At most places, Wednesday cards consist of shorter, lower-quality fields than you’ll see on weekends. Not so, however, on the 11th day of the Saratoga meet. The races comprising the late Pick Four boast a combined total of 41 betting interests, and that’s not even counting the also-eligibles that could run in the event of a scratch. If you’re playing that sequence, good luck; if you hit, chances are you’ll be rewarded handsomely!
MONDAY’S RESULTS: I thought Winston’s Chance was worth a look in the exotics in the seventh, but at no point did I think he was beating my best bet of the day, Minsky Moment. Unfortunately for my Pick Four ticket, the Finger Lakes shipper got an easy lead and held on. After scratches, we dropped $24.
WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: If #3 CARINA MIA fires anything close to her best shot in the ninth (the Shine Again Stakes), every other horse is running for second money. I’ll hope to get a smidgeon of value out of that one by singling her in $10 doubles that end with #5 IMPERFECT UNION, #7 MARCH X PRESS, and #9 PURELY LUCKY in the 10th.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30
Best Bet: Carina Mia, Race 9
Longshot: My Man Jax, Race 5
Alcazar de Maram
INVOCATION: Has not run a bad race over hurdles since coming to North America four back and jogged home by 16 when last seen in My. His consistency gives him an edge; ALCAZAR DE MARAM: Won his seasonal debut on the flat at Parx and merits respect for one of the top steeplechase trainers in the country. He’ll need to beat winners to take this, though, and he hasn’t done that before; UNSINKABLE: Hit an iceberg here last year when beaten 81 lengths as an odds-on favorite. He hasn’t won since, but he was nosed by a next-out winner when last seen at Parx.
Sound the Horns
AVAST MATEY: Makes his New York debut after spending the first part of his career in Florida. The new surface is a concern, but he’s been working lights-out at Belmont and here ahead of this race and he should be prominent early; TOP BRASS: Drops down in class and is 2-for-2 over fast dirt tracks. These connections must be respected, but the limited worktab off the layoff is a bit of a red flag; SOUND THE HORNS: Looked great when topping winners last out at Presque Isle. This field is likely better than what he beat that day on a synthetic track, but a repeat of that effort likely gets him a piece of it here.
Harlan Punch (MTO)
ASTOUNDING: Has found his niche on turf of late. His win two back was sharp, and he followed it up with a solid second when rating off a very slow pace. That day’s winner, Kantune, came back to run well a few days ago; SHAMCAT: Has done very little wrong since going to the grass earlier this year. His lone win to date came going two turns, and he gets such a route this afternoon; CARBON DATA: Ran well to win a key maiden race two back and was likely compromised by a fast pace when favored last out. He shouldn’t have to go nearly as fast early on in this spot. DIRT SELECTIONS: HARLAN PUNCH, GOING STRONG, ASTOUNDING.
NORTHERN SCREAMER: Is in career form, having won four in a row heading into this event. This barn hasn’t run many to this point in the meet, but the record says the ones they send out are well-meant; LADY PARADIME: Drops back down to the right level after clunkers against better in each of her last two starts. She was a good second at this route against comparable horses last summer; BON HEIR: Drops down into the straight claiming ranks second off the layoff. She was 8/5 in a stakes race two back, and her best race would be competitive here.
Borsa Vento (MTO)
Let’s Get Loud
My Man Jax
LET’S GET LOUD: Tries two turns for the first time and has the pedigree to love it. He was a decent third behind a pair of next-out winners in his seasonal debut and should improve off that performance; MY MAN JAX: Was second in each of his first two races, which were both turf routes. Those can be tough spots to run well in early on in a horse’s career, and this barn has had a stellar year to this point; NINETY ONE ASSAULT: Gets a two-turn route of ground, and many of his best races have come at that configuration. Hesitation to bet him to win is logical given his prior money-burning ways, but he merits a long look underneath. DIRT SELECTIONS: BORSA VENTO, RIVER DEEP, FASTLANEFRONTMAN.
DEVINE UNION: Gets my top pick in a race where I could make a case for most runners. She was so-so as a 2-year-old, but her worktab of late shows she may have taken a big step forward ahead of her 3-year-old debut for powerhouse connections; TIZ SUPER: Faltered when bet in her debut last year, but she came back running last month at Belmont. She was beaten just a length and appears to have come out of that race well judging by the recent drills; OPINED: Ran into some classy runners last year and held her own. She may be favored, but I think she wants more ground than she gets in this spot.
Good Luck Gus (MTO)
STARTUP NATION: Just missed in a swiftly-run mile race at Belmont in what doubled as his return off a year-long layoff. He won a Grade 2 here in 2014 and has knocked heads with plenty of top turf runners, and there should be plenty of pace to set up for his late kick; IRON POWER: Makes his first start for new trainer Linda Rice and drops down in class. He hasn’t won in a while, but was aggressively-spotted by his previous connections and may appreciate the class relief he gets here; NEVISIAN SKY: Got a perfect setup in his turf debut and stopped the timer in less than 1:20 for the seven-furlong distance. This distance and trip is an unknown, but the faster they go early, the better this one will likely fare. DIRT SELECTIONS: GOOD LUCK GUS, JET BLACK, JOHN’S ISLAND.
Just Got Out (MTO)
HOMELAND SECURITY: Won going a mile and a quarter in just her second career start, which is very difficult to do. She’s bred up and down to want to go as long as possible, and she gets my top pick in what I thought was the toughest race of the day to handicap; LUCKY LONG: Could be the only horse in this field with any early zip. She was beaten less than two lengths two back by Morticia, a multiple stakes winner. The blinkers come off, which is often a good sign for a horse with tactical speed; CHURCH SOCIAL: Was a good second at a similar level and route downstate. Rosario getting off this one raises some eyebrows, but Jose Ortiz getting on is intriguing. DIRT SELECTIONS: JUST GOT OUT, HOMELAND SECURITY, FLOWER VALLEY.
Going for Broke
CARINA MIA: Boasts a metric ton of back class and gets away from the divisional heavyweights in her first start for Chad Brown. Not having to chase the likes of Songbird and Paulassilverlining should be a big help, and her best race would likely crush this group; CLIPTHECOUPONANNIE: Ran a clunker last time out, but I think you can toss that race. It came over a very tough surface to run on, and she may have bounced off a nice win at this level two back; GOING FOR BROKE: Was second behind Songbird in last year’s Alabama and makes her seasonal debut here. She may want more ground, but her one-turn mile efforts from last year were sharp, and her back class could mean a nice check in her return to the races.
Big Expense (MTO)
IMPERFECT UNION: Is the only horse in this field with a turf start under her belt. She showed early speed that day for a barn whose horses often need a race to get going. That foundation could be a big help; PURELY LUCKY: Is a half to two stakes winners and has a chance if she’s anywhere close to as precocious as her siblings. She goes out for a barn that excels in turf sprints; MARCH X PRESS: Is a Todd Pletcher trainee with a turf pedigree. He’s a half to Harlan’s Honor, who won a stakes race going short on the sod as a 2-year-old. DIRT SELECTIONS: IMPERFECT UNION, BIG EXPENSE, DATS HER.