Champagne Stakes an Intriguing Puzzle for Punters

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Alastair Bull

October 5th, 2017

The Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park is one of the best juvenile races in the country, and its winner earns direct entry into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. But trying to select a winner when there is so little exposed form can be a difficult task.

Despite its grade one status, only Firenze Fire among the 12 Champagne Stakes entries has run in a graded stakes race, winning the Sanford Stakes (G3) before finishing fourth in the Hopeful Stakes (G1), 4-1/4 lengths from the winner Sporting Chance.

Another two have winning form at ungraded stakes level. Aveenu Malcainu has won two stakes races for New York-breds, while Kowboy Karma has a win and a second-place finish in ungraded stakes events.

But if the morning line is anything like accurate, the best guide to the race is a maiden special weight contest at Saratoga Aug. 26. In that race, Hazit (War Front) got the better of Good Magic (Curlin) by a length. On the morning-line odds, Good Magic is the 7-2 favorite, while Hazit is second favorite at 4-1. If you were impressed by this form, these are the two to beat.

Morning-line third favorite Bahamian (Freedom Child) ships from California for the race. He has yet to win in two starts but he ran second in his previous start, 1 ¾-lengths behind the winner Solomini, with more than eight lengths back to the others.

Solomini made that form look very good when he finished second – albeit distantly – behind top West Coast juvenile Bolt d’Oro in the FrontRunner Stakes (G1). Californian juvenile form often translates well when horses are shipped east, so Bahamian should be in with a big shot in the Champagne.

Others well in the market are Saratoga maiden winners Honorable Treasure and Enticed.

When so little form is exposed, BRIS speed ratings can be a good guide, so have a look at them. It also pays to watch the market, as a horse with limited form who’s at short odds is clearly liked by somebody. Also take note of the major trainers such as Todd Pletcher (Hazit) and Chad Brown (Good Magic), who don’t start horses in grade one races if they don’t fancy their chances.

Instinct suggests to this writer that Bahamian’s form is good and that he hasn’t come all this way for nothing. But there’s plenty to recommend the other favored runners. Chances are there will be some good odds on offer.