Champagne: How I'm playing Saratoga's opening day Pick 5

By Andrew Champagne, Special to HRN
July 11, 2019 03:21pm

Opening Day of the Saratoga meet is always a fun occasion, and in this case, it marks the beginning of a new daily column here on Horse Racing Nation.


I’ll be here each racing day to discuss the NYRA Pick Five (usually covering the last five races of every card) and offer a ticket. NYRA recently opening up this wager to all comers was a terrific move, and if you hit a few of these during the meet, you’re likely to walk away with a much thicker wallet.


Thursday’s sequence starts in the sixth race and includes a pair of stakes (the Schuylerville and the Quick Call). I’ve got a $60 ticket to dissect. Before we get started, a heads up: I’m assuming all races carded for turf stay there, and there is a chance of rain. If there’s a surface change, adjust your handicapping accordingly.

RELATED: Thursday's Saratoga entries and results


On with the show!


Race 6: Allowance (5 1/2 furlongs, NY-breds, turf), 4:03 p.m. ET

This race boils down to one question: How much do you trust an entry that will likely be favored, yet was last seen running seventh and eighth at Belmont? I’m using #1 MAGICAL TALE and #1A VETERANS BEACH. The class drop should help, but I find it very hard to get overly enthusiastic about either colt.


My top pick is #9 PIPES, who comes back to turf in his first start for Graham Motion. He ran well at this route a season ago, seems to have only gotten better since then, and should get an ideal stalking trip. I’m also going to throw in #4 FLED, who finally got on turf last time out and crushed a weaker group at Laurel Park. This is a jump in class, but they’d been trying to get this horse on turf for a while, so maybe it’s finally getting a chance to do what it wants to do.


Race 7: Allowance/optional claiming (1 1/8 miles, older fillies/mares, turf), 4:39 p.m. ET


My best bet of the day runs here, and I imagine she’ll be a popular single in most multi-race exotics. That’s #4 GIANT ZINGER, who has raced well against graded stakes company of late. She was third in both the Sheepshead Bay (G2) and the Orchid (G3) before tiring to finish seventh in the New York (G2), and this seems like a much softer group. She’s 7-5 on the morning line, and I think she’ll run to those odds.


Race 8: Grade 3 Schuylerville (6 furlongs, 2-year-old fillies), 5:15 p.m. ET


Now the fun starts, because I’m going to try to beat #1 SHIPPY. To be clear, if she repeats her debut effort, I probably lose. However, the rail isn’t ideal, and it’s worth noting she’s only had one work since that win at Laurel. She was sold and sent to new trainer Doug O’Neill, and while she may just be a freak, I think there are other options in here that are more appealing.


#8 AURELIA GARLAND cruised home in her unveiling back in May for trainer Wesley Ward. When Ward gets a 2-year-old on the right track, they tend to stay there, and I think she’s the one to beat. I’m also going to use #9 KISS THE GIRL, whose debut didn’t quite come back as highly-regarded by the Beyer folks. However, she’s got two very good drills since that race, and the Pletcher/Velazquez duo can’t be dismissed lightly.


Race 9: Grade 3 Quick Call (5 1/2 furlongs, 3-year-olds, turf), 5:51 p.m. ET


Going a bit light in the first three legs allows me to spread in the last two. This was by design, as the Quick Call is an incredibly difficult race. If #6 CALL PAUL takes to the turf, he likely wins, but his turf pedigree is just OK, so there’s no way to gauge that with any real confidence. I’m using him, but I’ll go elsewhere for my top selection.


#1 ABYSSINIAN hasn’t run a bad race and comes in off a bullet workout at Keeneland. She’s got plenty of speed and should take advantage of her inside draw, so I’m giving her the slight nod. I’ll also use #2 ELEKTRONIC, #4 LISTING and #10 SOMBEYAY. Hopefully I’m going deep enough in what turned out to be arguably the best betting race on the card.


Race 10: Maiden claiming (1 1/16 miles, older fillies/mares, turf), 6:25 p.m. ET


I’m going four-deep to finish this out, and it’s tough to have too much confidence in any of these runners. I settled on #4 CLADDAGH’S RUN as my top pick. She’s coming off of a second-place finish at Belmont and may get a fair amount of pace to run at. That race was just her second career start, and she ran into a few next-out winners in her debut at Gulfstream, which is also a point in her favor.


Of the other returning runners, I most prefer #8 ENCORE KITTEN and #9 TO A FRIEND. I’m also going to use #5 DARLING OF THE SPA, a Chad Brown trainee making her debut as a 4-year-old. Chances are she’s had some issues on the way to the racetrack, but the workouts are OK, this barn must be respected, and she may not have to be all that much to beat this group.


The Ticket


R6: 1,4,9

R7: 4

R8: 8,9

R9: 1,2,4,6,10

R10: 4,5,8,9


120 bets = $60


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