Photo by NYRA/Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand
Closing weekend at Saratoga kicks off this afternoon with a terrific card highlighted by four graded stakes races, including the $750,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I). These four races will comprise an all-stakes Pick 4 that looks like an intriguing handicapping challenge, in part because the presence of a few short-priced favorites could lead to chalky results.
With that in mind, let’s go over the Pick 4 sequence with an eye on limiting our tickets to a total cost of $30. For additional insight, you can check out the Saratoga Handicapper’s Sheet available for free from Brisnet.com, while James Scully of Brisnet.com has shared his Pick 4 plays on the TwinSpires.com blog.
Saranac Stakes (gr. III)
In a race where some bettors might be inclined to go deep, I’m tempted to take a stand and single the 8-5 morning line favorite #4 Bricks and Mortar. Trained by Chad Brown, the unbeaten son of Giant’s Causeway is 4-for-4 so far and has used his tremendous turn-of-foot to win both the Manila Stakes at Belmont Park and the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga with fantastic finishing fractions. The latter effort was particularly noteworthy as Bricks and Mortar raced closer to the early pace than usual but still finished the final five-sixteenths of a mile in :27.79 per Trakus. This colt looks like a star in the making (maybe even a serious Breeders’ Cup Mile contender) and I’m willing to bet that his brilliant stretch kick will allow him to keep his unbeaten record intact this afternoon.
Spinaway Stakes (gr. I)
There are only five starters in this seven-furlong race for two-year-old fillies, but narrowing down the field isn’t easy. Todd Pletcher’s #4 Pure Silver is unbeaten in three starts and cruised to a 9 1/2-length win in the Adirondack Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga last month, earning a career-best 92 BRIS speed figure. But she could face a stiff challenge from Chad Brown’s #1 Separationofpowers, who won a six-furlong maiden race at Saratoga on July 30th by 11 lengths with a 96 BRIS speed figure, and if these speedy fillies wear each other out on the lead, #3 Lady Ivanka could be a threat from behind after rallying to break her maiden by eight lengths at Saratoga with a 91 BRIS speed figure. #5 Maya Malibu is another late-runner to consider, as she looked great breaking her maiden at Delaware Park by six lengths for trainer Graham Motion. She might not be as fast as the favorites on paper (she earned an 81 BRIS speed figure in her debut), but she’s bred to run longer and could show improvement off that eye-catching debut.
I don’t really want to use all these fillies in the Pick 4, but with so little established form to go on, I’ll spread in this race and use all four in varying strengths, pressing Pure Silver and Separationofpowers on larger-denomination tickets since they’ll be short prices.
Woodward Stakes (gr. I)
It’s hard to look past #2 Gun Runner, a three-time Grade 1 winner that enters off a very easy win in the Whitney Stakes (gr. I) last month over the same track and distance as the Woodward. At 2-5 on the morning line he isn’t the most appealing play from a wagering perspective, but he’s facing just four rivals in the Woodward and figures to work out a perfect trip. He’s also earned triple-digit BRIS speed figures in his last seven U.S. races (including a 112 in last year’s Grade 1 Clark Handicap) and has a nearly 20-point edge in the Prime Power rankings. It’s not a creative opinion, but we’ll single Gun Runner on our main tickets and hope that he delivers at a short price.
We’ll also use the Todd Pletcher-trained pair of #1 Neolithic and #3 Rally Cry on one backup ticket, as both colts have shown flashes of significant talent (Rally Cry earned a 109 BRIS speed figure while winning the Alydar Stakes over this track and distance last month), and in the event that Gun Runner should falter, these two should be poised to take advantage.
Glens Falls Stakes (gr. III)
After playing for chalk in the first three legs, we’ll hope to end the sequence with a 15-1 upset from #5 Grateful. I’ve made an in-depth case for her on my Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners (click here to read), but in essence, I believe Grateful is poised to work out a perfect trip setting or stalking a very slow pace. She’s only three years old, but she’s beaten older mares twice already while showing great versatility in running style, and jockey Manny Franco excels at posting gate-to-wire upsets in turf routes. Few of the older mares in this race have ever earned a triple-digit BRIS speed figure, yet Grateful–despite her young age–earned a 101 for her allowance win at Saratoga last time out.
My confidence in Grateful is high enough that I’d consider her a possible single if I were going deeper in the earlier legs of the Pick 4, but since we’re not, we’ll also include #4 War Flag (runner-up in the Grade 3 Matchmaker Stakes last time out), #6 Estrechada (winner of the 1 1/2-mile Grade 3 Waya Stakes at Saratoga last month), #2 Lottie (runner-up in the Waya), and #7 Sarandia (sixth in the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes and a very accomplished runner at the 1 3/8-mile distance of the Glens Falls).
Saratoga All-Stakes Pick 4
$2.00 Pick 4: 4 with 1,4 with 2 with 5 ($4)
$1.00 Pick 4: 4 with 1,4 with 2 with 2,4,6,7 ($8)
$1.00 Pick 4: 4 with 3,5 with 2 with 5 ($2)
$0.50 Pick 4: 4 with 3,5 with 2 with 2,4,6,7 ($4)
$0.50 Pick 4: 4 with 1,3,4,5 with 1,3 with 4,5,7 ($12)
Total cost: $25.00
Good luck to all!
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