07/18/2012 8:02AM

Saratoga Opening Day - The Late Pick 4

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For a lot of racing fans across the country, for many east of Kentucky, and for almost every fan in the Northeast, Friday is one of the biggest racing days of the year. Friday is opening day at Saratoga.

I know I will succumb to the excitement and get involved on Saratoga’s opening day card with a little more gusto than usual. I always have. And since the advent of the Pick 4, I make a point of taking a swing opening day on the late Pick 4. I know that there are 39 Saratoga cards after this one. But I also know from experience that, after being down early some meets and up early in others, Saratoga is much more fun to play when in front. Hitting a Pick 4 is a great way to break on top, so since Friday is a very special occasion, let’s get into that late Pick 4.

Race 7 – This is a straight maiden for females going one mile on the tighter-turned inner turf course, and we’ll address some of the field in what is a spread race for me. Lanett Lady makes her U.S. debut for Christophe Clement with essentially a dirt/sprint pedigree, but Clement was so good at Belmont that I have to use this horse out of respect. Gloat was crushed on dirt in her only start, but she has a turf pedigree on the bottom (she’s a half to Parading) and trainer Shug McGaughey has been great on turf lately, so she’s a use. Colonial Empress is also turf bred, but I’m tossing her because there might not be much left of her after getting her head bashed in in stakes in her first five career starts. Opalite tries grass for the first time being a half to three turf winners and will be a price, so I’m throwing her in. Lily the Pink likes to run second (she has five seconds from nine starts), and she’s too talented not to break her maiden someday. I just hope Friday isn’t the day. She had no excuse losing last time out and won’t be much of a price. I’m using firster Done in Love, a pricey yearling buy from a barn that is especially sharp with firsters and first time turfers, and I’m also using Living My Dream, who I think will improve second time out and with more distance. And if Conquesta draws in, I will use her too despite having a tough outside post. I have my eye on her, because she is going to run big second time off the layoff.

Race 8 – The James Marvin Stakes, and Jackson Bend will be tough to beat as the heavy favorite. Jackson Bend is cutting back from a fifth in the Met Mile to the seven furlong distance at which he won the Grade 1 Carter two starts back. Jackson Bend also romped at this distance over this track last summer in this race, and the Grade 1 Forego. I know, I’m not thrilled about his price, either, but Jackson Bend is close to a single for me. With my heart in my mouth, I am going to take a shot against the admirable Cash Machine (Caixa Eletronica) because he was aided by a total pace collapse when he won the True North most recently. For a potential upsetter, I’ll use Crossbow in much smaller increments. I thought Crossbow ran okay when fifth in the True North considering he was coming off a layoff and was really rating off the lead for the first time. He is poised for a stronger effort.

Race 9 – Here is the Schuylerville, the traditional opening day Saratoga feature, and I am most interested in the three 2-year-old fillies breaking from the inside – Sweet Shirley Mae, Baby J, and Brown Eyes Blue. Sweet Shirley Mae is obvious. She scored over males in her only start, and the colt who finished second to her, Bern Identity, came back to win by almost 14 lengths with a strong 86 Beyer. Baby J also won her only start with a field-best Beyer of 84, was then purchased privately, and now makes her first start for Rick Dutrow. I have a feeling that Baby J might have been well sold, but I respect that figure and have to use her. I am very intrigued with Brown Eyes Blue, yet another first-out winner. What I find attractive about her is, when she scored at under 3-1 at Churchill, she did so at this six furlong distance, and over 11 opponents. Everyone else in this race has run at shorter distances, and against much smaller fields.

Race 10 – The first four horses you see in the past performances of this maiden claiming turf sprint are all first time starters. I am going to risk that none are the second coming of Hindoo, and they won’t be on my tickets. I am also going against Spring Warrior, who was claimed last time out for $65,000 and who is now in for a quarter. Although Spring Warrior’s new trainer, David Jacobson, is in the business of winning races, and this class move might well be an aggressive attempt to get a quick win at the meet, this is just too sharp a drop off an expensive claim for my liking. I will again use three: Top Position, who showed speed before tiring in his recent debut and who can improve not only off that, but also off the switch to turf, which he is bred for; Roheryn, who was competitive for a while in his recent debut against straight maidens and who now takes the biggest drop in racing into maiden claimers; and Momentum Investor, who also drops in against maiden claimers for the first time, and who moves to turf being a half to three turf winners.

To recap, Leg 1: Lannet Lady, Gloat, Opalite, Done in Love, Living My Dream, and if she draws in, Conquesta.

Leg 2: Jackson Bend, with Crossbow at about one-third strength.

Leg 3: Sweet Shirley Mae, Baby J, and Brown Eyes Blue, pushing Sweet Shirley Mae and Brown Eyes Blue and maybe using the latter in a couple of wacky backups.

Leg 4: Top Position, Roheryn, and Momentum Investor.