2018 Champagne Stakes Expert Picks with Odds and Predictions
I am a sucker for the big two-year-old colt stakes of the fall leading up to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. It's our first chance to see the top horses that will be contending for glory in the Kentucky Derby. And of all the races out there, by far my favorite is the Champagne Stakes, which will be contested this Saturday at Belmont Park. The history in this race is amazing. Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew and Count Fleet won here. So did legends like Easy Goer, Alydar, Riva Ridge, Buckpasser, Foolish Pleasure and Spectacular Bid and so many more. Secretariat crossed the line first in 1972 but was dropped to second for interference. And in recent years it has become a factory for top-level sires - Birdstone, Uncle Mo, Union Rags, and Triple Crown winner Justify's sire Scat Daddy all won this race.
It's just such a great race. And while it will be a long while before we know if any horse in the field this year can join the ranks of those that have come before it, there is a very interesting group assembled. Here's a look at how the cream of the 10-horse field breaks down in this one turn mile race (odds listed are track morning line odds):
Complexity, Chad Brown (5/2): This colt comes into this race with only a win in a maiden special weight at the start of September at Saratoga to his credit. That makes this his stakes debut. But he was impressive in that win and has worked very well at Belmont since then. It was an impressive win at six furlongs, but I am not convinced he is going to want distance - even just this mile - and I can't buy into him at this price. I like when a favorite gets beat, and I am going to look for that to happen here.
Endorsed, Kiaran McLaughlin (7/2): This colt has only has a MSW win at Saratoga to his credit, and his came a couple of weeks before Complexity's. I buy into the horse's distance capabilities much more than the favorite, though, and I really liked his debut winning effort - he beat Ahead of Plan, who is a horse with a lot of buzz, and he closed a lot of ground to do so. McLaughlin is very high on this horse, and that's something I like to hear. I'm a believer - at least compared to the favorite.
Call Paul, Jason Servis (4/1): Servis won this race last year with Firenze Fire, and he's looking to get a streak going. Unlike the first two discussed here, this colt has won twice and has a stakes win to his credit - the only horse to have one in the field. After beating fodder in his MSW debut at Delaware Park, he took the Grade II Saratoga Special early in August. He was favored in that race, and he wired the field, so there is talent here. But this is a step up in class, and I'm not convinced that he is up to the level of Endorsed and others - that he has the upside to contend here.
Code of Honor, Shug McGaughey (6/1): This is yet another horse coming into this race off a lone win in a Saratoga MSW race - his came on the same day as Endorsed. He wired that field at six furlongs and has trained well since. One workout really stands out - on Sept. 23 at Belmont he ran a half mile in a sizzling 46.19, a bullet effort that was best of 60 runners on the day. Shug obviously didn't love the effort, though, because his next work a week later was so slow a tortoise that was missing a leg passed him in the stretch. I'd love to see him use that speed here, but I'm not going to pick him to win.
Aurelius Maximus, Chad Brown (6/1): I am a sucker for breeding above all else when looking at horses - especially young ones - and this horse stands out on in that regard. His sire is Pioneerof the Nile, the sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. And his damsire is the all-time stallion legend A.P. Indy. This is a horse that is bred to run forever. This colt finished third in his MSW debut at Saratoga but then came back to absolutely dominate at this distance on this track at the start of September, winning by almost eight lengths - albeit in the slop. Add this breeding to the Brown connection and the affinity for the track, and you have a horse that is destined to be my top pick in the race. He and Endorsed will make up my exacta.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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