Posted Saturday, July 20, 2019

As a longtime Saratoga stalwart, this next fact feels incredibly weird to type: Race 9 kicks off the late Pick 5. I remember the days when Saratoga wouldn’t run more than eight or nine races in a day, so even conjuring up that thought took some effort. Alas, here we are, largely because NYRA cancelled Saturday’s races due to extreme heat.

 

I’ve got a $72 ticket that relies heavily on a pair of Chad Brown trainees. If both of those horses get home in the sequence’s two stakes races, we’ve got a good chance of taking this down. Here’s how I’ll play it.

 

Race 9: Allowance (older horses, 1M, turf), 5:09 p.m. ET

 

We kick off the sequence with a tricky turf race. Front-runners have not done well on the grass so far this meet, so I’m largely focusing on closers and stalking types throughout these five races.

 

My top pick is #10 HOBOE, who gets back to two turns third off of a long layoff and should get pace at which to run. He has two top-two finishes in as many local starts, and the faster they go early, the better his chances figure to be.

 

I’ll also use #1 VARIANT PERCEPTION, #7 MORRISON, and #8 HALLADAY. Halladay was literally the last horse I threw into the entire sequence, and while the two-turn route is a question mark, the horse he beat by a length last time out came back to graduate impressively earlier in the meet.

 

Race 10: Optional claiming (older horses, 7F), 5:43 p.m. ET

 

The last time #2 RESTORING HOPE ran in New York, he raised a few eyebrows from some who believed he ran interference for Justify in the Belmont. He’s now trained by Jason Servis, and his 2019 debut at Gulfstream was very good. The intermittent works since then are puzzling, but if he’s right, I think he’s the horse to beat.

 

I also need to use #8 BORRACHO, who was third in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens last time out and figures to be running well late. Even though he’s coming up a bit in class, I’m including #9 MAJESTIC AFFAIR as well. He’s done his best running over this seven-furlong distance, and Robertino Diodoro has done very well so far this meet with a limited number of starters.

 

Race 11: Caress S. (older fillies/mares, 5 1/2 F, turf), 6:16 p.m. ET

 

My first of two singles figures to be favored here. That’s #4 SIGNIFICANT FORM, and while I haven’t been a huge fan of hers in the past, I thought her win in the Grade 3 Intercontinental was very impressive. She overcame a slow pace for the rock-hard Belmont turf course in her first start since November and finished incredibly quickly. She may very well be gaining maturity as a 4-year-old, and I think the Intercontinental champion will be very tough (side note: if you took the “under” in the “Andrew’s wrestling references” pool, you lost).

 

Race 12: Allowance (older horses, NY-bred, 1 1/16 M, turf), 6:48 p.m. ET

 

I believe honesty and transparency are incredibly important. If you can’t trust your local public handicapper, why read what he/she has to say? I say this because I do not take this next statement lightly: I do not have a clue what any of the 12 runners in here will do.

 

For my money, this is the most difficult handicapping challenge of the meet to this point. There’s very little in the way of high-quality form signed on, and plenty of these horses have been at this level for a long, long time.

 

I’m relying on the horseplayer’s best friend here. That’s right: Despite the large field size, I’m punching the “ALL” button here. If we get to this point, I can sit back, relax, and root for a price, one that knocks some tickets out ahead of the finale (which features my second single).

 

Race 13: Grade 3 Shuvee (older fillies/mares, 1 1/8 M), 7:20 p.m. ET

 

This year’s Shuvee drew a field that’s of a much higher quality than its graded status would indicate. It’s headlined by Grade 1 winners #1 SHE’S A JULIE and #5 WOW CAT, and also features several fillies and mares who have had success at the Grade 2 level as well.

 

Wow Cat’s layoff scares me, as do her two defeats here last year. Having said that, she’s my single in here for a few reasons. Most notably, there’s a lot of early speed signed on, and she should love that given her late-running style. She got very good near the end of last year, when she won the Beldame and was second to Monomoy Girl in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and if she channels that form in a race that sets up for her, I think she’ll be very difficult to beat.

 

I respect She’s a Julie, and I think Steve Asmussen has done a great job helping her come to hand as a 4-year-old. If you want to hedge in doubles or the late Pick Four, I completely get it. However, given the likely race shape and what she showed she can do when she’s 100 percent, Wow Cat is a Pick Five single for me.

 

The ticket:

 

R9: 1,7,8,10

R10: 2,8,9

R11: 4

R12: ALL

R13: 5

 

144 Bets = $72.

Posted Friday, July 19, 2019
Andrew Champagne handicaps Friday's sequence at Saratoga.
Posted Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Andrew Champagne handicaps a difficult sequence Thursday at Saratoga.
Posted Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Andrew Champagne shares his late Pick 5 for Wednesday at Saratoga.
Posted Saturday, July 13, 2019

A lot of tickets were turned into confetti early in Saturday's NYRA Pick Five sequence, when 10-1 shot Special Story rallied to spring an upset in the first leg. If you hit it, you were rewarded to the tune of an $8,921.50 payday, and that's what keeps me coming back.


A similarly-high payoff could very well be in the cards again on Sunday. This sequence doesn't have many short-priced favorites or opportunities to single. I've got a $90 ticket, and I could have conceivably invested much more than that. If you hit this, you're going to get paid, and hopefully we're among the ones heading to the windows Sunday evening!


Race 6: Allowance (older fillies/mares, NY-bred, 1 1/8 M, turf), 4:03 p.m. ET

 

We kick off the challenging sequence with a turf route for state-breds, and I’m using the second and third-place finishers from a similar race last month at Belmont. I prefer #4 FETCHING to #5 FLUSH, but either horse can win, and the full field should ensure square prices.

 

I’m also going to throw in #10 DOODER, who will be a bigger price. She’s had her issues, but she won here back in 2017 before trying Grade 1 company. She comes back to the turf here, and while the post isn’t ideal, she could be a potential knockout horse in the sequence if she returns to form she’s displayed in the past.

 

Race 7: Optional claiming (older horses, NY-bred, 6 1/2 F), 4:39 p.m. ET

 

I think this race sets up for a closer, so I’m using two horses who will be moving in the right direction late. #2 ZONIC makes his first start as a gelding and won here a season ago, and #4 CERRETALTO showed plenty of talent a season ago and may be ready to run off the bench. The faster they go early, the more these two will like it.

 

Race 8: Optional claiming (older fillies/mares, 1 1/16 M, turf), 5:15 p.m. ET

 

This race came up very tough for the level, and several of these horses may very well be using this race as a springboard to stakes company. #8 CATCH A BID was very impressive in her debut victory at Belmont, where she romped by more than four lengths and earned an 85 Beyer Speed Figure. A similar performance would make her tough to beat, and she’s a logical favorite.

 

I’ll also use #11 VARENKA, who drops into allowance company after running third in the Grade 3 Regret at Churchill Downs. She’s run up against some heavy hitters in the past, and while the post is a problem, her best is certainly good enough to win this.

 

Race 9: Coronation Cup (3-year-old fillies, 5 1/2 F, turf), 5:51 p.m. ET

 

The Sunday feature has drawn some very fast fillies. #4 BREAK EVEN is undefeated through five career starts, and if she takes to the turf, she’ll be tough to beat. I have to use her, but if she doesn’t take to the grass, I think there are two potential longshots to consider.

 

#2 LYRICAL LADY is bred for turf. She’s by More Than Ready and out of an Unbridled’s Song mare, all of which screams that she’ll love the lawn. At her best, she’s very good, and I think she’ll step up on the surface switch. Additionally, #3 BOHEMIAN BOURBON is a closer in a race full of early speed. At the very least, she’ll have something left when the real running starts, and at her likely price, she could drive the potential payoff up significantly.

 

Race 10: Maiden claiming (older horses, 7 F), 6:25 p.m. ET

 

Good luck with this one, folks. This is a very confusing race to end the card with, and I needed to spread.

 

#8 MINE THE COIN is logical on the drop in class, but he hasn’t run since February and may need the race. I’m going five-deep, and I sincerely hope that that’s deep enough. If you have deeper pockets or a single elsewhere, punching the “ALL” button may not be a bad idea. In fact, if one of my horses in races seven or eight scratches, and money frees up, that’s precisely what I’d advise doing. There just isn’t much form to go off of here, and in races like these, security is a wonderful thing.

 

THE TICKET

 

R6: 4,5,10

R7: 2,4

R8: 8,11

R9: 2,3,4

R10: 1,4,8,9,11

 

180 Bets = $90.

Posted Friday, July 12, 2019

After two days where rainy weather has forced several NYRA Pick Five races off the turf (and, in the case of yesterday, decimated my submitted Pick Five ticket before it even got started), we appear to be in the clear for the first Saturday card at the meet. This is a good thing, too, as the sequence is headlined by the Grade 1 Diana and has two other turf races within it as well.

 

Because of the likely size of the pool, I went a bit deeper here than I have the past two days. My ticket comes out to $96 before scratches, and it’s built around my best bet of the day, which comes in race 10.

 

Race 7: Allowance (older NY-breds, 6F), 4:36 p.m. ET

 

I’m going two-deep to kick things off. #8 RED ZINGER has been working very well since coming north for trainer Gary Contessa, and this cutback in distance should hit him right between the eyes. Additionally, I’m also going to use #7 LUTSKY, who makes his first start for Jorge Navarro and has several strong drills at Monmouth Park. Going fairly slim in this leg allows us to spread elsewhere, which is a very good thing…

 

Race 8: Maiden special weight (older fillies/mares, 5 1/2 F, turf), 5:11 p.m. ET

 

…because I want as much coverage as humanly possible here. #6 PEACEFUL will likely be favored for logical reasons, but there’s no telling what he ran second against at Monmouth last month, so I can’t bring myself to back him with any real confidence.

 

I’m relying on the horseplayer’s best friend and hitting the “ALL” button here. If we get home in the first leg, we can breathe a little easier and root for a price here. Getting one will knock a lot of tickets out and bump up the payoff, so the incentive is certainly there.

 

Race 9: Grade 1 Diana (older fillies/mares, 1 1/8 M, turf), 5:46 pm ET

 

Chad Brown saddles four of the six runners in here, and I’m using three of them. They’ll almost certainly be the top three choices in the wagering by a sizable margin, but doing so is the safe route to take in order to get to my single.

 

My top pick is #2 RUSHING FALL, who may not be getting her just due for all she’s accomplished. She’s won eight of nine career starts, the lone exception being a tough-luck second in last year’s Grade 3 Edgewood, and she comes in having won three consecutive Grade 1 races. She may not even be favored here due to the presence of #4 SISTERCHARLIE, but I think she’s the horse to beat.

 

I’m using Sistercharlie as well, although I think this is a hair shorter than she wants to go and she may need the race. Finally, I’ll throw in #6 HOMERIQUE, who has done nothing wrong since coming to America and may be peaking coming into this event.

 

Race 10: Allowance (older horses, 7F), 6:21 p.m. ET

 

As mentioned, I’ve got a single here, and it figures to be a pretty popular one. That’s #5 PAYNE, who has yet to run a bad race to this point in his career. He most recently ran a good second behind the talented Rowayton in a swiftly-run allowance event at Belmont Park, and this race figures to set up well for his late kick. I love the development he’s shown as a 4-year-old, and any further progression would make him incredibly tough.

 

Race 11: Claiming (older horses, 1M, turf), 6:55 p.m. ET

 

I felt the need to spread a bit in this race as well, as I’m going four-deep to finish things out. #7 PROGNOSTICATION drops in for a tag and loves Saratoga, but he’s a 6-year-old now and that last start was far from encouraging. Maybe his back class is enough to beat these, and I’m certainly using him, but I can’t rely on him too heavily.

 

I’m also using #8 PATRIOT DRIVE, #9 SYCAMORE LANE, and #11 BATTLE OF BLENHEIM, all of whom figure to be square prices. Of that trio, I most prefer Patriot Drive, who comes in having won two in a row since going to the Danny Gargan barn. I wish the draw was a bit kinder to them, but any of the three could win this on their best days, and they may be good enough to overcome the outside posts.

 

THE TICKET:

 

R7: 7,8

R8: ALL

R9: 2,4,6

R10: 5

R11: 7,8,9,11

 

192 Bets = $96.

Posted Thursday, July 11, 2019
Andrew Champagne delivers handicapping and picks for Friday at Saratoga.
Posted Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Andrew Champagne lists his Saratoga opening day handicapping and ticket.

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