Champagne's Racing Picks: Saturday

Our expert Andrew Champagne takes a look at the big racing on Saturday
Andrew Champagne
Fri, March 6, 10:00 AM EST

PICK 1: San Felipe @ Santa Anita

3 units: Win, 5 (if 9/5 or higher)

2 units: Exacta key, 5 w/2,4

Saturday’s card at Santa Anita may be the best non-Breeders’ Cup program the track has put on in years. In addition to several Grade 1 events, the slate also includes the Grade 2 San Felipe for 3-year-olds. The race offers 50 Kentucky Derby points to the winner, and unsurprisingly, it’s drawn some of the top sophomore colts on the grounds.

This is a pivotal race on the road to the first Saturday in May, and the winner of this event might very well be one of the favorites in that race. Let’s take a look!

Which Baffert?

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert has a powerful 1-2 punch in here. He conditions both #4 AUTHENTIC and #5 THOUSAND WORDS. Both are undefeated graded stakes winners, and while this is far from a bad field, it’s safe to assume this duo will take the lion’s share of the betting money.

I prefer Thousand Words, though Authentic could certainly win. It looks like there’s a lot of early speed signed on, and unlike his stablemate, Thousand Words has shown he doesn’t need the lead in order to run well. It’s a little concerning that he seems to let rivals hang around, but I think the likely race shape works in his favor more than any of the other top contenders. If he isn’t favored, I think there could be a sliver of value in betting him to win.

Is He Ready?

#2 HONOR A.P. is bred to be any kind, and he showed plenty of potential as a 2-year-old. The son of two Grade 1 winners (Honor Code and Hollywood Story) ran a good second behind the talented Ginobili in his unveiling before cruising home much the best at second asking. However, we haven’t seen this John Shirreffs trainee since that race, which came all the way back in October. This begs the question: Can he fire off the bench?

I think he can, though whether or not he’s as good as the Baffert duo is anyone’s guess. Shirreffs has had no problem bringing horses back off of long layoffs, and his barn is firing on all cylinders at the moment. It helps that Mike Smith has the mount, and he showed in his debut that he can rally from off the pace if he has to. If he’s ready, I think he stands a chance.

How I’ll Bet It

I’ll be watching the tote board carefully. If Thousand Words is his morning line price or higher, I’ll have some win money on him. I’ll also be keying him on top of exactas with Authentic and Honor A.P.

PICK 2: Tampa Bay Derby @ Tampa Downs

2 units: Win, 4

2 units: Exacta key box, 4 w/2,8

Gulfstream Park is usually the track of note in Florida this time of year. However, Tampa Bay Downs has built a strong Saturday program around its flagship race, the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. That event has attracted a field of 12 3-year-olds to go a mile and a sixteenth, and it will go as the 11th of 12 races on the docket.

I’m very intrigued by this race, especially because I’m not at all crazy about the morning line favorite. I think there’s a big chance for us to score here, so let’s dive in!

An Audible

#4 CHANCE IT was supposed to contest last weekend’s Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. However, his connections opted to run here after the colt drew a problematic outside post. He draws far more favorably here, and while regular rider Tyler Gaffalione has commitments out west, the presence of top-tier speed rider Paco Lopez is a plus.

Chance It is the 5/2 second choice on the morning line. I think there’s a chance he goes off the favorite, but I hope he doesn’t. He hits me as the horse to beat, and anywhere close to the morning line price would hit me as a considerable overlay.

The Beatable Favorite

Aside from #7 SOLE VOLANTE being a very tough horse to root for (Google trainer Patrick Biancone and snake venom to see why), I think he’s an underlay from a betting perspective. Two starts ago, he chased Chance It in the Mucho Macho Man and wasn’t any sort of a threat. His last race, where he won the Grade 3 Sam Davis, was good, but that race fell apart, and this hits me as a much tougher spot.

Perhaps this race falls apart like that one did. However, I think a repeat of his last-out effort is unlikely. Chance It has already shown he can outrun this horse, and I think he’ll do it again. If Sole Volante wins, he’ll beat me doing it.

Two Longshots to Consider

#2 SPA CITY is bred up and down for distance, and he put it all together last time out in his first try going two turns. Yes, it was against straight maidens, but he beat a big field and earned a solid 91 Beyer Speed Figure for his effort. He’s been working well, and I think he could sit a very nice stalking trip.

Additionally, #8 LETMENO could be primed for a big race, too. His 2020 debut earlier this month was his first start since September, and he hasn’t done a lot wrong. He won his debut, ran second in one stakes race, then chased Dennis’ Moment before going to the sidelines. This barn’s horses tend to step forward second off the bench, and the 12-1 morning line odds simply hit me as too high.

How I’ll Play It

Chance It is a key horse for me, and I’m tossing Sole Volante completely. I’ll have win money on my top selection, and I’ll also box him in exactas with my two bigger prices.

By Andrew Champagne

Andrew Champagne
AndrewChampagne
Andrew Champagne is a horse racing handicapper with a specialism in juveniles. One thing is for certain, Champagne gets the party started.
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