09/17/2016 8:21AM

Hersh: How I'd play the Woodbine Mile card


The major action on the Woodbine card Saturday comes late in the day, the 12-race program closing with the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, a major prep for the Breeders’ Cup Mile and a race that includes one of the best horses in the world, Tepin. There are two other stakes in a pick five that begins with race 8, and I’ll take a swing at that as well as the late pick four spanning races 9-12. I have one other play earlier on the card.

The early play comes in race 4, the Grade 3 Ontario Derby, in which I will bet Zero Hour (#3) at anything close to his 8-1 morning-line odds. There’s a chance he’s bet below fair value with a $1.4 million auction price still showing and hailing from the Mark Casse barn, and you can’t take a short-ish price on a third-time starter going from a maiden race to a Grade 3, but I was very impressed with his seven-furlong win last time and think he will improve going longer.

Race 8, the Canadian Stakes, will have Dacita (#2) as something shorter than a 2-1 favorite; she might even be closer to even-money than 2-1 and will be used similarly in multirace pools. Sea Calisi was probably better than she showed two starts ago, and last out she barely won a blanket finish over her favorite course, Saratoga. There are new challenges here, and I don’t believe Dacita is anything like a slam dunk, though I will use her equally with Faufiler (#1), Strut the Course (#4), and Rainha Da Bateria (#5). Strut the Course will be overlooked despite having won this race last year and might just now be coming into her best form at her favorite distance.

Race 9 is a type of race I don’t like, an optional-claiming maiden where you can run for a lower purse than a regular maiden special weight and not enter for a tag but have the option of entering for a tag, too. So, unless it’s a question of timing, where a decent horse just happens to be ready, you’re dealing with animals their connections don’t think are maiden special weight material.

Just Reno (#6) has never been in such a race, and, in fact, his lone start outside of maiden special weight competition came in an allowance race. His synthetic form is pretty solid, and he seems to me the most likely winner at a fair price. He’s one of three As, along with Butler’s Pick (#2), whose entry second out for the claiming option is at least a pink flag, if not red. Second-timer Archer’s Triumph (#10) wasn’t bad debuting on turf and drops from a straight maiden special weight while not entered for a price. Three “B” backups include a very shaky favorite, Sir Bronx (#8).

:: WOODBINE MILE: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live

Race 10, the Northern Dancer Turf, is where I take a stand, and I’m singing Danish Dynaformer (#8). He’s an improved and improving 4-year-old and strikes me as the “now” horse in a group where all the name runners seem to be down-sloping. World Approval could get loose and be dangerous, but I’m hoping Danish Dynaformer keeps in him in range.

Race 11 is the toughest nut in the sequence, in my opinion. Wish I could go deeper, but will live with just two As and two Bs. The Bs are the shorter prices in this N1X main-track route allowance, Divine Sonnet (#9) and Seeking the Bay (#10). Given their running styles, both risk getting hung wide on the first turn, and neither has a lot of room for error.

The two I like best are first-off-the-claim Csonka (#7), who is blinkers on for a barn that does very well with newly claimed runners, and Milwaukee Mist (#3), whose win last out in his Woodbine debut and first start for trainer Roger Attfield was better even than it looks on paper. That was turf, but he has old all-weather form that suggests a successful transition is possible.

Finally, the Woodbine Mile, race 12. I’ve taken Mutakayyef (#2) to beat Tepin (#8), but there is no way I’m getting through four legs of the pick five, especially with a ticket that has a lot of price options, and getting knocked out by Tepin. No way. Both are As. I toyed with using the other two Euros, Arod (#3) and Mr. Owen (#7), as Cs but will live or die with the top two choices – if I’m lucky enough to get that far.

The 50-cent pick-five play costs $80, a fairly big investment for a bet-a-little-to-win-a-lot kind of player like me. I’m playing it and also will try the late pick four, which, because it eliminates the race in which I have four As, can be played on a much lower budget for $20.

Here’s a link to the pick-five play in DRF’s invaluable TicketMaker. And here’s a link to the late pick-four play in TicketMaker:

Good luck!