Saratoga Wagering Strategies for Opening Day: David Aragona’s Top Plays & how to bet them

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Race 3: Claiming $25,000 at 6.5 furlongs

This race is primarily composed of horses that are either dropping in class or whose best days are behind them. I can’t trust many of the short prices. Chipit (#2) has run faster than most and faced tougher company, but I’m always wary of these Todd Pletcher runners that are dropping in class. This allowance to claiming move is one of his weakest (71 trainer rating). The same goes for likely speeds John Eddie (#5) and Roll Tide Roll (#6), who beat up on much weaker foes last time. These two are both frontrunners and they figure to also face pressure from the rail-drawn speed type Match Up (#1).

The significant amount of speed in this field may set things up for a late runner. The one that I want is DETTIFOSS (#8), who is finally being dropped down to a level at which he can be competitive. The race ratings of his recent starts indicate just how tough some of those New York-bred N2X allowance races can come up. He’s been running semi-competitive speed figures in the 90s for quite some time, but just has not been able to break through at that more advanced level. Now he’s landing back in an easier spot against some suspect rivals and should get an honest pace to close into.

Win/Place:  8

Pick-3:  8 with 2,3 with 1


Race 5: Claiming $40,000 at 8 furlongs on turf

Contention runs deep in this $40,000 claimer, which features horses coming from a multitude of directions—in other words, it’s your typical Saratoga claiming race.

Among those worth considering are Marnesia Big Girl (#6), who gets a positive trainer switch to Linda Rice. She has obviously stepped forward on turf while facing fields of comparable quality down at Gulfstream. She is also getting a significant rider upgrade to Jose Ortiz for this race. I could also include Siralen (#5), who actually faced a decent field in minor stakes company at Canterbury Park last time and is being placed realistically by trainer Mike Stidham. Annie Rocks (#12) should be given some credit for losing her turf debut by only about 4 lengths against a strong field of allowance runners last time. She’s getting an interesting trainer switch to Jason Servis, but drew a difficult post position and may be hard-pressed to make the lead in a race predicted to feature a fast pace.

While there are clearly a few runners that I can make a case for, there are a couple of runners that I believe will offer the best value. One of those is NIGHT MADAM (#11), whose turf races are actually decent. Last time, she ran better than it appears when against the pace (note the fractions color-coded in blue) going seven furlongs. It’s tough breaking from post 11, but she should get a more favorable setup with the Pace Projector predicting a fast pace, and the price should be fair.

The other horse I want to use is ELEMENTSOFHARMONY (#1). There are a number of things working in her favor today. First of all, she’s making her first start off the claim for Mike Maker, who does exceptional work, earning a 95 trainer rating in this category. Furthermore, he’s getting her from a trainer that has had limited success with his turf runners, and now is confidently moving her up in class. She’s been working steadily for the past month or so and drew a great post position. She has the speed to make the early lead, but Joel Rosario may be content to stalk in a race that features other frontrunners. If Maker can get her back to her best form, she will beat this field.

[Update, 7/22 at 10:43 AM] Night Madam (#11) was scratched.

Win:  1
Exacta Key Box:  1 with 5,6,12


Race 7: Allowance N1X at 6 furlongs

Any race in which Bileaps and Bounds is participating is likely to feature a pretty quick pace, as is evidenced by the abundance of red in her running lines. This time she is likely to also receive pressure from other frontrunners, including Laxfield Road (#3), Apologynotaccepted (#5), and True Romance (#7). I’m hoping this abundance of early pace types sets things up for a late runner.

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I realize that ANNA RAE (#1) is slower than her competitors in terms of speed figures, but I think she could be sitting on a big race. Her first start off the layoff was decent enough, and last time she ran better than the 92 speed figure would suggest. She was compromised by a slow pace (color-coded in blue) that day and did well to stay on for third after a three- to four-wide trip. Now she has the pace scenario in her favor and returns to the scene of her initial breakout victory last summer.

Win: 1
Exacta Key Box:  1 with 2,5

Pick-4:  1,2,5 with 1,3 with 3,5 with 2,5,11,12,13
Pick-4:  1 with 1,3 with 1,2 with 2,5,11,12,13


Race 8: The Schuylerville at 6 furlongs

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In her debut, PLATINUM SPARK (#7) served notice that she is a filly with some talent. After taking an unusual amount of play for a David Donk-trained firster, she ran to that strong backing, professionally stalking the pace before taking over with authority in the stretch. Unlike some of her rivals in this race, she’s not a speed-crazed type. Rather, she comfortably stalked moderate fractions before finishing strongly through the stretch. Unlike some other fillies in this field, who defeated fields of unproven first-time starters in their debuts, Platinum Spark beat two fillies with experience. The seasoned demeanor that was on display in her debut should serve her well as she steps up to stakes company.

We could say many of the same things about Olive Branch (#1), who also beat Dixie Kicks and China Rider, the two fillies that finished just behind Platinum Spark, in both of their prior starts. Olive Branch was to be one of the favorites for the Astoria last month at Belmont, but she flipped in the paddock and was forced to be scratched. She was as impressive as any two-year-old debut winner we saw at that meet, but that is Rick Violette’s forte—winning with first-time starters. He’s far less successful with horses making their second starts (48 trainer rating) as well as with horses that broke their maidens last time out (61 rating).

The only other horse that we want to use in here is Lightning Dove (#3). This daughter of Uncle Mo was impressive in her debut victory at Keeneland, and was one of the top choices in the Astoria second time out. However, others outbroke her that day and she just spent the entire race getting shuffled out of position. She didn’t have much finish when she got clear in the stretch, but we still believe she’s better than that.

[Update, 7/22 at 10:43 AM] Platinum Spark (#7) was scratched, so I’m elevating the aforementioned LIGHTNING DOVE (#3) to my top selection.

Win: 3
Exacta Box: 1,3

Double: 1,3 with 3


Race 9: The Lake George at 8.5 furlongs on turf

Ancient Secret (#5) was installed as the morning line favorite, and deservedly so. She’s done absolutely nothing wrong through three career starts, and made the step up into open company last time when winning a deep edition of the Wild Applause. She’s never gone two turns before, which is of minor concern, but she acts like a tractable sort that should be able to adapt to any scenario. I have to use her out of respect, but she has received perfect trips in her last couple of starts and now must work out the same fortune against the toughest field she’s ever met.

Also likely to attract support is Chad Brown’s other filly, Elysea’s World (#2). She was visually impressive when winning her U.S. debut against allowance company two back, but disappointed when stepped up as one of the favorites in the Wonder Again last time. She didn’t have any discernable trouble in that race, save a minor bump at the top of the stretch, and I’m hesitant to give her another chance at a short price.

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 5.16.26 PMI would rather use Thundering Sky (#1), who lost to Ancient Secret by only a head last time and drew a great post position in a race that does not feature that many horses with early speed. I could even throw in European import Diamond Fields (#3), who our Timeform foreign correspondents noted was “well suited by the step up to [one mile], showing much improved form and unlucky to finish closer to the winner” in the always tough 21-runner Sandringham Handicap.

Our top pick is a different runner out of that Wild Applause.

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As a promising two-year-old in 2015, TIN TYPE GAL (#11) won both of her turf starts, taking a maiden race over this course before stepping up to win the Grade 3 Miss Grillo by a nose at Belmont last September. She was especially good in that latter effort, overcoming a wide run into the stretch to get up for the win. While she was defeated by a few of today’s rivals in her three-year-old debut last month, I believe she deserves another chance. That day, nothing went right for Tin Type Gal, who was rated far off a slow early pace (color-coded in blue) and then was forced to go extremely wide as she made her rally around the far turn. She was spun out even farther into the stretch, ending up somewhere around the six-path, but still closed resolutely to just miss third place. If she can save more ground under Jose Ortiz, I believe she’s talented enough to turn the tables and win this.

[Update, 7/22 at 9:32 AM] With the reported scratch of Tin Type Gal, I am going to upgrade DIAMOND FIELDS (#3), who I believe is a major contender in this race and may get lost in the wagering as horseplayers don’t realize that she actually classes up quite well with this field. She’s drawn a great post position and I like that the connections have named American rider Junior Alvarado.

Win: 3
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 1,2,5

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10 Responses to Saratoga Wagering Strategies for Opening Day: David Aragona’s Top Plays & how to bet them

  1. John Albano says:

    How do i get your daily selections with comments for Saratoga ?


  2. gib. says:

    Have a great meet David.


  3. henry hackel says:

    update picks after late scr”s and,track conditions change.(bias or weather)


  4. henry hackel says:

    in a short amount of time you have proven to me that your a winning player.


  5. Vin Nardella says:

    Best wishes for a great meet. You have already proven to me the value of incorporating your picks with my own. There have been several occasions where I have made them my own and looked brilliant in the eyes of my friends.


  6. Michael Troina says:

    I’m very strong on 5th race pick
    #11 Night Madam
    1st time JUNIOR on turf a high % move


  7. Aaron says:

    Well, David, it looks like it’s all or nothing on opening day to impress the last commenter. A lot of pressure. In the meantime, I’ll keep following you even if you don’t loom boldly all day Friday. Can’t win everyday. GL!


  8. Alsoran says:

    I like the boldness of these calls. I am going to assume you were not drinking when you made them, and play along…

    If they put on a good show, I will give your products a shot (and a good show does not mean they have to win). Heck, they just have to loom up, or bid then hang.

    It’s what I call, running with good intent (like Governor Malibu in the Belmont).

    I will add the 8 to your key box in the 9th and the 7 to your trifecta in the 3rd.

    Good luck to you!


  9. John campbell says:

    It looks like an Annie rocks Annamae parlay.


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