This weekend contains the first jam-packed Saturday card of the 2022 Saratoga racing season. The 11-race program includes a pair of graded stakes races, the Grade 1 Diana and the Grade 3 Sanford.
Honestly, though, the back half of the card hits me as extremely chalky. I think there’s far more value in the earlier races, so I’ll focus on the early Pick Five. My ticket costs $30, and here’s how I’ve put it together.
Out of the chute in the opener
Maiden claimers will use Saratoga’s new Wilson chute to kick off the proceedings. There are some very expensive horses who have dropped very far down the class ladder, and I’m going three deep.
No. 5 North Pole is my top pick. His last-out effort was far and away the best race he’s ever run, and his tactical speed should be an asset here. A repeat of that 77 Beyer Speed Figure he posted last time out will probably get him the money here.
I’ll also use No. 1 Never Change and No. 2 Readyseekgo. The former takes a big drop for Todd Pletcher, while the latter goes long for the first time and sure looks like the main early speed in this event.
Going against the chalk in the second
I don’t like No. 4 Quick Munny, the 3-1 morning line favorite in this starter allowance. She got a picture-perfect trip to break her maiden last time out, and I think she’ll face far more opposition early on here.
I prefer No. 7 Chloe Rose, who loves Saratoga and should get an ideal journey sitting just off the pace. She hasn’t won in a while, but blinkers will go back on, and I think those may help her focus. Additionally, No. 6 Tea Olive goes up in class second off of a long layoff, and that’s noteworthy. Rather than running her in a claiming race, Wesley Ward (a very aggressive trainer) is protecting her here. I see that as a vote of confidence.
My best bet of the day
I cannot get cute in the third race. No. 4 Robyn and Eli may be the shortest price of the sequence, and for good reason. She exits a near-miss in a stakes race at Belmont in what was her first start since December. She adds Lasix for the powerhouse Chad Brown operation, and any sort of a move forward would make her very tough to beat.
Two turns, two deep
Chad Brown also trains the favorite in the fourth, a $40,000 claimer for older horses going nine furlongs on the main track. I’m using that one, but there’s another I think you need to consider, too.
No. 2 Higher Quality ran very well to break his maiden two back at Aqueduct. However, he misfired in his first start against winners, and perhaps that’s why Brown is dropping him in for a tag. However, that two-back win was his first start in more than a year. I see the last-out clunker as a bounce, and I think he’ll return to form here.
If he doesn’t, I think the most likely winner is No. 8 Cryo, who’s shown he runs well going two turns. He’ll stretch out to that route on dirt for the first time since last summer, and I think he’ll appreciate it.
Going against Chad Brown in the payoff leg
For my money, the fifth is the best betting race of Saturday’s Saratoga program. It’s a state-bred allowance race, and I’m going five deep against two Brown runners who figure to take money.
No. 8 Shutters has been off since October and training at Monmouth Park with Brown’s “B team” of sorts. No. 10 Marinara Sauced, meanwhile, wouldn’t be a complete shock, but has drawn a terrible post and, if that one is well-meant, why is Brown running two?
No. 9 Rally Squirrel is my top pick. Both of his wins have come in two-turn turf races, while his starts this year have come over one-turn configurations at Belmont. He’s been competitive in those events, and I think he will move up here.
Having said that, as mentioned, I think many horses can win. My ticket also includes No. 3 Front Line Dancer, No. 4 Little Maddy Brown, No. 5 Mr. Kringle, and No. 7 Spettro. Little Maddy Brown is 30-1 on the morning line, but I think there’s reason to believe he’ll move up on turf. He’s a five-time winner at Finger Lakes and can go long, and it’s often telling when a Finger Lakes rider comes in for one mount.
The $30 early Pick Five ticket
R1: 1, 2, 5
R2: 6, 7
R4: 2, 8
R5: 3, 4, 5, 7, 9