“Best Bets,” Public Handicapping Philosophies, and the Need for Education

It’s been quite a while since I’ve put pen to paper (or, more fittingly, text to a Word doc) and written something for this site. In typical fashion, though, members of the horse racing community provided the basis for something that kicks around in my head every so often.

Matt Dinerman, the track announcer at Golden Gate Fields, is a friend of mine. On Sunday afternoon, he asked the Twitterverse a question that I get asked at least once a year and one that a lot of public handicappers weigh on a constant basis.

 

I’m in a unique position to answer this question. I’m part of a rare breed of handicappers that still participate in “pick boxes” each season at Saratoga. Recently, though, I’ve also taken on a daily bankroll blurb inspired by the “Battle of Saratoga” section in old editions of The New York Daily News. This, of course, is in addition to everything else I do online for a variety of outlets, sometimes for no other reason than that I love this game and want to do what I can to offer content people enjoy.

With that in mind, this is a question where dealing in absolutes is a fool’s errand. There is a very vocal group of handicappers on Twitter that tees off on anyone who doesn’t act as though betting 1/5 favorites will give you coronavirus. While a small sect of those people needs to seriously re-examine its unjustified sense of importance, I like and/or respect most of these people a great deal for what they bring to the table (both strategically and in their financial support of the sport at the betting windows). However, what I’m about to lay out is going to make those people go apoplectic.

Here’s the concept: If you’re a super-advanced handicapper, the idea of a “best bet,” as it was laid out by Matt and as it’s understood by those who enjoy going to the racetrack…isn’t for you.

Before you put me in the same category as out-of-touch businesspeople who would prefer handicappers shut up and bet (copyright @InsideThePylons, all rights reserved), allow me to expound. If you hop into a time machine and go to Saratoga on a typical, pre-pandemic day, you’ll see thousands of people, most of whom make one or two trips to one of racing’s few remaining cathedrals each summer. An overwhelming percentage of these people aren’t looking for game theory, at least not when they walk through the door. They don’t want people talking down to them about ticket structure, takeout, breakage, or any number of other topics you’ll find racing enthusiasts complaining about on a consistent basis.

No, these folks just want to cash a few tickets, and they shouldn’t be judged negatively for that. With that in mind, if I think a heavy favorite isn’t going to lose, I’m not just going to put the horse second on principle. My job, in that pick box, is to pick horses to run first, second, and third. If I think an overwhelming favorite is the day’s most likely winner, I’ll put that horse as my “best bet” in the pick box without much hesitation (important note: We do have a “top longshot” designation as well).

This philosophy causes at least one of my Pink Sheet counterparts, who thinks we should be judged by ROI rather than total wins, plenty of frustration. I’d argue, though, that the infrequent track-goer buying the paper and betting the picks outlined within it doesn’t care about the average return on a $2 ticket over the course of a season. They’re here for a quick dose of fun before snapping back to reality. Betting winning horses is fun, so it’s my duty to provide as many of those as I can, short win prices be damned.

However, here’s where the bridge to the more advanced stuff comes in, and this is where I begin to repair relations with the more vocal, jaded horseplayers that are reading this. If someone is betting my picks and I’m having a good day, the chances of them wanting to learn more go through the roof. That’s when concepts like ticket construction and squeezing value arrive on the scene. Rolling that stuff out to a casual audience who has no patience for it is often a fool’s errand.

That’s why the bankroll section came into existence a few years ago. It provides another avenue for horseplayers to learn about money management and how to get the most out of your wagering dollar. If I like a horse who’s likely to be odds-on, perhaps I’ll punch a cold double or key it in exactas with bigger prices underneath, and I’ll use that section to explain why I’m doing that.

That strategy isn’t sexy, but if I successfully key a 3/5 shot in a cold double that pays $12 for a $2 bet, I’ve turned that 3/5 favorite into a 5-1 proposition. Instead of a $10 win bet that returns $16, the $10 double I’ve just hit returns $60. Even if I add a second horse in doubles in the second leg, that’s a 2-1 return on my investment, which more than triples the win odds of my key horse.

I’ll never bash handicappers for taking aggressive swings. It takes guts, strong opinions, and plenty of self-confidence to do that, and those are all qualities I respect that this game needs more of. However, what we also need more if is fans who go from the beginner, “once or twice a year” level to the intermediate, “have TVG on in the background more and more and begin reading books on the topic” level. It’s easier to cultivate that growth than it is to find new whales, and I wish people took that responsibility more seriously sometimes.

That’s my primary goal with everything that I put out there, and it’s my belief that lessons like the one I outlined with the cold double are ones we need to teach in order to drive growth in that area. Right now, there’s a gigantic gap in fan education between 101-level studies at Horse Racing State College and doctoral-level classes at the Andrew Beyer Institute. There isn’t a middle ground where we can teach beginning horseplayers more about how to optimize winners, and do so in such a way that isn’t condescending and rude, but welcoming and constructive.

Sometimes my efforts to do that work (cheap plug: If you haven’t subscribed to the new weekly “Champagne and J.D.” show, do so so you don’t miss any of our uploads!). Sometimes they don’t, and I welcome feedback from people who have the game’s best interests (rather than their own fragile egos) at heart. If you want to talk to me about this, I make it really easy to find me. There’s a “contact” feature on my website that will send me an email, and I read everything that comes in. I’m also around on Twitter at @AndrewChampagne, and as people around the industry will readily tell you, I’m on there a lot and reply to most things that come my way, provided we share the mindset of having a constructive conversation (I’ve come to the conclusion that engaging with fools is, well, foolish; life’s too short).

All of us want the same thing. We want horse racing to thrive and be around for our kids (and their kids) to enjoy. We just likely have different ideas about ensuring the growth of the betting audience, as evidenced by some of the conversations I’ve had lately.

Given the state of the world and the current status of social discourse, it’s my hope we can have these conversations at a racetrack near you shortly. Once this clears up, come find me. I’m 6’5”, so just look up.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/2/19, CLOSING DAY)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $571.10

As usual, my last bankroll blurb of the meet thanks a lot of people I’m incredibly grateful for. First of all, thanks very much to editors Stan Hudy and Joe Boyle, who combine to put out three sports sections a day for two papers during track season. If you think that’s easy, try it sometime. Also, thanks to the boys and girls selling The Pink Sheet outside the track, even those who took it upon themselves to not play along with my shtick Thursday and Saturday!

Finally, thanks to you, the reader. Everything I do is done for the purpose of better educating fans and handicappers, as well as potentially making it a bit easier for one to enjoy a day at one of racing’s last true cathedrals. Hopefully, I’ve helped you cash a few tickets this summer. If not, we’ve got one more shot at it!

SUNDAY’S RESULTS: For the second straight day, my key horse in exactas won impressively, but the ticket did not include the second-place finisher. We dropped $40.

MONDAY’S PLAY: I’ll look to go out with a bang in the late double. I’ll use #3 GREEN LIGHT GO and #5 BY YOUR SIDE (race 10, the Grade 1 Hopeful) and #5 FU PEGCHU, #7 EXCHEQUER, and #8 MINE THE COIN (race 11) in $95 doubles, which will exhaust all but $1.10 from my remaining balance.

TOTAL WAGERED: $570

– – – – –

BEST BET: Green Light Go, Race 10
LONGSHOT: Tadeo, Race 6

R1

Deft (MTO)
Doswell
Malthael

#4 DOSWELL: Was beaten a nose by Good Governance, who used that maiden race as a springboard to the Grade 3 Saranac. He wound up second that day, which bodes well for the horse he edged in this spot; #11 MALTHAEL: Has a tendency to find trouble and draws an outside post on the inner turf. However, his best race would make him a contender if Rosario can work out a clean trip; #6 CONVICTION TRADE: Debuts going two turns, which is never easy, but he’s got the pedigree to be a very good turf horse. He’s by Exchange Rate and out of a Street Sense mare, and goes out for a barn that can win with first-time starters.

R2

Mo Diddley
Giant Boo Boo
Battle Station

#4 MO DIDDLEY: Was claimed out of his last race by Joe Sharp, who promptly drops him down in class and returns him to what’s likely his preferred surface. His last win came going one turn on dirt, and he’d also thrive in the event of rain; #1 GIANT BOO BOO: Loves Saratoga and won here last time out. He’s got plenty of speed, which could make the rail an asset, and Javier Castellano hops aboard; #8 BATTLE STATION: Takes a big drop in class for Wesley Ward, but hasn’t won in a while and did most of his best running, from a figures standpoint, on turf. He does have two wins on dirt, but at his likely price, he’s tough to endorse on top.

R3

Baffin Bay
Days of Glory
Dakota’s Dude

#2 BAFFIN BAY: Comes up from Florida for this event and gets a tepid nod in a wide-open claimer. He’s won four of seven starts since being switched to the turf, and the presence of Joel Rosario is noteworthy; #3 DAYS OF GLORY: Was claimed by Steve Asmussen earlier in the meet and ran reasonable well in his second start off the layoff. Asmussen can move horses up, and he’ll likely be running well late; #6 DAKOTA’S DUDE: Gets a big rider switch to Jose Lezcano and topped similar company two back at Belmont. He didn’t have a great trip last time out, and he may be a slightly-inflated price based off of that effort.

R4

Ekhtibaar
Rodriguez entry
Heavy Roller

#4 EKHTIBAAR: Has won five of his 10 dirt starts and comes back to this surface while also dropping in class. He’s also 4-for-5 over a wet track, so he’s even more of a threat in the event of closing-day rain; RODRIGUEZ ENTRY: Both #1 CURLIN ROAD and #1A CANDY PROMISES are live, although only one will likely go. I slightly prefer the latter, who won two in a row before just missing at this route in July; #7 HEAVY ROLLER: Didn’t show much last time out, but was claimed by Linda Rice and has some back class. It wasn’t long ago he was 7/2 in a $350,000 race at Oaklawn, and he’s a contender if he finds that form for a high-percentage barn.

R5

Super Silver (MTO)
Zap Daddy
Labeq

#3 ZAP DADDY: Hasn’t won in a while, but goes to the barn of Jason Servis, which can wake a horse up as well as any claim in the game. He’s been competitive against similar foes in the past and merits respect; #5 LABEQ: Seems to be figuring things out as a 4-year-old. He was second behind a horse that’s since added two more wins last time out, and he comes in off of a bullet drill; #1 SNAP HOOK: Won two in a row before settling for second behind a runaway winner here last month. Jose Ortiz gets off, but trainer Eddie Kenneally has seven top-two finishes in 13 Saratoga starts as of this writing.

R6

Gouverneur Morris
Tadeo
Maximiliano

#8 GOUVERNEUR MORRIS: Hammered for $600,000 earlier this year and has worked like a good one for trainer Todd Pletcher. First-call rider John Velazquez will be aboard this son of hot young sire Constitution; #7 TADEO: Is by Sky Mesa, which gives him a right to be precocious, and his most recent gate drill was solid. His trainer’s horses sometimes need a race, but this one has a big chance to outrun his odds; #1 MAXIMILIANO: Fetched $425,000 at auction last September despite a modest female pedigree. Wesley Ward is as good as anyone with debuting runners, but with all the recent turf drills, why is this one debuting on dirt?

R7

Rhode Island
Danny California
Saratoga Colonel

#5 RHODE ISLAND: Was a good second against non-winners of two last time out and drops in claiming price here. A repeat effort will make him tough, and he’s a very logical favorite; #2 DANNY CALIFORNIA: Hasn’t won in 18 months, but was competitive at this level two back before not breaking well last time out. Additionally, he’s got some dirt form, which could come in handy if this race is moved to the main track; #12 SARATOGA COLONEL: Is another that hasn’t found the winner’s circle in a while, but he adds blinkers for George Weaver and attracts Jose Ortiz. It’s a tall task to win from out there, but he’s run well over this turf course in the past.

R8

Hay Field
Miss Lily B
Newport Breeze

#7 HAY FIELD: Goes to Jason Servis after running second at this level earlier in the meet. She’s got tons of back form, has 14 top-two finishes in 23 career starts, and merits respect; #5 MISS LILY B: Has done very little wrong in nine lifetime outings at Finger Lakes, where she’s won five times and finished second four times. Jose Ortiz rides for a live barn that rarely ships horses without a chance; #9 NEWPORT BREEZE: Hasn’t run since October, but beat a number of today’s rivals in that race and has worked fairly well leading up to this race. Weaver can win with horses off of long layoffs, and she was second in a stakes race here two summers ago.

R9

Sacred Life
March to the Arch
Qurbaan

#6 SACRED LIFE: Nearly won his U.S. debut, which came in the Lure last month. He’s since fired a pair of bullet workouts and should get some pace to run at in this Grade 2 event; #1 MARCH TO THE ARCH: Chased Got Stormy when fourth in the Grade 1 Fourstardave, and this certainly seems like a softer spot. A mile is probably a hair shorter than he wants to go, so he should appreciate the extra sixteenth he gets here; #3 QURBAAN: Won this race last year but hasn’t won since despite some good efforts against solid competition. He was third in the Forbidden Apple earlier this meet and is another that would benefit from a hot pace.

R10

Green Light Go
By Your Side
Gozilla

#3 GREEN LIGHT GO: Sprinted clear late in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and comes into the Grade 1 Hopeful off of a recent bullet drill. All indications are that he’s fully-cranked for this event; #5 BY YOUR SIDE: Has shown maturity in two prior victories, one of which was the Grade 3 Sanford. His pedigree says the added distance won’t be a problem, and he could sit an ideal stalking trip; #4 GOZILLA: Capitalized on a perfect trip in his debut, when he scored by nearly five lengths and earned an 84 Beyer Speed Figure. Of the recent maiden winners, he hits me as the one with the biggest shot, and he’ll likely be bet accordingly.

R11

Mine the Coin
Exchequer
Fu Pegchu

#8 MINE THE COIN: Was second behind a next-out winner in his first start off a long layoff and was claimed by a high-percentage outfit. Improvement is logical at second asking, and he looms large in the 2019 finale; #7 EXCHEQUER: Was third in that race and would benefit from a lively early pace. Irad Ortiz, Jr., stays aboard, and one would assume he had some options; #5 FU PEGCHU: Debuts off of a bullet workout for Wesley Ward and may not have to be much to pick up a check here. Ward’s one of the best with debuting runners, and this is not exactly the toughest spot.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (9/1/19)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $611.10

It was brought to my attention Saturday that a cover of The Pink Sheet is being used as part of a purse being sold at a shop in town. My face, of course, is on it, and even better, it’s from a day earlier this meet when I was leading in the pick box. This came as horrible news to my girlfriend, which means I likely have to buy her one as a gag gift.

I’m wondering if these people can do custom designs. For instance, I’d like to pass along “WANTED” posters asking for information on whomever had the idea to not play along with my half-charming, half-annoying shtick I inflict on Pink Sheet kids outside the gate. Stan Hudy, you’re the prime suspect!

SATURDAY’S RESULTS: Three Technique won impressively, but exactas and doubles all fizzled. We dropped $40.

SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus my action on the seventh race and once again try to extract value out of a favorite. That’s #6 SPARKLING SKY, who I’ll key in $20 exactas atop #1 LAUGHABLE and #3 BRIDAL PATH.

TOTAL WAGERED: $40

– – – – –

BEST BET: Summer Sangria, Race 1
LONGSHOT: Mundaye Call, Race 11

R1

Summer Sangria
Chimney Rock
Las Ramblas

#8 SUMMER SANGRIA: Ran well when second in her unveiling, which came against similar-level foes earlier in the meet. John Velazquez rides back for Wesley Ward, and she looks like the one to beat; #6 CHIMNEY ROCK: Drops in class a bit for this event and cuts back in distance after showing speed going two turns. This barn does well with cutbacks, and he’s worth a look; #9 LAS RAMBLAS: Debuts for Ward and may be good enough to overcome a bad post position. She’s bred to be a good turf horse and has worked well ahead of her first start.

R2

Remembering Bobbie
Elegant Rose
Summer Fantasy

#4 REMEMBERING BOBBIE: Didn’t show much in her debut, but drops in class for a new barn and exits a big recent workout. This seems like a weak spot for the level, and she should be a square price; #2 ELEGANT ROSE: Ships up from Monmouth for Jorge Navarro and may very well be a heavy favorite. However, while she tries the maiden claiming ranks for the first time in a while, it’s not like she’s been running against tough competition lately; #7 SUMMER FANTASY: Was an OK third against similar competition earlier in the meet and is one of two in here trained by Jeremiah Englehart. She’s got some speed and could sit a nice stalking trip.

R3

Northern Haze
Talent Scout
Raphael

#3 NORTHERN HAZE: Rallied to graduate earlier in the meet and was claimed out of that race by Steve Asmussen. He tries winners for the first time, but a repeat of his last effort may be good enough to beat these; #5 TALENT SCOUT: Changed barns following his most recent effort and runs for an outfit that does very well with new acquisitions. His effort two back at this level was fine, and Carmouche may try to get him more involved early on; #4 RAPHAEL: Drops in class and adds blinkers on the slight cutback in distance. Tyler Gaffalione sees fit to ride, and he may appreciate the shallower waters.

R4

Slimey (MTO)
Restructure
My Galina

#3 RESTRUCTURE: Took to turf very well last time out and goes up against winners here. She draws a better post here and should be running well late for a barn that tends to keep horses on the right track; #7 MY GALINA: Drops in class after two tries against stakes company. She was third in a Grade 3 two back and will likely be on or near the lead early on; #8 I’LLHANDALTHECASH: Helped set a pretty fast pace earlier in the meet over a turf course that had some give in it. She doesn’t draw a great post, but she may have the speed to clear most of this field.

R5

Bobbyfromthepalm
O’Bushido
Vaya Con Dios

#10 BOBBYFROMTHEPALM: Debuts for a tag for connections that have snuck several good horses by at this level over the years. He’s worked pretty well and draws a cushy outside post; #4 O’BUSHIDO: Comes in off of a very strong workout for Pletcher and Velazquez. That was a head-turning drill, but a $100,000 purchase running for a $50,000 tag hits me as a red flag; #6 VAYA CON DIOS: Improved when dropped to this level last time out. He contended most of the way before fading to third and should be prominent out of the gate.

R6

Carrier Landing
Paolucci entry
Always Forgiven

#4 CARRIER LANDING: Ships in from Kentucky and gets a tepid nod in a perplexing event. He was rated last time out, but he’s got some early speed and may be on or near the lead in what seems like a paceless race; PAOLUCCI ENTRY: I prefer #1 THE SICARII, who loves Saratoga and drops back to what seems like the right level. He popped at a price against similar foes earlier in the meet, and Santana comes back aboard; #6 ALWAYS FORGIVEN: Makes his first start for a new barn after starting his career out west. The recent local work is notable, but his likely price is a bit tough for me to swallow.

R7

Sparkling Sky
Laughable
Bridal Path

#6 SPARKLING SKY: Is a logical favorite following a strong debut, when she crossed the wire third after being impeded by a next-out stakes winner. A step forward would make this filly very tough to beat; #1 LAUGHABLE: Completes a strong 1-2 punch for Todd Pletcher and is bred to love two turns on turf. Her 329 turf Tomlinson figure is high, and she exits two strong works over the main track; #3 BRIDAL PATH: Didn’t do much running in her debut, but this barn’s first-time starters are rarely fully-cranked. She’s bred to be good, and it’s worth noting that Joel Rosario stayed on when he likely had options.

R8

Orsay
Always a Queen
Lucky Dime

#2 ORSAY: Will likely be hammered down from her morning line odds given her pedigree and workouts. She’s by American Pharoah, out of multiple Grade 1 winner Life At Ten, and fetched a cool $1.2 million at auction last summer; #5 ALWAYS A QUEEN: Is bred to want distance and debuts for Todd Pletcher. Her two most recent works hint at some talent, but she may want even more distance than she gets here; #12 LUCKY DIME: Debuted with a third-place finish at this distance and may step forward at second asking if she draws in off the AE list. She’s worked well since her debut and showed some tactical speed in her unveiling.

R9

Enjay’s Brass
Connectivity
Here Comes Jackie

#5 ENJAY’S BRASS: Was third against optional claiming foes earlier in the meet and gets the services of Jose Ortiz on the slight drop in class. She may have moved a hair early that day, and she’s improved in all three starts this season; #3 CONNECTIVITY: Loved the drop in class earlier in the meet, when she rolled home against lower-level claimers. She steps up for new trainer Linda Rice, and her prior connections thought highly enough of her to run her in a pair of stakes races; #2 HERE COMES JACKIE: Hasn’t won in a while, but drops into the claiming ranks for the first time and attracts Javier Castellano. This barn has hit the board with four of seven starters at this stand.

R10

Carrizo
Smoken Deb
Excess Capacity

#6 CARRIZO: Has run well twice at the meet and exits a fast race for the level last time out. She’ll almost certainly be prominent from the second the gates open, and she could lead this one every step of the way; #7 SMOKEN DEB: Hasn’t run since March, but was tried in several tough spots earlier this season and has worked steadily ahead of her return. This barn has done very well with horses off of similar layoffs; #3 EXCESS CAPACITY: Capitalized on a perfect trip last time out and takes a big step up in class for new connections. She cuts back in distance, and Jose Ortiz hops aboard for the first time.

R11

Frank’s Rockette
Mundaye Call
Shippy

#2 FRANK’S ROCKETTE: Had a horrible trip in the Grade 2 Adirondack and was beaten just a half-length that day. It’s tough to believe she’ll have such horrible luck twice in a row, and she’s strictly the one to beat; #1 MUNDAYE CALL: Went way too fast early in her debut, but was still beaten just a head by a talented filly. For a Grade 1 sprint, there isn’t much true early speed signed on, so she could get to dictate terms at a price; #7 SHIPPY: Makes her third career start for a third different trainer following a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Schuylerville. She may not have been fully-cranked that day off of just one workout, and she’s worked steadily ahead of this race.

R12

I Love Jaxson (MTO)
Graded On a Curve
Opt

#2 GRADED ON A CURVE: Never had a chance with the trip he got last time out, where he lacked running room at crucial times. A less-eventful journey would make him formidable in the Sunday finale; #5 OPT: Was second in that event, which was won by a next-out winner. He’s improved in each career start and should be running well late beneath Javier Castellano; #11 SALTKING: Graduated after a long layoff and tries winners for the first time. A contentious early pace would help him, as he does his best running in the stretch.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/31/19, WOODWARD DAY)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $651.10

I’ll be at the track for the Woodward Day festivities, and joining me will be my mom, stepdad, stepsister, and stepsister’s boyfriend. My mom is basically Teri Garr’s character from “Let It Ride,” right down to the line about watching horses run around the track without betting on them. Combine that with my unhealthy intensity towards my performance in the pick box, and there’s definitely room for animated philosophical discussions about differences of opinion at the racetrack (love you, Mom!).

Kidding aside, it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m 3,000 miles away from my family for most of the year, and whenever I get to see them, it’s special. A 12-race program at the greatest racetrack on the planet serves as one heck of a cherry on top, and hopefully we can walk out with a little bit of money.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Best bet Dream Passage completely missed the board, which turned $40 worth of exacta tickets into confetti.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to key my best bet of the day in exactas again. In this case, it’s #3 THREE TECHNIQUE in the seventh race. I’ll use him in $10 exactas above #5 WAYNE O, #9 KOWALSKI, and #10 TAPAGE. I’ll also play $5 doubles starting there that single Three Technique and use #2 POLICY OPTION and #3 MR JAGGERS in the eighth.

TOTAL WAGERED: $40

– – – – –

BEST BET: Three Technique, Race 7
LONGSHOT: Somes Sound, Race 12

R1

Structor
Sul Moon
Eternal Summer

#4 STRUCTOR: Hammered for $850,000 earlier this year and debuts for powerhouse connections. He’s by Palace Malice, who also threw stakes-winning 2-year-old Crystalle (herself a turf router); #6 SUL MOON: Fell a head short in his debut earlier this meet and didn’t have the best of trips that day. This barn’s horses often improve with experience, and he’s a logical alternative to my top pick; #5 ETERNAL SUMMER: Lost all chance at the break last time out. He’s bred to have some talent, and Velazquez getting on for Pletcher is always worth noting.

R2

Bears Mafia (MTO)
Honey Won’t
No Regrets

#6 HONEY WON’T: Drops in for a tag after chasing allowance foes at this route earlier in the meet. Rosario rides back for Bill Mott, who could be in line for a big day; #2 NO REGRETS: Was claimed out of his last race, when he ran second against similar company at Belmont. He hasn’t won in a while, but he did run well when second at this route last summer; #7 BROCKMONINOFF: Almost certainly needed the race last time out off of a long layoff. This seems like a softer spot, and the Weaver barn is on a bit of a roll as the meet draws to a close.

R3

Break Even
Royal Charlotte
Risky Mandate

#3 BREAK EVEN: Has literally done nothing wrong to this point in her career and will be going for her seventh win in as many starts. She’s got tons of early speed and should be able to dictate terms out of the gate; #5 ROYAL CHARLOTTE: Comes in off an effort in the Grade 1 Test that was too bad to be true. It may have been a bounce off a nice win in the Grade 3 Victory Ride, and a return to that form gives her a shot; #2 RISKY MANDATE: Jumps up in class off of two runaway wins to begin her career. One of those came here against allowance foes, and she’s come out of that with two stellar workouts.

R4

Pagliacci
Fully Vested
Stolen Pistol

#5 PAGLIACCI: Makes his fourth start of the meet for trainer Linda Rice and has run well in all three of his starts for that outfit. He’s closed with a rush in two starts at this route, and the faster they go early, the better his chances figure to be; #1 FULLY VESTED: Seems like the main speed and returns to turf after running second in a race rained off the grass. The rail draw will likely force Jose Lezcano’s hand, and he could get brave on the front end; #9 STOLEN PISTOL: Doesn’t draw a great post but likes this route of ground and figures to be flying late. He makes his second start off the layoff, and he wasn’t far behind my top selection in his return earlier in the meet.

R5

Famished
Risk Profile
Height

#1 FAMISHED: Had a troubled trip in his debut, but still salvaged third money for a barn whose first-time starters aren’t usually fully-cranked. Rosario riding back is a plus, and he may have matured enough to handle the rail draw; #4 RISK PROFILE: Hammered for $260,000 as a weanling in 2017 and is bred to be precocious. His workouts look strong and the barn merits respect, but seven furlongs is a tough distance to debut at and he may be bet down off the 7/2 morning line; #3 HEIGHT: Gets Lasix for the first time after a debut at this distance that wasn’t bad. He ran well late to be fourth and should step forward at second asking.

R6

Global Access
Good Governance
Seismic Wave

#4 GLOBAL ACCESS: Runs pretty much the same race every time out, and such an effort may be good enough here. He’s won at this distance three times and was a solid third in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame earlier in the meet; #2 GOOD GOVERNANCE: Graduated in his debut and jumps into the graded stakes ranks at second asking. It’s a big jump, and it didn’t seem like he beat much in his unveiling, but he’s bred to be good and Chad Brown can’t be ignored; #6 SEISMIC WAVE: Didn’t run well here earlier in the meet, but this seems like a softer spot. Still, given his solid form at Belmont, it’s fair to wonder if he perhaps prefers a one-turn trip.

R7

Three Technique
Kowalski
Tapage

#3 THREE TECHNIQUE: Has run well twice in a row and looms large as the likely favorite. He was second behind the talented Basin last time out and blitzed the rest of the field, as the third-place finisher was more than six lengths behind him; #9 KOWALSKI: Set a fast pace before fading to second last time out, and is one of several 2-year-olds that improved significantly with experience for Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. Further progression would make him a major player, and he’s bred to handle the added distance; #10 TAPAGE: It’s tough to debut at this route, but it’s also tough to find a better-bred horse on the grounds. He’s by Tapit and out of the mare Hystericalady, who won eight stakes races during her career (including a Grade 1).

R8

Mr Jaggers
Policy Option
Get Set

#3 MR JAGGERS: Gets a tepid nod in what hit me as a two-horse race. He was a good third in his debut early in the meet, and that day’s runner-up has since come back to win pretty impressively; #2 POLICY OPTION: Was second in his unveiling behind the talented Our Country. He’s bred to get better as he gets older, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., rides him back for Chad Brown; #1 GET SET: Stretches out and tries turf for a barn that’s quietly had a strong meet with a small barn. He had a solid turf work on August 16th, and Javier Castellano has been enticed to ride.

R9

Proximity Bias
Hallawallah
Take Charge Aubrey

#2 PROXIMITY BIAS: Came back running when third behind Risky Mandate in her first start since September. She was pretty wide that day and should improve with that tightener under her belt; #1 HALLAWALLAH: Comes back to one turn after finding Grade 3 waters a bit too deep. She won her debut going six furlongs, and this strikes me as her preferred trip and class level; #11 TAKE CHARGE AUBREY: Returned off the layoff in the same race my top pick exits. She was well-beaten that day, but she ran well here twice last season and figures to be a nice price.

R10

Santa Monica
Mrs. Sippy
Fools Gold

#4 SANTA MONICA: Didn’t have the best racing luck (nor, to be frank, the best ride) when third in the Grade 3 Waya. She checked and was forced to go very wide, which is rarely a recipe for success, and she’s got past races that would beat this field; #5 MRS. SIPPY: Ships in from Europe and gets Lasix for the first time, which is always intriguing. Her two starts against high-level foes this year weren’t great, but she showed some talent last year and is a contender if she can channel it here; #2 FOOLS GOLD: Capitalized on my top pick getting a poor trip in the Waya when she upset her stablemate. She sat pretty close to the pace that day and may once again get a favorable stalking trip.

R11

Yoshida
Preservationist
Vino Rosso

#7 YOSHIDA: Returned to form in the Grade 1 Whitney and will attempt to win the Woodward for the second consecutive year. He seems to love Saratoga and should get plenty of pace to run at going into the far turn; #5 PRESERVATIONIST: May have bounced a bit in the Whitney off of a career-best effort in the Grade 2 Suburban. He was also on the lead that day, and he probably prefers to sit just off the pace; #3 VINO ROSSO: Was third in the Whitney after shipping west to take a Grade 1 two back. The blinkers come off, which is a bit puzzling given some of his antics last year, but perhaps he’s matured as a 4-year-old.

R12

Free Enterprise
Tolerant
Somes Sound

#8 FREE ENTERPRISE: Has run second in a pair of swiftly-run races to start his career and seems to have found a softer spot here. The outside draw should help him, and he figures to be a very short price; #4 TOLERANT: Is bred to be a good one and has several eye-catching workouts on his tab. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because he’s bred to go longer than today’s distance and this barn’s horses sometimes need a race to get going; #1 SOMES SOUND: Showed brief speed in his unveiling and gets Lasix at second asking for a barn whose horses improve with experience. He’s worked well since his debut and may be a square price.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/30/19)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $691.10

Unfortunately, this section has a somber tone today. Hall of Fame jockey Randy Romero, who had been experiencing a variety of health issues, passed away Thursday, and a moment of silence was held in his honor during the racing program.

Romero was best known as the regular rider of undefeated mare Personal Ensign, but his career contained far more accomplishments than that. He won 4,285 races, including several big ones aboard fellow Hall of Famer Go For Wand, and he took down four riding titles at Fair Grounds, located in his native Louisiana.

Given everything he dealt with during his career, and the health problems he experienced after it, a case could be made that he was one of the toughest jockeys in recent racing history. Regardless of your stance on that, though, the sport of racing was certainly far better with him in it, and he’ll be missed.

THURSDAY’S RESULTS: Jokes about a handicapper named Champagne picking Crystalle as a hunch bet proved unfounded, as she rallied to win the P.G. Johnson. Between the win/place bet and the late daily double, we made a profit of $37.50.

FRIDAY’S PLAY: This card hit me as chalky, so rather than get too cute, I’ll try to extract some value out of my best bet of the day. In the fifth, I’ll key #1 DREAM PASSAGE on top of $20 exactas that use #2 CALL ME KAYLA and #6 WISH UPON underneath.

TOTAL WAGERED: $40

– – – – –

BEST BET: Dream Passage, Race 5
LONGSHOT: Share Your Spirit, Race 7

R1

Freaky Styley
Luna’s in Charge
Financialstability

#8 FREAKY STYLEY: Rallied to finish second in his debut despite a rough start. He gets a cushy outside draw in this spot, and improvement is logical now that he has a start under his belt; #5 LUNA’S IN CHARGE: Was a close-up second against similar a few weeks ago and gets a big rider switch to Javier Castellano. This barn hasn’t run many horses at the meet, but it’s hit at an impressive 23% clip as of this writing; #7 FINANCIALSTABILITY: Debuted in the same race as my top pick and ran third after stalking the pace. This barn must be respected, and he’s worked well since his unveiling.

R2

Cowboy Rhythm
Kahramani
Dazzling Okie

#4 COWBOY RHYTHM: Hasn’t won in a while but takes a big drop in class for an aggressive outfit. This field is far weaker than the ones he’s tackled recently, and his usual race would likely beat these; #8 KAHRAMANI: Has plenty of back class and stretches back out to two turns, where he’s done his best running. He was competitive against starter allowance foes going long earlier this year; #6 DAZZLING OKIE: Was third at this level when sent away at 42-1 odds early in the meet. He’s won going long in the past and should be going well late.

R3

Wicked Grin
Wild William
Exchange Fever

#2 WICKED GRIN: Drops in for a tag and should relish the class relief. He ran well two and three starts back, and also put forth a strong race at this route last summer; #4 WILD WILLIAM: Drops back to this level after a misfire earlier in the meet. This barn has had a strong year to date, and it’s encouraging to see Saez riding back; #6 EXCHANGE FEVER: Hasn’t run since December, but drops in class to face state-breds here. He was an OK fourth against open company when last seen at Gulfstream, and he’s put forth some OK works ahead of his return.

R4

Wonderful Light
Vici
Earned Success

#1 WONDERFUL LIGHT: Toss the race he ran last year (which came before an 11-month layoff), and you have a horse that’s never run a poor race. He’s tackled some tough foes in the past and attracts John Velazquez; #5 VICI: Hasn’t run in a while, but looks like a major player given his Beyer Speed Figures. He’s got a lot of early speed and should be prominent early; #2 EARNED SUCCESS: Hasn’t run since October but showed talent last season as a 3-year-old. He’s worked well for Chad Brown and could be ready to run off the bench.

R5

Dream Passage
Daria’s Angel (MTO)
Wish Upon

#1 DREAM PASSAGE: Sure seems to like running in New York, as she’s shown an uptick in form since coming north. She’s got a lot of early zip and may prove tough to run down; #6 WISH UPON: Has won three of seven starts since coming back from a long layoff. She comes in off a victory at this route and does her best running going two turns; #2 CALL ME KAYLA: Won two and three back and was probably taken too far off the pace last time out. She could step forward if Saez (who piloted her to her most recent score) can get her into her preferred spot.

R6

First Deputy
Portfolio Hedge
Shandian

#8 FIRST DEPUTY: Just missed in his debut earlier this month and goes out for a barn whose horses tend to improve at second asking. A step forward would make him the one to beat; #11 PORTFOLIO HEDGE: Fetched $100,000 at auction last summer and will debut for Chad Brown if he draws in off the AE list. He’s bred to like the turf, and several half-mile works on his tab indicate he may be a runner; #3 SHANDIAN: Got on turf for the first time and ran a decent third in the same race my top pick exits. Castellano rides back, and improvement isn’t out of the question.

R7

Drop a Hint
Share Your Spirit
Hennig entry

#8 DROP A HINT: Was second in her second career start last month and comes in off of a bullet drill. She’s one of just two runners in here with experience, which could be an asset in a wide-open event; #9 SHARE YOUR SPIRIT: Is bred up and down for turf, but has a very strong five-furlong gate work on dirt. If she runs to that drill, she could have a big shot; HENNIG ENTRY: This barn’s horses often need a race to get going, but #1 SIXTH STREET hammered for $525,000 at Keeneland last September and is bred to be a runner. She’s by Tapit and comes in off a flashy four-furlong move last week.

R8

Nasty Affair (MTO)
Chiclet’s Dream
Niko’s Dream

#9 CHICLET’S DREAM: May have needed her last race, when she was third in her first start since May. She rated behind a pretty slow pace that day and could get a better setup second off the bench; #7 NIKO’S DREAM: Was second in a pair of restricted stakes races and hasn’t run a poor race this year. This is probably a softer spot, and she’s another that should be moving in the right direction late; #2 A LITTLE FAITH: Was second in the race my top pick exits. Velazquez did a great job getting her into a stalking position from a far outside post, and she gets a far better draw here.

R9

Leitone
Zulu
Rodriguez entry

#2 LEITONE: Comes back to dirt after running pretty well in a classy optional claimer on grass at Belmont. He has the speed to use the rail as an asset, and anything this barn sends out must be respected; #6 ZULU: Got sent out to about Corinth turning for home earlier in the meet, but he still ran third beaten just two lengths. A cleaner trip would absolutely make him a major player; #1A CANDY PROMISES: Was beaten a nose last time out in what doubled as a stretchout to two turns. He set a moderate pace that day and may have to work harder here, but his best race could put him right there in what hit me as a tough race to handicap.

R10

Disco Partner
Final Frontier
Fixed Point

#3 DISCO PARTNER: Gets a lot of class relief after running up against some of the top turf sprinters in the country. He was second in the swiftly-run Grade 3 Troy earlier this month, and he seems like a logical, short-priced favorite; #5 FINAL FRONTIER: Was impressive here earlier this meet, when he stopped the timer in just shy of 1:01 for this distance. That was a career-best effort, and he may be starting to figure things out as a 4-year-old; #2 FIXED POINT: Set a very fast pace in his most recent start and had to settle for third. However, he loves Saratoga and could hang on for a piece of it at a price.

R11

Flush
Star of the East
Short Pour

#6 FLUSH: Has run well in two recent turf starts and doesn’t come up against the toughest group for the level. She was third behind a pretty good horse last time out and could sit a perfect stalking trip; #8 STAR OF THE EAST: Was left with too much to do last time out in what doubled as her first start against winners. However, there’s more speed signed on here, and if that race’s second and third-place finishers run well in the eighth, she merits even more respect; #10 SHORT POUR: Stretches out in distance, but won going seven furlongs last year and was third going a mile on dirt at Aqueduct. The faster they go early, the better her chances figure to be.