08/15/2012 11:56AM

Jerardi: No better feeling than hitting a good bet at Saratoga


It had been a half-hour or so on I-87 when, after a pit stop, I moved to the passenger side, Monday’s Saratoga past performances in my lap, marking pen in hand.

Looked at the first three races quickly because I knew I would not be in Saratoga Springs in time to bet them. I did not really get the fourth. The fifth and sixth, however, were easy to understand.

King David jumped off the page of the fifth, a route grass race with this strange (at least to me) set of conditions – for horses that have never won two races or 3-year-olds. It immediately struck me that there could be some serious mismatches among this group, such as 7-year-old Majesty’s Pilgrim with one career win, and 3-year-old King David with three wins since May 25.

King David’s last three grass Beyers were 74, 74, and 79. Others had gotten similar Beyers, but were not as consistent. Additionally, King David was outside and it was not difficult to envision a trip with few obstacles. I had an opinion.

The sixth race looked even more obvious. Primal Baby had the rail, the speed in what looked like a paceless race, and another huge edge in the conditions. These fillies and mares were scheduled to run seven furlongs. It was for horses that had never won three races, 3-year-olds, or horses which had not won in six months.

Well, Primal Baby was a 5-year-old with 6 career wins, along with 6 seconds and 6 thirds in 25 races. This was her third race off an October layoff. She was second in both starts so she fit the “had not won in six months condition.’’ One of those seconds was actually in an open claimer at Parx. The other was in a race with identical conditions at Saratoga. Her 2012 Beyers of 76 and 72 laid over the field. I thought she was a cinch. I also knew she was going to be a solid favorite so I wanted to find a few decent closers to use in exactas or trifectas.

I eliminated other horses with a hint of speed believing they would hit the wall chasing Primal Baby. I settled on Roman Renegade (my kind of exotic horse with 13 seconds and thirds in 28 races) and Mess in a Dress, a filly that almost always made a late stretch charge. I wrote down 1 with 5-9 on the first page of the past performances. I was going to hit this tri. And I was not going to have it once.

The rest of the races, with the exception of the $100,000 Coronation Cup, looked inscrutable. The seventh had a field of 2-year-old maidens on grass. The eighth was at two miles. The 10th was a route grass race with too many contenders. I called my DRF guru David Grening for some of his selections.

As my wife and I drove north on Broadway through town, I thought back to my first visit to the Spa in 1976 when I stayed with a friend at Peck’s Lake and could not figure out why Honest Pleasure never stopped in the Travers. Track bias was a foreign concept.

Cruising by Congress Park and then the mansions north of town, I felt like I was home or at least my August home. When we pulled into the driveway of the house my friend Mark Reid (trainer/breeder/horse entrepreneur) was renting on Broadway (not one of the mansions), I quickly explained to him that money was in his immediate future.

We got to the track just as the fourth race was being run. As we settled into the Backyard table our friend Sonny reserves every day by appearing with his tablecloth as the sun rises, I noted Grening had texted me one horse that had scratched, a Chad Brown firster in the seventh and a Todd Pletcher filly in the stakes. Since those two were winning almost all of the races at the meet, I made a mental note that Dave was even sharper than I thought.

I told Mark about the horse in the fifth. He was disdainful of a horse coming from Chicago as if he was coming from Mars. I could never quite come up with an exacta horse so I ended up passing on 9-5 King David who promptly blew by the field to win by more than three lengths.

I knew I had the next race trifecta so I just went to the windows and pounded 1 with 5-9. I celebrated prior to the race with a Shake Shack burger.

Primal Baby (8-5) hit the front, but had more company than I expected. She eventually dropped Miss Libby and Double Mint, who retreated to the back. One of my closers, Roman Renegade, was coming, but sooner and faster than I had hoped. No matter. Primal Baby dug in and was clearly never going to let Roman Renegade by. So where was Mess in a Dress? Flying on the outside. A stride or two before the wire, she was fourth. At the wire, she was third. 1-5-9. Never in doubt. Even Reid was happy.

I was hoping for $60. With the favorite over the second favorite over the third favorite (tell me I don’t know this game), I was dreaming. The tri paid $37.60. I was able to pay for the burger with enough for many more during the balance of the week.

As soon as the race ended, I had some remorse, wondering why I didn’t play a pick three with my two horses and the Brown/Grening firster. I did play a double with Primal Baby and the firster. The double was paying $30, the pick three $90.

Alas, the Brown horse, Dancing for Glory, ran great, but could not catch Coconut Shrimp, a Pletcher firster.

Tried a little of Sweet Cat, the Pletcher filly, in the stakes, along with some Sensible Lady, the eventual winner and now five of six in grass dashes. Sweet Cat (thanks, Dave) was nowhere. Sensible Lady was terrific.

Got a tout in the 10th from a West Coast source who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty. The tout, Vee One Rotate, finished sixth as a Dutrow (Tony)/Dutrow (Rick) exacta of $89 came in.

No matter, big bills were in my pocket, with the promise of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to come. The only thing better than Saratoga is being in Saratoga with fresh capital.