09/02/2006 12:00AM

Spa Stakes play for Saturday


Today's co-featured Forego Handicap at Saratoga is the race I'm most interested in betting but it's hard to say exactly how a few hours before post time because of two factors: The approach of possibly heavy rain toward Saratoga, and a morning line that utterly confounds me.

NYRA has gotten into the unfortunate habit of putting morning lines on its major stakes races that make them appear more competitive than they really are, such as making Bernardini even-money in the Travers (he went off at 1-5) and Henny Hughes 9-5 in the Kings Bishop (he was 3-5.) Commentator at 3-1? I'd borrow money to bet him at that price. He's 7-for-7 at 6 to 7 furlongs, ran two Beyers of over 120 last year, and looked as good as ever winning his season debut under wraps at Belmont. (He's also won twice in the mud, but it's unclear at this writing how wet the track will be.) He may face some early heat from Friendly Island and Spanish Chestnut today, but he's the fastest horse in the race with better than a 1 in 3 chance of winning it.

The two other horses in the race who interest me most are War Front and Mass Media, so in addition to betting Commentator to win at 2-1 or better, I'll key Commentator with those two in exactas and use all three in the late pick-four as follows for each $160:

Race 8, $20 exacta partwheel: 2/7,11= $40

Race 8, $10 exacta partwheel: 7,11/2= $20

Race 8, $5 exacta box: 7,11= $10

Race 8, $1 pick-four partwheel: 2,7,11/3,5,6/1,2,5,6,7/2,10= $90

If the final leg of the pick four (races 8-11) is switched from grass to dirt, Fairytale Story (#2) is a likely scratch and main-track-only Montauk Daisy (#14) becomes a likely winner at 3-5.