07/27/2006 12:00AM

Litfin's Saratoga plays for Friday, July 28


Ominous dark clouds hovered over Saratoga Race Course early Thursday evening, so track and turf course conditions may differ from the first two days of the meet, depending on how much (if any) rain fell after this was written.

A figurative dark cloud was hanging over our bankroll play on Thursday, as the import Art Critic stalked the leaders from good position but came up empty at crunch time and faded to fourth. The favorite we were so anxious to play against, Captive Melody, was shuffled back on the far turn but found running room into the stretch and galloped away from the field at 8-5.

In this line of work, you are wrong quite a bit.

With track conditions impossible to know some 18 hours before Friday's first post, I should be offered a blindfold and a cigarette before offering up a wagering strategy.


Roanoke's Best is a hard-knocking mare who has turned in two improved Beyer figures since being claimed by her current connections, beginning with a half-length loss at Delaware Park in an optional claimer that carried a purse of $42,000, which is considerably more than the $29,000 she runs for on Friday.

From 34 career starts, however, Roanoke's Best has compiled a record of 7-13-5, including a 3-8-2 slate from 18 starts at six furlongs, so she's not entirely trustworthy on the win end.

Instead, I'm going to key her top and bottom in exactas with Citi Prancer, a shipper from Suffolk Downs who figures close off her recent sprints, and Jules for A.J., who checked sharply on the turn and was still able to get up for second when claimed at this level last time out.

The bet:

$15 exacta part-wheel, Roanoke's Best over Citi Prancer and Jules for A.J.
$10 exacta part-wheel, Citi Prancer and Jules for A.J. over Roanoke's Best.

Total wagers previous day: $50
Total return previous day: $0
Total win/loss previous day: minus $50

Total wagers for meet: $100
Total return for meet: $0
Total win/loss for meet: minus $100