Champagne: Mostly off turf in Thursday's Saratoga Pick 5

A Saratoga monsoon hit upstate New York on Wednesday, turning the Spa into an absolute quagmire. It rained so hard that I expected they'll be off the turf Thursday when handicapping, and that's the case for the late Pick 5 sequence aside from the featured Riskaverse Stakes.


I wish I could tell you how much this ticket costs. However, it’s entirely dependent on how many horses draw into the last race, which is tough enough on turf and hit me as downright impossible to handicap in the event of a surface switch. Here’s how I’ll play it.


Race 6: Maiden special weight (2-year-olds, 1 1/8 M), 3:30 p.m. ET


I love that NYRA has brought these races back to Saratoga. It gives 2-year-olds bred for distance over precocity a chance to strut their stuff, and some solid horses used these races as springboards to bigger and better things over the years.


The Mark Casse-trained entry of #1 LUCKY CURLIN and #1A ENFORCEABLE looks tough. I prefer the latter, a full brother to Mohaymen who had a deceptively rough trip last time out on turf. He’s run well on dirt before, and I think he’ll embrace this route.


I’ll also use a pair of Todd Pletcher trainees. #5 COWTOWN and #6 PORTOS are both bred up and down for distance, and while it’s tough to win going long at first asking, both debuting runners have works that hint at major potential.


Race 7: Maiden special weight (older fillies/mares, NY-bred, 1M, off turf), 4:02 p.m. ET


I’ll be going three deep and using a trio of main-track-only runners.


My top pick is a first-time starter. That’s #8 DEEP SPACE, who’s been working well for Bill Mott and catches a weak field due to the surface switch. In case she isn’t ready to run right away, though, I’ll also throw in #13 NASTY AFFAIR and #14 LADY MACHO, both of whom have every right to improve off of races run earlier in the meet.


Race 8: Optional claiming (older horses, NY-bred, 1 1/8 M), 4:34 p.m. ET


I’m going to go against the grain a bit here, as I don’t like the top two choices on the morning line. Both #3 BLUGRASCAT’S SMILE and #5 STORM PROPHET haven’t won in a while, and they’re a combined 1-for-12 over wet tracks (which they’ll likely face to some degree here).


I’ll focus on the two inside runners. #1 CALCULATED RISKER loved mud and has come back to form for trainer Ray Handal, while #2 FIERY OPAL does his best running around two turns and won at this route earlier in the meet before finishing third in a sprint at Parx. I’m hoping to get a bit of a price home, and if I can do that, a bunch of tickets figure to get knocked out.


Race 9: Riskaverse S. (3-year-old fillies, 1M, turf), 5:06 p.m. ET


Because this one's remaining on the grass, Chad Brown holds a strong hand. #6 CATCH A BID may be a popular single, but I was very impressed by the debut of #8 NEW AND IMPROVED earlier this summer. She had a horrible break and was forced wide, yet circled the field and won with something left in the tank. She might be a good one, and we may get a bit of a price, so she has to be on the ticket.


Race 10: Maiden claiming (older horses, 1 1/8 M, turf?), 5:38 p.m. ET


There are 11 horses entered into the main body of the field, plus three main-track-only runners. Obviously, as the race moves to dirt, there will be scratches.


With that in mind, I have no problem punching the “ALL” button. If I get to this point, I’d rather have security than try to find a winner in a race with very little proven form signed on to begin with, let alone with a race moved to the main track. If you want to take a swing at this, go right ahead. Because my ticket is pretty slim in the earlier legs, I don’t have to, and I’m pretty happy about it.


The ticket:


R6: 1,5,6

R7: 8,13,14

R8: 1,2

R9: 6,8

R10: ALL


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