Saratoga Wagering Strategies for Thursday: Analyst David Aragona’s Top Plays and How To Bet Them

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TimeformUS Top Plays For Thursday, August 4th
By TimeformUS Analyst David Aragona
>Go To TimeformUS PPs for this racecard 

Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at 6 furlongs

I don’t fully trust some of the more lightly-raced runners in this race, a few of which are all but guaranteed to be short prices. Those include Indulgent (#8), who disappointed at a short price first time out. She did make a middle move leaving the backstretch, but badly flattened out late in a fairly weak race. I’m even less enthusiastic about Catsadiva (#5), since Todd Pletcher gets just a 66 trainer rating with 3YO and older first-time starters.

Instead, I’m more interested in the most experienced runner in the field. That would be MIDNIGHT VISITOR (#4), who started three times as a two-year-old before being put on the sidelines. She has solid two-year-old form to fall back on, having earned some of the fastest speed figures of any horse in this race while facing some talented runners last year. I acknowledge that Ron Moquett does not have the strongest numbers with runners coming off layoffs, but I do think it’s a good sign that he’s starting her in a tough Saratoga maiden race off the bench. In a field where I have little confidence in horses that are going to take money “just because,” at least this filly has already run well and is sure to be a fair price.

Win/Place: 4

Exacta Key Box: 4 with 2,3,5,8

Double: 4 with 1,6

Double: 2,3,5,8 with 6


Race 5: Starter Allowance $55,000 at 5.5 furlongs on turf

There is surprisingly little turf form to go on in this race, and many of the competitors have never even raced over this surface. I want to focus on the two proven turf runners that have already shown they fit at this level. One of those is Tizanillusion (#1), who will probably go favored.

However, I prefer the higher price, COSMIC TALE (#6). When they met last time at Belmont, Cosmic Tale was returning from a lengthy layoff and making her seasonal debut. She was keen early, showing uncharacteristic early speed. She appeared poised to make an effective run in the stretch, but she was stymied in behind horses. Manny Franco tried to dive down to the rail at the eighth pole, but she encountered traffic there, too. This filly handled today’s shorter trip at Saratoga last summer and Charlton Baker gets a 93 trainer rating with runners making their second starts back from a layoff.

Win: 6

Exacta Box: 1,6


Race 7: Claiming $40,000 at 5.5 furlongs on turf

While I’m generally reluctant to take short prices on horses that we successfully cashed bets on at much larger prices in their prior races, there are too many signs pointing to BARRIER TO ENTRY (#10) for me to pick against her today. Those that remembered that this mare was once an effective turf sprinter before her career was derailed by poor management were rewarded when she finished second at 17/1 last time. That was her first start on turf in many months and she showed no signs of rust, running to a strong second-place finish behind Aussie Prayer, who came back to win her next start. Now, not only is she getting another chance in a turf sprint, but she’s getting a positive trainer change to Linda Rice, who excels in these situations (94 trainer rating with horses making their first starts off a trainer switch).

Win/Place: 10


Race 8: Optional Claiming $62,500/N2X at 11 furlongs on turf

Songoficeandfire (#9) will be favored in this spot off a close third-place finish in a very oddly run race at Belmont Park. There will be more pace for her this time, but she’s stuck in an outside post position and I believe she faces a serious foe that’s much more advantageously drawn down towards the inside.

That filly is JOYFUL HOPE (#2), who makes her U.S. debut for Christophe Clement. As a three-year-old filly in Italy, she was second in the Premio Oaks d’Italia behind Lovelyn, who went on to establish herself as one of the best fillies in Italy last year. Joyful Hope showed good tactical speed in those races and she should be able to attain a forward position under Joel Rosario from this inside post. Christophe Clement gets a 100 trainer rating with overseas shippers as well as with runners making their first starts on Lasix.

Win: 2

Exacta Box: 2,9

Double: 2-3


Race 9: The Quick Call at 5.5 furlongs on turf

The Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring horses on or near the lead, which is supposed to help favorite Too Discreet (#9)Holding Gold (#7) made a successful turf debut at Woodbine last time, earning an eye-catching 117 speed figure, and even Don’t Be So Salty (#5) must be feared off the trainer switch to Linda Rice, who gets a 94 rating in these situations. All of these runners can certainly win, but I think there’s a rising star in this three-year-old turf sprint division that can make a major impact on this race.

COMMEND (#3) only broke his maiden by three-quarters of a length last time, but he was much more dominant than that margin of victory would suggest. The pace was not in his favor and he was forced to angle wide around a tiring runner before making his late rush past the field in the final furlong. Bill Mott does a great job with his turf sprinters overall (80 trainer rating) and can win right back with runners that broke their maidens last time out (93 trainer rating).

Win: 3

Exacta Key Box: 3 with 5,7,9

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