08/04/2006 11:00PM

Saratoga Stakes plays for Saturday, August 5


In the bad old days of nothing but win, place and show betting, I don't think I could have made a bet on Saturday's last four races at Saratoga. In three of the races, I think the one or two favorites are absolutely the right horses and in the other, I think almost an yone can win,

Through the magic of the pick four, however, I think I can best monetize those opinions by combining them in a multirace bet.

The first leg, the A In Sociology for 3-year-old turfers, looks to me like virtual match race between Carnera and Yankee Master. For backups, instead of using the obvious third and fourth choices, the known quantities Tahoe Warrior and Noble Deeds, I'll use the two unknown quantities who began their careers in Europe, Bribon and Crested, as possible wild cards.

Next comes the Test, which has a field of 13 following the late scrfatches of Wild Fit and Ex Caelis. The race looks incredibly wide open to me with a baffling assortment ofsix-furlong specialists and classier turnbacks intersecting at seven furlongs. I can eliminate only four of them - Misty Rosette, Sabatini, Win McCool and Orinial Spin - and will use all nine others on my main ticket. On smaller backup tickets, I'll shave it down to five - Capote's Crown, Joint effort, Swap Fliparoo, Ready to Please and Wild Gams. And I'll even buy a small backup with my four so-called throwouts, because a)it doesn't cost much and b)it's my experience that if you think 9 out of 13 horses can win a race, it's enough of a scramble that anyone can win it.

In the Whitney, I'd love to have a clever idea to beat Invasor and Flower Alley, but I just can't make anyone else win the race. I'll take them both in equal strength.

As for the finale, I'll take my chances with the stickout favorite, Yankee Thunder. I'll let others dilute their play and inflate my price by trying to spread out in here. Yankee Thunder just looks to me like a very likely winner. His winning debut was significantly better than any of these has run in multiple starts, he should improve with a race under his belt and he should get only better with more distance and experience. I'll buy one tiny backup ticket through Ready Enough, not because I think he's as good as Yankee Thunder but because he'll be a big price and I think he's as good as anyone else.

So for $128, the play would go something like this:

$2 pick four: 1,7/3,6,7,8,10,11,12,13,14/2,5/3 = $72

$1 pick four: 6,8/7,8,10,11,12/2,5/3 =$20

$1 pick four: 1,7/1,4,5,9/2,5/3 =$16

$1 pick four: 1,7/7,8,10,11,12/2,5/10 =$20

If you simply wanted to include every horse mentioned rather than possibly zigzagging out of a big ticket, it could be played as one big part-wheel:

$1 pick four: 1,6,7,8/all/2,5/3,10= $208

Obviously, this nearly doubles your base cost while also giving no added emphasis to preferred selections.

And if your bankroll or enthusiasm limits you to $20 worth of interest, you could just buy the following ticket:

$1 pick four: 1,7/7,8,10,11,12/2,5/3

The payoff on that ticket can't be too thrilling, but it would exceed the $40.20 (for $2) necessary to show a profit.