The first few days at Saratoga are always exciting. Most of us wait for the meet all year long and when it comes, we are more than ready no pun intended.

The first stake of the meet, the two-year-old filly fixture The Schuylerville provided an upset as Gary Contessa took it with a maiden first time starter at a big price. Saratoga is known for prices but at times the meet tends to start chalky and then produce prices later as things move on. If the first stake was any indication of things to come that trend may not hold up this year. That’s good news for horseplayers.

If you think takeout is not important in this game you’re mistaken. It is. For those who like to know you may want to note the following:

There is a 15% takeout on the pick 5 at Saratoga but a 24% takeout on the pick 4. The pick 5 despite having an extra race is a much better play in the long run. The pick 3 and carryover pick 6’s is 24% as well. I fail to see the logic in raising the pick 6 takeout on carryover days, but it is what it is. The industry has done all they can to kill the pick 6 why stop here. Triples and superfectas are also at 24%. Daily doubles and exactas are at 18.5%. The math and benefits are easy to follow.

It will be pretty tough to get past the favorites in all 3 stakes on Saturday, The Diana, the first Grade 1 of the meet, The Sanford, and The Kelso. That said it is unlikely all 3 win so we will look at a few alternatives to In Italian in The Diana, Gold Sweep in The Sanford and Annapolis in The Kelso.

In Italian won this race last year and looks primed to win it again. She is fast and can make or stalk the pace. She likes the course at The Spa and is a multiple Grade 1 winner. There is really no knock on her here and Irad can probably clear this field and make every call on top. Given that she’ll be 2-5 or thereabouts. Two of the five in there have some upside potential. Marketsegmentation is improving into a serious grass filly but so far she appears to be getting better with more distance not less and she cuts back here. That leads me to Whitebeam as one with a potential upset chance.  She was good and showed a lot of promise across the Atlantic and improved in both starts for Chad since arriving here. She won The Gallorette Preakness weekend going away in what turned out to be a key race. Irad sticks with In Italian the likely winner, but Whitebeam gets Prat and she may be in the garden spot should the favorite falter. Again, there is plenty of upside here.

Annapolis looks like he will get a great set up and pace scenario in The Kelso. He’s good and Irad has another favorite to work with here. He loves Saratoga and if there is a knock, I don’t see it unless you count price as a knock. It looks like he will get plenty of pace to stalk and close into. Filo Di Arianna did all the heavy lifting last out in The Poker only to lose by a neck in the last jump. I bet him that day thinking he’d clear the field but instead he was pressured the whole way. He knows where the wire is and maybe Jose Ortiz can work out a trip for him.

The Sanford will showcase Gold Sweep who looks flat out faster than any of his two-year-old rivals at least at this point. With babies’ things can change quickly and horses can make big moves forward or backwards. I thought Triple Trea was interesting. He will try the dirt for the first time and the Bolt d’ Oro’s have been doing great. He will get an extra furlong to work with and has one of the strongest finishers in the game in the irons in Luis Saez. If he handles the dirt, or better yet moves up on it, he should be running late.

Make sure to catch Saratoga Saturday every Saturday of the meet on Past the Wire TV. We’ll have selections, plays against, behind the scene stuff, news and more.

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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