08/15/2006 11:00PM

Spa Stakes Play for Wednesday, August 16, 2006

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Sorry, readers.

These Saratoga Stakes Plays to date have been an unmitigated disaster. If it makes you feel any better, I've been putting them all in with actual American currency and getting personally barbequed at the windows on an almost daily basis. I could tell you that this is to some extent the rollercoaster nature of playing high-risk/high-reward exotic bets. I could tell you that the point of this new feature was to illustrate approaches and strategies in exotic wagering rather than to give out hot tips. These equivocations may hold some truth, but there is no getting around the fact that the plays have simply stunk. Here's hoping you've taken a root-against instead of play-along-with approach so far.

But today we'll start fresh as the second half of the meeting begins, with a mild late pick-three play that deals with the issue of what to do with a heavy favorite you think will probably win but don't want to bet at even-money or less, which is how I feel about Magical Ride in the featured Adirondack Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

Magical Ride's debut victory at Belmont July 14 was visually impressive and earned a Beyer Speed figure of 102, the highest by any juvenile of either gender anywhere in North America this year. Five Star Daydream, the distant runner-up that day, returned to win her next start here last Saturday. While her Beyer declined from an 89 to a 79, she faced intense early pressure for the lead forcing her to run faster earlier than she did in her debut, a legit excuse for a lower final-time figure. But that's all sort of academic because even if you knocked down Magical Ride's figure by the 10 points that Five Star Daydream declined, a 92 would still tower over today's field for the Adirondack.

She'll probably be in the 4-5 range today. I think she would have been much shorter a year or two ago, but it has become fashionable to play against one-big-figure debut winners. She'd also be a lower price if she were a Pletcher/Velasquez production rather than a Rusty Arnold/Fernando Jara one. My gut feeling is that she's about a 50-50 proposition to repeat her spectacular debut, so I can't bet her to win at less than the 6-5 I don't think she'll be. Instead I'll try to improve her price through the pick-three, because I think the two races bookending the Adirondack are unexciting but pretty straightforward.

In the seventh, the improving Prince Raffie(3) gets a good distance cutback, a good rider switch, and need only repeat his good second to Dreamin of Victory last time to win this race. I'll use him thrice as heavily as the only others I'm at all interested in, One Good Man (5), Couth(8) and Goodtimes at Home (10).

In the ninth, the money will be spread out all over the place but I'm pretty sure the winner has to come from the quartet of Westside Willy(3), Bachelornumberone(5), Stately Pegasus(7) and Saturday's Cat(12).

So the play, an attempt to elevate the odds on Magical Ride(10) from an unacceptable 4-5, would go as follows for each $24 invested:

$3 pick-three partwheel: 3/10/3,5,7,12= $12

$1 pick-three partwheel: 5,8,10/10/3,5,7,12 = $12

There's a possible add-on to this play if there's one horse at a price you like in the Adirondack as a possible upsetter. That's how I feel about Post Invader (8), a Calder shipper who's 12-1 on the line and picked by nobody. Maybe she's just not good enough with a Beyer top of 76, but she has won her two starts for fun by a combined 11 + lengths with impressive rallies from far back over a Calder surface that historically legs up horses well for Saratoga. To use her in equal strength in the pick-three with Magical Ride would dilute any chance of significantly improving the latter's odds, but you could increase that $24 unit to $28 with a single "3/8/3,5,7,12" saver. And of course at 12-1 or better, there's no law against making a Ye Olde Win Bet.