Posted Sunday, September 01, 2019
Andrew Champagne lists his selections and late Pick 5 ticket for closing day at Saratoga.
Posted Saturday, August 31, 2019
Andrew Champagne's staring Sunday's Saratoga sequence by hitting "all."
Posted Friday, August 30, 2019
Andrew Champagne analyzes Saturday's Woodward Stakes day sequence.
Posted Thursday, August 29, 2019
Andrew Champagne lays out his ticket for Friday's sequence at Saratoga.
Posted Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The 2-year-old fillies take center stage Thursday at Saratoga in the featured P.G. Johnson Stakes, which headlines the late Pick 5. This is another tough sequence on closing week, and my $144 ticket accordingly does not include a single.

 

Having said that, the higher degree of difficulty does open the door for a price or two to shake things up. I’ve got several on my ticket, and I’m hoping for a big score. Here’s how I’ll play it.

 

Race 6: Maiden special weight (older fillies/mares, NY-bred, 5 1/2 F, turf), 3:42 p.m. ET

 

This race features a favorite that may very well be a popular single. That’s #7 LEAD GUITAR, who just missed at this level and route earlier in the meet and certainly looms large. However, I’m also going to use #6 STUNNING BEAUTY, a first-time starter with some good workouts who is 15-1 on the morning line. She’s by Get Stormy and boasts a 339 turf Tomlinson rating, so she’s got every right to be ready to go in this spot at a big price.

 

Race 7: Maiden special weight (2-year-old fillies, NY-bred, 6F), 4:14 p.m. ET

 

This race put me in a pretty weird spot, because my top pick needs a defection in order to run. If she runs, she’s a must-use. If not, it’s anyone’s race.

 

#11 CRITICAL VALUE lost a photo finish in her debut and beat the third-place finisher by more than six lengths. If she runs, she’ll likely be favored, and I think she’ll be tough to beat. In the event she doesn’t run, though, I’ll also use #1 IMINCOMUNICADO, #3 KEFALIANI, #4 MYAWAYA, #6 BOK CHOY, and #8 SARATOGA BEAUTY. It’s not an easy race to decipher -- 2-year-old maiden races at Saratoga rarely are -- and I want plenty of coverage.

 

Race 8: Optional claiming (older horses, 6F), 4:46 p.m. ET

 

This event came up pretty salty for the level. It drew several stakes-caliber sprinters, and while the two likely favorites look logical, I’ll also be using one bigger price.

 

#4 RAY’SWARRIOR and #5 MR. DOUGIE FRESH both have speed, as do a few others in this race. If one of them clears the field and is allowed to dictate terms early on, that horse will be tough. However, I’ll also use #1 RULER OF THE NILE, who drops in class a bit after a failed try in stakes company. He won three in a row before that and has the ability to sit off the pace, which could prove very valuable.

 

Race 9: P.G. Johnson S. (2-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 M, turf), 5:18 p.m. ET

 

The Thursday feature drew several juvenile fillies exiting perfect-trip victories in their debuts. I’m going two-deep, and I very nearly singled this race’s likely second choice.

 

That’s #6 CRYSTALLE, who rallied to cross the wire first in her debut before being disqualified and placed third. DQ aside, that hit me as one of the more impressive efforts by a 2-year-old this meet, and I hope she puts it all together here.

 

I’ll also defensively (and somewhat reluctantly) use #8 SWEET MELANIA. On one hand, she’s one of those perfect-trip winners, and I don’t like betting horses like that at short prices. However, what helps her is that the second- and third-place finishers from that event have both come back to win. That earns her a spot on my ticket, even though it does double my investment.

 

Race 10: Maiden claiming (older fillies/mares, NY-bred, 1M, turf), 5:50 p.m. ET

 

We finish with a confusing maiden claiming event, one where I’d like pretty significant coverage. I’m going four-deep in here, and my top pick is #5 EIGHTY SEVEN NORTH. Named for the interstate one takes to get to Saratoga from New York City, this filly was a good second in her local debut last time out. She didn’t break well in that event, and a cleaner start would certainly improve her chances.

 

I’ll also use #9 MOLLY’S NIGHTHAWK, #12 GUNBOAT DIPLOMACY, and #13 IDEATIONAL. Ideational is on the AE list, but will likely be favored if she draws in given the drop in class for powerhouse connections. I’m using her, for sure, but the drop in class off such a long break is certainly a red flag that makes her look a bit vulnerable.

 

The ticket:

 

R6: 6,7

R7: 1,3,4,6,8,11

R8: 1,4,5

R9: 6,8

R10: 5,9,12,13

 

288 Bets = $144

Posted Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Andrew Champagne runs down his ticket for Wednesday's sequence at Saratoga.
Posted Sunday, August 25, 2019
Andrew Champagne handicaps Saturday's Saratoga late Pick 5.
Posted Friday, August 23, 2019

Friday's Saratoga late Pick 5 sequence featured a really tough beat. One single (Offering Plan) got home, but our second single (Bankit) was beaten a head, and a nice price that was on the ticket took down the last.

 

I don’t have too much time to get down on myself, though, because Saturday is Travers Day at Saratoga, and with it comes an all-stakes Pick 5 sequence among the most exciting of the summer. It starts in the seventh race (the Allen Jerkens) and ends in the Mid-Summer Derby.

I actually thought one could play this for a reasonably-small investment, as I’m punching a $90 ticket despite hitting the “ALL” button once. Here’s how I’ll bet it.

 

Race 7: Grade 1 Allen Jerkens Stakes (3-year-olds, 7F) 2:59 p.m. ET

 

I have a single here, and I imagine he’ll be a popular one. #1 SHANCELOT looked positively freakish in the Amsterdam (G2) when he romped by open lengths and earned a 121 Beyer Speed Figure. The rail draw isn’t ideal, but he simply looks better than these horses, and anything close to his most-recent performance would make him very tough to beat. I’m singling and moving on. Doing so allows me to spread elsewhere.

 

Race 8: Grade 2 Ballston Spa Stakes (older fillies/mares, 1 1/16 M, turf), 3:35 p.m. ET

 

We writing folks call that last statement “foreshadowing,” because I’m buying this event. There are no standouts here, as the divisional leaders have opted to bypass this race for other stakes races on the road to the Breeders’ Cup, and anticipated favorite Rushing Fall didn't enter due to a reportedly subpar workout. Very little would surprise me, and I don’t have a ton of confidence, so I’ll punch the “ALL” button and hope for a price.

 

Race 9: Grade 1 Personal Ensign (older fillies/mares, 1 1/8 M), 4:12 p.m. ET

 

I do miss when this event measured a mile and a quarter, but I digress. This race features a matchup of two top horses in training, regardless of gender. #4 ELATE lost to #1 MIDNIGHT BISOU twice earlier this season, but I think she turns the tables in this spot. She’s back in good form, comes in off of a sharp win in the Delaware Handicap (G2) and may benefit from Midnight Bisou not being quite as sharp around two turns.

 

I almost singled Elate, but I decided I’d be getting too cute if I did that. Midnight Bisou does make the ticket, even though her one-turn efforts seem markedly better. It’s also simply tough to completely dismiss a runner who has won five graded stakes races this season in a row, two of which were Grade 1s.

 

Race 10: Grade 1 Sword Dancer (older horses, 1 1/2 M, turf), 4:49 p.m. ET

 

America’s turf divisions simply aren’t strong this year, which means this is a wide-open event. I’m going five-deep in a nine-horse field, and had I singled Elate, I may very well have opted to buy this race, too.

 

Chad Brown’s got a powerful hand here, as he’ll saddle three runners. My top pick is #6 YA PRIMO, who ran well off the bench earlier this meet in the Bowling Green (G2). He may have needed that race, and any move forward would make him a formidable foe.

 

I’ll also use #4 CHANNEL CAT, #5 PILLAR MOUNTAIN, #7 ANNALS OF TIME and #8 CHANNEL MAKER. The only shorter-priced horse I’m tossing is #9 SADLER’S JOY, a late runner who hasn’t won since March of 2018 and seems to be past his peak. Other than that one stance, though, I have very few strong feelings about a race that came up light on quality but heavy on gambling appeal.

 

Race 11: Grade 1 Travers (3-year-olds, 1 1/4 M), 5:44 p.m. ET

 

Some players may go fairly deep in Saratoga’s flagship race. But if I’m alive going into the Travers, I’ll rest my hopes, dreams and aspirations on just two horses.

 

#7 MUCHO GUSTO is my top pick, and I sincerely hope he goes off at or near his 6-1 morning line price. He gave Maximum Security a real test in the Haskell Invitational (G1), and it certainly seems like he’s maturing with each start. He’s got the pedigree to embrace this trip, and there are far worse strategies than betting on a Bob Baffert trainee to win a big race.

 

In addition, I’ll give #6 TACITUS one more shot. He’s entering “makes his own trouble” territory, and Bill Mott’s track record with horses adding blinkers isn’t great. But he was beaten less than a length in the Jim Dandy (G2) despite a disastrous start. The 10-furlong distance won’t beat him, and he’s certainly a contender if he can fashion a clean trip.

 

The ticket:

 

R7: 1

R8: ALL

R9: 1,4

R10: 4,5,6,7,8

R11: 6,7

 

180 Bets = $90.

Posted Thursday, August 22, 2019

It didn’t break any records, but we chalked up another hit Thursday. The ticket, which wound up costing $126, returned just more than $430, which is enough to at least fund action into the weekend.

 

Friday’s sequence comes in the midst of a New York-bred showcase day, one that’s drawn full fields and several runners with experience in the graded stakes ranks. My $108 ticket is unconventional, and you’ll see why right away. Here’s how I’ll play it.

 

Race 7: Seeking the Ante Stakes (2-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 F), 4:14 p.m. ET

 

Race 8: Funny Cide Stakes (2-year-olds, 6 1/2 F), 4:46 p.m. ET

 

You didn’t miss anything. I didn’t preview the Seeking the Ante above because I’m using the same strategy in each of these races. I’m hitting the “ALL” button twice in a row, as I found the 2-year-old races perplexing for different reasons.

 

Several runners in the Seeking the Ante exit the Stillwater earlier this meet. However, that day’s third-place finisher was beaten as a heavy favorite earlier this week in a maiden race, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. Furthermore, #3 TIME LIMIT, who took some money that day, lost all chance at the break and has every right to improve with a clean trip. I can’t be confident in any of these six runners, so I’m buying the race and hoping for a price.

 

Meanwhile, all the runners in the Funny Cide…sort of look the same to me. This makes for a great betting race, and if you like a runner in here, more power to you, as you’ll likely get a price. I had no strong opinion, so I’m buying that race, too. I understand this probably isn’t the hard-hitting handicapping analysis you’re looking for, but bear with me, as the good stuff is coming up next.

 

Race 9: West Point Stakes (older horses, 1 1/16 M, turf), 5:18 p.m. ET

 

I wouldn’t have bought the first two races if I didn’t also have singles along the way. This race houses one of them, as I really like #3 OFFERING PLAN. There’s a ton of early speed signed on here, and the faster they go early, the better this one’s chances figure to be. He was beaten just three lengths in the Forbidden Apple (G3), and I think he’ll love the drop in class he gets in this spot.

 

Race 10: Albany Stakes (3-year-olds, 1 1/8 M), 5:50 p.m. ET

 

In looking at this race, I thought #2 BANKIT would be favored on the morning line, and if he’s at his 7-2 price come post time, I’ll be making a sizable win wager. He beat several of these rivals last time out at Finger Lakes and should once again get an ideal setup as a closer in a race full of early speed. He ran well here twice a season ago and certainly strikes me as the one to beat. He’s my second single, and I sincerely hope we get a square price.

 

Race 11: Maiden claiming (older horses, 1 3/16 M, turf), 6:22 p.m. ET

 

If #2 WACKY PAL gets comfortable on the front end, he’s going to be very tough to beat. He drops in class off of a decent effort against straight maidens, and this barn’s record with similar class-droppers is impressive. Having said that, speed has not been holding on turf this meet, so I need to spread a bit.

 

I’m going four-deep, also using #9 THE HAPPY GIANT, #10 MR. VINCENT and #11 CURLIN’S LEGACY. If the likely favorite misfires, payoff potential shoots through the roof, and I hope I’ve gone deep enough to account for that scenario.

 

The ticket:

 

R7: ALL

R8: ALL

R9: 3

R10: 2

R11: 2,9,10,11

 

216 Bets = $108.

Posted Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Andrew Champagne assembles a ticket for Thursday's sequence at Saratoga.
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