08/08/2006 12:00AM

Free's Del Mar plays for Wednesday, August 9

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Picking winners has never been easier at Del Mar. Three weeks into the summer season, favorites have won more than 40 percent of the races (62 of 154).

As for finding winners at overlay prices, well, that has been a little more difficult. Perhaps you noticed.

The temptation is to abandon "overlay" wagering strategy and try instead to find a few winners. That will not happen here. This column will continue to seek horses with a winning chance and inflated odds.

There was only one play Monday. Daisyifido finished dead last at 22-1 in race 5; Fantastic Event scratched from race 6.

So it is on to week 4; on to Wednesday.

Many suggested plays the first three weeks have not reached the minimum odds, which is why the average amount wagered has been only $35. Therefore, there is no guilt to going "over budget" by a few dollars, including Wednesday's suggested plays that total $60.

Wednesday, August 9

Race 5

Few class levels in Southern California are more distrustful than the maiden-40 starter allowance condition. The group is filled with counterfeits that were lucky enough to win one race, and too short on ability to win another.

It is a good spot to back a longshot on pedigree, and Cristofi (12-1) fits the bill. The 6-year-old was sired by one of the best grass sires in California (Unusual Heat). He goes long and switches to grass, and at the maiden-40 condition there is really no one to fear. Cristofi can be played at 9-1 or higher.

The bet: $20 win Cristofi (minimum odds 9-1).

Race 6

This is the strongest, deepest field of older Calbred maidens assembled in some time. That is good. It means a logical contender might slip through the cracks. Buddyandrowdy drops after a neck loss to open company, and he enters as the most likely winner.

But the most likely overlay is a second-time starter who is a half-brother to three stakes winners. Dr. Sinatra finished a modest fourth in his debut, and with a clean start he might spring an upset. He is 12-1 on the line, and a bet at 6-1 or higher.

The bet: $20 win Dr. Sinatra (minimum odds 6-1).

Race 8

Six furlongs is the breaking point for cheap speed in 2-year-old maiden-claiming races. At this distance, juvenile front-runners often fade. It is a good distance to back a closer such as Suisse Movement.

She is 6-1 on the line, stretching out from five and a half furlongs, and a bet at 3-1 or higher.

The bet: $20 win Suisse Movement (minimum odds 3-1).

Back on Thursday.

Total wagers previous day: $25.
Total return previous day: $0.
Total win/loss previous day: minus $25.

Total wagers for meet: $635.
Total return for meet: $0.
Total win/loss for meet: minus $635.