The winners of the Champagne Stakes may not own a victory in the Kentucky Derby since 1992-’93 when Sea Hero pulled off the double. But if you’re looking for a more immediate return, the one-mile stakes for 2-year-olds has been an effective barometer of success a month later in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Since 2010, the Champagne has produced three Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners along with two runners-up and three third-place finishers, and with a strong field lined up for Saturday’s race those numbers could easily improve Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park.
The Champagne Stakes is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race that offers the winner an expenses-paid starting spot in the TVG Juvenile.
1. Alpha Sixty Six (5-1): Was well-backed his career debut as he went off at even-money and showed some grit, winning by a neck, with the third-place horse another eighth lengths back. He’s worked sharply since that Sept. 7 race at Belmont Park and in Todd Pletcher, he has a trainer who knows how to win this race. Pletcher will be seeking his seventh Champagne victory on Saturday.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
2. Truculent (30-1): He’s maiden but that’s not a major issue in a race where no one has started more than three times. In 2017, a maiden was second in the Champagne and then won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But he’s not Good Magic. Losing by 3 ½ lengths at Indiana Grand in a slow time in his lone dirt race does not inspire much confidence.
JOCKEY: Kendrick Carmouche TRAINER: Jack Sisterson
3. Green Light Go (8-5): The most likely favorite is unbeaten in two starts, winning decisively by more than three lengths each time. Led gate-to-wire in his debut at 5 ½ furlongs but then rated in fifth early while taking the Saratoga Special Stakes Presented by Miller Lite in last start. He was scratched from the Grade 1 Runhappy Hopeful Stakes, but that was due to a sloppy track and his recent workouts indicate he’s ready for a top effort. Based on his pedigree, the distance should not be a problem.
JOCKEY: Junior Alvarado TRAINER: Jimmy Jerkens
4. Three Technique (7-2): It took him three starts to break his maiden but he’s improved with each start, advancing from five furlongs to seven furlongs and romping by 5 ½ lengths in his most recent race. Based on his strong stretch kick at seven furlongs, he should be able to stretch out to a mile without a problem and be a major player. Three Technique has some star power going for him as he’s owned by NFL Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, a two-time Super Bowl winner.
JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr. TRAINER: Jeremiah Englehart
5. Gozilla (6-1): He looked like a monster in winning his debut by 4 ½ lengths at 3-5 odds and was favored at 6-5 in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes. He tired on a sloppy track and finished third but might rebound here, especially since he might get away with a moderate pace on the front end.
JOCKEY: Ricardo Santana Jr. TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
6. Big City Bob (20-1): One of two stakes winners in the field, he’ll face a much tougher test here than his last start, a neck victory in the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park. He’s won his last two starts and was victorious at a mile in the Sapling, giving him valuable experience at the distance. He seems to be moving in the right direction and could sneak into the picture.
JOCKEY: Chris DeCarlo TRAINER: Jorge Duarte Jr.
7. Tiz the Law (5-2): Was a powerful, 4 ¼-length winner of his debut, but that came against New York State-breds. Faces a much tougher test here but his winning time of 1:18.02 for 6 ½ furlongs would be impressive against any type of company, making him an intriguing possibility here. His owner, Sackatoga Stable, and trainer, Barclay Tagg, teamed to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2003 with Funny Cide.
JOCKEY: Manny Franco TRAINER: Barclay Tagg
THE PICK: Green Light Go
LIVE LONGSHOT: Gozilla