The Debt Ceiling angle in the Champagne

The Debt Ceiling angle in the Champagne
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire


One of the wagering angles that has served me the best over the years is not dismissing a horse because of one poor race. In other words, after finding a horse that I like, I should not give up on them because of one poor performance, no matter how bad that performance happened to be. Often these types are dismissed at the windows, because bettors tend to jump ship quickly. I’ve found over the years that if you are willing to draw a line through it, the rewards can be substantial. This angle will be tested in Saturday’s Grade 1 Champagne Stakes with a dark bay colt named, Debt Ceiling.

I liked what I saw from day 1 out of this Tim O'Donohue owned son on Discreet Cat, as he easily handled maidens at Laurel. He impressed again with a much the best win in the Rollicking Stakes on the Preakness undercard at 5-1. Despite crazy high morning line odds in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes, Debt Ceiling actually opened as the favorite, before finally drifting up to 5-1 in his first real class test. After a storm delay, Debt Ceiling coasted home a decisive winner. Next came the Grade 2 Sanford, but by then, the secret was out.

What secret exactly was out became the question after Debt Ceiling jogged down the Saratoga stretch some 36 lengths behind the winner as the 9-5 favorite. Moving up well on the backstretch, the John Robb trainee steadied sharply on the rail, and dropped back quickly. He remained within shouting distance until the turn for home, but had no interest in coming back up the rail, and was not asked for anything in the stretch.

So, there was an excuse, but still, it was not a performance that can offer any sort of real confidence against good horses in the future. That is, unless you are willing to just throw the race out completely. Most bettors will not, and therefore, I am expecting double digit odds in the Champagne.

Debt Ceiling has continued to work very well, and in fact, came back to outclass his opponents in a minor stake at Delaware a few weeks ago. He raised his lifetime record to 4-of-5, and the time in the sprint was fast, but truthfully, the competition was weak.

As any good handicapper should be, I’m a realist. I understand that the competition topped by Strong Mandate, Honor Code, and Havana may simply be too much for Debt Ceiling. But on the other hand, at big odds, I believe he is worth including on the tickets. His trainer has been red-hot of late, and he gets the very capable Junior Alvarado in the irons for the first time. After all, if you are willing to draw a line right through the Sanford, his form looks very good.  

Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves on the Board of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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