12/15/2011 5:45PM

How to play Saturday's Fair Grounds pick four


Few horses on Saturday’s card at Fair Grounds jump out as great win wagers by my typical handicapping criteria. In many cases, I found horses whose merits were already reflected in relatively short odds on the morning line.

Rather than make a few selected win plays on the card, the preference here is to shoot for a rewarding play in the late pick four, a wager at Fair Grounds that can be bet in 50-cent increments.

Two of the four stakes Saturday at Fair Grounds are part of the late pick four – the Blushing K.D., which is the ninth race and first leg, and the Sugar Bowl, the 10th race. The Blushing K.D. is for older mares routing on the grass, and the Sugar Bowl is for 2-year-old males sprinting six furlongs on dirt.

Following is a look at the pick four and how I have ranked horses using the A-B-C format of DRF’s Ticketmaker program that is available for free at DRF.com.

“A” horses are prime contenders with strong winning chances; “B” horses are mild threats; and “C” horses are those with outside shots or are intriguing longshots.

Fair Grounds pick four

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Race 9 (The Blushing K.D.)

I’m not expecting any surprises here, with Ravi’s Song (No. 1)  and Cherokee Queen (No. 2) appearing to be standouts and therefore ranking as “A” runners. Ravi’s Song has strung together three straight Beyer Speed Figures in the 90’s while racing in graded stakes company, and Cherokee Queen is a two-time stakes winner this year who drops in class after an eighth in the Grade 1 Vinery First Lady.

Knowing an upset or two can cause a gimmick ticket to blow up, two other fillies will be used on my tickets: win machine Pleasantly Blessed (No. 6), who ranks as a “B” runner, and longshot A She’s Adorable (No. 5), who squeaks in as a “C” runner, starting for a hot barn and having run successfully at Fair Grounds in the past.

Race 10 (The Sugar Bowl)

Brown Eyed Jozi (No. 6), who blitzed six furlongs in 1:09.61 in winning a fast first-level allowance at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26, looks capable of repeating in the Sugar Bowl, his first attempt in stakes company. He’s an “A.”

But singling him is risky since he has finished unplaced after tiring in two of his four starts.

With that in mind, four horses go in as “C” plays into the Ticketmaker program. They include Exfactor (No. 1), the Bashford Manor winner who is unraced since July; Sherp (No. 3), whose form has declined of late but who ran an 81 Beyer in his debut and has hot-riding Rosie Napravnik up; Laurie’s Rocket (No. 4), an allowance winner at Churchill in late October who was recently fifth in the Delta Jackpot; and Afford (No. 8), who won a maiden race easily at Hawthorne in his second start.

Race 11

Contention does not run deep in this race, a maiden $15,000 claimer, and a horseplayer can feel comfortable isolating his plays to two horses: Arousal (No. 3), understandably an “A” after just finishing third in a maiden $30,000 race at Churchill; and Street Talk’n Man (No. 8), a “B” who exits the same race, running a distant fifth.

Race 12

Lucky Tradition (No. 9) should lead from start to finish in the nightcap, a $5,000 claimer. He is the fastest and speediest horse.
But because he is unraced since September and tends to run hot or very cold, singling him is only for the truly daring. He rates as an “A,” but going deeper with some “B” and “C” runners seems wise.

“B” runners include starter dropper Victory Notion (No. 6);  Mr. Road Warrior (No. 7), a four-time winner in 2011; and Bubbling Springs (No. 8), who ran third Dec. 7 in a stronger heat.

Mr. Soul (No. 3) is less appealing than the others but has back class and gets tossed in as a “C” runner.

Putting it all together

Plugging my A, B, and C selections into Ticketmaker and using a 50-cent base wager for Fair Grounds’s pick four and a budget of $30, Ticketmaker churned its wheels and came up with a variety of tickets, which I then adjusted by preference. I decided to up the amount wagered and did so by emphasizing “all A’s” four times and all other combinations two times. This created a collection of tickets that cost $51.

Fair Grounds pick four tickets