Each week of the 2023 Saratoga meet I will write 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 make horse racing the best wagering game out there. Let’s dive in with Week 1, covering the Late Pick 5 on Saturday, July 15.
The sequence includes two graded stakes with the Kelso (G3) for older turf routers and the juvenile sprint Sanford (G3). A quick glance at the PPs for the Sanford and I know two things: the 3-5 morning line favorite #9 Gold Sweep trained by Steve Asmussen will be singled on most tickets, and this is a textbook horse to fade. Even better, the Kelso features two horses that will take a ton of action and a horse from my trip notes who is in the best form of his career.
If the favorites get beat in both of these legs, the majority of the tickets will be cooked. I’m going to take a swing.
First I want to talk about the Sanford and the Kelso because these are the two legs where I see the big opportunity to be on the other side of the coin.
Race 9 $175,000 Grade 3 Kelso Turf 1 mile 4-year-olds and up
The morning line favorite in the Kelso is #2 Annapolis (9-5); right behind him is #8 Casa Creed (5-2), who I guess will be shorter than that in the win pools and the Pick 5. I wouldn’t be shocked to see either of those two win–they have class, form, and crème de la crème connections. The temptation here is to be defensive, using one or both, especially knowing that if Gold Sweep loses in the Sanford, the payout could still be worth the wager. But I do feel they will both be underlays and there is a horse I love based on his trip last out in the Poker (G3). #7 Anaconda (6-1).
In the Poker, Anaconda spotted the field two lengths, expended energy pulling his rider up into the hunt on the backstretch, had to be grabbed hold of losing momentum and a length. In the homestretch, he had run but no lane but then galloped out in front. The pace looks to be hot, and Anaconda will benefit from closing into the tiring leaders. Single.
#7 Anaconda (6-1)
It is an aggressive move, but by taking a stand, I stay true to my handicapping opinion while being efficient in my ticket construction.
Race 10 $175,000 Grade 3 Sanford Dirt 6 furlong for 2-year-olds
The Sanford is for 2-year-olds, and in juvenile races, bettors tend to overvalue one strong race, ignoring the fact that young horses are maturing more everyday and often take giant steps forward from race to race. They also can hit their ceiling early and burn bettors’ money from there on out.
Yes, Gold Sweep’s Beyer figures tower over the competition, but this is a field of ten 2-year-olds with no more than two races under their belts. Jumping up 16 points between his first and second race, a regression from Gold Sweep is as likely as another step forward. It’s not hard to imagine a handful of his foes rising to the occasion. Horses with running lines like his get bet to smithereens, and as a rule, if I can readily make a case against an underlay favorite, I will attack because of the overwhelming value of beating a horse like this.
I will fade Gold Sweep completely and use #1 Call the Calvary (8-1), #2 Jive (12-1), #3 Dickens (8-1), #4 Yo Yo Candy (15-1), #7 Triple Trea (10-1), and #10 Market Street (12-1).
I’m spread to six horses and the challenge becomes getting skinny in the other legs. Immediately I begin thinking, the last thing I want is to be right about the 3-5 losing, but still not cash. But I recognize this as another form of defensive ticket structure. When I attack like this I want to be willing to put a bigger ticket together if need be.
First Leg: Race 7 OC 62k/N2X Turf 5 1/2 Furlongs 3-year-olds and up
The first leg is a turf sprint with two Wesley Ward entries (#1 Playlist 2-1 and #2 Bombdiggity 12-1) and one from Christophe Clement (#4 Breese Easy 9-5). There are none better than these two at training turf sprinters, and the two short prices will be on the majority of tickets. Rightfully so. I can also make a case for #3 Bowl of Cherries (6-1) and #7 Tracy Ann’s Legacy (10-1). I’ll be using five here, choosing to get lean with singles in two other legs.
#1 Playlist 2-1, #2 Bombdiggity 12-1, #3 Bowl of Cherries (6-1), #4 Breese Easy 9-5, and #7 Tracy Ann’s Legacy (10-1).
Second Leg: Race 8 Md Sp Wt 88k Dirt 7 Furlongs 3-year-old and up statebred fillies
Anyone could take this race, and I don’t want to overthink it by getting skinny in this leg simply for the sake of getting skinny with no real handicapping opinion behind my tosses. There are seven in the field of 11 that I like, and I will use each. I’m playing to capitalize on the public overbetting specific horses in the two stakes, and I want to keep that in mind in the other legs as well.
#5 Bon Adieu (10-1), #6 Island Rose (6-1), #7 Sweet Liberty (8-1), #8 Foxy Cara (5-1), #9 Neigh Jude (5-1), #10 Ichiban (4-1), and #11 Mim (6-1).
Last Leg: Race 11 Md Sp Wt 136k Turf 5 1/2 Furlongs
We’re faced with another maiden race in the finale–a turf sprint on top of it. There is a dangerous Welsey Ward morning line favorite on the rail. I can make a case for a handful of others who might take a nice step forward, but Ward’s #2 Beer Man (2-1) not only has the top figures and the right to improve off the last, he also has the pace advantage and I project he will wire the field. Single.
#2 Beer Man (2-1)
50-cent Pick 5 = $87.50
The opportunity here comes from recognizing that the majority of tickets will go through either Annapolis and Casa Creed in the Kelso or Gold Sweep in the Sanford. We want to play sequences where we know we can find a strong spot to be on the other side of the coin from the betting public. This is not being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, but rather shifting our perspective to measure the opportunity of the sequence, and dive in if it’s too good to pass up. For a minimal amount of risk, I can put myself in position for a windfall that will make my year.