Key Races & Bets for Saturday June 8, 2024

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True North Stakes - Race 4 at Saratoga - Post Time 12:31 PM Eastern

Top Contenders: Rotknee
Other contenders: Accretive, Gun It, Gun Pilot

Gun Pilot, who won the Grade 1 Churchill Downs Stakes on Derby day at 5 to 1, opens as the even money favorite here. I know a morning linemaker’s job is to estimate what odds a horse will be at post time, and as such perhaps Gun Pilot will be the prohibitive favorite at post time but it’s odd because prior to that win, the colt won two allowance races and was runner-up in a non-graded stakes race. OTHER horses in the field have similarly good recent races, except they don’t have a graded stakes win, but they have run AS FAST.

Gun Pilot earned 102, 109 and 103 Equibase Speed Figures in his last three races and those are solid. However, Accretive earned 103 and 106 figures in his last two and a 108 figure last year in the Grade 2 Forty Niner Stakes when beaten a half-length for the win. Gun It earned a 106 figure three back and 105 last out when winning easily. Rotknee earned back to back 109 figures winning last May and June. All in all, setting aside the Grade 1 win, the 103 figure tells us the winning effort by Gun Pilot wasn’t any faster than the two most recent races Accretive or Gun It won, nor the two big races Rotknee won last year.

With Rotknee getting the two post and NO other horse in the field except Baby Yoda being a horse that likes to lead early, and since Baby Yoda is drawn outside, Rotknee should have the lead the same as he did when winning last month, or when winning last June when earning a 109 figure which is good enough to win. He has a win at Saratoga as well and Franco, who rode him for the first time last time out, rides back and is likely to use the same tactics. Last but not least, Rotknee absolutely loves to win, with 10 victories in 18 dirt races in his career.

Accretive missed by a neck to Baby Yoda last time out and gets a better pace scenario so has a shot to win, and in spite of Gun It having led from start to finish winning in his most recent race, he rallied from fifth to win earlier so he’s not a need the lead type.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Rotknee at 3 to 1 or more.
I might consider a win bet on Accretive and/or Gun It at 5 to 1 or more.

In this race there may be an opportunity for a mathematical edge by using a dutching tool, which prorates wagers for the best value. There’s a free dutching tool at, where you can set the amount you want to bet and the math is done for you to help achieve the best edge. This is just one of many tools, and perks, for bettors at

Rotknee over ALL
Rotknee over Accretive, Gun Pilot, Gun It
Box Rotknee, Accretive, Gun It

Suburban Stakes - Race 6 at Saratoga - Post Time 1:51 PM Eastern

Top Contender: Bendoog
For exacta and trifecta in second and third: Good Skate

Bendoog could be a low odds overlay and a standout single for doubles and other multi-race bets. He’s a Kentucky bred who ran 10 times in Dubai, winning twice, before coming to the U.S. last fall and finishing third. Something happened between then and his 2024 debut in April, as he ran a huge race to win by a head with a 104 figure. Improving again three weeks later, Bendoog opened up by five lengths at the top of the stretch then was geared down, but still earned a graded stakes quality 111 figure. He’s a sun of Gun Runner who has been in the money in five of six races at 1 3/16 to 1 ¼ miles so stretching out from a mile and one-eighth to this mile and one-quarter trip is no issue, and even just repeating that last effort, he wins in this field.

Good Skate was four lengths in arrears of Bendoog in that 4/28 race, but very game in holding second by a head. He was disqualified to third. He finished second at this 10 furlong trip in October and won at 9 ½ furlongs in February. He’s been first or second in 12 of 24 races on dirt and opens at 20 to 1 and should be good for second or third here so even if Bendoog is the prohibitive favorite we can profit from his winning and then from Good Skate finishing second or third.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Bendoog to win at even money or greater.

Bendoog over Good Skate

Bendoog over ALL over Good Skate

Race 6: Bendoog
Race 7: Soul of an Angel, Idiomatic, Raging Sea

Ogden Phipps Stakes - Race 7 at Saratoga - Post Time 2:36 PM Eastern

Top Contenders: Soul of an Angel. Idiomatic, Raging Sea

Randomized is a need-the-lead type on the rail. She’s a good horse but not this good, as she was second in both the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (behind Idiomatic) last fall, then second behind Soul of an Angel last month. She will go for the lead but so too will Tizzy in the Sky, who is right next to Randomized in the gate.

That puts prohibitive favorite Idiomatic in third early. She won the Delaware Handicap from fifth early last July and she won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff after racing in second for the first seven furlongs, so she can certainly win, as she has 10 times in 13 races. She won the Personal Ensign at this distance at Saratoga last summer as well.

That being said, Soul of an Angel and Raging Sea have the same probability to win in my opinion as Idiomatic, with both coming off career-best wins. Soul of an Angel moved to the barn of Saffie Joseph Jr., before her last race, her first ever in New York. That was the Ruffian Stakes and there is no doubt in my mind Joseph had this in mind when he entered her in that race. She was fifth of six early before putting in a huge move on the turn to take over and draw off, earning the SAME 103 Equibase Figure Idiomatic earned winning the La Troienne Stakes the same day last month. With Irad Ortiz, Jr. getting on for the first time it is easy to assume Soul of an Angel will run even better and so has a shot to post the upset.

Similarly, Raging Sea can improve off a career best 103 figure effort winning the Doubledogdare Stakes last month. That effort came following five months off so there is a lot of room to improve, particularly as she’s a four year old. Raging Sea has now won three in a row, two under Prat, who rides here, and she’s another who would be no surprise if running another career-best effort to win this race.

Handicapper Pick

Win: Soul of an Angel and Raging Sea can be bet at odds of 2 to 1 or more.
If both horses are above minimum odds this is another race where using the free dutching tool at Amwager will help us get a mathematical edge when wagering.

If playing any doubles, pick 3s or similar multiple race bets, we should use those two as well as Idiomatic.

Exactas: Soul of an Angel and Raging Sea over Soul of an Angel, Raging Sea and Idiomatic
There’s no value in playing Idiomatic on top of Soul of an Angel and Raging Sea (in my opinion).

Belmont Stakes - Race 12 at Saratoga - Post Time 6:41 PM Eastern

Top Contenders: (preference order) – Dornoch, Sierra Leone, Seize the Grey, Mystic Dan, Resilience

Dornoch and Sierra Leone showed their promise last fall when finishing first and second, respectively, in the Remsen Stakes at the distance of one mile and one-eighth, with the more experienced Dornoch re-rallying after being passed in the stretch. After he was given some of the winter off to mature physically and mentally, Dornoch made a splashy three year old debut winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes and earning a career-best 102 Equibase Speed Figure and controlling the pace from start to finish. In the Blue Grass Stakes, either new tactics were chosen to allow Dornoch to relax behind the early leaders, or the early pace was too fast for Dornoch and jockey Luis Saez, who had been aggressive early in each of the colt’s five of his previous route races, so Dornoch sat in fourth for most of the early part of the race and had no late kick. Then came the Kentucky Derby, where the rail post and a lot of traffic forced Dornoch to be taken back to 13th in the 20 horse field shortly after the start, from where he had no opportunity to show his early speed.

Within the makeup of this year’s Belmont Stakes, Saez can go back to being aggressive in the early stages, sending Dornoch to the lead as he did in the Remsen and in the Fountain of Youth. The only other horse in the field who may have any serious interest in the early lead is Seize the Grey, who led from start to finish for the first time in his career when winning the Preakness Stakes last month (with a 101 figure). It appears likely that if Seize the Grey is challenged for the early lead, jockey Jaime Torres (on Seize the Grey) will let Dornoch go past. From there it’s possible Dornoch could get into a steady stride similar to the one which resulted in three straight wins between October and March, possibly leading to the upset win if he can hold off Sierra Leone in the late stages.

Sierra Leone can be his worst enemy, as evidenced by how he ran in the Kentucky Derby when trying to lug in for most of the stretch run. He had shifted ground in the stretch previously when winning the Risen Star Stakes in February and when winning the Blue Grass Stakes, but in both those cases there was no horse near him when he did. It can be argued that if Sierra Leone had not spent some of the stretch run fighting his jockey and not wanting to run entirely straight, he might have won. Nevertheless, Sierra Leone earned a career-best 109 figure with that effort and proved this mile and one-quarter trip is one he can handle. With a jockey change to Flavien Prat, Sierra Leone may be the one to beat on paper, but the question remains can he catch a potential lone frontrunner like Dornoch in the final stages.

Seize the Grey has shown superb versatility in his last two races. He won the Pat Day Mile on May 4 when rallying from fourth with a quarter mile to go before winning the Preakness Stakes two weeks later when leading from start to finish. That effort earned Seize the Grey a career-best 101 figure and he’s on a pattern to improve as he earned a 91 figure in April before a 93 figure in the Pat Day Mile. If the pace scenario is such that Dornoch does make the lead going into the first turn, Seize the Grey can easily take up second position and if the early leader falters can have the lead turning for home. Given that he has proven tough in the final eighth of a mile in his last two races, Seize the Grey might also be capable of holding off the charging Sierra Leone for the win.

Mystik Dan repeated his rail running win in the Southwest Stakes (in February) when getting the same trip in the Kentucky Derby and was exceptionally game in holding off Sierra Leone and Forever Young in the final strides. He nearly equaled the 110 figure earned in the Southwest with a 109 figure in the Derby, then was no match for Seize the Grey down the lane in the Preakness, remaining two lengths back during the final eighth of a mile and earning a 97 figure. Mystik Dan fights hard nearly every time he runs and should be a factor in the late stages of the Belmont Stakes.

Resilience deserves honorable mention. In the Derby after starting out 18th of 20 he displayed a visually impressive mid-race rally moving up from eighth to second and within a half-length of the lead while six paths wide on the far turn. That rally came too early in the race, resulting in Resilience fading to sixth in the final stages. Nevertheless, it was the second race in a row since adding blinkers where the colt responded exceptionally well to his jockey’s instructions to move powerfully when asked. Jockey Junior Alvarado rode Resilience for the first time in the Derby and is more familiar with him now. Prior to the Derby, Resilience won the Wood Memorial with a career-best 103 figure and if he improves off his effort in the Wood Memorial he could have a say in the outcome in this year’s Belmont Stakes.

Handicapper Picks

Win: Dornoch can be considered for a win bet at 4 to 1 or more.
Seize the Grey, Mystic Dan and Resilience might be considered for win bets at 5 to 1 or more.

The first exacta we can play is with Sierra Leone in the win position, because his odds will be too low for a win bet:
Sierra Leone over Dornoch, Seize the Grey, Mystic Dan and Resilience

Optionally we can make the same bet as a trifecta, using the four horses in second and third with Sierra Leone on top.

Box Dornoch, Seize the Grey, Resilience
Box Dornoch, Sierra Leone, Seize the Grey
Box Dornoch, Seize the Grey, Mystic Dan
We are avoiding exacta combinations consisting of Sierra Leone and Mystik Dan, with those being two of the top three betting choices.

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Ellis Starr

Ellis is a well respected handicapper and contributor of AmWager. He has been a public handicapper for more than twenty years, educating racing fans of all skill levels with detailed commentary few other handicappers provide.

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