SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/7/21; WHITNEY DAY)

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $1,212.90

It’s Whitney Day at Saratoga, yes, but it’s also an annual day of celebration for one group at the Spa Saturday. I’m referring to the Saratoga Stumble, which is helmed by fellow Pink Sheet handicapper and Saratogian sports staff veteran Sam Hollingsworth. People from the greater Mechanicville area wearing matching t-shirts descend on Saratoga Springs and consume mass quantities of alcohol, and it’s apparently a wonderful time. Be safe, everyone!

In addition, if you’d like to see more of me analyzing today’s racing action, I pinch-hit on “The Magic Mike Show” presented by Racing Dudes, and “Champagne and J.D.” will be live online at 9 a.m. Eastern Saturday morning. We’ll be joined by Laura King from the Dubai Racing Channel, who’s in town for a special on-site broadcast. If you miss the live show, we’ll have it up on our YouTube channel shortly after it ends.

As always, August is a busy month, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Cards like Whitney Day are what make Saratoga special, and they also make doing what I do an incredible experience. I should write a book or something.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Value Engineering ran third, Lazuli was off the board, and I dropped $33.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: The all-stakes Pick Five is a really fun sequence, and that’s where I’ll invest some money. It starts in the sixth (the Lure), ends in the 10th (the Whitney), and my 50-cent ticket looks like this: 2,3,5 with 3,4,5,6 with 1,4,7,8 with 6 with 4. In addition, I’ll also play a $10 cold double starting in the ninth (the Saratoga Derby Invitational) that singles both #6 BOLSHOI BALLET and likely Whitney favorite #4 KNICKS GO.

TOTAL WAGERED: $34.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Bolshoi Ballet, Race 9
Longshot: Chestertown, Race 11

R1

K Club (MTO)
Speak Unity
Boston Flagship

#8 SPEAK UNITY: Stretches out to two turns after a pair of sprint races and is bred to love the extra ground. He’s by Belmont winner Union Rags, out of a Dynaformer mare, and makes his first start as a gelding for top-notch horseman Jonathan Thomas; #5 BOSTON FLAGSHIP: Ran well enough to be third in his debut earlier in the meet despite racing very greenly most of the way. Improvement is logical at second asking, especially for a barn whose horses tend to get better with experience; #2 DRIPPING GOLD: Hammered for $300,000 at auction earlier this year and is a full brother to multiple Grade 3 winner Aurelia’s Belle. He’s been working steadily for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey and may be good enough to factor in this despite his inexperience.

R2

Grumps Little Tots
Heirloom Kitten
American Tattoo

#8 GRUMPS LITTLE TOTS: Didn’t have much pace to run at last time at Belmont, but still ran on well enough to be fourth that day. It sure seems like there’s more speed in this heat, and the return to a two-turn configuration should hit him right between the eyes; #4 HEIRLOOM KITTEN: Has plenty of early speed and figures to be prominent going into the first turn. He was claimed last time out by an outfit that doesn’t claim many runners, and he ran well at this route twice last summer; #2 AMERICAN TATTOO: Ran well when second in his first dirt route since January last time out at Churchill Downs. He’s got plenty of back class, is another with some early zip, and perhaps he’s found his form again after a few starts for the Norm Casse barn.

R3

Tuggle
Dream Bigger
Stage Left

#2 TUGGLE: Came back running off a very long layoff when second in a similar spot at Belmont. Unlike several others in this field, he doesn’t need the lead in order to run well, and he could sit a perfect stalking trip just off what figures to be a hot pace; #5 DREAM BIGGER: Is entered to run for the first time in nearly a year, but he’ll have every chance if he’s ready to run. He’s raced almost exclusively in stakes company, is a three-time stakes winner, and has every right to improve from age three to age four; #4 STAGE LEFT: Has won twice in three local starts, and his best race could certainly win this. His last-out misfire at Churchill is concerning, but he’s been working consistently since then and trainer Wesley Ward always merits respect.

R4

Gold Panda (MTO)
Ruse
Shutters

#5 RUSE: Ran third at this level earlier in the meet despite a wide trip behind a very slow pace. He gets a far friendlier draw here, and I’m hoping his speed can be better utilized here. If he gets comfortable early, he could prove tough to catch; #9 SHUTTERS: Fetched $115,000 at auction back in 2019 despite a pretty modest pedigree and debuts for Chad Brown. This barn alone will attract money, but extended stays at Monmouth usually hit me as red flags, and that’s where he was from May through most of July; #2 SPORTINI: Has been working well ahead of his debut for Michael Stidham, who’s shown he can win with first-time starters. Two-turn events can be tough on unarmed horses, but he’s bred for this sort of route and attracts Luis Saez, which can’t be ignored.

R5

Brigadier General
Vodka Mardini
Big Skipper

#2 BRIGADIER GENERAL: Showed talent in his debut, when he was second in a swiftly-run event at Churchill Downs. The added distance shouldn’t be a problem given his pedigree, and I love the two recent five-furlong drills over the training track, which hint he’s only moved forward since that effort; #6 VODKA MARDINI: Has every right to be a very good horse. This Steve Asmussen trainee is by Bernardini, out of multiple stakes-winning sprinter Hot City Girl, and sports several bullet drills from the gate downstate; #5 BIG SKIPPER: Hammered for $590,000 last September and has a pedigree we won’t see often. He’s by the late Arrogate, out of a Speightstown mare, and has worked well here, but he’s another with an extensive Monmouth work tab that provokes at least a bit of hesitation.

R6

Tacitus (MTO)
Value Proposition
Flavius

#3 VALUE PROPOSITION: Is one of several live horses in here trained by Chad Brown, and he exits a near miss in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple. He was second behind a loose-on-the-lead winner, and a repeat of that effort could get him the lion’s share of the purse in the Lure; #5 FLAVIUS: Always seems to run well and exits a close-up second in the Seek Again at Belmont. He always seems to run well, and his best race could absolutely win this, but he’s also won just once in eight stateside starts, which doesn’t inspire confidence; #2 DELAWARE: Was third in the Forbidden Apple and didn’t get much pace to chase in that event. His best races have come going two turns and he should be going the right way turning for home, but will the early fractions be fast enough to set up for his late kick?

R7

War Like Goddess
Dalika
My Sister Nat

#3 WAR LIKE GODDESS: Comes in off of back-to-back Grade 3 wins going long, and her runaway score in the Bewitch at Keeneland was particularly impressive. She’s still fairly lightly-raced, so she may have room to improve, which is a scary thought for her rivals in the Grade 2 Glens Falls; #6 DALIKA: Almost certainly has to improve, but should get an ideal setup to run a career-best race. There isn’t much other zip in this race, at least on paper, and she should be able to dictate terms from the jump, which could give her a tactical advantage; #5 MY SISTER NAT: Hasn’t won in a while, but that most recent win came in last summer’s Grade 3 Waya at this route of ground. She exits a third-place finish in the Grade 2 New York behind Mean Mary, who would take plenty of money here, and if another runner goes with Dalika early, she’d be a primary beneficiary.

R8

Obligatory
Search Results
Bella Sofia

#4 OBLIGATORY: Cuts back to seven furlongs and could be in prime position to take advantage of a sizzling early pace in the Grade 1 Test. She’ll want to sit far back and make a sweeping move late, and the likely race shape should play right into her hands (hooves?); #7 SEARCH RESULTS: Is 4-for-5 lifetime, with her lone defeat coming when she was beaten a neck by Malathaat in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. She capitalized on a perfect trip to take the Grade 1 Acorn, and if the early pace is softer than expected, she could prove tough to run down; #8 BELLA SOFIA: Won two of three starts downstate and gets a big class test here. However, she draws very favorably here and stacks up pretty favorably from a figures standpoint, and it’s tough to poke holes in what she’s done to date.

R9

Bolshoi Ballet
Cadillac
King Fury

#6 BOLSHOI BALLET: Cruised to victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, which came a month after he was the 6/5 favorite in one of England’s greatest races, the Group 1 Epsom Derby. I think he’s an exceptionally talented 3-year-old, and if he’s right, he should prove tough to beat; #4 CADILLAC: Came back running in June, when he took a Group 3 at The Curragh going a mile and a quarter against older foes. His one stateside start came in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, when he was a decent fourth, and he’s probably better now than he was then; #11 KING FURY: Makes his first start on turf here but has every right to love the lawn. His dam, Taris, is a half-sister to a stakes-winning turfer, his third dam was a Grade 3 winner on grass, and if he takes to the new surface, he could crash the exotics at a price.

R10

Knicks Go
Swiss Skydiver
Mayfield

#4 KNICKS GO: Bounced back from a disappointing run in the Grade 1 Met Mile with an explosive romp in the Grade 3 Cornhusker, where he earned a career-high 113 Beyer Speed Figure. If he’s right, he’ll likely lead the Grade 1 Whitney from gate to wire, and there’s no reason to think he isn’t; #3 SWISS SKYDIVER: Beat the boys last year in the Grade 1 Preakness, and her connections merit tons of respect for trying them again here. She won the Grade 1 Alabama over this track last summer, and a similar effort could earn her a sizable check here; #5 MAXFIELD: Has only been beaten once in eight career starts and would benefit if my top two selections cook each other early. Having said that, questions linger over the quality of rivals he’s beaten in those seven wins. This is a Grade 1 race in every sense of the word, and he may need a career-best race to get the job done.

R11

Chestertown
Dubb entry
Risk Taking

#8 CHESTERTOWN: Has been gelded since his last start, and that should really help him. The former $2 million baby has shown equal parts talent and stubbornness in the afternoons, and if he moves forward, the winner of last year’s Albany here may have a big chance at a square price; DUBB ENTRY: I prefer #1A MUSICAL HEART, who won the Flat Out two back at Belmont and was fairly well-fancied in the Grade 2 Brooklyn. He ran into Lone Rock that day, and these waters are significantly more shallow; #3 RISK TAKING: Drops back into the allowance/optional claiming ranks after tackling the likes of Rombauer in the Grade 1 Preakness back in May. He gets Lasix for the first time in addition to the class drop, and that potent mixture can’t be ignored in this tricky betting race.

R12

Time Limit
Risky Mischief
Bay Storm

#7 TIME LIMIT: Gets a reluctant nod in a puzzling Saturday finale. She ran very well to top state-bred competition earlier in the meet, the Maker barn is winning everything in sight right now, and Luis Saez should be able to use this filly’s early zip to work out a favorable trip; #6 RISKY MISCHIEF: Found a new home on turf last year, and her first victory on the grass came at this route last August. She’s been away since November, but if she’s ready to run, her flexible running style will make her a contender; #10 BAY STORM: Is another coming in off of a layoff, but she does so for a trainer who does very well with returning horses and exits a stellar work over the training track on July 25th. The addition of Lasix could move her forward provided she’s able to negotiate a trip from a pretty wide post.

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

BANKROLL

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.

TOTAL WAGERED: $25.

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

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

R1

Bebe Banker
Invest
Somebody

#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.

R2

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.

R3

Reed Kan
Lusitano
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.

R4

Quick Return
Papa Luke
Farragut

#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.

R5

Brazen
No Lime
Fevola

#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.

R6

Engrave
Restored Order
Calibrate

#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.

R7

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.

R8

Decorated Invader
Field Pass
Gufo

#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.

R9

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.

R10

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.

R11

Bricco
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.