SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (7/31/21)


BANKROLL: $983.60

These are the cards that make Saratoga special. We’ll see a trio of graded stakes races with some of the most well-known horses in the sport. Belmont Stakes hero Essential Quality headlines the Jim Dandy, Whitmore runs up against a strong field in the A.G. Vanderbilt, and multiple Grade 1 winner Channel Maker makes his first start after a trip abroad in the Bowling Green.

Combine that slate with a bunch of big fields in undercard races, and you have a card that should give even the most jaded handicapper a jolt of excitement. On a day like this, you only need to be right once or twice to have a profitable afternoon, and that’s all I can possibly ask for.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Collaborate loomed boldly in the Curlin, but seemingly forgot how to turn left with about a quarter-mile to go. I got a bit of a thrill at odds of 8-1, but ultimately dropped $20.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’m focusing on the Vanderbilt, because I don’t like #2 MISCHEVIOUS ALEX at all. It goes as the eighth race on the program, and I’ll box #1 LEXITONIAN, #6 WHITMORE, and #9 SPECIAL RESERVE in $2 exactas. I’ll also use those three horses in the middle of a $2 Pick Three starting in the seventh. I’ll use #2 INVINCIBLE GAL and #8 LOVE AND THUNDER there and single #5 ESSENTIAL QUALITY in the ninth, the Jim Dandy.



Best Bet: Essential Quality, Race 9
Longshot: Lexitonian, Race 8


Master Game
Kevin’s Folly

#2 MASTER GAME: Hammered for $300,000 last year and has several flashy gate drills for soon-to-be Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher. Expectations are high for offspring of young sire Mastery, and this one looks pretty precocious; #3 KEVIN’S FOLLY: Also shows a solid work pattern coming into his unveiling. He’s bred to want far more distance than this 5 1/2-furlong event, but Tom Amoss has already unveiled one flashy 2-year-old this meet and may have more bullets in the chamber; #6 WOODLINE: Has a major experience edge on the field and was second behind a runaway winner that ran in the Grade 3 Sanford earlier in the meet. He does have some early speed, but he appears to have hooked some promising first-time starters and may need to improve further to win.


Majestic Sky
Eight Weeks Long
Gateway Guardian

#12 MAJESTIC SKY: Is a tepid top selection in the first of several very befuddling turf races on the Saturday program. He was inexplicably rated behind a very slow pace last time out at Belmont, and in this event, he sure looks like not just the main speed, but like a horse whose hand is forced by the far outside draw; #3 EIGHT WEEKS LONG: Exits the same race as my top pick and ran third that day while sitting a bit closer to the pace than usual. That may have been an aberration given the slow pace, but his usual effort would give him a shot; #4 GATEWAY GUARDIAN: Didn’t do much running first time out, but debuting in a one-mile race is no easy task and David Donk’s horses usually need a race or two to get going. I think he could improve at a price, and it wouldn’t take a huge step forward to get a piece of this.


Zilla entry
Cathy Naz
Saratoga Beauty

ZILLA ENTRY: Both #1 MISS LIANA and #1A FLAT AWESOME JENNY could win this, and they certainly look like the class of the field. The former has a bit more tactical speed and returns to the right level, so I’d give her the slight edge if I had to choose one; #3 CATHY NAZ: Has run a few solid races over this track and seems to be working well ahead of her first start since January. Saez sees fit to ride for Bond, and he was aboard for her one recent win; #4 SARATOGA BEAUTY: Makes her first start off the claim for Ray Handal, whose barn may be starting to heat up. Her form this past winter and spring was solid, and she’s got more tactical speed than she showed last time out downstate.


High Tone
Pivotal Run
Brennan’s War

#7 HIGH TONE: Ran very well in his first start since last July when second in a two-turn turf route at Churchill. That was against open company, and he’s back against New York-breds in his first start for new trainer Ron Moquett; #3 PIVOTAL RUN: Had every right to need his last-out effort off of such a long layoff, and he was claimed out of that race by George Weaver, who excels with new acquisitions. He was a good second at this route in his debut last summer, and a return to two turns could help him find his form; #8 BRENNAN’S WAR: Made a bit of a move when third in his debut last month, and that effort came from a barn whose first-time starters don’t often win. I’m not sure what he ran against that day, but figures-wise, it was a solid effort that gives him a chance here.


Honey Money
Behind the Couch
Out First

#5 HONEY MONEY: Is far better than she showed last time out, when she faded to sixth in the mud earlier in the meet. She’s no fan of wet racetracks, and she reeled off three wins in a row over fast surfaces prior to that misfire; #4 BEHIND THE COUCH: Earned her first win in quite a while last time out after several close calls following a claim by John Salzman. This is her first start against New York-bred competition since last June, and perhaps the lightbulb has gone off; #8 OUT FIRST: Just never seemed like she was interested last time out, and I have no problem drawing a line through that clunker. She’s been competitive at this level many times, and she’d benefit from a pace meltdown.


Causin’ Mayhem (MTO)
Doctor Davis

#7 OHTWOOHTHREEFIVE: Was very impressive when second in his debut downstate. He rated well off of a slow pace but made up enough ground to finish second, beaten just two lengths. He’s bred to love two turns and will be formidable if he holds his form; #10 DOCTOR DAVIS: Has been working very fast for a Bill Mott trainee ahead of his debut. Mott’s first-time starters don’t usually turn in bullet drills, as he did on July 2nd, and he may be talented enough to have a say in this one at a bit of a price; #1 SWEEPING GIANT: Is one of two Todd Pletcher runners that will debut here. I prefer this one over #4 ROYAL SPIRIT. His dam was ultra-classy turf runner Isabella Sings, who did her best work going long.


Trumpet Lilly (MTO)
Invincible Gal
Love And Thunder

#2 INVINCIBLE GAL: Was favored in the Tepin Stakes but went up against a very unfavorable race shape, as the wire-to-wire winner coasted on an easy pace. Blinkers go on, she gets Lasix for the first time, and these waters certainly seem shallower; #8 LOVE AND THUNDER: Is a logical favorite after a tough beat last time out. She nearly overcame a pretty slow pace that day, and the third-place finisher from that event came back to win at next asking; #7 HIGH OPINION: Cuts back in distance after finishing second going a mile and a quarter at Belmont. She’s been second three times in four tries against winners, and while her figures give her a chance, sometimes horses turn into pack animals that have a tough time passing others late.


Special Reserve

#9 SPECIAL RESERVE: Has really turned a corner since being claimed by Mike Maker in February. He’s won four of his last five starts, including two stakes races, and between his tactical speed and the cushy outside draw, I think he’s the one to beat in the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt; #6 WHITMORE: Is one of the coolest horses in training and returns to Saratoga for another race or two at the summer place to be. He’s still competitive at the highest level as an 8-year-old, and any hesitation here is because it’s his first start off a layoff and he may need a race to get going; #1 LEXITONIAN: Is a nose and a head away from being a two-time Grade 1 winner. His Met Mile was too terrible to be true, but his two-back effort in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs was excellent, as was a recent local workout. If he’s right, he’s got a shot to take this at a big price.


Essential Quality

#5 ESSENTIAL QUALITY: Is probably the top 3-year-old in training and looms large in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. The three-time Grade 1 winner earned a 109 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Belmont Stakes, and anything remotely close to that would easily dispatch this bunch; #2 MASQUEPARADE: Has moved forward significantly in his last several starts, one of which was a win in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby. He beat a decent field that day and has every right to be getting better midway through his 3-year-old season; #3 WEYBURN: Gave eventual Haskell winner Mandaloun all he could handle in the Pegasus at Monmouth last time out and has shown two turns is not a problem. The recent string of bullet drills can’t be ignored, and neither can the presence of Irad Ortiz, Jr.


Channel Maker
Cross Border
Moon Over Miami

#5 CHANNEL MAKER: Emerged as the East Coast’s top turf horse a season ago and makes his first start following an expedition to the Arabian Peninsula. Between his back class and the fact that he looks like the lone speed, I think he’ll sit an ideal trip and be very tough to run down in the Grade 2 Bowling Green; #2 CROSS BORDER: Won this race a season ago by DQ and does his best running over this turf course. He hasn’t won in a while, but it isn’t like he hasn’t been competitive and perhaps he’ll relish a return to upstate New York; #7 MOON OVER MIAMI: Wants to sit back and make one run, and has done so to fair success this season with three in-the-money finishes in graded stakes races. That includes a close-up third last time out downstate, and he’s shown enough class to be respected here.


Villainous (MTO)

#3 MOROCCO: Takes a gigantic drop second off the claim, which can be seen as a good or bad thing. In this case, I think he’s coming back to the right level, and if he channels his form from this past winter, he could be more than good enough to beat this bunch; #8 HIEROGLYPHICS: Has won three of six at Saratoga, and the most recent score here last summer kick-started a run of four wins in six starts. One of them was a win at this level downstate, and if he brought his form to the barn of new trainer Dominick Schettino, he’ll have a big shot; #7 TIZZARUNNER: Was second last time out at this level at Churchill, and he put forth that effort despite having to close into a slow pace. He’s a major player here, but this isn’t an easy spot for the level and he may want more pace than he’s likely to get in the Saturday finale.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE: Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll (8/29/20)


BANKROLL: $628.50

Today’s Grade 1 Forego presents an interesting “would you rather?” question for horseplayers. The race didn’t draw Volatile or Vekoma, which is a bummer. However, it did draw a competitive 11-horse field led by Whitmore, who won this race two years ago and is one of the most fun horses in training to root for.

Had Volatile and/or Vekoma shown up here, it’s safe to assume many runners would have gone elsewhere (possibly even several who figure to get bet). Here’s the question: Is it best to have a small field led by horses such as Volatile and Vekoma, or what we have, an 11-horse field with no overwhelming favorite and, thusly, square prices ensured on whichever horse you like?

There’s no right or wrong answer here. However, with field sizes being dissected on a daily basis, I think it’s a fascinating question. If you’ve got an opinion, tweet me at @AndrewChampagne.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: New York’s Finest stalked a very fast pace and had nothing left late, so my $20 win ticket went up in smoke.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: With the last race scheduled to go off at nearly 7 pm Eastern time, I can’t in good conscience play my late Pick Four. That puts this section in danger of missing the print deadline (you will, however, be able to find it online on social media). Instead, I’ll play four $5 win/place tickets throughout the card on horses that seem well-meant. I’ll back #6 BALLAGH ROCKS (race #2), #4 L’IMPERATOR (race #3, the Grade 3 Saranac), #4 ARCHUMYBABY (race #5), and #7 PEDRO CARA (race #9, the Grade 1 Sword Dancer).



Best Bet: Archumybaby, Race 5
Longshot: Pedro Cara, Race 9


Enough Love
Happy Sophia
La Negrita

#7 ENOUGH LOVE: Hasn’t run a bad race in five starts this season and was second against slightly better foes last time out. This barn has hit the board with 10 of 14 runners to this point in the meet, and regular rider Luis Saez stays aboard; #6 HAPPY SOPHIA: Drops in for a tag for the first time after fading in a few starts against state-bred allowance foes. She’ll certainly be prominent early, and perhaps the shallower waters will wake her up; #2 LA NEGRITA: Was a distant second behind a runaway winner at this level earlier this month. Irad Ortiz, Jr., rides back for Rudy Rodriguez, and she’s got enough early speed to sit close going into the turn.


Dynamax Prime (MTO)
Ballagh Rocks
En Wye Cee

#6 BALLAGH ROCKS: Did everything but win last time out at Belmont Park against similar, when he lost a photo finish after rating behind a slow early pace. I think he’s better around two turns than one turn, and there should be enough pace in here to set up for his late kick; #10 EN WYE CEE: Was somehow five-wide in a six-horse field last time out, yet was beaten just a neck in his first outing since November. He seemed to take to the turf fairly well, and he’s another who may benefit from the likely race shape; #7 KING CAUSE: Pulled off a 17-1 upset earlier in the meet and has won three of his last four starts. He’ll be one of the main pace factors in here, and he may be a price once again given the quality of opposition he’ll face.


Don Juan Kitten

#4 L’IMPERATOR: Gets Lasix in his North American debut, which is one of my favorite angles. He won three in a row overseas before being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean and has worked impressively ahead of his American unveiling in the Grade 3 Saranac; #1 VANZZY: Cruised home in the Jersey Derby at Monmouth, which doubled as his third career stakes score. He was third in the Grade 3 Kent two back behind the talented Gufo, and Joel Rosario has the mount; #5 DON JUAN KITTEN: Won a weirdly-run allowance race earlier in the meet where the early leader ran off while setting wicked fractions. That’s unlikely to happen twice, but his lone misfire came in his first start off a long layoff, so consistency certainly isn’t an issue.


Englehart entry
Stay Fond
Bustin to Please

ENGLEHART ENTRY: I prefer #1A TIED UP, who certainly seems like the main speed in here. She’s won 12 of 23 career starts, rolled home against weaker opposition earlier this month, and may have plenty left late if she’s left alone out of the gate; #4 STAY FOND: Has won four of her last five starts and returned to the Linda Rice barn after a last-out victory going seven furlongs. She may be best with a speed duel, but she’s shown a bit more early zip than what she’s displayed in her last two outings; #2 BUSTIN TO PLEASE: Drops back down in class after misfiring against state-bred optional claiming foes last month. That was a pretty solid bunch for the level, and a repeat of her winning effort two back at Belmont would give her a shot.


Prairie Fire

#4 ARCHUMYBABY: Has won 14 of 42 career starts and banked nearly a half-million in career earnings the hard way. She’s got two victories in her last three starts and has four victories and two seconds in six tries at this seven-furlong distance; #1 LETMETAKETHISCALL: Hasn’t won in a while and had every chance when clear late last time out. She got caught in the final strides, but gets a big rider switch to Jose Ortiz and has the speed to utilize her inside draw; #7 PRAIRIE FIRE: Lost all chance at the break last time out and stretches out from six to seven furlongs. I think she’ll respond well to that, and her chances will improve if they fly down the backstretch.



#10 HAPPYMAC: Hammered for $360,000 last year and is a reluctant top pick in the first of two loaded 2-year-old races on the card. He’s been working very well for 2-year-old maestro Steve Asmussen, and if he runs to his work tab, you’d better prepare to see it in commercials for his sire over and over and over and over…; #5 FOUNDER: Has worked very well for Chad Brown, who touted young sire Upstart earlier in the meet when barn buddy Reinvestment Risk romped in his debut. He was a $600,000 purchase in March and has every right to run big here; #1 NEWBOMB: Comes in after a series of strong five-furlong drills for Todd Pletcher and is another who could be sitting on a big first-out effort. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because of the rail draw, which can be a lot for a debuting runner to overcome.


Premier Star

#2 YAUPON: Turned heads with a big win over older allowance foes last month, one where he earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. This is another step up the class ladder, but he may well be the quickest of the quick in the Grade 2 Amsterdam; #1 BASIN: Cuts back to one turn after running in the wrong races for the right reasons. He won the Grade 1 Hopeful here last year and may benefit from being the lone closer in a race full of early speed (I’d love him at 6 1/2 or seven furlongs); #4 PREMIER STAR: Earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure with a nice win at Laurel Park last time out. This is a much tougher spot, but it’s worth noting that Irad Ortiz, Jr., lands here when he likely had options.


Mind Control
Funny Guy

#2 WHITMORE: Ran second to Volatile in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt despite breaking through the starting gate prior to the race. He also rated behind one of the top sprinters in the country when that one was gifted an easy lead. There are no such monsters here, and I think he’s got a big shot to notch his second win in the Grade 1 Forego; #10 MIND CONTROL: Was third in the Vanderbilt and finished just a half-length back of my top selection. He won Grade 1 races at two and three at this very route of ground, and he should respond well to the added furlong; #4 FUNNY GUY: Certainly deserves this shot after two strong wins over state-bred stakes foes. He earned Beyer Speed Figures of 101 and 98 for those victories, he’s 2-for-2 over this track, and his best race likely gets him a piece of it.


Pedro Cara
Cross Border

#7 PEDRO CARA: Makes his first start for Graham Motion after spending the lion’s share of his career overseas. He just missed in a million-dollar race at Belmont last year and was third in another in Qatar back in February. With the American turf horses not knocking my socks off, I’ll take a shot with this one and see if Motion can get his third win in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer; #2 AQUAPHOBIA: May have wanted to be a turf marathoner all along. He won the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth and has found his form since being claimed for $62,500 earlier this year by trainer Mike Maker; #6 CROSS BORDER: Was put up in the Grade 2 Bowling Green to improve to 5-for-5 at Saratoga. He’s another Maker trainee in top form and certainly a “horse for the course;” the question is, can he successfully navigate this 12-furlong distance against Grade 1 competition?



#3 JOUSTER: Sold for $360,000 last summer, and for good reason. Her second dam is Storm Flag Flying, which means she traces back to one of the best female families in racing history (third dam My Flag and fourth dam Personal Ensign). The recent five-furlong gate work indicates she’s a good one, and Velazquez rides for Pletcher; #9 ROOKERY: Came up a neck short at big odds earlier this summer, and that’s notable because Wayne Catalano’s first-time starters very rarely win. I think she’s in line to take a big step forward at a nice price, and the outside post should provide plenty of options for Jose Lezcano; #5 ZAINALARAB: Was a million-dollar baby last year at Keeneland, and that’s not surprising given her pedigree. She’s by War Front, out of a Grade 3-winning Tapit mare, and is one of two debuting Chad Brown runners with very solid work tabs.


Midnight Surprise
Eloquent Speaker
Miss Jimmy

#7 MIDNIGHT SURPRISE: Gets a reluctant top pick in a very intriguing Saturday finale. She won her debut here last month, and the runner-up from that race came back to break her maiden a few days ago. Improvement is logical at second asking, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., rides back for Todd Pletcher; #3 ELOQUENT SPEAKER: Cuts back to a sprint after nine furlongs proved to be too far for her. In breaking her maiden two back at Belmont, she beat Jewel of Arabia, who has since come back to win twice; #8 MISS JIMMY: Ships in from Finger Lakes and is worth a long look at a big price. She’s run first or second in all but one of her 11 starts, and this is her third start off a long layoff. This filly always tries hard and cannot be ignored.

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.

Belmont Stakes Eve Analysis, Selections, and Tickets (6/9/17)

Friday is Belmont Stakes Eve, and it presents many wagering opportunities. I’ve got a Pick Five, a late Pick Four, and two spot plays, which I’ll lay out below!

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 8
R2: 1,5,6,7
R3: 1,4,5,6
R4: 2,5,10
R5: 5,7

96 bets, $48

I’ll start things off with a single. Bobby On Fleek is 2-for-2 in non-stakes races, and I’m completely throwing out the Pat Day Mile, where clearly something went wrong. This is a much softer spot, and if you’re opting to play a budget-conscious ticket, you need to single somewhere. As such, I’ll take my stand in the opening leg.

I’ll spread in the second and third legs. She’s Dreamin is my top pick in the second given her impressive debut, but I’ll also throw in several others, including Rock Ave. Road. She’s 12-1, but finished just a half-length behind She’s Dreamin last time out, and that was her first start since November. Meanwhile, I’ll try to beat Zennor in the third, as I think he wants two turns, not one. I don’t think there’s much speed signed on, so likely second choice Fox Rules could get brave on the front end.

The fourth race is a tough maiden event. Marshall Plan will likely be favored off a near-miss in his debut at Keeneland, but there are a few others that merit consideration. Mr Classical is a regally-bred first-time starter whose second dam is Grade 1 winner Flute, while Irst likely needed his race in April off a long layoff. His debut was a sharp second behind an eventual graded stakes winner, and his dam is a half to a pair of Grade 1 winners (including strong sire Arch). Finally, I’ll use the two likely favorites in the Tremont to close things out. Direct Dial and Salmanazar were both impressive winners over good groups at Keeneland, and I’ll gamble that a repeat effort by either runner would be good enough to win this.

Race #6: #3 Brianbakescookies (10-1)

The sixth is a turf route contested at 1 3/8 miles. The likely favorite is Rocketry, and I don’t think that one is terribly-meant after a horrible trip last month. However, there’s very little early speed signed on, with the possible exception of my spot play, who’s a juicy 10-1 on the morning line.

Brianbakescookies returned off a long layoff and faded going shorter. That race proved to be a solid one when the runner-up came back to win at next asking, and this barn has excelled with horses removing blinkers. Joel Rosario coming aboard is another plus, and I think Brianbakescookies could sit a dream trip while setting very slow early fractions.

Race #7: #3 Bricks and Mortar (7/2)

Gulfstream Park’s turf course tends to play very fast. As such, it’s not ideal for a horse (let alone a first-time starter) to rate several lengths behind a :49 and change half-mile. Not only did Bricks and Mortar do that, he rallied wide and won going away.

There’s obviously the possibility of a bounce in this spot, and this field is a solid one. However, Bricks and Mortar is bred to be a very good horse, and I think he could show further improvement at second asking. As such, I think 7/2 is a very fair price.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R8: 8
R9: 1,2,6,8
R10: ALL
R11: 9

52 bets, $26

I’ll start and end my ticket with singles, which allows me to get plenty of coverage in the middle. Whitmore will be very tough to beat in the True North. There’s a ton of early speed signed on, and he should be rolling late at a short price. Additionally, By the Moon loves Belmont Park, having won three of four local starts. Her lone defeat at Big Sandy came in the 2015 Acorn, where she did lots of the dirty work before finishing a close second to multiple Grade 1 winner Curalina. She’s not a standout, per se, but this is a situation where many horses all figure similarly behind her, and if she doesn’t win, I don’t know who does.

The middle two legs, meanwhile, are much tougher. I’m going four-deep in the New York, and if Suffused is 6-1 at post time, I think she’s worth a win bet. She hasn’t finished worse than second in her last seven starts, and there should be plenty of pace to set up for her late kick. Meanwhile, I have no idea how to even begin to decipher the two-mile Belmont Gold Cup. I simply couldn’t find a way to narrow down the field, so I punched the “ALL” button, and I’m hoping to get a price home (especially since I’m starting and ending the sequence with short-priced favorites).