As is tradition, I’m using my last bankroll blurb of the season to thank people who truly deserve it. First of all, editor Joe Boyle spearheads production of The Pink Sheet on top of daily sports sections in The Saratogian and The Troy Record, plus a weekly section in The Community News. Managing one daily section alone is a full-time job. I’d wager Joe is one of the hardest-working people in sports journalism, and it’s been a lot of fun working with him.
I’m quick to take the New York Racing Association to task for certain things, but I need to give NYRA credit where it’s due. The racing office did all it could to make the best of a bad situation. It looked different, the stakes schedule was jumbled, and field sizes weren’t ideal, but Saratoga was still Saratoga. Special thanks also goes to the fantastic on-air and live production team working the daily FOX Sports broadcasts. The shows have captured the essence of Saratoga as well as they possibly could have under the circumstances.
Finally, I’d like to thank you, the reader. Whether you’ve been seeing this in print or going to AndrewChampagne.com, I want you to know I appreciate you taking the time to read my stuff. Saratoga is the one stretch of the year where I get to dig in and go head-to-head with some of the best handicappers in the world. Hopefully, I’ve given you a few winners and helped you cash a few tickets. If not…well, we’ve got one more day!
SUNDAY’S RESULTS: I scratched out of most of my action when Caramel Swirl didn’t run in the opener. Majestic West, meanwhile, set the early pace and tired in the third, so I dropped $15.
MONDAY’S PLAY: Okay, if I’m going down, I’m going down in flames. There’s a mandatory payout in the Empire 6, so I’ll have a 20-cent ticket starting in the ninth that reads as follows: 3,4,6,8,9 with 1,4,5 with ALL with 3,7,8 with 6 with 2,3,5,9,10,12. I’ll use the other $25 of my bankroll on the early Pick Five, which begins in the second. My 50-cent ticket goes like this: 2,3 with 4,5,6,7,9 with 2 with 4 with 1,2,3,7,8.
TOTAL WAGERED: $565.
Best Bet: Proven Strategies, Race 12
Longshot: Wild Banker, Race 11
#2 IRANISTAN: Responded to the class drop last time out with a gritty victory, one where he re-rallied late after doing all the dirty work on the front end. He’s got plenty of back class and may be rediscovering the 2018 form that saw him place in two Grade 1 events; #6 BODES WELL: Did the dirty work when third behind the talented Snap Decision in the Kiser earlier this meet. He gets weight from several other contenders in here, and his best race could win this; #1 CRACKER FACTORY: May have needed his return to the races a few weeks ago, when he was fifth behind Iranistan. He could improve at a price second off the bench, and this barn has had a very strong season to this point.
Build to Suit
#3 FORT WORTH: Came back running off the long layoff with an easy score, one that hinted he still had plenty of gas left in the tank. That day’s runner-up has since come back to win impressively, and any improvement would make this Pletcher trainee extremely tough; #2 BUILD TO SUIT: Has plenty of back form and has run very well over this surface. If he can channel his 2019 form, he’ll be a major player, but given the last-out clunker and the entry for a claiming price, it’s fair to wonder if this is a dump; RICE ENTRY: I prefer #1A THE CARETAKER, an honest horse with 23 in-the-money finishes in 32 career outings. He was second at this level early in the meet, and sharp first-off-the-claim trainer Linda Rice should have a fresh horse ready to roll.
Editor At Large
#9 DOMAIN EXPERTISE: Hammered for $200,000 at Keeneland in 2018 and is bred up and down for turf. She’s by Kitten’s Joy, out of a Limehouse mare, and she’s got several very good works for strong first-out trainer Chad Brown; #4 EDITOR AT LARGE: Has plenty of European pedigree and is the other half of Brown’s powerful 1-2 punch in this event. While I prefer the former horse to this one, she’s certainly got plenty of potential; #6 MRS. O’CONNELL: Runs for a barn whose horses often need a race or two to get going, but she’s bred to be a good one. Sire American Pharoah and broodmare sire Distorted Humor are both strong turf influences, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she ran well at a price.
Road to Meath
#2 ROAD TO MEATH: Takes a big drop in class for an aggressive barn looking to win the training title. He’s almost certainly better on turf, but it’s not like he’s a slouch on dirt, and it seems like he’s found a soft spot; #6 KABOB: Rallied to break his maiden at a price early in the meet. That race didn’t come back particularly strong, but Ray Handal’s horses tend to get better with experience and this one should be running well late; #8 LIAM’S FIRE: Ran well to be third against $40,000 claimers two back and takes a big drop off a race that’s too bad to be true. A repeat of his two-back effort could give him a big shot at a bit of a price.
Hunt the Front
#4 PER CAPITA: Has crossed the wire first twice in a row since coming back from an extended hiatus and makes his first start for new trainer Todd Pletcher. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for his win last time out at Churchill, and two turns shouldn’t be a problem given his running style; #3 HEIRLOOM KITTEN: Has won two in a row since going to the dirt, both in easy wire-to-wire fashion. This is a class test for him, but he certainly looks like the main speed in this field and he’ll be dangerous if he’s left alone up top; #2 HUNT THE FRONT: Rallied to finish third at this route earlier in the meet, and that came after his connections saw fit to run him in the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland. He may need more pace than he’s likely to get, but a speed duel would open the door for him to come flying from out of the clouds.
Life in Shambles
KANTARMACI ENTRY: Both #1 TOPPER T and #1A CLENCH have shown they don’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well. That seems like a vital asset in a race with several very fast horses that will likely go all-out from the moment the gates open; #7 LIFE IN SHAMBLES: Mildly rallied to finish fourth against similar earlier in the meet. He was claimed by Rob Atras that day, and the likely race shape could set things up for this one-run closer; REPOLE ENTRY: #2B WEGOTOLDYOUGOTSOLD is the only one likely to run, as #2 WIN WITH PRIDE raced Saturday. The former hasn’t won in a while, but is a consistent sort that’s done enough to attract Irad Ortiz, Jr.
#9 ARMY WIFE: Was one-paced in her debut going shorter, but her pedigree says she’ll take a big step forward with added distance. She has an experience edge over much of this group, and the recent four-furlong bullet drill jumps off the page; #6 MRS FRANKEL: Chased an impressive next-out stakes winner in her first turf route, and she’s got enough early speed to be prominent from an early stage. Mark Casse has had plenty of hard luck at this meet, but this regally-bred filly certainly seems live; #5 FREEDOMOFTHEPRESS: Sold for $170,000 at Keeneland two years ago and has several strong local workouts ahead of her unveiling. If there’s hesitation here, it’s because young sire Mshawish is still unproven, so we don’t quite know what to expect from a pedigree standpoint.
Breaking the Rules
#5 BREAKING THE RULES: Has won two in a row since coming off the bench and looms large in the Lure. He topped eventual Grade 1 winner Digital Age two back at Belmont before rallying from far off the pace here earlier this summer; #2 LARGENT: Has four wins and two seconds in six lifetime starts and goes second off the layoff for Todd Pletcher. He won a similar stakes race at Colonial Downs last time out, and he’s got enough tactical speed to sit an ideal trip beneath Luis Saez; #4 BALLAGH ROCKS: Was one of the top turf milers in the country at his peak and he’s still good enough to make plenty of money in his 7-year-old season. He just missed downstate on Independence Day and stands to benefit if the early pace is faster than expected.
#3 SPEAKER’S CORNER: Has turned in a pair of eye-catching drills ahead of his debut for Bill Mott, who doesn’t usually work his horses very fast. He’s bred to go longer than this, but the works say he’s plenty quick enough to win his unveiling; #4 DEMON: Showed speed from the gate in his most recent half-mile drill, and he’s bred to be precocious given the presence of sire Into Mischief. Todd Pletcher’s work with 2-year-olds speaks for itself, and the 8-1 odds seem like an overlay; #9 SAVOY: Has worked consistently and draws well in his debut for Chad Brown. This $160,000 auction purchase originally worked at Monmouth with Brown’s second string, which can be a red flag, but he’s done enough up here to make me think he’s got a shot.
#4 BINKSTER: Hasn’t won in a while but has spent 2020 chasing better horses than the ones he’ll line up against here. He’s got plenty of early zip and was most recently third in a swiftly-run stakes race for state-breds; #1 IMA PHAROAH: Cruised home to break his maiden in his local debut. He earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure that day, and he’s inexperienced enough to where he may still be improving; #5 MAXIMILIANO: Hasn’t been seen since running fifth in last year’s Springboard Mile at Remington Park. He’s worked well of late, though, and he did his best work last season in shorter races. If he’s ready, this Wesley Ward trainee may be a threat at a bit of a price.
No Lime (MTO)
#3 WILD BANKER: Likely needed his return to the races last month at Monmouth Park, where he sat far back before rallying to finish third. This is a step up in class on paper, but it seems like a weak race for the level, there’s some early speed signed on, and Joel Rosario sees fit to ride; #10 SCANNO: Has run well twice at this meet and earned the diploma last time out. The outside post position is certainly a problem, but he’s shown some versatility in his last several starts, and that should give Luis Saez plenty of options; #6 MR. KRINGLE: Has placed in three stakes races and may go favored here. However, he flopped when third at 3/5 odds against similar last time out and didn’t seem to have any tangible excuses. He may just be a pack animal that likes running second and third, and I can’t endorse him on top.
#7 PROVEN STRATEGIES: Seems like the lone speed in this route on the inner turf and gets top gate rider Luis Saez. It seems overly simple, but too many turf races this summer have been won by horses like this, and the fact that he may be a bit of a price is very interesting; #3 LONESOME FUGITIVE: Was second in his first start against winners last time out, and that day’s victor came back to finish a hard-luck second in the Grade 3 Saranac. That was an oddly-run race, but he’s done very little wrong to this point in his career and is a logical favorite; #8 SUCCEEDANDSURPASS: Makes his first start for new trainer Graham Motion and looks to snap a year-log winless streak. He has tons of back class, having chased Grade 1 winner Mo Forza twice in California last year, and he figures to be rallying late beneath Jose Ortiz.
#6 JACKIE’S WARRIOR: Led every step of the way in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, and that day’s second-place finisher picked up another big check when second in the Iroquois Saturday at Churchill Downs. He seems like the speed of the speed and a horse that can steal the Grade 1 Hopeful on the front end; #3 MUTASAABEQ: Had no problems in his debut last month, when he cruised home as an odds-on favorite. This is a far tougher spot, to be sure, but this $425,000 auction purchase has every right to step forward for Todd Pletcher; #5 REINVESTMENT RISK: Turned heads by drawing away to win his debut by nearly eight lengths. He earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure, but he did so while sitting a perfect trip on the rail and capitalizing when room opened up. At his likely price, I’ll try to beat him.
#12 GUNMAN: Will need to navigate a very tough outside post in the meet finale but has shown enough to merit favoritism. He was a close-up fourth earlier this meet, and that was his first start since October. A step forward could get him the money against a suspect group; #5 BOLD GEM: Seems to like running second and third, but also appears to be the main early speed in this race. It wouldn’t surprise me if he got out to an easy lead, and that may be dangerous in a field of horses that may not want to pass others; #3 VICARAGE: Comes back to the lawn for the first time since his debut, which came going two turns at Tampa. It’s tough to go that route early in one’s career, and he may have needed that race for seasoning. He’s bred up and down for turf and is worth a shot on deeper tickets.