Champagne: Going over-budget in Sunday's Saratoga Pick 5

Champagne: Going over-budget in Sunday's Saratoga Pick 5
Photo: Michael Burns/Woodbine

The degree of difficulty in Sunday’s late Pick 5 sequence at Saratoga hits me as very high. There are large fields signed on, and very few races within the sequence have horses to point to as likely favorites. It’s an incredibly challenging wager to play.

In fact, I’ve actually exceeded the usual $150 budget I’m given, and not simply because I feel like spending lots of money. Simply put, I feel as though you need plenty of coverage within this sequence, and even in assembling my $180 ticket, there are spots where I wish I could’ve used one or two more horses. Here’s how I’ll play it.

Race 6: Maiden special weight (2-year-olds, 6f), 3:42 p.m. EDT

Seven of the 10 runners in the body of this field have never run before, so right off the bat, we’re hit with a handicapping puzzle. I’m going three-deep in here, using two horses that figure to take money and another that may be a bit of a price.

#10 MUNDAYE CALL is my top pick. She draws favorably and hammered for nearly $1 million last summer as a yearling. I’ll also give #3 LOTTA OTT another try in this spot. I liked her a lot earlier in the meet, but she got shuffled back in her debut and may have needed that race.

Finally, I’ll throw in #6 PLEA, who comes in off of a strong local workout. The Claiborne homebred is trained by Bill Mott, who has seen his numbers with 2-year-olds improve a bit over the past few weeks.

Race 7: Allowance (older horses, NY-bred, 1 1/8 M, turf), 4:14 p.m.

This race hit me as the toughest one of the sequence. I’m five-deep, and even using a fair amount of horses, I’ve absolutely left out a few that could win with efforts they’ve put forth in the past.

#3 CROSS BORDER is a logical favorite. He was impressive earlier this meet when winning a starter allowance despite a horrible post position, and that day’s third-place finisher has since come back to win. This is a decent field for the level, though, so he’s far from a lock.

I’ll also be using #1 GRADED ON A CURVE, #4 GOSILENTLY, #8 OPT, and #11 EL HERMANO. #2 YEAR OF THE KITTEN is the last horse I threw out, and I wish I could have included him, but that would’ve driven the cost of my ticket to a level I’m not comfortable with.

Race 8: Optional claiming (older fillies/mares, 7F, turf), 4:46 p.m.

On paper, this may seem like a two-horse race between #2 COOKIE DOUGH and #3 TALK VEUVE TO ME. I’m using both of the likely favorites, and I prefer the latter. She disappointed last time out when third as an 8/5 favorite, but that day’s winner has since come back to top stakes foes and is in very, very good form. I’ll give her another shot while also defensively using the other top betting choice.

Additionally, I need to have #1 FREE KITTY on my ticket. There’s a lot of speed in this race, and Free Kitty may very well be the race’s lone closing-type. The faster they go early, the more this consistent mare figures to like it, and she’ll likely be a square price.

Race 9: Galway S. (3-year-old fillies, 5 1/2 F, turf), 5:18 p.m.

Here’s where I’m going to go off the beaten path a bit. I’m only going two-deep here, and the horses I’m using figure to be prices. If I’m right, we’ll get lots of separation from most of the other tickets in play.

My top pick is #9 BOHEMIAN BOURBON. She was an okay third earlier this meet at this level, and once again, she figures to sit a great trip rating behind a hot pace. This turf course has not been very kind to early speed this meet, and the rider switch to Leparoux is certainly noteworthy.

I’ll also use #3 SISTER PEACOCK, who has yet to finish out of the money in seven career starts and cuts back to her preferred distance. In fact, she’s 4-for-4 at 6 1/2 furlongs or shorter, and this trip should hit her right between the eyes.

Race 10: Maiden claiming (older horses, 1 1/16 M, turf), 5:50 p.m.

As if the rest of this sequence wasn’t complicated enough, we finish with a wide-open turf race where very few of the runners have displayed much form. I’m going four-deep, and my top pick is #7 DURESS. He drops in class after finishing with some interest in his debut, where he was beaten just two lengths by the second-place finisher. He should appreciate the shallower waters.

I’ll also use #4 SANDY LANE KITTEN, #6 WILD WEEKEND, and #9 HIGHWAY FLYER. Of the possible spoilers, I’m most worried about class-droppers #2 HURRICANE JAKE and #10 LISBON, and I’m comfortable going against #12 SECULAR STAGNATION, who debuts for Chad Brown and seems like a bad favorite. He hammered for $250,000 back in 2017, debuts for a $40,000 tag, and draws a terrible post. I don’t mind going against him here, and if he beats me, I’ll live with it.


R6: 3,6,10

R7: 1,3,4,8,11

R8: 1,2,3

R9: 3,9

R10: 4,6,7,9

360 Bets = $180.

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