Saturday Plays: Is Verifying bettable in Champagne Stakes?

Saturday Plays: Is Verifying bettable in Champagne Stakes?
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Earlier in the week, this blog highlighted the Justify-sired 2-year-old colts Verifying and Champions Dream in a short post. Now, Verifying starts as the morning line favorite in the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne Stakes in the Belmont at Aqueduct meet on Saturday, while Champions Dream also competes in the same graded stakes race as the co-third choice.

Click here for Aqueduct entries and results.

Below are some thoughts on whether Verifying is playable. First though, the Woodward Stakes (G1) merits some attention as the other Grade 1 race.

Belmont at the Big A Race 7: Woodward Stakes (G1)

In his last two starts, Life Is Good won the John A. Nerud Stakes (G2) by five lengths with a 135 on TimeformUS and the Whitney Stakes (G1) by two lengths with a 136. None of the other horses entered can even hit 130.

Life Is Good also loves to secure the lead uncontested at all costs, and none of the other horses entered can keep up with him in the early stages. Thomas Shelby owns enough speed to set the pace in normal races against milder opponents, but he does not possess the speed Life Is Good owns.

Unless something strange happens, expect Life Is Good to secure an uncontested lead and win easily. Who can finish second behind him?

With Thomas Shelby expected to chase after Life Is Good in second, it makes more sense for him to get discouraged and fold early. Tossing Thomas Shelby for second leaves Law Professor, Keepmeinmind and Informative as the remaining contenders for second behind Life Is Good.

Law Professor is an intriguing option for second after a good comeback win in the Tapit Stakes on Sept. 1 at Kentucky Downs. Earlier in the year, Law Professor finished second to Express Train in the nine-furlong San Pasqual Stakes (G2) after a wide trip affected his stretch punch. If Law Professor can work out a better trip in this race, he can handle the distance.

Assuming Law Professor can return to his earlier Santa Anita form with a good trip, or even improve upon it under his new trainer Rob Atras, then he can beat Keepmeinmind and Informative for the runner-up position.  

Exacta: 1 / 2

Belmont at the Big A Race 10: Champagne Stakes (G1)

Forget about Verifying’s morning line odds for a minute.

Verifying broke his maiden on Aug. 27 at Saratoga in easy fashion with jockey Joel Rosario only asking him for a bit more towards the end. He won by 1 3/4 lengths over Track Mate, while Didinger completed the trifecta.

Track Mate and Didinger failed to win their next starts. However, Track Mate still did some running while stretching out to one mile in a Sept. 15 Churchill Downs maiden race. He made a looming wide bid before flattening out to fourth. It was a respectable effort. As for Didinger, he finished second by five lengths to a John Servis-trained buzzsaw in Tuskegee Airmen on the Pennsylvania Derby card at Parx, which usually features good horses.

Furthermore, trainer Brad Cox does not crank his first-timer starters, which means Verifying can move forward as a more fit colt in his second race. As a half-brother to the famous Midnight Bisou, he should handle the one-mile distance as well. Midnight Bisou always ran great at middle route distances.

In addition, Verifying figures to sit in a great stalking position. Although he set the pace in his career debut, both Andiamo a Firenze and Champions Dream look quicker early both on pace figures and from a visual standpoint.

Verifying is 9/5 on the morning line, but is that right? Will the public favor a recent maiden winner over the multiple graded stakes-placed Gulfport?

If Verifying can move up just slightly to 5/2 or higher, then he is the selection for a win bet. Morning line odds are not always accurate. No matter who is writing the odds, they are liable to human error. 

But if Verifying stays at 9/5 or lower, then consider Champions Dream instead. He sits at a more value-oriented 5-1 on the morning line.

Champions Dream set the early pace in his Sept. 3 maiden race at Saratoga. In the opening quarter, Champions Dream needed to work hard in order to shake off an early challenger in Mo’s Treasure. Later on, Champions Dream hit the half-mile in 45.81 seconds, which TimeformUS labels as fast.

Despite running fast early and expending energy at the same time, Champions Dream started to open up on the turn and led by four lengths at one point in the stretch. Perhaps the pace took its toll though, as Champions Dream became just a bit tired towards the wire and only won by 2 1/4 lengths over a closing Prairie Dunes in second and Mindtap in third. 

Champions Dream did not finish off the race strongly. 

Now Champions Dream stretches out from seven furlongs to one mile. As a son of Justify out of the Tapit mare Dancinginherdreams, he should handle it. But he might need to endure a pace test from the stakes experienced Andiamo a Firenze, who should bring more speed than Mo's Treasure.

At 9/2 or higher, betting on Champions Dream to handle stretching out to one mile with a fast or pressured pace is maybe worth the risk. But, Verifying still looks more versatile and remains playable at 5/2 or higher.

Either way, the Champagne is not an easy race to analyze and skipping the race entirely is also an option. For those playing multi-race wagers, trust both Justify colts in this leg and move on to studying the other legs.

Win: 3 (at 5/2 or higher)

Win: 4 (9/2 or higher, only if Verifying’s odds become too low)

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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