNBOAT DIPLOMACY, and #13 IDEATIONAL.


– – – – –

BEST BET: Business Cycle, Race 5
LONGSHOT: Stunning Beauty, Race 6


More Glitter
Irish Danzing

#4 MORE GLITTER: Hammered for $340,000 last September at Keeneland and looms large for Pletcher and Velazquez in her debut. She boasts several strong works and seems ready to run; #12 PLAYTONE: Was second at a price in her debut earlier in the meet. She was a bit green that day, may improve at second asking, and merits consideration if she draws in off the AE list; #5 IRISH DANZING: Sold for $120,000 earlier this year despite a very modest pedigree. She’s put together a string of solid half-mile works and attracts Irad Ortiz, Jr., which makes her interesting at a bit of a price.


Cross Border
Gambler’s Fallacy
Minsky Moment

#6 CROSS BORDER: Will run in search of his third win of the Saratoga meet, and seems likely to get it. He’s a head away from having won five in a row, and his usual race would likely best this bunch; #9 GAMBLER’S FALLACY: Ran well in his first start off the bench back in June at Belmont. He didn’t have much of a pace to close into that day, but still made up lots of ground, and a better setup would make him dangerous; #1 MINSKY MOMENT: Was third behind a runaway winner last time out and should improve off of that effort. He has a habit of collecting minor awards, but this barn merits respect.


Golden Vale
Tayler’s the Boss

#1 CAMORRA: Takes a big drop in class for this event and looms large despite a misfire earlier in the meet. She may have needed that race, and these waters are much, much more shallow; #7 GOLDEN VALE: Has run well here before and has hit the board in each of her six starts this season. She has tactical speed but doesn’t necessarily need the lead, which could give her an ideal trip; #6 TAYLER’S THE BOSS: Hasn’t won in a while, but takes a slight drop in class for this race. She’s a closer who could easily clunk up for a piece of it at a bit of a price.


Surge Pricing

#5 TENURE: Set a very fast pace at this route and tired in the final strides. Rosario rides back for a sharp barn, and he may not have to go quite so swiftly early on in this spot; #7 SURGE PRICING: Wired a weaker field going longer earlier in the meet and makes his first start for Eddie Kenneally. He won going short on turf in his debut, and Castellano retaining the mount is a plus; #6 LUNDQVIST: Rallied to be third in the race my top pick exits. That was his first effort going short on turf, and he could be rolling well late at a nice number once again.


Business Cycle
Major Flirt
Mandatory Payout

#1 BUSINESS CYCLE: Takes a huge drop for the meet’s leading trainer and ran well here twice last season. He may have needed his last start at Monmouth, and anything close to his 2018 form would make him incredibly tough to beat; #7 MAJOR FLIRT: Came flying late at this level at Laurel and may have simply found his friends. Jose Ortiz will ride, and if my top pick misfires, he might be the one picking up the pieces; #5 MANDATORY PAYOUT: Didn’t have a great start when fourth at this level a few weeks ago. A cleaner break would certainly move him forward.


Queenofeverything (MTO)
Lead Guitar
Stunning Beauty

#7 LEAD GUITAR: Just missed at this route last time out and drops in to face fellow females here. Her last race towers over the recent form of returning runners, and a repeat likely means a win; #6 STUNNING BEAUTY: Will likely be a big price, but she’s bred to like turf, has a few solid workouts, and with the exception of my top pick, it’s not like this is the toughest race for the level. She’s got every right to grab a big piece of this; #8 COREY SCORES: Was second in a race several others in here exit and didn’t have a great start that day. It’s tough to trust the quality of that race too much, but she may be rolling late for the Chad Brown/Irad Ortiz, Jr., tandem.


Critical Value
Saratoga Beauty

#11 CRITICAL VALUE: Needs a scratch to draw in, but will loom large if she does. She was beaten a nose in her unveiling and topped that day’s third-place runner by more than six lengths; #8 SARATOGA BEAUTY: May get overbet based on the name but could easily improve off of her debut. She was fourth in the race my top pick exits, but had a terrible trip and goes out for a barn whose horses tend to improve considerably at second asking; #4 MYAWAYA: Showed a bit of speed before faltering in the slop early in the meet. She’s worked well since then for the Todd Pletcher barn and can’t be ignored.


Mr. Dougie Fresh
Ruler of the Nile

#5 MR. DOUGIE FRESH: Has plenty of early zip but has shown he can sit just off the pace, which sets him apart from several others in this field. He was third in a very strong race for the level last time out and may not go off favored; #4 RAY’SWARRIOR: Certainly looks like the main speed in here and exits a win in a minor stakes race at Monmouth Park. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because he’s not the only horse that wants the lead, and if he gets outsprinted early, he may be out of his element; #1 RULER OF THE NILE: Was in a bit too deep in the Tale of the Cat, but won three in a row before that and has two victories over this track. He’s back to the right level and may contend from the rail.


Sweet Melania
English Breeze

#6 CRYSTALLE: Was the victim of a controversial DQ at boxcar odds earlier in the meet. This barn’s first-time starters don’t usually run like that, and unlike others in here, she’s shown an ability to rate and pounce; #8 SWEET MELANIA: Capitalized on a perfect trip in the first few days of the meet, and that day’s second and third-place finishers have come back to win. She’s a logical favorite, but I don’t like betting last-out perfect-trip winners at short prices; #7 ENGLISH BREEZE: Romped over state-breds in her debut and is wheeled back pretty quickly for this event. Like my top pick, she’ll likely be doing her best running in the final quarter-mile.


Eighty Seven North
Gunboat Diplomacy

#5 EIGHTY SEVEN NORTH: Improved when second last time out in her first start for a tag. She didn’t have the best of beginnings that day, and getting off the rail may help her in a wide-open finale; #13 IDEATIONAL: Will likely be the favorite if she draws in off the AE list, and she certainly merits respect given her connections. However, she hasn’t run since November, and Brown runners coming up from Monmouth are a bit difficult to trust; #12 GUNBOAT DIPLOMACY: Stretches out in distance after getting a bit of a breather. The blinkers come back on, and it’s worth noting her best race so far came off a layoff earlier this year at Aqueduct.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/28/19)


BANKROLL: $683.60

I haven’t had the time to write many columns this summer, but I posted one Monday that I’m quite proud of. Another piece of turf writing provoked a strong reaction that I haven’t felt in a long time, and what came out was about 1,500 words pertaining to my thoughts on my place in the industry. If you haven’t seen it, go check it out.

Meanwhile, I’ll be spending most of Wednesday in the air traveling northeast. I’ll be at the track Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, and if you see me, don’t hesitate to say hi!

SUNDAY’S RESULTS: Larry’s Baby outran her odds, but couldn’t hit the board. We dropped $25 after scratches refunded a double.

WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: This didn’t hit me as the most exciting betting card. I’ll focus on the seventh race and hope to extract value out of the likely favorite, #7 NIC AND ZOE. I’ll play her in $15 exactas above the Chad Brown-trained duo of #5 JAZZIQUE and #6 SELFLESSLY.


– – – – –

BEST BET: Teodoro, Race 1
LONGSHOT: Bareeqa, Race 3


Go Get the Basil

#3 TEODORO: Hasn’t done much wrong since going to the steeplechase ranks and aired by 14 last time out. He faces winners for the first time, but this is far from the strongest race for the level; #6 SOLUBLE: Has hit the board in his last six starts, including all five this season. He’s got tactical speed and could sit a nice trip just off the pace; #2 GO GET THE BASIL: Was second behind a runaway winner earlier in the meet. He hasn’t won in a while, but he’s got seven top-two finishes in 11 starts over fences.


Jump for Joy
Mo Flash
Le Weekend

#1 JUMP FOR JOY: Has won four of her last six starts and has enough speed to use her inside post position as an asset. The presence of Irad Ortiz, Jr., is a plus, and she’s a logical favorite; #4 MO FLASH: Chased a runaway winner earlier this month and drops in class a bit for this event. She’s in for the tag, which may not be a great sign, but she could appreciate the shallower waters; #5 LE WEEKEND: Hasn’t won since being claimed earlier this year but has tried some tough spots. Most notably, she was third in a $100,000 stakes race at Delaware last month.


Cartwheel (MTO)
War Canoe

#9 WAR CANOE: Was claimed by a hot barn last time out and should move up. She hasn’t raced on firm turf in a while, and if she channels the form she displayed here in 2018, she’ll be tough; #3 BAREEQA: Loves Saratoga and was a deceptively-good third here earlier this month. She didn’t get much pace to run at that day, and she completes a powerful 1-2 punch for the Gargan barn; #5 FETCHING: Returns to turf after her connections took a shot in a stakes race on the main track. This is her preferred trip, and the rider change to Irad Ortiz, Jr., is noteworthy.


Indian Pride
Rapido Gatta
Doll Collection

#4 INDIAN PRIDE: Debuts off of a series of strong workouts for Chad Brown and looms large. She seems to have found a reasonable spot, and if she runs to the work tab, she may be tough to beat; #8 RAPIDO GATTA: Was second in a race several of these runners exit last month. She showed speed that day, but it’s worth noting Castellano gets off this one to ride my top pick; #3 DOLL COLLECTION: Will get some play because of her pedigree (she’s out of world-class mare Groupie Doll), but she always seems to find trouble. She gets John Velazquez here, though, and a clean trip would almost certainly get her a piece of it.


Decorated Ace
Bronco Sally
Retro Street

#12 DECORATED ACE: Looms large despite the terrible post. She’s run well twice at the meet and may have enough speed to clear most of the field going into the first turn; #4 BRONCO SALLY: Hasn’t won since January but wasn’t far behind my top pick last time out. She’s flexible and can run well from a variety of spots in the pack, and Saez stays on; #9 RETRO STREET: Merits a look at a price. She won three races in a row not long ago, and she makes her first start off the claim for a barn that’s won a few races at this stand.


Blame the Cake

#8 BLAME THE CAKE: Was a good second at a price in his debut and adds Lasix for a barn whose horses tend to move forward with experience. The one concern, though, is Castellano hopping off, and he doesn’t have another mount in this event; #4 LORENZEN: Hammered for $205,000 here last summer and has trained well for Mark Casse. The two local works appear sharp, and it wouldn’t be a shock if he was ready to run right away; #9 CRYPTOGRAPHER: Debuts for a barn not known for working horses quickly, yet sports several sharp four-furlong drills ahead of this event. New sire Honor Code was a multiple Grade 1 winner, and it’s encouraging to see Saez aboard.


Nic and Zoe

#7 NIC AND ZOE: Debuts for first-out maestro Wesley Ward and attracts John Velazquez. She exits a stellar gate work last week, and several other drills on the tab indicate that wasn’t a fluke; #5 JAZZIQUE: Is one of two contenders in here trained by Chad Brown. She boasts a strong European pedigree and has every right to be a runner; #6 SELFLESSLY: Is by More Than Ready, one of the top turf sires in the sport. She completes the Brown tag team, and 8-1 certainly seems like way too big a price on a horse from this barn that’s been working well.


Dark Money
Smile Bryan
Hardcore Folklore

#2 DARK MONEY: Aired last time out at Belmont and was claimed by a sharp outfit following that race. This is a step up in class, for sure, but his two most recent races were very sharp; #6 SMILE BRYAN: Fell a neck short against similar foes early in the meet, and this barn has heated up since then. He cuts back in distance and may get more of a pace to run at; #3 HARDCORE FOLKLORE: Rallied to win going away against a weaker group, and has won four of his last six starts. This is the toughest field he’s faced, but he figures to be going well late at a square price.


Our Country
Field Pass

#2 OUR COUNTRY: Was extremely impressive when breaking his maiden earlier in the meet. He came home very quickly in the last quarter-mile and is proven to like this route of ground; #1 TUGGLE: Tries turf for the first time but is bred to like it. He may be favored after running third in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, but demand value on a horse trying a new surface and two turns for the first time; #8 FIELD PASS: Has run well twice, including a maiden-breaking score early in the meet. That day’s runner-up came back to win impressively, which flatters him.


Winifred J
Mike’s Girl
Here Comes Meg

#5 WINIFRED J: Was claimed by a sharp outfit last time out and looms large second off the layoff. A step forward seems logical, especially given the presence of leading rider Jose Ortiz; #6 MIKE’S GIRL: Has run second twice in a row at this level and is certainly logical. She didn’t sit her preferred trip last time out and could be dangerous with a cleaner break; #3 HERE COMES MEG: Took a step forward when third at a big price last month. This barn has quietly hit the board with eight of 16 runners this summer, and she may be a big price yet again here.

THE DARK DAY FILES: A Struggle with Perceived Irrelevance

Sean Clancy’s a better writer than I am. I take no shame in saying that, nor do I feel a sense of defeat, because he’s better than just about everyone. My name is on the extensive list of former interns at The Saratoga Special that went on to long careers in the racing business, and as I half-joked on Twitter a few weeks ago, I sincerely hope I’m not the Eric Mangini to the Clancys’ Bill Belichick.

Sean’s annual “I’ll miss/won’t miss” column is a must-read, and it was published Sunday. There’s a line in there that hit me like a ton of bricks, though, as good writing is prone to do.

“I’ll miss the enthusiastic interns, their futures ahead of them,” he wrote. “I won’t miss the jaded veterans, their irrelevance grinding away at them.”

I’m not taking this as a shot against me. I haven’t been to Saratoga yet this year, so I’m not in a position where I could be someone Sean would mention in that regard. However, that one line made me think more than just about anything else I’ve read in a long time, and this column spawns from that train of thought.

– – – – –

Those who followed me last year may remember a column I filed upon the completion of the 2018 Saratoga meet. It came hours after I fell one win short of Liam Durbin, largely due to three lost photo finishes in the last two days, and was written following a soul-searching meal eaten at a local dive bar.

Two days later, after working 36 hours over the course of Labor Day weekend (largely thanks to a situation involving gunfire at Del Mar), I was informed that my full-time position at The Daily Racing Form was being transitioned to part-time. This came a few weeks after a satisfactory evaluation, and was a continuation of layoffs at the publication that came earlier in the summer. When I left that part-time position for a full-time role at a non-racing company in November (the less said about my four months at that job, the better), that position was not filled.

Over the past year, racing has done a tremendous job of scaring off passionate people. The Stronach Group laid off a bunch of them late last year, and DRF had a widely-publicized round of cuts earlier this summer that claimed a number of visible writers and content contributors (several of whom I consider friends).

It’s brought about a real identity crisis for me, one that I wrote about back in November. If we’re mostly in agreement that racing needs knowledgeable handicappers who can make the sport more fun for novices, which in turn drives handle and adds repeat customers, why are such people being forced out?

I grew up reading the New York City papers and spending the lion’s share of drives to Saratoga pulling out the racing sections of The New York Daily News and The New York Post. This was a time when major newspapers had racing writers and full-time handicappers, as well as space for content contributors to expound on what was going on. Like many other racing enthusiasts, I worshipped Russ Harris, laughed at the antics of the participants in the annual “Battle of Saratoga,” and strained my eyes to read the small, blocky text that was found in the Post’s racing section at the time.

I’d wind up sharing press boxes with those folks, and many of them became my friends. Now, it’s an effort to see where they’re at. I sat behind Paul Moran, John Pricci, and Jerry Bossert (among others) for two summers at Saratoga. Paul is dead, John spends most of the year in Florida, and Jerry was laid off by the Daily News not long after I left for California. The Post laid off its racing team as well, indirectly sparking one of the weirdest sagas of my life involving a $70 Kentucky Derby future bet (P.S.: John paid up).

HRTV, the network I moved 3,000 miles west to work for, is long gone, having been purchased by TVG in early-2015. I was hired over as part of the acquisition. The first two years of my tenure there were some of the most enjoyable times I’ve had at any job (those close to me know why). The last two months were some of the least enjoyable times I’d had up to that point (again, those close to me know why), and that experience prompted a move over to DRF.

It’s 2019 now, a year after I was informed of my change in employment status at The Daily Racing Form, and Saratoga is the one time where I get to test my skills against some of the best handicappers in the game on a daily basis. For 10 months out of the year, I’m a semi-professional handicapper who uses racing as a side hustle. For the other two, I go 15 rounds with some of the smartest, sharpest horseplayers I’ve ever known, and every once in a while, magic happens (as it did in 2017, when I topped all public handicappers with 128 top-pick winners). That’s why it means so much to me to be a part of The Pink Sheet’s pick box, as I have been for seven seasons, and it’s also why I take what I do incredibly seriously.

I know that I’m fortunate to have had my experiences, and it’s not like I’m detached from the racing industry. I still freelance for DRF with two Formulator videos per week, and I’ve been able to pick up writing assignments for Horse Racing Nation, Trainer Magazine, Granite Media, and a few other outlets. I maintain my ballots for both Eclipse Awards and racing’s Hall of Fame, and I consider both of those to be tremendous honors.

Having said that, Sean’s words hit me hard. I’m 30 years old, passionate about horse racing, and eager to teach people who want to know more about it. However, I don’t care about the social side of racing. As a goofy guy with no patience for those who are blind to the necessity of gambling money in this sport, I’m never going to be the focus of one of those “I Am Horse Racing” videos. I don’t bet enough to be considered a big player, and my emergence as a handicapper/content producer wasn’t necessarily anyone’s idea. I know that doesn’t sit well with at least one person in power at a major company, and I’m sure there are some in the sport who would like nothing more than for me to sit down, shut up, and do something else.

Does that make me irrelevant? Does that make those similar to me irrelevant? Are people like me simply shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic as foal crops decline, field sizes shrink, and handfuls of trainers get most of the top-tier horses? All of these are really tough questions, and they’re ones I’m now pondering a lot as I prepare to venture east later this week.

– – – – –

This Wednesday, I’ll be spending lots of time in the air en route to upstate New York. Over the course of a week or so, I’ll be seeing my family (including my two adorable nieces), mooching lots of free food, and, of course, making several trips to Saratoga to watch horses turn left.

I’ll be at the track Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, and if you see me walking around, don’t be afraid to say hello. I greatly appreciate anyone who takes the time to read my stuff (either in print or online), and I see that as validation for the effort I put into trying to solve 10 or so handicapping puzzles each day. Each puzzle, by the way, has become incredibly important. I’m locked in a three-way battle for top honors in The Pink Sheet, and have two wins to make up on Liam Durbin with six cards left in the meet.

I don’t know if I’m irrelevant. Maybe I always have been. Maybe we all are (we certainly will be if protestors have their way). Here’s what I know: I enjoy the hell out of this game. I love reading the past performances and trying to find things others don’t see. I’m going to keep doing this for as long as racing’s media outlets will have me, and for as long as people keep reading my stuff. Want to reach out? Tweet me at @AndrewChampagne, or email me using my site’s “contact” section. I try to respond to everything I get (just don’t use the term Runhappy on Twitter; I’ve muted it, so I won’t see your tweet if you do that).

The people who don’t like me aren’t going to change their minds. I’ve been at peace with that for a pretty long time (it’s sort of a family curse). Maybe I’m irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s not for a lack of trying to grow the game. I’m going to be around for as long as people will have me, and I’m always going to believe I’m one of the better ones at what I do.

As far as writing, though…yeah, Sean’s better than me.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/25/19)


BANKROLL: $708.60

About halfway through the card, I had seen and heard about all the Runhappy mentions I could stand. Jim McIngvale is a first-class guy that’s done a lot of good for a lot of people, but at this point, if the best horse he’s ever owned is anything short of the second coming of Mr. Prospector as a stallion, he’ll go down as the most overadvertised sire in the history of the sport.

Because of all of this, I went to Twitter and did something I’ve never done before. I muted the term, which means that I will no longer see any tweets mentioning that horse. This has proven to be a revelation. Now, if we could only mute certain terms from video feeds as we watch them…

SATURDAY’S RESULTS: Travers Day provided one of those “close, but no cigar” cards. My top picks hit the board nine times in 13 races, but only managed three wins. In this section, we dropped $27.50, as the first two win-place plays were both narrowly beaten, Yo Primo went early and stopped, and Mucho Gusto could only manage third despite a solid effort.

SUNDAY’S PLAY: I really like a price in the seventh race, and that’s where I’ll focus all of my action. #4 LARRY’S BABY could take a big step forward at second asking for a trainer whose second-out maidens are running well at a pretty alarming rate. In addition to a $10 win/place bet, I’ll single her in $5 cold doubles that use #5 GYPSUM JOHNNY in the sixth and #7 BULLETIN in the eighth.


– – – – –

BEST BET: Bulletin, Race 8
LONGSHOT: Larry’s Baby, Race 7


Wicked Whisper
Strike Magic
Paolucci entry

#2 WICKED WHISPER: Fetched $500,000 at auction last year and has a series of strong workouts ahead of her unveiling. This barn knows how to win with 2-year-olds here, and she’s a logical favorite; #3 STRIKE MAGIC: Hammered for $200,000 last fall and is bred to be a good one. She’s by Into Mischief, out of a Smart Strike mare, and comes in off a solid five-furlong drill last week; PAOLUCCI ENTRY: #1A WEDONTBELIEVEHER steps up in class, but has run well twice at the meet. The outside draw is a plus, and she could grab a piece of it at a nice price.


Ahead of Plan
Real Money

#7 AHEAD OF PLAN: Tries turf for the first time but is bred to like it. His dam was a stakes-winning turf sprinter, and he’s hinted at some talent in two prior starts on the main track; #5 TENCH: Also tries the grass for the first time, and his 327 turf Tomlinson rating indicates he’ll thrive on the lawn. He figures to be prominent early and could lead them a long way; #3 REAL MONEY: Cuts back in distance a bit after showing speed in several starts downstate. These connections merit respect, but there are stamina concerns here.


Krewe Chief
Tide of the Sea
No Mans Land

#2 KREWE CHIEF: Gets a tepid nod in what hit me as a puzzling race. He hasn’t won in a while, but he’s run well going very long on turf before and should appreciate the stretch-out in distance; #4 TIDE OF THE SEA: Wired a field of maidens at this route and tries winners for the first time. This is certainly a tougher group, but Rosario riding back for Mott inspires some confidence; #6 NO MANS LAND: Threw in a clunker last time out at Laurel, but ran well when third going long here last summer and loses blinkers here. He could be running well late beneath the rider who piloted him to victory three starts ago.


Ragtime Suzy
Wisconsin Night

#7 RAGTIME SUZY: Hasn’t won in a while, but her lone victory came over a fast dirt track, which she’ll likely get here. She’s spent lots of time on turf, but I think she may simply be a dirt horse; #5 WISCONSIN NIGHT: Comes in off a layoff, but is protected by trainer Linda Rice, who exercises a rule allowing a free shot to claimers coming off of long freshenings. That’s usually a sign of confidence, and I need to use her; #3 QUEENDOM: Drops in class second off the bench and had an eventful journey last time out. Improvement is logical in this spot, and she may be a bit of a price.


Leah’s Dream (MTO)
Violent Times

#8 ORIGINATOR: Came back running off the layoff when victorious at this route last time out. She likes Saratoga runs for an astute barn that usually keeps horses on the right track; #6 VIOLENT TIMES: Was a close-up second earlier in the meet and could sit an ideal stalking trip. She led late in her most recent start and is a logical alternative to the likely favorite; #2 ENTHUSIASTIC GAL: Will be doing her best running late for a barn that’s quietly hit the board with nearly half its runners this meet. The faster they go up front early on, the better her chances figure to be.


Gypsum Johnny
Sir Ballantine
Love That Jazz

#5 GYPSUM JOHNNY: Showed some late interest when fourth in his first start off a brief freshening last time out. He defeated similar company two back at Belmont, and Jose Ortiz rides back for a strong barn; #10 SIR BALLANTINE: Takes a big drop after misfiring in a turf experiment last month. Prior to that, he was an OK third against $20,000 claimers, so this $12,500 claiming event is a logical spot; #7 LOVE THAT JAZZ: Chased a runaway winner when third at this level last time out. He hasn’t won in a while, but he’s got tactical speed and comes in off of a recent bullet drill at Finger Lakes.


Las Ramblas
Larry’s Baby

#14 LAS RAMBLAS: Needs lots of luck to draw in, but would be formidable if she gets to run. She’s bred to be a solid turf horse and has been working well for first-time starter maestro Wesley Ward; #4 LARRY’S BABY: Didn’t do much running first time out, but drops in class and adds Lasix for her second start. She’s got a strong turf pedigree, and Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas has won with several second-out maidens here over the past few weeks; #9 YELLEN: Showed speed against straight maidens before fading to fifth in her unveiling. The blinkers come off, and she may have enough speed to clear most of this field from her outside post.


Front Run the Fed

#7 BULLETIN: Stretches out to two turns for the first time but is bred to like this journey. His dam has also thrown Grade 1-winning router Tiz Miz Sue, and offspring of City Zip can certainly route on turf; #1 FRONT RUN THE FED: Overwhelmed a weak group for the level last time out at Belmont and tries stakes company for the first time. This barn must be respected, but his lone two-turn effort to date was no great shakes; #5 PERFORMER: Is one of several in here trying turf for the first time. However, his 329 turf Tomlinson indicates he’ll like it, and he earned a strong 87 Beyer Speed Figure when he broke his maiden last time out.


Meet Me in L A
Mo Gotcha
Tapit Wise

#2 MEET ME IN L A: Was put up last time out against maidens but has already hinted at plenty of talent. He was a close second behind a next-out stakes winner two back, and his pedigree says he’s been begging for two turns; #1 MO GOTCHA: Hasn’t done much wrong with a win and two seconds in three career starts. He exits a pair of classy races downstate, and this seems like a slightly softer spot than what he’s accustomed to; #7 TAPIT WISE: Was a solid second at this level and route earlier this month and could improve in his second start off the layoff. Irad Ortiz has ridden him well in all three prior mounts, and he’s back aboard here.


Cairo Cutie (MTO)
Art Thief
Augusta Moon

#2 ART THIEF: Makes her first start off the claim for George Weaver and will race with blinkers for the first time. The winner of her last race has since come back to win, and she does boast prior two-turn experience; #4 AUGUSTA MOON: Drops in for a tag for the first time and makes sense given her powerful connections. However, it’s not like she exits classy races for the level, and whether or not Monmouth form will travel north with her is anyone’s guess; #1 COUNTENANCE: Was claimed by Steve Asmussen last time out and goes back to the turf. She ran fairly well on it at Tampa against straight maidens, and I do like when a trainer claims a horse and immediately makes a big change like this.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/24/19, TRAVERS DAY)


BANKROLL: $736.10

Happy Travers Day, everyone! We’ve got a 13-race card on tap, complete with six Grade 1 events that have attracted some of the best horses currently in training. The Travers, unfortunately, boasts an underwhelming group that lacks the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont (among other key divisional races), but from top to bottom, this is one of the most exciting cards we’ll see all year long.

There are plenty of opportunities to take stands with juicy prices, and my plays today will reflect that. If you’re diving in, pace yourself. Big fields mean potential for overlays, and a number of these events could be won by a number of contenders. From a bankroll standpoint, it’s an exciting day, as it may only take one winning ticket to ensure a profitable afternoon.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: The good news is that, for the first time in a week, our action wasn’t cancelled due to a surface switch. The bad news is that Bankit needed an extra jump he didn’t get in the Albany. As such, we dropped $30.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll practice what I preach by playing four separate $5 win/place bets throughout the card. I’ll use #7 BALON ROSE (race 3), #7 PAYNE (race 4), #6 YA PRIMO (race 10, the Grade 1 Sword Dancer), and #7 MUCHO GUSTO (race 11, the Travers with an overexposed sponsor I refuse to mention). Additionally, just for fun, I’ll play cold $5 doubles starting in the third and 10th races that use these horses. If morning lines hold up, it won’t take too much for this to be a pretty good day.


– – – – –

BEST BET: Brown entry, Race 1
LONGSHOT: Five Alarm Robin, Race 13


Brown entry
Keep Quiet

BROWN ENTRY: It could be a big day for Chad Brown, and he looks loaded here. #1 FRONTIER MARKET hasn’t run a poor race in nearly two years, while #1A UNLEVERAGED gets a class test after two wins in a row downstate; #8 LEMONIST: Is another consistent sort who has hit the board in each of his last nine starts. He cuts back after two solid seconds at marathon distances, and a mile is probably a perfect trip for him; #5 KEEP QUIET: Rallied to be fourth earlier this meet against similar foes and didn’t have much of a pace to rate off of that day. He’d benefit from solid early fractions, and his usual race likely gets him a piece of this.


Tap It to Win

#4 ATOKA: Settled for third in his debut after doing loads of heavy lifting early on. He debuted at a tough distance and adds Lasix here for a barn whose second-time starters are firing on all cylinders of late; #1 TAP IT TO WIN: Debuted with a second-place finish at Woodbine and comes in off of a bullet work over this surface. It’s tough to figure out whether or not Woodbine form will translate to the Spa, but he’s a logical favorite; #7 ONWARD: Hammered for $600,000 last September at Keeneland and has hinted at some precocity in the morning. This barn’s firsters are tough to figure out, but he does boast a fairly recent bullet drill.


Balon Rose
Ocean Fire

#7 BALON ROSE: Flopped when favored earlier in the meet, but she may not have liked the yielding surface and that day’s winner has since come back to win again. This seems like a softer group, and firmer going should help her; #2 CHARREADA: Just missed when second beaten a neck downstate and stretches back out to two turns. There’s some early speed signed on here, and she figures to be running well late; #6 OCEAN FIRE: Comes back to turf after a failed dirt try and is another that exits the same July 26 event as my top choice. Her debut over firm turf at Belmont was pretty good, as she was third behind a recent stakes-winner.


T Loves a Fight

#7 PAYNE: Didn’t have a great trip (nor, to be blunt, the best ride) when third at 4/5 earlier this meet. Jose Ortiz hops back aboard, and a repeat of either of his races downstate would make him a likely winner; #11 PERFORMER: Graduated off a long layoff last time out and tries winners for the first time. The outside draw should help, but regression potential is there and I’m wondering if he wants longer than this distance; #8 T LOVES A FIGHT: Has gotten quite good lately and was most recently beaten less than two lengths when fourth in a tough state-bred stakes race. He won three in a row before that and, like my top pick, would benefit from a fast pace.


Promises Fulfilled
Bon Raison

#3 MITOLE: Had to contend with a rail draw and an in-form Imperial Hint in the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt last month. The draw improves, and his rival is nowhere to be found, which means I’m inclined to give him another shot; #1 PROMISES FULFILLED: Is a logical alternative to the likely favorite. He got back on the beam last time out in the Grade 2 John Nerud, and he figures to be prominent early; #5 BON RAISON: Likes Saratoga and would benefit from a pace meltdown. He made several moves when winning the Tale of the Cat, and he could clunk up for a piece of this at a big price.


Mia Mischief
Special Relativity

#4 SEPARATIONOFPOWERS: Won last year’s Grade 1 Test and is proven at this seven-furlong distance. She’s been freshened ahead of this race and could sit a dream trip just off the pace; #5 MIA MISCHIEF: Was shuffled back a bit in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss and never recovered when fourth behind a loose-on-the-lead winner. She’s better than she showed that day, and a return to form would give her a big shot; #1 SPECIAL RELATIVITY: Takes a big jump up in class but certainly deserves the opportunity. She’s undefeated in four local starts and won a minor stakes race at this route a few weeks ago.


Hog Creek Hustle

#1 SHANCELOT: Reminded some fans of Groovy with his romp in the Grade 2 Amsterdam, where he earned a 121 Beyer Speed Figure. Anything close to that, and the rest of this field will be fighting for second; #9 HOG CREEK HUSTLE: Was last seen finishing with a flourish to win the Grade 1 Woody Stephens on Belmont Day. If Shancelot bounces, he may be the one they have to hold off in the stretch; #4 BORRACHO: Was impressive when winning an optional claimer at this route earlier in the meet. He loves this distance and is another that will be doing his best running late.


Starship Jubilee
Fifty Five

#9 MASCHA: Gets a reluctant nod in a wide-open renewal of the Grade 2 Ballston Spa. Her American debut was a winning one, and she showed plenty of class overseas last year; #8 STARSHIP JUBILEE: Ran second in a pair of Grade 2 events at Woodbine and is very flexible. She can sit close to the pace or rate and make one run, which figures to give Jose Lezcano plenty of options; #2 FIFTY FIVE: Is cross-entered in a state-bred race Friday, but is a contender if she shows up here. She hasn’t finished out of the money in nearly two years and was most recently second in a Grade 3 event at Parx.


Midnight Bisou
Golden Award

#4 ELATE: Seems to be in peak form ahead of another try at the Grade 1 Personal Ensign. She was second in the controversial 2018 renewal and may be better than she was a season ago; #1 MIDNIGHT BISOU: Has reeled off five wins in a row and certainly merits respect. However, she’s 0-for-4 going longer than a mile and a sixteenth, and the rail draw is less than ideal; #6 GOLDEN AWARD: Sprang a mild upset in the Grade 3 Shuvee earlier in the meet and figures to be one of the pace-setters. If she can clear the field going into the first turn, she could dictate terms and hang on for a share.


Ya Primo
Annals of Time
Channel Maker

#6 YA PRIMO: Ran well when second in the Grade 2 Bowling Green, which doubled as his U.S. debut. He may have needed that race off of a layoff, and improvement is logical second off the bench for a world-class barn; #7 ANNALS OF TIME: Looked good when cruising home against optional claiming foes earlier in the meet. At his best, he’s quite good, and this isn’t the strongest Grade 1 Sword Dancer renewal in recent history; #8 CHANNEL MAKER: Was beaten less than a length in the Bowling Green and was second in this race a season ago. He was a bit wide that day, and a smoother trip could make the difference here.


Mucho Gusto
Looking At Bikinis

#7 MUCHO GUSTO: Ships in for Bob Baffert after giving Maximum Security all he could handle in the Grade 1 Haskell. His recent works are strong, and when in doubt, there are far worse strategies than going with Bob Baffert in a big race; #6 TACITUS: Had an eventful journey when second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. The blinkers come on, and his best is certainly good enough to beat these, but has he gotten to where he actively puts himself in bad spots?; #9 LOOKING AT BIKINIS: Didn’t run well when a distant third in the Curlin, but that was over a sloppy track and he may have bounced to boot. He’s continued to work well, and I think he’s got a shot to hit the board at a nice price.


Discretionary Marq
Dowse’s Beach

#2 FLED: Has won two in a row since being switched to the turf, and most recently rallied from way back to top state-breds at this route. A repeat effort would put him right there in a wide-open event; #11 DISCRETIONARY MARQ: Drew a terrible post but is absolutely capable of winning with his best effort. He’s finished in the top two in eight of 14 career outings and should be on or near the lead early; #13 DOWSE’S BEACH: May not draw in, and will have to contend with an awful draw if he does, but he’s 5-for-8 at Saratoga and won here earlier in the meet. When Jason Servis gets horses on the right track, they tend to stay there.


Magic Star
Five Alarm Robin
Keepme in Thegame

#5 MAGIC STAR: Seems well-meant in her unveiling and could cap off a big day for her connections. Her dam won a Grade 1 as a 2-year-old and is a half to Grade 1 winner Overanalyze, so she’s got every right to be a runner; #9 FIVE ALARM ROBIN: Has improved in every start and was a close-up third downstate. Luis Saez sees fit to ride back, and she seems like an overlay at her 8-1 morning line price; #10 KEEPME IN THEGAME: Ran well when third in her debut, which came going two turns at Keeneland. She returns to a similar route here, and given her pedigree, she should embrace this journey.