07/31/2006 12:00AM

Saratoga stakes plays for Monday, July 31

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It's challenging to come up with an appealing wager of any kind, much less an exotic one, involving Monday's Saratoga stakes, the Amsterdam for 3-year-old sprinters. Songster may not be the equal of Henny Hughes or Too Much Bling in the King's Bishop Aug. 26, but he towers over his three rivals in today's prep for that race and is a very likely winner of a four-horse race at odds of 3-10 or so. There's no intriguing exacta play, and an unappealing ninth race dampens my enthusiasm for the late pick-three and pick-four.

So from desperation and for novelty, let's try a Grand Slam, NYRA's silly but mildly interesting new wager that's a pick four where the first three legs are show bets. Playing the Grand Slam like a pick four is a sure road to ruin: You don't want to be using multiple horses in each leg for a bet that often returns something like $11 if the favorite wins the final race. The better idea is to take one or two cold punches to try to turn an effective win bet on Songster from a $2.60 to a $10 payoff.

The first leg is a full field of N2x statebred turfers and maybe we can get the favorite, Gimme Credit, off the board. He sat behind one collapser last time, inherited the lead, and his running line looks better than his race really was. Instead we'll use Prime Diamond (8-1 ML) and Charimount (10-1 ML) as our two show horses.

The second leg is a crazy race to be betting without seeing the board, but the fact that someone paid $750,000 for a New York-bred 2-year-old in April suggests that the horse should be able to hit the board three months later in a statebred maiden race. So we'll single What a Tale, a Biancone/Leparoux firster.

The third leg, a grass maiden-claimer, has all sorts of goofy possibilities on the win end but favored Really Reilly looks like a pretty safe show bet. He has a big figure edge, always passes horses late and looks like as much of a cinch to hit the board as Songster does to win the Amsterdam.

So let's try a $50 Grand Slam part-wheel 8-10/2/12/1 for a token $100 play. With buying just two combinations, if the Grand Slam pays $5.20 or more, we'll have improved on Songster's win price, and that's the whole point of exotic bets, even wacky ones like the Grand Slam.