08/11/2006 11:00PM

Saratoga Stakes Plays for Saturday August 12

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Today's National Pick Four involving two stakes races each from Arlington and Saratoga is a good opportunity for modestly-bankrolled players to get a taste of the pick four, because the races do not appear all that difficult and there seems like a good chance to cash in for a dollar or two with a simple $36 or $72 investment.

The usual appeal of the pick-four is that getting just one interesting horse into the sequence makes the payoff skyrocket because most players play the bet with an inadequate bankroll that does not allow them to get past the obvious favorites. Sometimes, however, it simply pays to take those obvious horses and the overlaid payoffs that will result in a sequence where many bettors will be trying to make fairly straightforward races more complicated than they really are.

That's the case today, I hope. In all four races, I see logical standouts who tower over their fields. Rather than hunt for longshots and talk myself into diluting my ticket by wasting money on them, I'm going to try to increase the value of these horses by combining them in a pretty straightforward way.

Leg 1, Vanderbilt Handicap from Saratoga: A terrific race with three possible winners: Afrashad, a freaky-quick sprinter we may not have seen the best of; War Front, who has blossomed into a killer and may fall into a dream trip if he can rate just off Afrashad and Bishop Court Hill; and Mass Media, the logical closer if all three of the speeds hook up.

Leg 2, Beverly D from Arlington: Gorella, Honey Ryder and Film Maker are the three top grass fillies in training and no one else in this field comes close.

Leg 3, Sword Dancer from Saratoga: Relaxed Gesture has been right there all year with the nation's top grass horses, none of whom is in this field. He meets Grade 3 opposition today and is a strong single in a race where people will try to be overly clever and beat him.

Leg 4, Arlington Million: English Channel and Cacique are inseparable on paper, Better Talk Now isn't far behind, and the rest of the American-based horses have no chance. Ace looks like the best of the Europeans and can be right there on his best day. I'll focus on the top two on the main $2 ticket but then back up with four horses on a $1 ticket: Ace, Better Talk Now, and the two wild-card foreign invaders, Soldier Hollow and Phoenix Reach.

So for each $72 unit, the play would be:

$2 pick-four partwheel: 2,3,5/1,6,11/2/10,11 = $36

$1 pick-four partwheel: 2,3,5/1,6,11/2/3,5,6,8 = $36

We're not shooting for a four-digit payoff here, just for a result that will produce an overlaid payoff for a series of extremely logical results.