SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/24/19)



Generally speaking, as a handicapper, I strive for three winners per day. Three winners per day, over the course of 40 days, translates to 120 winners, which is usually enough to contend for the meet’s handicapping title. If you’d told me I’d be one off of that pace through eight days, despite a doughnut and a one-win Opening Day, I’d have probably been OK with it.

All of this is a prelude to me saying that I want Liam Durbin’s feed and medical records examined, pronto. This man is putting on a handicapping clinic. What he’s done so far this meet is pretty special, and we’ve all got some going to do in order to reel him in. Thankfully, we’ve got plenty of time, but we might need it.

SUNDAY’S RESULTS: Sequin ran second in the seventh, which spoiled exactas and doubles that had the horse on top. In total, we dropped $30.

WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: This is tricky, as it rained pretty hard earlier in the week and we may be off the turf. Assuming we’re staying on the turf, I’ll play an early Pick Four that starts in the third race (remember, the opener is a steeplechase) and singles my best bet of the day in the payoff leg. My 50-cent ticket reads as follows: 2,5,8 with 2,8,10 with 2,4,5,8,9 with 7.


– – – – –

BEST BET: Alfie Solomons, Race 6
LONGSHOT: More Than Silver, Race 3



#9 SPORTSWEAR: Has won two in a row since going to the steeplechase ranks and goes out for Jonathan Sheppard in a wide-open renewal of the Jonathan Kiser Novice. His two wins have been sharp, and he gets weight from many of these; #7 ELUCIDATION: Makes his second start off a long layoff and won both starts over fences a season ago. This may be a tougher group, but his return was fine and he may still be improving; #10 BELISARIUS: Comes in off of two clunkers, but his 2018 form was sharp and included a strong second in a Grade 3 event. If he channels that form, he could be competitive at a price.


The Honest Toun
Golani Brigade
Larsen entry

#5 THE HONEST TOUN: Rallied when third in his debut last month for a barn whose horses often need a race to get going. Irad Ortiz rides back, and he ran like he’ll appreciate the extra distance he gets in this spot; #9 GOLANI BRIGADE: Was beaten a half-length by my top pick last time out, when he was a one-paced fourth. He’s another that may improve with experience and an added furlong; LARSEN ENTRY: I prefer #1 FREAKY STYLEY, who has worked well ahead of his debut. Seven furlongs is a tricky distance to debut at, but this barn can pop at a price with first-time starters.


Beyond Brown (MTO)
Jen’s Battle
More Than Silver

#2 JEN’S BATTLE: Ran third in her debut despite checking shortly after the break. She’s bred up and down to go long on turf, and she gets a chance to do exactly that for a barn due to get off the duck sooner rather than later; #5 MORE THAN SILVER: Is another bred to love the lawn and will almost certainly be a square price. She’s by More Than Ready and out of a Mineshaft mare, and this barn has done fairly well with debuting runners over the past few years; #8 ADRIATIC HOLIDAY: Has been working lights-out for Team Funny Cide and will almost certainly be favored here. If there’s an issue here, it’s that this barn hasn’t had much luck with firsters. DIRT SELECTIONS: BEYOND BROWN, JEN’S BATTLE, SKY KITTEN.


Annals of Time
King Zachary

#1 ANNALS OF TIME: Stretches out in distance after running second in his comeback race last month at Belmont. He should be better-meant in this spot, and this length should be more to his liking; #10 DEVAMANI: Has stepped forward this season with two wins and a second in three 2019 starts. He’ll be running well late and could use a solid early pace; #8 KING ZACHARY: Has run in some big spots over the last two years and tries turf for the first time. He’s bred to like it, merits a look at a price, and would also be very imposing if this was rained off the turf.


Crea’s Bklyn Law
Giant Boo Boo
Indigo Yankee

#9 CREA’S BKLYN LAW: Improved first off the claim when second against similar downstate. He’s been freshened since then, should be running well late, and merits a tepid nod in a wide-open event; #8 GIANT BOO BOO: Ran well here twice a season ago and goes out for a barn that’s off to a strong start at the meet. He’s got plenty of early speed, but can also sit just off the pace, which could be helpful; #2 INDIGO YANKEE: Ran a decent fourth first off the claim at Churchill Downs and drops in class a bit for this race. He won here last year and has shown an ability to close from far back.


Alfie Solomons
Green entry
More Like It

#7 ALFIE SOLOMONS: Fetched $285,000 at auction and has been working very well ahead of his debut. Wesley Ward’s one of the best in the game with firsters, and he’s a full brother to world-class sprinter World of Trouble; #1 ANOTHER MIRACLE: Was second in his debut and figures to take a lot of money due to the presence of sire American Pharoah. A repeat of his debut makes him a contender; the question is, does he want turf?; #2 MORE LIKE IT: Is bred for turf and could hit the board at a price. His recent workouts here are solid, and the 331 turf Tomlinson number jumps off the page.


Six Percent
Funny Guy

#8 SIX PERCENT: Has improved significantly in each of his three career starts and takes a big jump up in class. However, he’s got some turf pedigree and can close, which should come in handy in a race with plenty of early speed signed on; #3 RINALDI: Upset a similar-quality group last time out at Belmont and tries two turns for the first time. Offspring of Posse don’t necessarily want distance, but any improvement off of his last race would make him tough; #9 FUNNY GUY: Took to turf well when second behind my second choice last time out. He’s another that may like a fast pace.


Mia Mischief
Ours to Run

#4 MIA MISCHIEF: May be hitting her stride as a 4-year-old and looms large in this spot. She won a Grade 1 two back, topped a talented field last time out, and ran well here twice last year; #2 CHALON: Hasn’t finished out of the exacta since September of 2017 and cuts back to six furlongs, which seems like her ideal trip. She was beaten a head in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and seems like the main danger; #6 OURS TO RUN: Has reeled off six wins in a row and ships in for Larry Jones, who generally means business when he makes a trip to upstate New York. It’s a big class test, but she’s won 12 of 20 lifetime outings, beat my top pick two starts ago, and attracts John Velazquez.


Leah’s Dream (MTO)
Enthusiastic Gal
Violent Times

#6 ENTHUSIASTIC GAL: Was outclassed in Grade 3 company last time out but drops back to the right level here. She had two wins and two seconds in her four starts prior to that effort, and she figures to be rolling late; #8 VIOLENT TIMES: Comes back to turf after running third behind a pair of next-out winners last month at Gulfstream. She was second at this route last summer and may be up close early on; #7 MENTALITY: Has lots of early speed and wired the field last time out at Belmont. That was her first start since November, so she could be in even better form here. DIRT SELECTIONS: LEAH’S DREAM, MISS MYSTIQUE, VICTORIAS FIRE.


Risky Mandate
Stifle Yourself
Fair Regis

#3 RISKY MANDATE: Debuted with a bang last month at Churchill, when she cruised home by more than six lengths despite not being fully extended. She facts another full field here, but the local work looks sharp and she seems ready to go; #11 STIFLE YOURSELF: Graduated at first asking over a fast Belmont strip last month, but the recent works indicate that she’s no fluke. The outside draw could help her, as could her tactical speed; #2 FAIR REGIS: Was claimed last time out by an astute outfit and is protected in this event. This may be a bit long for her, but a move forward off of her last-out victory could mean she picks up a check.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 7/25/18


BANKROLL: $915.50

The section you’re reading right now was inspired by the “Battle of Saratoga” feature that once ran in the New York Daily News. Handicappers like Dave Little, Jerry Bossert, Bill Finley, and Sherry Ross (among others) would trade barbs while offering daily plays. It was the first serious horse racing analysis that I ever read, and it’s an honor to do my own version of it.

If you saw the news about that publication yesterday, you know where this is going. Upon purchasing the paper, its new owners laid off some of the best newspaper journalists in the northeast. Local newspapers are vital to communities in many ways, and given the wages, the hours, and other external forces obvious to anyone who follows current events, it’s tougher than ever to be a newspaper journalist.

I could go on, but we’re probably short on space at this point. At any rate, my thoughts are with the writers who worked their rear ends off and were shown the door. I hope they land on their feet.

MONDAY’S RESULTS: Another good day in the pick box, another bad day in the bankroll. Triple Chelsea didn’t take to the soft turf course at all, and we dropped $30.

WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: My action comes in the fifth race, a fascinating maiden event for state-bred fillies. My top two are #4 BULL FEATHERS and #6 TIME WARP, who could both be nice prices. I’ll start $4 doubles there that also use #4 PURRFECT MISS and #5 PRAY FOR LESLIE in the sixth, as well as a $2 Pick Three that uses those horses (as well as #6 COME DANCING in the sixth) and singles #6 HOLLYWOOD CAT (my best bet of the day) in the seventh.



Monday’s Results: 4 for 9
Meet Results (to date): 14 for 40

Best Bet: Hollywood Cat, Race 7
Longshot: Bull Feathers, Race 5


Lord Justice
Officer Sidney

#5 LORD JUSTICE: Has yet to run a bad race over fences since coming to America last summer. He’s got some tactical speed, and the likely race shape could benefit him in the first steeplechase race of the season; #2 OFFICER SYDNEY: Has turned a corner in his last four starts, a stretch that includes a pair of wins. He was third behind two of today’s rivals last time out, but the cutback in distance should work to his benefit; #6 MUTASAAWY: Would benefit from a fast pace and figures to be going best of all late. He won an allowance here last summer, and his win two back was sharp, but he may need a specific setup.


Raging Town
North End

#4 RAGING TOWN: May desperately need the drop in class, but I’m willing to give her a shot. She seems like the main speed, and the addition of blinkers could give her an even bigger edge in that regard; #2 TERRALSOLE: Hasn’t run since December, but merits a look at a price. The Bond barn has quietly had a solid year to this point, and she ran third against a much better group when she was last seen; #6 NORTH END: Makes her first start for Jorge Abreu and drops in class. I’m willing to consider that she hates Aqueduct’s new main track, and the most recent workout indicates she could be ready to run off the bench.


Consensus Thinking (MTO)
Ding Dong Ditch

#6 DING DONG DITCH: Comes to the Todd Pletcher barn and drops in class after being beaten as the favorite on Kentucky Derby Day. That was a funky turf course that day, so I’m more than willing to excuse it, and he’s got back races that, if repeated, would make him tough here; #4 SPORT: Has had plenty of chances, but came back running off a long layoff when second at this level. I usually don’t like betting horses that have had this many opportunities, but his usual race probably gets him a big piece of it; #9 WISELY: Has been gelded since his last start and drops in for a tag for the first time. His two-turn turf races aren’t bad, and this seems like the right level. DIRT SELECTIONS: CONSENSUS THINKING, CURLIN’S NEW MOON, HOT MESA.


Summer Bourbon
Riff Raff

#5 SUMMER BOURBON: Just missed last time out at Belmont Park when rallying from much further back than he’d been accustomed to racing. He may show more tactical speed today, and it’s tough to quibble with these connections; #2 RIFF RAFF: Is another that could benefit from the likely race shape. He hasn’t won in a while, but he was a good second last time out and it’s worth noting the presence of Joel Rosario; #3 RECTIFY: Loves Saratoga and comes in off a clear win against lesser foes. He’ll be one of a few in here that wants the early lead.


Time Warp
Bull Feathers

#6 TIME WARP: Fetched $230,000 at auction here last year and has been working well for a trainer whose horses often need a race or two to get going. Her female family has links to high-quality horses Editor’s Note and Hold That Tiger, so she’s got every right to be a runner; #4 BULL FEATHERS: Merits a look, especially at her morning line price. Her dam has thrown four winners (including two full siblings), and was herself a full sister to an 11-time winner. The most recent work may have tipped her hand; #9 CHILLINWITHFRIENDS: May be favorite given trainer Rudy Rodriguez’s high profile. It’s tough to read too much into her work tab, but Rudy’s snuck a few firsters by in recent years that fit this profile.


Purrfect Miss
Pray for Leslie
Come Dancing

#4 PURRFECT MISS: Rebounded from a lackluster run in a Grade 3 to take an allowance downstate. She ran two very good races here last year, and there’s a chance she’s getting better for a strong trainer; #5 PRAY FOR LESLIE: Is undefeated through two starts and goes out for one of the hottest barns in the country. If she brings the Churchill Downs form here, she’ll be tough, but she set a pretty easy pace last time and likely won’t get a similar trip in this spot; #6 COME DANCING: Hasn’t raced since January, where something clearly went amiss in a stakes race at Aqueduct. Her recent workouts are sharp, but this race came up pretty salty for the level.


Hollywood Cat
Stay Fond (MTO)

#6 HOLLYWOOD CAT: Makes her first start for Jason Servis and returns to Saratoga, where she earned a stakes placing last summer. She gets a big rider switch to Irad Ortiz, Jr., and this seems like a weaker-than-average race for the level; #11 CODRINGTON: Was claimed by Mike Maker after being compromised by a slow early pace last time out. She ran well here three times last season, but must negotiate a trip from a tricky outside post; #5 SWEET CONNIE GIRL: Merits respect if for no other reason than her trainer/jockey combination of Chad Brown and Javier Castellano. She was an OK fourth at this level when last seen in late-May. DIRT SELECTIONS: STAY FOND, HOLLYWOOD CAT, SOLITARY GEM.


Mo Diddley
Ivery Sisters entry

#4 MO DIDDLEY: Has gotten better with every start this season since coming back in turf races. His connections thought enough of him to run him in two graded stakes races a season ago, and his last effort was a good second behind a next-out winner; IVERY SISTERS ENTRY: #1A FOX RULES seems like the main speed in this race, while #1 OSTROLENKA merits a big chance should this race be moved to the main track; #2 MASCARELLO: Has won three of his last five, including a last-out victory at Suffolk Downs. He’s got a win and a second in two local starts and may get first run at the leaders turning for home. DIRT SELECTIONS: OSTROLENKA, MORRISON, ROYAL BLESSING.


Vertical Oak

#5 FAYPIEN: Has a lot of speed, but has shown an ability to sit just off the pace that may be helpful in a speed-heavy renewal of the Honorable Miss. Cross out her dud in December’s La Brea, and you’ve got a filly that’s missed the board just once for the always-formidable Bob Baffert barn; #6 FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM: Ran a bang-up race in defeat in last year’s renewal of this race. Her best effort could certainly win this, but her chances do suffer slightly if there’s moisture in the track; #1 VERTICAL OAK: May not be as fast as these on a fast track, but would love a wet track (which she could very well get). She romped in last year’s Grade 2 Prioress here in a bog, and a repeat of that race would put her right there.


Rucksack (MTO)
Spring On Curlin
Four Knights

#7 SPRING ON CURLIN: Has had a ton of chances, but drops to the lowest level he’s ever run at and gets a very significant rider switch to Joel Rosario. Arguably his best race came here last summer at this route; #11 FOUR KNIGHTS: Has been gelded since being claimed by Joe Sharp. He goes back to the turf, and his two-turn grass races are OK enough to give him a big shot here; #2 MONEIGH MOPROBLEMS: Drops down in class and exits the same race my top pick comes out of. He’s shown a solid closing kick, but he may not get much pace to run at in this spot. DIRT SELECTIONS: RUCKSACK, SPRING ON CURLIN, SACRED WALK.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 7/26/17



After my start to the meet, which mostly resembled Daffy Duck losing one “wabbit season, duck season” argument after another, it was nice to have a day where it looked like I knew what I was doing. Of six original top picks that actually ran Monday (three scratched), three won, one was second, and one of the off-the-board finishes came in a race where I correctly went against what turned out to be a bad favorite. Hopefully, this means I’m rounding into form.

As always, if you’ve got anything you’d like addressed in this space, send me a tweet at @AndrewChampagne. I’m taking questions and comments all meet long. Just make sure they’re good!

MONDAY’S RESULTS: The second race was rained off the turf, which means my double play was cancelled (remember, wagers in races carded for turf assume no surface switch). Unfortunately, we dropped $15 when the tote board exploded in Monday’s opener and we didn’t have the $232 winner.

WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: I thought this was a very strange card from a betting standpoint, in that I could narrow most races down to a few contenders, but not feel too confident about singles. My plays come in the ninth, the Grade 2 Honorable Miss. I’ll play a $10 exacta box using #3 PAULASSILVERLINING and #5 FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM, and I’ll punch a straight $5 double singling Finley’sluckycharm and 10th-race selection #6 SHE REMEMBERED.



Best Bet: She Remembered, Race 10
Longshot: New Canaan, Race 2


Surprising Soul
Show Court

SURPRISING SOUL: Has woken up with three straight decisive victories this year. He hinted at talent with a pair of runner-up finishes over fences last year, and he could be emerging as a very nice horse; MOSCATO: Has won two in a row and steps up in class in this spot. He’s yet to run a bad race since coming to America from Europe; SHOW COURT: Prevailed by a nose last out at Parx and won a stakes race by daylight earlier this year.


Sand City (MTO)
New Canaan
Indian Gem

NEW CANAAN: Is a major threat if she draws in off the AE list. Linda Rice made a name for herself in these turf sprints, and the recent bullet workout inspires confidence ahead of this one’s debut; INDIAN GEM: Comes in off a long layoff and a trainer change to George Weaver, whose horses have come out running early in the meet. She’s a top contender if she’s ready to run; SHARP LACEY: Ran third when debuting at this route last summer. Her recent efforts haven’t been great, but maybe she just doesn’t like Belmont and needs a change of scenery. DIRT SELECTIONS: SAND CITY, INDIAN GEM, SONG FOR THE SOUL.


Combat Controller
Hay Listen Up

BUNYAAN: Takes a massive class drop after faltering against much better in each of his past two starts. Anything close to his runaway win three back (which came in his last two-turn outing) would likely be good enough; COMBAT CONTROLLER: Is another taking a big class drop for a live barn. The win two back against lesser company was strong, and he ran against some big-name horses earlier this season; HAY LISTEN UP: Woke up two back with a wire-to-wire score and runs for D. Wayne Lukas, who has already won several races to this point in the meet.


Hammerin Aamer

FAYEQ: May not be as good as older half-sister Rachel Alexandra, but his last-out maiden win was very sharp. He ran against some very good horses earlier this year at Gulfstream, and indications are that he’s figuring things out; EMANCIPATION: Channeled older full brother Orb with his late-running debut win and ran well last out in his first start against winners. Two turns should be no problem, but will he get any sort of a pace to close into?; HAMMERIN AAMER: Has taken a substantial step forward as a 3-year-old and was a good second last out downstate. He could be forwardly-placed early, which may be beneficial given the likely race shape.


A Dixie Twister
Asian’s Way (MTO)
Jazzy Juder

A DIXIE TWISTER: Drops in for a tag and loves sprinting on turf. She’s never run a bad race going this type of route, and she could sit a dream trip just off the speed; JAZZY JUDER: Woke up two back when switched to the turf and didn’t run badly in her first start against winners downstate. The slight cutback in distance could help, and she may be good enough to overcome the disadvantageous post; RUBY DUSK: Ships in from Arlington Park for a trainer that doesn’t run much at Saratoga, but means business when he does. Of 11 Catalano-trained starters here in the past two years, nine have hit the board (per DRF Formulator). DIRT SELECTIONS: A DIXIE TWISTER, ASIAN’S WAY, SISELLA.


Gargan entry
Super Stone

GARGAN ENTRY: Either horse could win, but I prefer TROUBLE FOR SKYLAR, who fetched $225k at auction last summer. The past two works were very sharp, and offspring of Into Mischief can be precocious; SUPER STONE: Showed speed and faded in her career debut at Belmont. She was the betting favorite that day, and trainer A.C. Avila could have her ready to go at second asking; ASILIVEANDBREATHE: Possesses a sharp work two drills ago downstate and could benefit from the outside draw she gets here.


Vintage Matters
Voodoo Song
Clutch Cargo

VINTAGE MATTERS: Is the only one of these with a marathon turf race under his belt. That particular race (four back) came up incredibly tough, he’s run well since then, and this gelding should be doing his best running late; VOODOO SONG: Was hammered late in the wagering Saturday and is run back quickly after cruising home well clear on that occasion. He’s 2-for-2 on turf, and Linda Rice has had success with quick turnarounds in the past; CLUTCH CARGO: Possesses the running style needed for races of this distance, could hang around for a piece of it, and is a win candidate if this is rained off the turf. DIRT SELECTIONS: CLUTCH CARGO, MAN OF WIREGRASS, VINTAGE MATTERS.


Animal Posse
Gaming (MTO)

ELENZEE: Would benefit from the likely shape of this race given the closing kick he showed when second last time out. The Casse barn has started slow this meet, but this spot could set up for this horse; ANIMAL POSSE: May have bounced last time out after a good third two back in his 2017 debut. Irad Ortiz, Jr., signs on to ride, and he could be the speed of the speed; GEHRIG: Has not won in nearly two years, but, like my top pick, he stands to benefit from a pace meltdown and should be running well late. DIRT SELECTIONS: GAMING, WICKED MACHO, GEHRIG.


By the Moon

FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM: Is a perfect 5-for-5 at this six-furlong distance and has lost just once in nine one-turn efforts. She figures to be the controlling speed here, and if she brings her Churchill form with her, look out; PAULASSILVERLINING: Is 2-for-2 this year, with both wins coming at the Grade 1 level. She’s obviously got tons of talent and will probably be favored, but is it possible she wants longer than the six furlongs she gets today?; BY THE MOON: Is an easy horse to root for and comes in after two Grade 3 wins downstate. Her chances would improve over a wet track.


She Remembered
Pure Gemmz
Scarlett Jo Hansen

SHE REMEMBERED: Has really improved since moving to turf as a 3-year-old. Her best effort came last out going a similar route of ground at Belmont, and a similar effort would make her tough to beat; PURE GEMMZ: Has run respectable races at this level going shorter and stretches out in this spot. The blinkers come off, and she could be forwardly-placed; SCARLETT JO HANSEN: Could be dangerous if she draws in off the AE list. She was a solid third at this level last out, and Michelle Nevin usually has them ready to run second off the layoff.