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Andrew Champagne delivers his best picks for Saratoga's closing day

Monday is closing day at Saratoga, and the traditional Labor Day feature has attracted some of the best 2-year-olds on the grounds. It’s the Grade 1 Hopeful, which is contested at seven furlongs, and this year’s renewal (which headlines an 11-race program and goes as the 10th) has drawn a talented field of seven.

The likely favorite merits plenty of respect and should be bet accordingly. However, there’s at least one other runner in here that I think you need to consider. Let’s take a look!

The Recent Stakes Winner

Jimmy Jerkens’s 2-year-olds don’t usually fire right away, which is part of why #3 GREEN LIGHT GO’s win in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special resonated so much. He sprinted clear in the stretch to win by nearly four lengths and likely had something left in the tank. The added distance shouldn’t be a problem given his pedigree, and if you want to single him and move on in multi-race exotics (like the Empire 6 and late Pick Five, both of which boast mandatory payouts), I understand.

The Other Recent Stakes Winner

Having said that, a lot of what I said about Green Light Go can be applied to #5 BY YOUR SIDE as well. Like Green Light Go, By Your Side is 2-for-2, with his last win coming by open lengths in a graded stakes race at Saratoga. The latter stalked and pounced to win the Grade 3 Sanford, and he’s bred to want longer distances (by Constitution, out of a Dixie Union mare). The professionalism he’s hinted at in his running style should help him, as unlike many 2-year-olds at this stage, he doesn’t need the lead in order to run well.

Furthermore, trainer Eddie Kenneally is quietly one of the better 2-year-old conditioners in the game, and Irad Ortiz, Jr., will ride him back. He’s 6-1 on the morning line, and that hits me as an overlay. Anything over 7/2 would likely entice a small win bet.

The Maiden Winners

Of the horses jumping into this race off of maiden wins, #4 GOZILLA seems like the best of the bunch. He capitalized on a great trip to win by nearly five lengths earlier this meet, and he earned an 84 Beyer Speed Figure for his effort. His works since then haven’t jumped off the page, but Asmussen’s record with 2-year-olds at Saratoga is strong and he may not have to improve too much to pick up a check here.

Betting Strategy

Yes, Green Light Go will be tough, and he’ll factor heavily into the betting strategy. Having said that, it wouldn’t stun me if he was defeated here, and I’ll at least hedge a bit.

Exacta key, 3 units: 3 with 4,5

Exacta key, 1 unit: 4,5 with 3

Win bet, 1 unit: 5 (if he’s 7/2 or higher)

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