07/28/2006 12:00AM

Saratoga stakes play for Friday, July 28


Friday's featured Grade Lake George for 3-year-old turf fillies is sandwiched between an uninspiring claiming route and a filly statebred maiden race with a 6-5 shot in Bella Atrice that I'm not eager to bet on or against. So rather than getting involved in the multirace bets involving the stakes, we'll try to stay within the intrarace confines of the Lake George.

Quite a Bride is the legitimate Lake George favorite. She's the only graded stakes winner in the field of eight, has a 4-for-4 record on the grass (all at today's 1 1/16-mile distance), and has been winning her races by daylight. She may well just be better than these but she faces two new obstacles here: This is by far the toughest company she's faced, and she's going to have company in her usual spot on the lead. Maybe she can rate, but thusfar she's never been more than a head off the early lead.

I'm pitching the other speed in the race - Christmas Stocking, Somethingaboutbetty and Southern Protocol. It's difficult to see any of them surviving a battle and winning the war. That leaves me with the two confirmed closers in the race, Magnificent Song and Diamond Spirit, and the mystery horse, Pyramid Love.

Of the first two, Magnificent Song may be an underlay as the second choice off a second-place finish to Diana entrant Lady of Venice last time out. Instead, I'll key on Diamond Spirit, who may be just as good and will be a much better price. Earlier this year, Diamond Spirit was running well in Gulfstream grass stakes, and she's eligible to take a step forward off her February form. Her most recent grass race was much better than it looks on paper. She closed to be beaten less than a length behind a slow pace and was running over horses at the finish.

Pyramid Love makes her American debut for Patrick Biancone, who is deadly in these situations, and she ran against some future stakes performers in her three starts in France last fall. It's a positive sign that Biancone entered her here instead of in today?s second race, a N2x for which she was eligible.

So the play is $180 worth of exactas and trifectas focusing on Diamond Spirit(8) and Pyramid Love(4) as follows:

$10 exactas: 48/4678$60
$6 exactas: 4678/48$36
$4 tri box: 4/8/67$48
$1 tri box: 4/8/all$36

And, much as it goes against my religion, I'll round it up to an even $200 with a $20 win bet on Diamond Spirit.