Other Side of the Coin: Avoiding Super Trainers in Saturday’s Late Pick 5

Each week of the 2023 Saratoga meet I will be writing about one Pick 5 sequence which I feel could pay big. Less about handing out picks, I’ll be discussing why I think the sequence is ripe for a windfall and how I am structuring an efficient ticket around a contrarian approach. These spots are what makes horse racing the best wagering game out there.

There’s no better feeling than being on the other side of the coin, so let’s dive in with Week 6. The Late Pick 5 at Saratoga on Saturday, Aug 19.

One Ticket To Rule Them All

You’ve done your handicapping, now it’s time to structure your opinions for Saturday’s Late Pick 5 at Saratoga.

Everywhere you turn in the sequence there is a super trainer you want to avoid when constructing an aggressive ticket chasing a big score. Fade them all?

One ticket ruled them all in Wednesday’’s Pick 6, paying $611,475.50. Take a look at the lineup of winners and notice what is missing.

Race 4: 12-1 ML paid $7.20 as the 2nd choice of seven. Trained by Tom Amoss and piloted by Dylan Davis. (Off the turf)
Race 5: 10-1 ML paid $36.00 as the 8th choice of nine. Trained by Rudy Rodriguez and piloted by Flavien Prat. (Turf)
Race 6: 4-1 ML paid $7.60 as the 2nd choice of seven. Trained by Bill Mott and piloted by Junior Alvarado.
Race 7: 15-1 ML paid $37.20 as the 5th choice of eight. Trained by Rudy Rodriguez and piloted by Jaime Torres.
Race 8: 2-1 ML favorite paid $8.50 as the 2nd choice of nine. Trained by Christophe Clement and piloted by Joel Rosario. (Turf)
Race 9: 5-1 ML coupled entry paid $14.60 as the 5th choice of seven. Trained by James Bond and piloted by Junior Alvarado. (Off the turf)

  1. ​​No Chad Brown, Todd Pletcher, Brad Cox, Wesley Ward, Larry Rivelli, or Linda Rice horses won. These are the conditioners who the masses are afraid to fade because they win so regularly. Fading them in multi-race wagers separates your ticket from many.
  2. No Irad Ortiz Jr. 
  3. Not one favorite won, though three “second-choices” got it done.
  4. The morning line favorite Silver Skillet won Race 8, though he was sent off as the 2nd choice. There was more value in using Silver Skillet than met the eye. It was easy to see that this filly had a perfect trip last time and she was faded by many public handicappers. This created an interesting situation that landed her on the opposite side of all this–Silver Skillet was the favorite everyone was trying to beat.

Specifically, Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown have the most entries but Brad Cox has three live ones as well. Defensive betters will have their hands full trying to decide which Pletcher or Brown horse not to use. Both of the races where these barns make up the majority of the fields have interesting alternatives that are not obvious. A.k.a. the other Todd Pletcher. But be careful because they will not separate you from the crowd as much as their morning line suggests.

Contentious Alabama

The centerpiece of the card is also one of the reasons we want to take a swing in this sequence. The Alabama has a field of ten and it’s hard to separate nine of them. Four seem likely to be used heavily and five others each seem like viable alternatives if tickets are being structured with value in mind. In other words, it would be hard to get any true separation in this leg. Though we can get skinny where others will spread, opening up our budget to “unhaveable” horses in other legs. 

Also, if any filly wins the Alabama besides Wet Paint, it will not zap the value out of the winning tickets, so it becomes a single or spread-deep race in most bettors’ minds.


Here’s a breakdown of the high winning percentage trainers in the sequence, which we want to avoid as much as possible, and the horses I see as separators who are live to win.

Race 7 The Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes 1 1/6 miles Turf 

Four from Chad Brown, two from Todd Pletcher, one from Brad Cox. (One from Brendan Walsh completes the field).

Because of the predicted fast pace, tickets will likely lean towards closers, making #1 Heavenly Sunday (6-1), #3 Gloria’s Princess (9-2), and #6 Soviet Excess (15-1) horses bettors will look to toss. Although #8 Prerequisite (9-2) gets Irad, I do think his running lines suggest he will be a victim of a meltdown assuming the pace heats up, so he will be less of a landmine than a quick glance would suggest.

Race 8 Dirt 1 Mile OC 80k/C 3YOs & up fillies and mare

Linda Rice, Chad Brown, Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott–one each

If they try to beat Nostalgic it will likely be with Gerrymander.

#5 Royal Take Charge (10-1) Al Stall, Gutierrez
#6 Mosienko (10-1) Dennis Lalman, Saez
#8 Misty Veil (6-1) seems sneaky but the Irad factor makes this Mike Maker entry less of a separator. 

Race 9 The Grade 1 Alabama Stakes 1 1/4 miles Dirt

Three from Todd Pletcher, two from Chad Brown, and one from Brad Cox.

#5 Fireline (12-1) seems to be a wise guy pick and will not offer as much separation as the morning line suggests. Note morning lie oddsmaker Aragona picked him on top.

#4 Sabra Tuff (30-1) seems like the only true separator horse in this field. I suggest looking for separation elsewhere, or … single. But be all good with turning the page if he doesn’t win

Outside Wet Paint, I think it is safe to lean on any strong opinion, so single away.

Race 10 Turf 1 Mile OC 62k/N2X 3YOs & up

Two from Chad Brown.

Given Verbal’s recent troubled trip and the presence of Irad, many will single, but if they don’t Napoleonic War will be the play.

#1 Duke of Hazzard (8-1) Dutrow, Carmouche
#4 Storm the Court (8-1) Amoss, Dylan Davis
#8 Floki’s Flight (15-1) Romans, Santana

Race 10 Dirt 5 1/2 Furlongs Md 40000 3YOS & up statebreds (off the turf)

One from Cox and one Linda Rice

What ticket won’t have Henson on it? Many handicappers will simply tire by the last race and say damn I hate singling in the last leg but this Cox horse looks unbeatable. Especially since it’s off the turf. If you use Henson, you need to make sure you have taken some hard turns away from other tickets in previous legs. 

It is hard to find separation in the last leg given how many bettors have that strong desire to at least be alive to some will pays. Single Henson if you believe he can do it. If not, here are the horses that will not give you separation because they are the logicals bettors will gravitate towards:

#1a Petrolo (5-2) Bond, Torres uncoupled
#4 Heronenadonly (10-1) Goodwin, Greenidge
#8 Kern River (3-1) Maker, Franco
#12 Spoofy (8-1) Baker, Santana
#14 Blue Plate Special (2-1) Rice, Jose Ortiz 

Pace Scenarios

The age-old question about why a trainer entered two when one will do will rack bettors’ minds and wreak havoc on some tickets either causing them to spend too much or to simply toss altogether as opposed to deciphering which Chad Brown horse of the four who all ran about the same figures last time is the best.

Or they will simply lean on another factor such as pace to decide.

Four of the five races have notable pace scenarios. Races 7, 9, and 10 all have a lot of speed signed on and the pace looks to heat up. Race 8 it’s the opposite as Gerrymander is projected to have an easy lead on a dirt course which was very favorable to forward efforts on Friday, as well as all meet.

I do think there is a horse that will muddy the pace picture in Race 8, a leg where bettors will be looking to single Nostalgia, or go as deep as Linda Rice, Chad Brown, and Todd Pletcher. I want to single here too, but single one of two separators I will build my ticket around.


As always, what you do in one leg should inform what you do in the others when constructing an efficient Pick 5 ticket, especially when chasing a big score. 

Here’s how I will be playing the sequence

50-cent Pick 5 4 x 1 x 5 x 1 x 5 = $50

R7: #1 Heavenly Sunday (6-1) Beating the Favorite but using 1 Chad 1 Pletcher 1 Cox
#3 Gloria’s Princess (9-2)
#6 Soviet Excess (15-1)
#8 Prerequisite (9-2) 

R8: #5 Royal Take Charge (10-1)  Separation

R9: #3 Julia Shining (5-1) Beating the Favorite but using 2 Todds and 1 Chad
#5 Fireline (12-1)
#7 Gambling Girl (8-1)
#9 Taxed (8-1)
#10 Defining Purpose (10-1)

R10: #4 Storm the Court (8-1) Separation

R11: #1a Petrolo (5-2) Beating the Favorites (Cox & Rice)
#4 Heronenadonly (10-1)
#5 Okaloosa (5-1)
#8 Kern River (3-1)
#12 Spoofy (8-1)

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