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 1. The Late Pick 5 on Wednesday, July 26.
Some sequences pop out on their own fairly quickly as good opportunities for a big score. Whether it be a first-time starter with a million-dollar price tag or a juvenile sure to be overbet off a big race, a first reading of the entries is all it takes to know we’ve got one to fade. Others take a full undressing. Wednesday’s late Pick 5 is the latter.
How I Begin
Before diving into handicapping, I survey the card for field size, short-priced favorites, overbet trainers who are underlays in multi-race wagers, and coupled entries. These are all situations that if I can make a case against fairly easily or instinctually, then I will dive in. Next, I look in the opposite direction: are there long shots that I like? I begin with horses I’ve got trip notes on who are given long odds in the morning line. Then I look for strong contenders who are either trained or ridden by low-win percentage connections. Bettors have a hard time putting their money behind these horses, which often creates overlays in the multi-race wagers. This is the type of edge I can work with. And this is what we have in store for us in Wednesday’s sequence.
The gist of my first glance is I am looking for spots where I can see the same thing as everyone else but react to it differently, a.k.a. separation. Wednesday’s late Pick 5 is different. There’s nothing I see too obvious in any of these areas, but in my handicapping, I began to see the light.
Before scratches, it’s 7 x 9 x 7 x 10 x 12. With three turf races: the second leg is a turf sprint with a classy Wesley Ward at 5-2, and the last two are wide-open turf routes with a 5-2 coupled entry from Madaket, but half the entry is an also-eligible waiting to draw in. The first and third legs are dirt routes, which feature the two shortest prices in the morning lines, a 2-1 and a 9-5, both trained by Linda Rice. Read last week’s piece for more thoughts on Linda Rice horses being stripped of value.
Making the Case for Underbet Connections | Letting Go of Underlay Trip Horses
Let’s start at the top.
Both Races 6 and 8 are two-turn routes and the favorites are likely going to be veteran horses who have never attempted two turns on dirt–only gone long across Aqueduct’s and Belmont’s one-turn configurations. Both fields have horses shipping in from Finger Lakes, which carries a negative psychological bias I know I can exploit. These shipper horses have had success going two turns and are in good form, but are also a touch light on speed figures, class, or both, making the situation more in my favor because people want the facts, and my angle will be on supposition: going two-turns evens the playing field between those that will be favorited and those that will be tossed, and their figures will converge. Knowing all this, we can position ourselves to be on the other side. The handicapping case is there to be made, we just need to be bold enough to back it up with a bet.
Race 7 is a turf sprint headlined by Arrest Me Red. Fading Wesley Ward horses in turf sprints is dangerous business, but I have a strong opinion about Our Shot. One big question is who in this field will take the lead and Our Shot has had two recent breaks where he had no shot to punch through immediate traffic. Saez is up and none better at quickening out of there to get forward. Singling in a turf sprint and against Ward, I know there is value in this opinion.
Race 9 and Race 10 have spread written all over them. Big fields in route turf races. There is one horse in each field that has had obvious trip trouble everyone will be hip to. Such Sounds in the penultimate and Your Mission in the finale. I know a trip horse will lose value if either it was plain as day and called out by the announcer or if it is listed in the comments on the PPs. If it’s in the PPs, it’s in the price. And that’s the case for both of these. Their value in the Pick 5 will be less than it is in the win pools.
As you can see there are some landmines in this sequence.
My Main Handicapping Opinions
When I build a Pick 5 ticket I want to have a clear understanding of my reasons for attacking the pool, and I want to structure my ticket accordingly. Here are my main handicapping opinions in the sequence.
- There are contenders in three legs who offer value based on the negative psychological bias about the class of horses shipping in from Finger Lakes and/or the obscurity of their connections.
- Linda Rice has entries in here that I believe will be bigger underlays in the Pick 5 than in the win pools.
- On paper it looks like several presser types have a shot at getting the lead in the turf sprint, but I’ve found a horse with trouble out of the gate not listed in the comments, who I believe will get the lead.
- There are trip angles on horses in each of the last two legs that will be baked into the price. Likely overbaked.
- These last two legs are wide open and most tickets will spread.
How do I build a ticket that extends from all this and is built to ensure that if it hits, I will get a multiple of my bet which justifies exposing my capital to the high risk inherent in the Pick 5?
Here’s my answer:
Race 6 Dirt 1 1/8 miles allowance n1x for 3-year-old and up statebred fillies and mares
Single #4 Shesascoldasice (10-1). Shipping in from Finger Lakes and stretching out, she’s got success at two turns and Wednesday is a great day to take a shot at Toga. I’ll fade the logicals who have not proven themselves going two turns.
Race 7 Turf 5 1/2 furlongs optional claimer for 3-year-olds and up
Single #2 Our Shot (7-2). Doesn’t need the lead, but has a better shot at wiring this field than pace projectors are giving him.
Race 8 Dirt 1 1/8 miles allowance n2x for 3-year-old and up statebred fillies and mares
I’ll use both shippers who have had success at two turns. #3 Eros’s Girl (8-1) offers more value in the Pick 5 than the other #6 B B’s Busted (4-1) because the #6 has strong figures. Using both doubles my ticket price, but still, being a shipper I believe this horse carries a negative bias and will still offer value in the Pick 5, justifying the cost.
Race 9 Turf 1 3/8 miles Allowance n1x for 3-year-old and up fillies and mares
Here’s where things get tricky. There are four in the field with trouble listed in their comment line. There are two, both on the AE list #11 Anatolian (6-1) and #1a Olkovskha (5-2) who I upgrade off their last effort and it’s not spelled out in the PPs. I obviously want these horses to draw in. And I want the #1 to scratch, decoupling the two.
It is hard to flush a trip note down the toilet. We watch hours of races for these things, but the truth is we do it for value, not simply for a handicapping angle. If the value isn’t there, then a rose by any other name–we are getting caught up in an underlay. That being said, a horse like #6 Such Sounds (6-1) will be on many tickets, but in light of my aggressive opinion in the two dirt routes, if we clear those early hurdles, we’ll be in a position to make a big score with all these trip angle horses. Mainly because there is also a Chad Brown entry who although is 5-1, is the top pick and even best bet from many public handicappers. We can beat that out-the-back closer #4 Siempre Elegante.
I will temper my aggressive approach in this leg because I know my ticket is 1 x 1 x 2 up to this point, singling a 10-1 in the first leg, a 7-2 in the second, and using the third and sixth choices in the other.
Spread: #2 Out of Sight (12-1), #3 Rhombique (10-1), #6 Such Sounds (6-1), #7 Elle Est Forte (4-1), #9 Sister Bridget (15-1), and #10 I’m So Sorry (6-1). If they draw in #11 Anatolian (6-1) and #1a Olkovskha (5-2).
Race 10 Turf 1 1/16 miles $40k maiden claimer for 3-year-old and up statebreds
#2 Druid (30-1), #12 Waflr (10-1), and #14 Zapruder (6-1) AE
#11 Your Mission (4-1) has been burning money at the windows and I think with the obvious poor starts two races in a row, he’ll be the most-used horse in this leg. If I do believe he is going to win, then I might single. I like #14 Zapruder (6-1) who is stepping up but needs to draw in. What about #2 Druid (30-1)? A half-sibling to Red Knight, trained by Gabriel Goodwin who only has four lifetime wins in her short training career. To be piloted by the apprentice Elijah Greenidge. He ran his best last out in his first start as a 5-year-old and will certainly be overlooked. If I get here and are alive to him, I could sweep the pool if he gets it done.
#12 Waflr (10-1) is also a big contender. Watching that last race the way he was asked heavily from the back of the pack with no shot at finishing in the money after being out-paced at a sprint distance and then proceeded to gallop out in front like a rocket shooting by the leader. That was a prep if I ever saw one. Lightly raced and poised for a big step forward. The opportunity is there for one of these bombs to get it done, ensuring my ticket is only one of a handful.
50-cent Pick 5 = $24
R6 #4 Shesascoldasice (10-1)
R7 #2 Our Shot (7-2)
R8 #3 Eros’s Girl (8-1), #6 B B’s Busted (4-1)
R9 #2 Out of Sight (12-1), #3 Rhombique (10-1), #6 Such Sounds (6-1), #7 Elle Est Forte (4-1), #9 Sister Bridget (15-1), and #10 I’m So Sorry (6-1). If they draw in #11 Anatolian (6-1) AE and #1a Olkovskha (5-2) AE
R10 #2 Druid (30-1), #12 Waflr (10-1), and #14 Zapruder (6-1) AE