Image for Brian Zipse Brian Zipse - October 14, 2022

Champagne Stakes: Verifying Appears to Be Well Prepared for His Graded Stakes Debut

Champagne Stakes Odds and Post Position

Odds for the 2022 Champagne Stakes taken from TwinSpires.

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
1 ANDIAMO A FIRENZE 6/1
BET HERE
J Lezcano K Breen
2 TOP RECRUIT 5/1
BET HERE
I Ortiz Jr M Maker
3 VERIFYING 5/2
BET HERE
J Rosario B Cox
4 CHAMPIONS DREAM 6/1
BET HERE
M Franco D Gargan
5 BLAZING SEVENS 5/1
BET HERE
F Prat C Brown
6 GULFPORT 9/5
BET HERE
J Ortiz S Asmussen

Champagne Stakes Predictions and Best Bets

Here are my plays ($60 in total)

$10 Exacta Part Wheel – Verifying over Gulfport, Blazing Sevens and Top Recruit = $30

$5 Exacta Box – Verifying, Blazing Sevens and Top Recruit = $30

Top Pick: Verifying (5/2)

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Champagne Stakes Predictions Best Bets

Gulfport, second in the Grade 1 Hopeful last out, headlines a field of six 2-year-olds set to battle it out in Saturday’s Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at the Belmont fall meet being held at Aqueduct.

After a pair of very impressive wins at Churchill Downs to begin his career, including the Bashford Manor Stakes, the Steve Asmussen charge was a troubled second in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, before again running second in the Hopeful at Saratoga.

Chief among his challengers in a wide-open edition of the one-mile Champagne Stakes will be a pair of Justify colts who won their respective debuts this summer at Saratoga.

Verifying should get plenty of betting support after an impressive maiden win on the big Travers Day undercard. The Brad Cox-trained colt, from the first crop of the Triple Crown champion, rolled to a stylish 1 3/4-length victory five weeks ago.

Champions Dream, meanwhile, went wire-to-wire in his debut win for trainer Danny Gargan four weeks ago. Out of a Tapit broodmare, the son of Justify was a $425,000 2-year-old in training purchase this March.

Stakes winners Andiamo a Firenze and Top Recruit, as well as the Chad Brown-trained Blazing Sevens round out the field.

As a qualifying points race, the top five finishers from Saturday’s $500,000 Champagne Stakes will receive points on a 10-4-3-2-1 scale toward a berth in the 2023 Kentucky Derby.

Champagne Stakes Predictions and Race Analysis

Gulfport

A romping stakes winner at Churchill Downs in his second start, this son of Uncle Mo was sent to Saratoga with high expectations. The jury is still out on whether the colt who looked so good in his first two career starts will live up to the hype.

Trained by the Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, he suffered through a tough trip when second in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, before succumbing down the stretch to Forte in Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes on a sloppy track.

As the most experienced colt in the race, and first or second in three stakes races, he is a deserving favorite. It will be interesting to see what he can do with a good trip on a fast track. He is not my top choice, but he’s clearly a big threat here.

Verifying

A $775,000 yearling purchase, this son of Justify is a half-brother to the champion mare Midnight Bisou. Bred to be a good one, he did not disappoint in his debut on August 27 at Saratoga, as he went right to the lead and proved clearly best down the lane.

After the debut win, he was sent to Kentucky where he has turned in three nice workouts at Churchill Downs, the last two going 5-furlongs. Despite his inexperience, he appears to be well prepared for his graded stakes debut.

It’s not an easy jump from a 6-furlong maiden race to the Grade 1 Champagne, but all indications so far indicate that he is a very talented horse. He is the top pick.

Top Recruit

Trained by Mike Maker, this Kentucky invader got his first stakes to win last time with a hard-earned win over Curly Jack in the Ellis Park Juvenile. The result was flattered when that one came back to win the Grade 3 Iroquois in his next start.

The gray son Midshipman was well beaten by the lightning-fast Tyler’s Tribe in his second start when he traveled to Iowa, but as a first-out winner at Churchill Downs, he is 2-for-3 so far in his career.

With good tactical speed and proven for toughness after his last one, there is every reason to believe that he can compete as he moves to New York and into Grade 1 company. In fact, he is one of several in here who could realistically take home top money.

Blazing Sevens

This son of Good Magic could not keep up with Gulfport when a well-beaten third in the Hopeful last time, but there are a couple of reasons why he could improve on Saturday. Less experienced than the Hopeful favorite, he fell behind early and that likely did him no favors on the sloppy track.

Still, he did pass horses to go from last to third. More in the race early in his debut, a 6-furlong win at Saratoga, he pounced on the leaders and swept to a romping victory over a next-out winner.

Trained by Chad Brown, the one-mile distance should suit him better than a sprint, and in his third-lifetime start, he should appreciate returning to a fast racing surface. Although, with rain in the forecast, I am not sure he will get it on Saturday.

Champions Dream

Like Verifying, this one is a son of Justify and a nice debut winner at Saratoga. His win came going 7-furlongs four weeks ago, where he shot right out to the early lead and cruised to victory. He could be the horse most likely to be out there early with Gulfport.

Remaining at Saratoga after the debut win, he has turned in a pair of sharp 4-furlong works for trainer Danny Gargan. That early speed will be an advantage often in his career, but battling with the favorite could make things tough as he stretches out to a mile on Saturday.

He has every right to be a good one, but I have a feeling that the other Justify will be the better horse in the Champagne.

Andiamo a Firenze

This New York-bred son of Speightstown is bred to appreciate a wet track, and has proven that with two very nice wins on off tracks. They both came against fellow statebreds, so his class remains in question, but his first try in open company was not bad.

That came in his second career start when he faded late to finish third against a big field in the Grade 3 Sanford. Another one who could be part of the early pace, he has started his career with three very solid races, so he deserves a shot against Grade 1 company.

Having said that, I’m just not quite sure he is good enough to beat this bunch. If the track comes up sloppy, though, his chances do improve.

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How to Watch the Champagne Stakes

What Champagne Stakes (Grade 1)
Location Belmont at Aqueduct
Time Saturday, October 1 — 5:45 pm Eastern time
How to Watch Fox Sports 1
Purse $500,000
Image for Brian Zipse

AUTHOR

Brian Zipse

219 Articles

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

Email: [email protected]

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