08/21/2006 12:00AM

Spa Stakes Play for Monday

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Just about every public selector in the world has picked the same standout favorites in the last three rces today at Saratoga. A pick three of Wave the Baton in the 7th, Gold Like U in the eighth (the featured $70k Union Avenue) and Speaking Out in the 9th would pay about $20. They all can win, and perhaps there's a case to just bet it cold and go home. I, on the other hand will be trying to beat one or two of them.

The one I'm not going to try to beat is Gold Like U (#6), who I believe is much better than 50 percent to win what appears to be a virtual match race with Sweet Sweet (#4). Some have soured on her because she lost her last start at 4-5, running second to Grecian Lover, but Grecian Lover a)is a legitimate open-class stakes horse who got away with a soft opening half-mile that put Gold Like U at a huge tactical disadvantage. Sweet Sweet, the only other conceivable winner of the race, has a small chance if she gets similarly loose but Gold Like U has the speed to keep her in range.

Wave the Baton is the favorite I'm going to attack most aggressively. He ran second last time out in the race that most of these are coming out of, but others had more challenging trips or come from different spots. Wave the Baton is a once-promising horse who now has a for-sale sign on his back, has lost ground and/or position in the stretch three straight times, and seems wothier of opposing than supporting. I'll spread against him using the Macklenin (1) and Cool Days (2) entries, Bright Weekend (5), Megatrend (9) and Red Down South (10).

In the finale, Speaking Out (#10) has run four straight races that have earned better figures than any of his opponents has ever managed. On the other hand, he's 0-for-9 and showed a distinct lack of will to win finishing close seconds in three straight races. So I'll use him instead of slower 0-for-9's like Jelly Roll Rumble and Chosen Aptitude but also toss in some moonshots who might wake up at a price, including L C Winston (2), New York Moon (3), and Academy Royale (9).

So the play for each $100 would go:

$6 pick-three part-wheel: 1,2,5,9,10/6/10 = $30

$2 pick-three part-wheel: 1,2,5,9,10/4/10 = $10

$3 pick-three partwheel: 1,2,5,9,10/6/2,3,9= $45

$1 pick-three partwheel: 1,2,5,9,10/4/2,3,9 = $15

Note that of the three favorites; 0 percent of our play uses Wave the Baton, 75 percent uses Gold Like U and 40 percent uses Speaking Out.