08/01/2006 12:00AM

Litfin's Saratoga plays for Wednesday, August 2



Julien Leparoux leads the nation in races won, and the apprentice sensation had a big opening week at Saratoga. But although he won five races (unheard of for a bug rider at the Spa) at an average win mutuel of $28.40, he cost the bankroll dearly on two occasions.

In Saturday's Diana, the 3-year-old Lady of Venice was taking on older mares for the first time, and we only needed her to finish second behind Angara for a nice exacta score. But Lady of Venice raced widest around both turns, and was beaten a length for all the marbles; she lost way more ground than a length!

Then in Monday's seventh race, we had our entire daily stake on the nose of the returning Harlanquin at a juicy 9-2 in a maiden-claiming route on the turf, and again Leparoux went extremely wide on the far turn. Harlanquin lost at the wire to Erdiston ($10.20) in a head-bobbing finish, with 13-10 favorite Really Reilly an overbet third.

Oh well, at least those who boxed my 1-2-3 picks in the analysis cashed in on a trifecta worth $117.50.

Oh and by the way, Sunday's pick, Cherokee Dreamer, set the pace to the top of the stretch and stopped. Why did she have to go out and run a first quarter in 21.94 seconds?

It would've been nice to end the first week in the black with a win by Harlanquin, but now we'll just have to dig out of a small hole as week #2 gets underway.


In this year's edition of the Saratoga Players' Guide my capsule description for trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. reads, "Watch out for older claimers who have been rested since about mid-June: Holy Panache, Limero and Fines Creek all fit that mold."

Dutrow used that angle to win three claiming races for older runners last year, and will try to do it again in Wednesday's opener with Suave Queen, who has been away since stumbling at the break at Belmont Park on June 9.

Suave Queen has never won at 1 1/8 miles, but that's okay because the entire field has combined for 250 starts and managed the grand total of one victory at Wednesday's distance.

Suave Queen did run two turns here way back in 2003, and actually recorded one of the best Beyer Speed Figures of her 41-race career. She's on the rail, and has trained well at Monmouth Park recently.

The bet: $25 to win on Suave Queen.


Hunter's Tale has two angles to recommend him. First and foremost, he is much more effective at two turns, so he can be expected to improve off the four races he ran at Belmont out of the chute. Second, his prowess at two turns is not lost on trainer Leah Gyarmati, who lost him via the claim box out of a blowout victory at Aqueduct in April (his last two-turn start), and reclaimed the gelding two starts later.

Hunter's Tale, who is 1-1-0 from three starts at Saratoga, gets the rail and a switch to John Velazquez.

The bet: $25 to win on Hunter's Tale.

Total wagers Sunday & Monday: $100
Total return Sunday & Monday: $0
Total win/loss Sunday & Monday: minus $100

Total wagers for meet: $300
Total return for meet: $111
Total win/loss for meet: minus $189