Andrew Champagne Picks – Saturday October 24

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Andrew Champagne Picks – Saturday October 24

October 24, 2020

Saturday's Maryland Million program at Laurel Park is loaded with big fields and attractive wagering propositions. One of those appealing sequences is the late Pick Four, which begins in the ninth race and, for my money, offers several beatable favorites and a few big prices I feel you need to consider. Here's how I'll attack the sequence!

RACE #9: We open things up with a truly puzzling sequence, one that didn't get easier with the scratch of several also-eligibles. In this instance, #13 DUNDALK would have likely been the controlling speed, but he failed to draw in and will run another day.

With that in mind, I'm spreading to kick it off. Among the five horses I'll use here is reluctant top pick #9 NICK PAPAGIORGIO, who has won five of his last six starts and showed a new dimension last time out rallying from well off the pace at Pimlico. He dead-heated for the win that day with #12 CANNON'S ROAR, and while that one is on my ticket as well, the far outside draw is certainly an issue.

I'll also use #2 RISING PERRY and #7 BENNY HAVENS, who both exit the same race on October 8th, as well as #4 MR. D'ANGELO, who won this race last year and could be rounding back into form. I sincerely hope I'm deep enough here, and if you have a single elsewhere in the sequence, it may be prudent to punch the “ALL” button.

RACE #10: This was another race with a huge scratch. #11 EASTERN BAY would have likely been one of the shortest prices in the sequence, but with no scratches in the main body of the field, he will not go postward.

I'll go three-deep, with my top pick being #7 LEWISFIELD. I'm tossing the last race at Charles own, as that was going a two-turn route of ground. Of his eight lifetime wins, seven have come here at Laurel, and he's finished worse than third just three times in 15 starts over this track. I think he bounces back in this event, and a return to form certainly makes him a major player.

I'll also use #3 ONEMOREGREATTIME and #6 HALL PASS. The former hasn't won in a while, but gets considerable class relief coming out of an open $100,000 stakes race, while the latter was a good third last time out and will benefit from any sort of speed duel early on.

RACE #11: The Maryland Million Classic features the heaviest favorite of the sequence. However, while #5 HARPERS FIRST RIDE is on my ticket, he's not my top selection.

#3 MONDAY MORNING QB was a very good second two back in the Federico Tesio behind Happy Saver, who exited that race to win the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. His connections took a shot on turf last time out, which made sense given his pedigree but didn't work out (possibly due to the very wet turf course that day at Pimlico). He goes back to the main track here and faces a restricted group for the very first time.

Perhaps Harpers First Ride is the best horse, but he's a defensive use for me. Monday Morning Qb is 5-1 on the morning line, and I sincerely hope we get that price come post time.

RACE #12: I'm going to zig where many horseplayers will zag here. This is a mess of a race to handicap, with many horses who haven't won in a while set to finish off the card. Furthermore, several of them appear to be dirt horses rather than turf horses, which makes this even more confounding.

I'm going two-deep. #6 BELFOUR is my top selection, and while he may fit the “dirt horse” description, his prior races are leaps and bounds ahead of those of the rest of the field. Anything close to his wins two and three back would make him very tough to beat, and I think there's reason to believe he can at least approach that form on the grass. He tried turf most recently last summer in a stakes race, one that came up very salty. This is a far easier group, and I think he'll take full advantage of it.

I'll also, however, use an intriguing 15-1 shot. #9 AIR TOKEN exits the same race as several contenders in this sequence's first leg, one that seems far stronger than this spot. He raced very wide that day, and his lone prior turf start was one of the best races of his career. He ran second in that spot while rallying late, and a repeat of that race could give him a big shot at a square price.


R9: 2,4,7,9,12

R10: 3,6,7

R11: 3,5

R12: 6,9

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