Saratoga: How I'm betting the opening day early Pick 5

Saratoga: How I'm betting the opening day early Pick 5
Photo: NYRA

It will be a special moment to see fans back in the grandstand when Saratoga opens on Thursday, and those who are able to capitalize on the lucrative pools and strong wagering opportunities will have even more to smile about on one of the best racing days of the year.

Click here for Saratoga entries.

There is no better way to start the meet than by cashing in on a competitive opening Pick 5 sequence. Below I analyze the first five races on Thursday and put together an economic ticket under $25.

Race 1

Hammerin Aamer (#9, 5-2): Robertino Diodoro tends to bring very live horses to the start of the Saratoga meet, and it should be no surprise to see him saddle the two morning-line choices in the opener. Among his two runners, I prefer this 7-year-old warrior who looks to have been claimed specifically for this spot. He is very consistent at this $12,500 level and should sit a nice stalking trip on the outside. Nothing against the cagey Oscar Barrera barn, but this horse should improve while making his first start for Diodoro. Some bettors may be attracted to the fact that Irad Ortiz Jr. jumps aboard Diodoro's other entrant, but this horse's rider, David Cohen, is the barn's go-to jockey.

Race 2

Speedometer (#9, 9-5): Steve Asmussen will look to get on the board early at Saratoga with this promising filly. She had a tough trip while green in her debut and should greatly benefit from that experience and an outside draw on Thursday. The well-bred daughter of Tapit will be a handful with only slight improvement.

Microbiome (#4, 5-2): This filly outworked maiden winner and Schuylerville entrant Cartel Queen, tipping her hand as a nice 2-year-old filly. She has to prove it in the afternoon, but she is working like a good prospect for Tom Amoss, who strikes at 26 percent with debut 2-year-old dirt sprinters.

Race 3

So Suave (#7, 5-1): This European import has been getting caught on very soft ground and should appreciate a firmer turf course on Thursday. She has been competing at the best tracks in Ireland and deserves respect while picking up Lasix and Irad Ortiz Jr. for Christophe Clement, who does well with foreign runners.

St. Joe Louis (#9, 8-5): This is a low price to take on a maiden winner, but he looked awfully good while making his first start in blinkers last out at Belmont. And once Chad Brown gets a runner right on the grass, they tend to continue to get better and better.

Point Me By (#6, 6-1): Eddie Kenneally's colt put forth a powerful rally to win going away on debut and is bred to thrive at longer distances. He did not take much wagering support at Churchill Downs, but he sure won like a horse with a bright future.

Race 4

Evidence Based (#3, 8-1): It was a bad sign that a $375,000 purchase trained by Chad Brown was dropped in for just $50,000 in start number two, but maybe blinkers were all she needed? The 3-year-old filly won very impressively that day and was claimed by Wayne Potts. It is tough to improve a horse off of Chad Brown, but she appears to have upside and a good style for this race.

Ocean Air (#12, 7-2): She usually shows up with competitive efforts for Christophe Clement and is a deserving favorite in a race lacking a standout. She will have to work out a trip from post 12, but her two efforts at this level may be good enough to win in this spot.

Rose E Holiday (#5, 15-1): Those who like Ocean Air at 7-2 should consider this filly at 15-1. She had a strong progressive pattern in her first three starts, including losing by less than a length to Ocean Air in her first try on grass. Her last start was poor, but at this price it is worth taking a chance that she will snap back to her best form from off the pace in a race loaded with speed.

Claddagh's Run (#1, 10-1): She took a while to get going but has rattled off two wins in a row since adding blinkers. This is a big step up in class, but she is far too sharp to ignore while picking up John Velazquez.

Race 5

Solasta (#6, 4-1): Irad Ortiz Jr. picks up another live mount to start the meet aboard this touted Jeremiah Englehart filly. This $300,000 daughter of Goldencents is related to three runners who achieved at least a 90 Beyer Speed Figure in their career, including the fantastic G1 sprinter Mia Mischief. Englehart is 21 percent with 2-year-old debut runners at Saratoga in the last five years, and her strong works match her great breeding.

Lady Scarlet (#3, 5-2): As good as Solasta looks, it is hard to leave a runner with experience off of the ticket. This Brad Cox filly ran a nice second on debut and now picks up Luis Saez. She could be long gone on the lead for a trainer who clicks at 30 percent with second-time-starters.

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