SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/15/20; ALABAMA DAY)


BANKROLL: $829.50

Horse racing Jack-of-all-trades (and personal friend) Nick Hines stopped by the “Champagne and J.D.” podcast this week, and we had a really fun conversation that touched on a lot of different topics within the industry. We spoke about his role picking out horses at sales, as well as the recent passing of Mel Stute and what he wishes more fans knew about the sport. My personal highlight, meanwhile, is me retelling one of my favorite stories involving a private clocker and trainer Neil Drysdale (complete with my best Drysdale impression, which is actually not terrible).

The show is up on YouTube, and it’s also been picked up in a piece on the Paulick Report website as well. I’m grateful to Nick, affectionately known as “The Sarge” by his many friends, for taking the time to chat, and I hope you all enjoy it.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Thank you, Hurricane Hill. My longshot of the day prevailed in the seventh and paid $29.80 to win. While double and Pick Three tickets did not cash, a $15 win ticket on Hurricane Hill did to the tune of $223.50.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus primarily on the early Pick Four, which starts in the second race. My 50-cent ticket goes as follows: 4,6 with ALL with 2,3,5 with 10. My goal is to extract some value out of #10 BRAZEN, who figures to be a very heavy favorite in the fifth race of the day. I’ll also single my longshot of the day, #5 QUICK RETURN in the fourth, to kick off a $4 cold double ending with Brazen.



Best Bet: Brazen, Race 5
Longshot: Quick Return, Race 4


Bebe Banker

#4 BEBE BANKER: Takes a big drop in class and cuts back to one turn, and both changes should be beneficial for him here. His effort two back was very strong, and he’s run reasonably well against allowance foes going seven furlongs, which bodes well; #3 INVEST: Comes back to the right level after running for a higher tag last time out at Belmont. That race was also off a very quick break, and he got some more time to recharge before this event; #5 SOMEBODY: Runs fresh for H. James Bond, whose horses have been firing at the Spa this summer. Luis Saez sees fit to ride, and he could sit a prime stalking trip just off of a moderate pace.


Mo Mischief (MTO)
Public Sector
Rip It

#4 PUBLIC SECTOR: Has the highest turf Tomlinson figure I’ve ever seen, and for good reason. His pedigree is as European as it gets, and that 427 number jumps off the page. He’s worked steadily for Chad Brown, who employs Irad Ortiz, Jr., here; #6 RIP IT: Lost all chance at the break in his debut, one I was eagerly anticipating. He may have needed that effort, and if he lives up to the lofty potential provided by his pedigree, he could be a serious racehorse; #5 POLINESIA: Hammered for $800,000 here last summer and is bred to be a good one. This son of American Pharoah may be favored, but he was down at Monmouth with Chad Brown’s second-stringers, and that’s sometimes a red flag.


Reed Kan
Skyler’s Scramjet

#3 REED KAN: Has won two in a row against similar company and has shown he doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well. That could be a huge asset here, as this race has come up heavy on early zip; #1 LUSITANO: Cuts back in distance and drops in class for an astute barn. He’s got plenty of back class, and the presence of aggressive gate rider Luis Saez may tip trainer Joe Sharp’s hand when it comes to tactics out of the gate; #4 SKYLER’S SCRAMJET: Found the winner’s circle for the first time in a long time earlier this meet. This is a slight step up in class, but it wasn’t long ago he was second in the Grade 1 Carter and perhaps he’s going in the right direction.


Quick Return
Papa Luke

#5 QUICK RETURN: Has run second twice when in for a tag and takes a slight step up in class. However, this field didn’t seem to come up all that strong for the level, and I love it when a speed horse gets blinkers for the first time. He’s a threat to wire this group at a price; #3 PAPA LUKE: Looms the one to beat off of two runner-up finishes at this level. Based on Beyer Speed Figures, he’s a formidable favorite, but he had every chance last time out earlier in the meet and couldn’t get the job done, which is a red flag; #2 FARRAGUT: Was third in the race my second selection also exits. If my top two picks cook each other on the front end, this is the one they may have to hold off, and I like the pattern of improving Beyers.


No Lime

#10 BRAZEN: Takes a huge drop in class down to the $16,000 claiming level in his first start since being gelded. It wasn’t long ago he was 9-1 when running against highly-touted prospect Cezanne at Santa Anita, and between his early speed and the cushy outside post, I think he’s a very likely winner; #2 NO LIME: Was second in his seasonal debut, which doubled as his first outing in nine months. The recent sharp half-mile work indicates he came out of that race well, and he should be rolling late once again here; #3 FEVOLA: Takes a big drop after fading against starter allowance foes downstate in his first try against winners. His effort two starts ago was very good, and it’s possible he needed his last-out effort after a layoff of more than four months.


Restored Order

#1 ENGRAVE: Gets a tepid nod in a wide-open, prospect-filled 2-year-old race. This son of Flatter hammered for $900,000 at Keeneland last year and has been working well for Chad Brown. I’m not crazy about the rail, but if he runs to the workouts, he could be special; #10 RESTORED ORDER: Is one of only a few in here with experience, as he ran third in his unveiling at Gulfstream. He’s been off since May, but a recent big drill from the gate suggests he’s moving forward nicely for Todd Pletcher; #6 CALIBRATE: Fetched $340,000 at auction and seems to be coming to hand ahead of his unveiling. Steve Asmussen has already had a strong summer with 2-year-olds, and this could be another good one. If there’s hesitation here, it’s only because the pedigree suggests he’ll do his best running on turf.


Big Thicket (MTO)
Mo Ready
Sanctuary City

#6 MO READY: Had a nightmare trip in his first start since December when he didn’t have anywhere to run until the final sixteenth of a mile. Between that journey and this being his second start off the bench, I think significant improvement is in the cards; #2 SANCTUARY CITY: Was second in the race my top pick exits and got the trip that one didn’t. He’s run well in both of his 2020 outings, and his last-out effort showed two-turn routes won’t present problems for him; #8 JIMMY JAZZ: Is a consistent sort that usually gets a check. His last two races in particular have been fine, and his trainer has quietly finished in the money with seven of his 12 starters at the meet as of this writing.


Decorated Invader
Field Pass

#2 DECORATED INVADER: Is one of the most talented horses in his crop and looms large in the Saratoga Derby. He’s won three in a row this season, the pedigree says this distance won’t be a problem, and he’ll be a logical short-priced favorite; #7 FIELD PASS: Has won four of five this year, with the lone defeat coming when he broke slowly in the War Chant three back. This is a class test for him, but a repeat of his effort in the Grade 3 Transylvania would give him a shot; #5 GUFO: Is the other half of a powerful 1-2 punch for Christophe Clement, who also trains my top pick. This one, however, can’t be ignored given his four-race win streak and the presence of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.


Swiss Skydiver
Spice Is Nice
Harvey’s Lil Goil

#5 SWISS SKYDIVER: Stretches out to a mile and a quarter in the Grade 1 Alabama after running second against the boys in the Grade 2 Blue Grass. The winner, Art Collector, may be the second choice in the Kentucky Derby. If she takes to the added distance, she’ll be tough to catch; #2 SPICE IS NICE: Ran well to top allowance foes last time out and is bred to love the 10-furlong route she’ll get. This daughter of Curlin has some early speed and should sit a prime stalking trip, and trainer Todd Pletcher has remarked she looks like a horse that will adore this distance; #6 HARVEY’S LIL GOIL: Became a dual-surface stakes winner last time out when she won the Grade 3 Regret on turf at Churchill. Perhaps that’s her preferred surface, but given the pedigree (by American Pharoah, out of a Tapit mare), this distance shouldn’t be a problem, and that may be enough to get her a piece of it.


Maxwell Esquire
Qian B C
New York’s Finest

#1 MAXWELL ESQUIRE: Was impressive in victory earlier this meet and steps up to a higher condition here. However, he’s run well against stakes company in the past and this race should set up well for his late-running style; #7 QIAN B C: Is another consistent closer that figures to get a strong setup with so much early speed signed on. His lone poor effort since the start of 2019 came in his first start off the bench two back, and he may be a pretty big price; #5 NEW YORK’S FINEST: Is 4-for-6 over this turf course and seems to have found his prior form in the barn of Rudy Rodriguez. His best race can win this, but he may have to work hard to establish early positioning and this seems like a strong field for the level.


Sidd Finch
Mommie’s Jewel

#4 BRICCO: Has run well twice this season against similar and should have a big chance here. It didn’t seem like he had any excuse last time out, but it’s tough to be too enthusiastic about much in this field and the Bond barn is firing on all cylinders; #12 SIDD FINCH: Goes second off the bench for George Weaver and likely needed his return, which doubled as his first start since March. His two and three-back efforts weren’t bad, and the last-out clunker may mean we get a bit of a price; #8 MOMMIE’S JEWEL: Was third in the race my top pick exits, but had every chance setting a moderate early pace and couldn’t get the job done. There seems to be more pace signed on, but she gets a slightly better post and may be able to lead them a long way beneath returning rider Joel Rosario.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/4/19)


BANKROLL: $977.10

The early portion of Saturday’s card at Saratoga featured at least two 2-year-olds to keep an eye on moving forward. Second-time starter Our Country had some trouble in his debut but stepped up in a big way in the opener, pulling away with authority late. He covered the two-turn race’s last sixteenth of a mile in less than six seconds, which is no small feat for even an older horse, let alone a 2-year-old making his second career start.

Meanwhile, first-time starter Glory Road reminded everyone that, yes, Todd Pletcher still knows how to train 2-year-olds. The first-time starter came from out of the clouds to win at the seven-furlong distance, which is never an easy one for a debuting runner to navigate. His female family is strong (his second dam is a full sister to Grade 1 winner Finder’s Fee), and sire Commissioner was no slouch, either.

One of the most fun parts of each Saratoga meet is seeing promising 2-year-olds flash immense potential. It looks as though these two could have bright futures, and there are undoubtedly more exciting 2-year-olds coming up later in the meet.

SATURDAY’S RESULTS: We scratched out of everything when World of Trouble didn’t run in the Troy.

SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on midday doubles that may extract some value out of my best bet of the day. That’s #4 SANTA MONICA, who is a single for me in the fifth (the Grade 3 Waya). She starts $10 doubles that end with #4 BLUE BELT, #9 SUMMER BOURBON, and #10 SUNDAE ON SUNDAY, all of whom figure to be solid prices in the sixth.


– – – – –

BEST BET: Santa Monica, Race 5
LONGSHOT: Blue Belt, Race 6


Pure Wow
Ill Will
Daphne Moon

#1 PURE WOW: Showed speed when third in her debut earlier in the meet. Joel Rosario hops aboard, and experience is often a huge advantage in 2-year-old races contested at seven furlongs; #6 ILL WILL: Showed late interest on the turf last time out and has worked well since that effort. This barn’s horses often improve with experience, making her dangerous at a price; #4 DAPHNE MOON: Fetched $525,000 at auction and has worked well leading up to her debut. This barn can win with first-time starters, but it’s tricky to back debuting runners at this distance.


Data Driven
Curious Cal

#2 DATA DRIVEN: Makes his first start off the claim for new trainer Danny Gargan, who’s enjoying a strong meet. This is a class drop for him, and he should be running well late (good luck, Dan Feiss!); #5 CURIOUS CAL: Has won two of three starts this year for Jorge Navarro and comes up from New Jersey. He’s won here before and is a threat to go wire-to-wire; #1 ORPHEUS: Hasn’t won in a while, but was a good second at this level earlier in the meet. He should be running well late at a bit of a price.


Gold for the King
Celtic Chaos
T Loves a Fight

#6 GOLD FOR THE KING: Returns to the state-bred ranks after tackling the likes of Catalina Cruiser downstate. He’s got enough speed to press the pace, which will be helpful given the rail draw; #2 CELTIC CHAOS: Likes Saratoga and has a history of doing his best running in the final quarter-mile. His last-out win was impressive, and the 100 Beyer Speed Figure represents a new career-high; #1 T LOVES A FIGHT: Has run well at Saratoga and enters this event on a three-race win streak. This is a sizable class jump, but it’s tough to argue with the connections taking a shot.


Sketches of Spain
Sparkling Sky
Livin At the Beach

#5 SKETCHES OF SPAIN: Is bred to be a strong turf horse and debuts here for powerhouse connections. Irad Ortiz, Jr., rides for Chad Brown, and she’ll be tough if she’s ready; #8 SPARKLING SKY: Fetched $650,000 last September and may be prepared to run a big one right away. She’s worked well over the Oklahoma turf course, which makes sense given that she’s a daughter of More Than Ready; #7 LIVIN AT THE BEACH: Ran third in her debut downstate and stretches out here. Improvement is logical at second asking, and she may be a bit of a price.


Santa Monica
Gentle Ruler
Fools Gold

#4 SANTA MONICA: Looms large in this spot after two straight graded stakes wins this spring. If you toss her Breeders’ Cup dud last fall, she hasn’t run a bad race since coming to North America; #6 GENTLE RULER: Has won four in a row at four different tracks, including a Grade 3 at Delaware Park last time out. There isn’t much speed signed on here, and she may inherit the lead by default; #2 FOOLS GOLD: Was second in a stakes race last time out at Belmont, which came in her first start beyond a mile and a sixteenth. Javier Castellano rides back, and she’s another that could be close to a slow early pace.


Summer Bourbon
Blue Belt
Sundae On Sunday

#9 SUMMER BOURBON: Was claimed back by Rudy Rodriguez and could sit a great trip behind a fast early pace. He’s shown a solid closing kick in several starts at this level, including a romp at Aqueduct back in March; #4 BLUE BELT: Seems like the main speed and hasn’t finished out of the money since November. If you’re playing vertical exotics, he seems like a must-use; #10 SUNDAE ON SUNDAY: Has won two in a row at Finger Lakes and ships in for an astute barn. It helps that he’s a closer, and that could make it easier for him to pick up a check.


Ruler of the Nile (MTO)
Final Frontier
Battle Station

#1 FINAL FRONTIER: Was a close-up third in a swiftly-run race in May that doubled as his first outing since November. He’s crossed the wire first over this turf course before and draws favorably here; #9 BATTLE STATION: Chased the classy Om last time out at Churchill and loves this route. He’s 2-for-2 at Saratoga, including a solid win in an allowance last summer; #2 PAGLIACCI: Rallied to take a starter allowance less than a week ago and is wheeled back quickly by Linda Rice. That’s usually a sign of confidence, although this field seems tougher than what he beat last time out.


Behind the Couch (MTO)
Chiclet’s Dream
Star of the East

#8 CHICLET’S DREAM: Returns to the scene of an impressive victory last summer and almost certainly needed her most recent outing at Belmont. She was running very well late that day, and this two-turn trip should be more preferable; #3 STAR OF THE EAST: Rallied to earn the diploma last time out and tries winners for the first time here. There’s some speed signed on, so another strong effort could very well be in the cards; #2 WAY SMART: Hasn’t run since December but is dangerous if she’s ready. Jose Ortiz gets on for a barn that’s quietly had a stellar season to date.


Henley’s Joy

#4 ROCKEMPEROR: Was closing very well when third in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby and nearly overcame a terrible post. He draws much more favorably here and has every right to turn the tables in the inaugural Saratoga Derby; #10 MOHAWK: Ships in for Aidan O’Brien after capturing a Group 3 event last time out. He’s repeatedly tried some of the best horses in Europe and even won a Group 2 at Newmarket last fall; #1 HENLEY’S JOY: Pulled off a 20-1 shocker in the Belmont Derby and won’t be anywhere near that price here. A repeat effort makes him a contender, but a bounce is logical given that his last-out effort was by far the best he’s ever run.


Magic Dance
Frank’s Rockette
Miss Peppina

#8 MAGIC DANCE: Pulled away to take the Debutante at Churchill last time out and draws favorably in this event. When Asmussen gets a horse good, they tend to stay good, and she’s done very little wrong; #2 FRANK’S ROCKETTE: Romped in her debut in June and jumps into the graded stakes ranks. She’s worked well here and certainly merits respect for Hall of Famer Bill Mott; #6 MISS PEPPINA: Rallied from way back to graduate at first asking last month at Belmont. 2-year-olds don’t often close in their debuts, and she ran like she’ll appreciate the added distance she gets in this spot.


Patagonia (MTO)

#10 DOSWELL: Has been a beaten favorite in both of his starts this year, but doesn’t seem to run up against a strong field for the level in the Sunday finale. He’s got a strong closing kick and figures to be the one to hold off late; #3 MALTHAEL: Came back running when second in a similar spot on Independence Day. His running lines are dotted with the names of stakes-caliber runners, and he’s got plenty of back class; #8 STANDUP: Hasn’t run since a failed shot in stakes company back in February. He’s been gelded since then and is a contender if he runs back to his debut effort.