SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/23/20)


BANKROLL: $691.50

The Grade 1 Diana may not have come up big on field size, but it came up huge on talent. Chad Brown trainees Rushing Fall and Sistercharlie are a combined 20-for-29 lifetime, while Mean Mary has won three graded stakes races in a row and Starship Jubilee is 18-for-36 with $1.6 million in career earnings.

As handicappers, we tend to whine and complain when things aren’t perfect (to be fair, that happens a lot). However, to do that with any credibility in situations that matter, we need to stop and realize when things are good. Yes, six-horse fields are not ideal, but on the other hand, what top-flight horses from this division are missing?

The Sunday feature is a legitimate Grade 1 race with several Breeders’ Cup-caliber horses. I’m really excited to see these older turf distaffers go postward.

SATURDAY’S RESULTS: My Pick Five was cancelled when multiple undercard races came off the turf (remember, all bets for turf races assume they stay there). Happy Hill Lil, meanwhile, was a closer on a day where you wanted your horse to be on or near the lead. I dropped $10.

SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll lean on the Grand Slam, since I like #5 SISTERCHARLIE enough to single her in the Diana. My $1 ticket starts in the fifth race and reads as follows: 4,5,7 with 1,2,5 with 1,3 with 5. I’ll also key Sistercharlie in a $10 late double starting in the eighth that singles #3 ALLIED INVASION in the finale.



Best Bet: No Salt, Race 4
Longshot: High Command, Race 5


Uptown Flirt
Black Sand
Simply the Best

#5 UPTOWN FLIRT: Is the lone runner in here with experience going two turns, and she ran just fine in that race. She was third that day, and the runner-up from that event came back to just miss behind a promising Chad Brown trainee a few days ago; #6 BLACK SAND: Is one of many regally-bred Chad Brown runners to debut going long on turf this meet. She certainly could win this, but she comes in off of just three works in the past month, and that means she might need a race; #2 SIMPLY THE BEST: Fetched $175,000 at auction earlier this year and has every right to be a runner. She’s by fast-rising sire Constitution and is a half-sister to a horse named Guns Loaded, who won a Grade 3 on the grass.


Wicksters Dream
Mission Wrapitup

#7 SCORING: Likely needed his last race, which doubled as his first outing since August. He drops back in against claimers of his own age group in this race, and the outside post combined with his tactical speed could give jockey David Cohen plenty of options; #3 WICKSTERS DREAM: Has won two in a row and thumped a weaker group last month at this route. He goes from one astute barn to another, and this is a horse that may be figuring things out on his way up the ladder; #4 MISSION WRAPITUP: Runs for a tag for the first time after fading to fourth against state-bred allowance foes going slightly longer. He’s run well in several state-bred stakes races and is dropped in for the tag by aggressive connections who do this often here.


Fifth Risk
American West
Jade Empress

#5 FIFTH RISK: Comes in off a pair of head-turning works for the legendary Pletcher/Velazquez tag team. She’s by promising young sire Outwork, and if the strong gate drills are any indication, she’s got all the talent it takes to win at first asking; #3 AMERICAN WEST: Hammered for $925,000 last year at Keeneland and is bred to be special. She’s by Curlin and out of Grade 3 winner Jacaranda, who herself is a half-sister to Constitution. The hesitation comes because she initially shipped north to Monmouth, which is where Chad Brown’s second-stringers usually go; #6 JADE EMPRESS: Earned a bullet for her most recent work on August 13th, and she’s got enough solid drills to suggest that wasn’t a fluke. Bill Mott’s runners often need a race or two to get going, and she’s bred to go a bit longer than this route, but if she’s ready, she’s got every right to run well.


No Salt
False Alarm
Supply Sider

#2 NO SALT: Will likely be a very heavy favorite, and for good reason. He ran a good second in his first start for a tag earlier this month, and this doesn’t seem like nearly as strong a group as the one he faced that day; #7 FALSE ALARM: Was very headstrong in the same race my top pick exits, so I’m willing to draw a line through that effort. His two-back race at Belmont was pretty solid, and another run like that likely gets him a big piece of this; #4 SUPPLY SIDER: Took a while to get going last time out but did enough to salvage fourth in his first start around two turns. With only two prior efforts to this point, maybe he’s got more room to improve.


Cold Hard Cash
High Command
Six Percent

#7 COLD HARD CASH: Has a record that looks far better if you toss the two-back effort, one that preceded a layoff of longer than six months. He broke his maiden last time out and tries two turns for the first time here. He’s got plenty of bottom-side distance pedigree, so I think he’ll embrace the added ground; #4 HIGH COMMAND: Hasn’t run in a while and didn’t show much in four outings at Aqueduct, but the return to two turns should be music to his ears. He won four times last fall at Finger Lakes going a similar route, and all of his races at Aqueduct were run at one-turn configurations; #5 SIX PERCENT: Hasn’t won in more than a year but ran an OK third in his first time going two turns last month. This is his third start off of a long layoff, and he could be coming to hand for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.


Madam Deputy (MTO)
Towering Gaze
Silent Empress

#1 TOWERING GAZE: Drops into the maiden claiming ranks for the first time after three OK efforts against state-bred maiden special weight foes. It seems like she’s found a soft group for the level, and this barn has been picking up steam over the past week; #5 SILENT EMPRESS: May not have had the best trip in her debut, when she was boxed in most of the stretch run. I don’t know how much that trouble really cost her, but she’s certainly eligible to improve and Rosario sees fit to ride back; #2 HIGH SCHOOL CRUSH: Just missed against similar last time out and figures to once again do her best running late. Based on figures, she’s a contender, but she’s had plenty of chances and may not get as much early pace as she wants.


Free Enterprise
Big Engine
Pete’s Play Call

#3 FREE ENTERPRISE: Gets one more shot from me after possibly bouncing a bit last time out. He was fifth against a pretty strong group for that level, and that day’s runner-up has since come back to win. Improvement third off the bench wouldn’t be a shock; #1 BIG ENGINE: Always seems to fire and may have run a career-best race last time out. This is another step up in class out of the state-bred ranks, but it’s tough to say he doesn’t deserve a shot against these given his recent form; #6 PETE’S PLAY CALL: Responded to the drop in class with a win last time out, and his new connections step him back up the ladder here. He’s 3-for-3 at Saratoga, and his tactical speed should ensure jockey Luis Saez will be able to work out a favorable trip.


Starship Jubilee
Rushing Fall

#5 SISTERCHARLIE: Likely needed her return to the races in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa, where she was third in a race that was likely shorter than she wants to go. Between the added distance, improved readiness, and the pace scenario, she looms large in her attempt at a third straight win in the Grade 1 Diana; #4 STARSHIP JUBILEE: Ran her win streak to four in a row in the Ballston Spa and has done lots right over the past few seasons. Her recent string of victories includes two at today’s distance, and she may be in career-best form; #3 RUSHING FALL: Has assembled a resume that could get her in the Hall of Fame someday. She’s 10-for-13 lifetime, with Grade 1 wins in four straight seasons, but this may be a bit longer than she wants to go and she may have company up front in the form of #6 MEAN MARY.


Allied Invasion
Nero’s Fiddle

#3 ALLIED INVASION: Ran reasonably well when third in his debut earlier this month. Pay attention to how No Salt, that day’s runner-up, performs in the fourth. A strong performance by him may mean good things for this one; #5 NERO’S FIDDLE: Has run fourth twice against similar foes and gets a big rider switch to Luis Saez. Blinkers come on as well, and I think he may show significantly more early zip than he has in the past; #6 AINTITFUNKYNOW: Didn’t do much running here last month in his first try at this level. His two and three-back efforts at Belmont, though, would make him a major player if he can channel that form; the question is, is he the type of horse that’s better around one turn?

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/25/20)



If you’ve been following New York racing for any length of time, you know Gary Contessa. He’s won thousands of races from the Grade 1 level down to claimers, and he’s emerged as a true ambassador for the sport.

I got the chance to sit down with him on this week’s episode of “Champagne and J.D.” We spoke for 45 minutes and hit a lot of topics, including why he stepped away from training and his thoughts on the current state of the game.

It was a blast to sit down with Gary, and I really hope you all enjoy it.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Right idea, lousy execution. I didn’t like the favorites in the sixth, but I landed on the wrong longshot and dropped $20.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to play doubles and Pick Threes keying one of my best bets of the day. #10 STANDUP is a single for me in the fifth. I’ll single him in $5 doubles starting in the fourth with #3 LADY C, #4 GONE GLIMMERING, and #5 WEDONTBELIEVEHER, and in $5 doubles using #3 PREAMBLE and #6 COLTANDMISSISSIPPI in the sixth. I’ll also play a $1 Pick Three starting in the fourth that uses all of these runners.



Best Bet: Sistercharlie, Race 3
Longshot: Preamble, Race 6


Speightstown Gal
The Important One
Jc’s Shooting Star

#1 SPEIGHTSTOWN GAL: Held on to win a strong race for the level last time out in her first start since November. That day’s third-place finisher and runner-up came back to run 1-2 earlier in the meet, and this one should be running late; #5 THE IMPORTANT ONE: Came from out of the clouds to take her turf debut downstate, and that running style could help her here. Rosario rides back for Asmussen, and the recent turf bullet is intriguing; #4 JC’S SHOOTING STAR: Drops way down in class after chasing Intercontinental champion Newspaperofrecord, Come Dancing, and others during the past year. It wouldn’t be a shock if the shallower waters are what this mare needs to turn things around.


Midnight Surprise
Munnings Muse

#7 MIDNIGHT SURPRISE: Has been working well of late for Todd Pletcher and doesn’t seem to have caught the toughest field in her debut. If she runs to her drills, I think she’ll be a handful; #5 MUNNINGS MUSE: Finished second in her career debut in June of last year before going to the sidelines for 13 months. She’s been working consistently ahead of her return, but this barn’s runners sometimes need their first races back; #2 VIVAZANO: Was a solid third in her unveiling and will look to rebound after misfiring in the slop two weeks ago. A return to the first-out form would make her a factor for part-owner and legendary turf writer Steven Crist.


Starship Jubilee
Call Me Love

#5 SISTERCHARLIE: Makes her long-awaited return to the races and looms large in this spot. Even if she’s not fully-cranked, it will take significant improvement from one of her opponents to keep her out of the winner’s circle; #6 STARSHIP JUBILEE: Has won five of her last six starts, and several of those wins came in runaway fashion. She’s been working well at Woodbine and certainly deserves the shot at my top pick; #1 CALL ME LOVE: Seems best of the rest for red-hot connections. Her second behind Rushing Fall in the Grade 3 Beaugay two back was fine, and a cutback to this distance could help her.


Gone Glimmering
Lady C

#4 GONE GLIMMERING: Was ambitiously spotted by Tom Amoss last season and has dropped down to the claiming ranks. She stepped forward with a good second against similar last time out at Churchill, and Jose Ortiz sees fit to ride; #5 WEDONTBELIEVEHER: Showed versatility last month when rallying from well back against slightly lesser company. She was claimed by Linda Rice that day, and she’s got a strong record with new acquisitions; #3 LADY C: Has racked up the frequent flyer miles this season with races at Delta, Oaklawn, and Thistledown. She’s shown an ability to rate off the pace and rally, and this seems like the trip she’ll get here.


Our Troubadour

#10 STANDUP: Rallied for third while widest of all downstate against similar and should get a great setup here. There’s tons of speed signed on, and Joel Rosario should be able to take him back before making one big run; #6 UNPRECEDENTED: Had an eventful trip when second in his first turf sprint, and they may have found what this one wants to do. These are deeper waters, but this is another closer that could benefit from a meltdown; #1 OUR TROUBADOUR: Put it all together when graduating in a maiden claimer for state-breds earlier this month. This is his first try against winners, but he could stalk the pace from the rail and have first run turning for home.


Skyler’s Scramjet

#6 COLTANDMISSISSIPPI: Has changed hands a lot over the past year and goes first off the claim for Dominick Schettino. He has tactical speed, but will likely stalk a hot pace, and that could put him in a prime position when the real running starts; #3 PREAMBLE: Looked like a legit prospect when he reeled off three straight wins to start his career. He hasn’t won since, but the last-out third against slightly better is encouraging and he’ll certainly have pace to run at; #4 SKYLER’S SCRAMJET: Was second in the Grade 1 Carter last season but has seen his form go south over the past four starts. This is a concerning drop, but of the speed horses, I think he’s the most likely to emerge from an early duel with the lead.


Lonesome Fugitive
Proven Strategies
Perjury Trap

#8 LONESOME FUGITIVE: Rallied to graduate over yielding going last time out and takes on winners for the first time. That race came back very fast on figures, and with closers doing well on turf this meet, he looks imposing; #7 PROVEN STRATEGIES: Chased Decorated Invader in the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge last out, and that one came back to win another Grade 2 last week. He certainly looks like the main speed, and if he gets left alone early, look out; #6 PERJURY TRAP: Hasn’t been seen since breaking his maiden in his turf debut last November at Aqueduct. He may need to take a step forward to contend first off the bench, but he’s in the right barn to do that.


Pletcher entry

PLETCHER ENTRY: Both halves can win, but I lean to #1A MONEY MOVES, who is 2-for-2 and tries two turns for the first time. He’s got the pedigree to love this trip, and the steady diet of five-furlong works likely put some stamina into him; #3 PARSIMONY: Has criss-crossed the globe this year and run up against some tough horses. He was most recently third in the Grade 2 Suburban behind Tacitus, and he may emerge as the main speed here; #7 LEITONE: Has plenty of back form and goes first off the claim for a barn that can pop at a price with new acquisitions. He has speed, but doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well.


Blackjack Davey (MTO)
Mo Ready

#4 BARLEEWON: Has taken a step forward since coming back to New York and cruised to an easy score last month against maidens. He faced winners for the first time, but further improvement could make him tough; #7 MO READY: Hasn’t run since December but has worked steadily for Todd Pletcher and graduated here last summer. This isn’t the toughest return race in the condition book, and he’ll be a major player if he’s ready; #3 SIMPLY: Won going long at first asking and was a fast-closing third in his New York debut. He may need more pace to be at his best, but at least you know the two-turn route of ground won’t be a major issue.


Mind Control

#4 VOLATILE: Has emerged as one of the fastest horses in the country this season. His 112 Beyer Speed Figure from the Aristides is justified, and a repeat effort could mean a freaky performance; #2 WHITMORE: Is one of the most fun horses in training to root for. The 7-year-old has raced at a high level for his entire career, and among his wins was a score in the Grade 1 Forego here two summers ago; #5 MIND CONTROL: May have hated the slop in the Grade 1 Carter, which was won by next-out Met Mile winner Vekoma. He’s won two Grade 1 races in as many local starts, and while he may be at his best going an extra furlong, his usual form could absolutely get him a piece of this.


Timeless Journey
Eighty Seven North

#5 TIMELESS JOURNEY: Was one-paced in her debut, but that proved to be a live race. The third-place finisher came flying to graduate earlier this week, and Rosario climbs aboard for Christophe Clement; #7 BROVIA: May have needed her return race off a long break, but she didn’t run badly when beaten three lengths at this level. She gets a big rider switch to Irad Ortiz, Jr., and improvement is logical second off the bench; #2 EIGHTY SEVEN NORTH: Won’t be involved in win wagers of mine given her 0-for-14 lifetime mark, but she’s a closer that has hit the board many times at this level. She goes second off the bench here and could come rolling for a piece of it to spice up the exotics.