Champagne Stakes 2021 Picks: Wit and Gunite to face-off again

Todd Pletcher has three chances to win the Grade I Champagne on Saturday
Todd Pletcher has three chances to win the Grade I Champagne on Saturday

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The $500,000 Grade I Champagne Stakes is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby and both J.N. and Neil have some thoughts on the race heading into Saturday...

Champagne Stakes 2021 Racecard

3
PP 3

Jack Christopher

  • Age: 2 /
  • Jockey: Jose Ortiz /
  • Trainer: Chad Brown /
Morning Line Odds
1
PP 1

Wit

  • Age: 2 /
  • Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. /
  • Trainer: Todd Pletcher /
Morning Line Odds
2
PP 2

My Prankster

  • Age: 2 /
  • Jockey: Luis Saez /
  • Trainer: Todd Pletcher /
Morning Line Odds
5
PP 5

Gunite

  • Age: 2 /
  • Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. /
  • Trainer: Steve Asmussen /
Morning Line Odds
6
PP 6

Commandperformance

  • Age: 2 /
  • Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione /
  • Trainer: Todd Pletcher /
4
PP 4

Kavod

  • Age: 2 /
  • Jockey: Charles Roberts /
  • Trainer: James Chapman /

J.N.'s Take... (as originally published in his Belmont Pick 4 Column)

Leading off the late action on Saturday is a race of some note, which is sure to test these young freshmen. On the line is a trip to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) to be held at Del Mar on Friday, November 5th. Also, there are Kentucky Derby Points at stake (10-4-2-1), which will be essential when that race is drawn in late April 2022. Part of the NYRA Triple for 2-yr-olds (the others are Saratoga Spcl./Hopeful), there is only one of the 2 former winners drawn into this race—Steve Asmussen’s Gunite #5.

The Gun Runner colt surprised most in the Hopeful S. (G1) at odds of 12/1. Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. took over the lead along the backstretch, and never looked back. Enroute to a 5+ length victory, the Winchell homebred celebrated a nice win over the short-priced Wit #1 from the barn of Todd Pletcher. The pair will do battle once again, as Irad Ortiz looks to get mount back on track. By Practical Joke, a sire on the rise, many think he can bounce back … necessitating the obvious query of, was the Asmussen runner’s win a fluke. I am not so sure … If pace makes the race, then clearly Pletcher’s entry needs quite a bit to run into, in order to use that powerful set of late gears that he possesses. He got some of that at Saratoga, but Winchell’s own was just too good. The Gun Runner offspring has the capability to build on that Saturday. My top selection …

Some other competitors out of this field of 6 that will take money include Pletcher’s other accomplished colt, My Prankster #2. The Into Mischief budding star really sparked the bettors with a convincing score on debut at Saratoga in the latter half of August. Luis Saez has the opportunity to help this one soar to even greater heights, but it will not be an easy chore considering the field that he will face at Belmont … a much tougher go. One other that warrants consideration is Chad Brown’s Jack Christopher #3. Like the aforementioned colt, this one exhibited some real strength down the lane, on his way to a 8+ length victory. By Munnings, this well-connected runner will hope to extend to the mile distance, and if he can, with Jose Ortiz aboard, then he could be looking at a victory. Hard to say with so little experience though … will there be a regression? Unknown …

For my money, I am sticking with Gunite #5 at a solid price of 4/1 on the M/L. Even though he is sure to come down from there, he still remains an overlay at anything above 2/1, in my estimation.

Wager Recommendation: $100 Win, Gunite #5

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Neil's Take...

When sitting down and looking at a field, the first thing I look for is who I think is the most talented horse. There are always several variables that you have to consider but which horse is simply the best when all things are even. Looking at the Grade I Champagne on Saturday, I think the Todd Pletcher trained Wit (#1) fits that bill.

The issue that causes some concern is we’ve already seen the son of Practical Joke have real issues breaking from the gate. He can’t afford to let the likes of My Prankster or Jack Christopher get four or five lengths in the first ten strides. This field has some real quality at the top hence why the front three in the betting are all between 9-5 and 5-2. However if Wit is alongside the leaders through the first quarter of a mile, he has every chance to be victorious.

It is the Chad Brown trained Jack Christopher who will open with the favorite tag. He does have the joint-best Beyer Speed Figure of the six, notching up a 92 in his debut up at Saratoga. My Prankster has also recorded a 92. So I’m not surprised there is so much confusion about who should be the top choice among these two-year-olds.

I’ll stick with who I think is the most talented horse of the bunch and Wit but if you have a multi-race ticket, it is tough to leave out any of the top three. It might be all a bit boring but from what we've seen of all three so far in their young careers, they all have potential to be competitive not only on Saturday but also as they grow going forward.

Main: 1, 2, 3

Backup: None

Order of Preference: 1-3-2-6

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