I was going to do a whole piece on how the "Win and You're In" concept is silly, but time is dictating that I do the picks and move along, so that's for later. The late Pick Four today is absolutely fantastic from a betting perspective, and is going to offer great value. Let's look at the big 4 races, assuming dirt is fast for the last 3 races:
Diana: How you play this race really comes down to what you do with My Typhoon, who's having a great year for Bill Mott (who's won this race the last two years with Sand Springs and Angara). Pat Biancone is sending out Countess Scala solely to soften her up, and it's not a terrible idea, as My Typhoon is a fairly committed front runner. It may not even matter anyway; while her local record is very good, she's still 1-for-7 at the distance, and may at heart be a miler (which is a tad puzzling, given she's a half to Galileo and Black Sam Bellamy, both of which were Grade 1 winners at 12 furlongs). So if she's weakened up, you have to like Makderah's chances, who's done absolutely nothing wrong in the States and showed a titanic closing kick in the New York Handicap at Belmont. (Only real negative is Alan Garcia, but we said the same thing about Fernando Jara last year.) Equally intriging is Danzon, who ran 3rd against the boys in her last, and who Biancone said didn't like the turf last time out. Have to think she's sitting on a big race here. This looks like a good spot to play against Pletcher, as Magnificent Song hasn't looked quite as good since winning the Garden City last year. Argentina will probably need a race, and Mauralakana isn't fast enough to win. If you're looking for a fun bomb at a price (12-1 or so), Meribel should be flying late, is 2-for-2 at Saratoga, has a great set of connections, and has run pretty well all year. Picks: (1) Makderah; (2) Danzon; (3) Meribel.
A.G. Vanderbilt: The easy way to play this race is to note that all but one horse is a front-runner, so they should cancel each other out and let Benny the Bull sweep by and take it with ease, much like a bunch of other races this week. Piece of cake, right? Um.....not so sure. Call me crazy, but I don't trust the speed figures in the last two races, especially when he received what the commenters call a "perfect trip", and when one's from Iowa. If anyone's going to close into the pace, it's most likely to be Diabolical, who will be able to sit a little and get first run on the leaders. I also like that he's clearly been pointing for this race for the last two months, albeit perhaps as a prep for the Grade 1 Forego. Ditto for Saint Anddan, who's improving nicely and may actually sit a good trip. Commentator has to be used in Pick-everythings defensively, as he's the fastest on his best day, and may just survive a pace duel as there's no High Finance to challenge him here. As this race's bomb du jour, Simon Pure may really appreciate the cutback in distance to six furlongs, and could be sitting on a nice effort. Picks: (1) Diabolical; (2) Saint Anddan; (3) Simon Pure.
Go For Wand: What do you do in a race where there's a horse who's clearly going to be the favorite but is wholly unappealing? (And not in a Circular Quay-in-the-VA Derby way where it's an obvious bet-against, I mean in the sense where you could see the horse win, but the entry is wholly uninteresting.) Play against it! And I'm looking at....you, Ginger Punch, who's out of the old stalwart Nappelon (contemporary of luminaries Kashetreya and Trucking Baron), and has earned a pair of big numbers under suspicious circumstances; the former when having her own way in a 7 furlong sprint, the latter closing in a bizzarely run Ogden Phipps where the middle fractions made no sense. Can't use her. I can use Ermine, but she's hardly exciting as well, as her last at Churchill was pretty mediocre, making me wonder if she's a California success story. Most of the rest of the crowd will flock to Jerkens' Teammate, but I'm much more interested in the "other Jerkens" (tm Progressive Handicapping)---Miss Shop. She's had something of an odd New York campaign, with two lackidasical turf efforts followed by a quick wheelback in the Ogden Phipps where she showed nothing. Understandably: it was 7 days after her last race! Jerkens has freshened her up a little for this race, and she's got a tremendous number with her last Gulfstream race, under similar conditions. I like her to spring an upset here at 10-1 or so. For the 3rd slot, I'll give the nod to the bred-for-the-distance Soul Search, who may be able to close into a fairly honest pace. Picks: (1) Miss Shop; (2) Ermine; (3) Soul Search.
Whitney: We now come to the big race of the day, which, as Steve Crist accurately said, has 11 horses you can make a case for. (I presume he doesn't like Student Council.) If you thought the Vanderbilt had a ton of speed, that's a trifling compared to the scramble for the front we'll see from Wanderin Boy, Fairbanks, Flashy Bull (they probably have to send him from the inside) and possibly Papi Chullo as well. Of those, I could see Fairbanks pulling off a Roses in May in 2003 and surviving the battle, based on his breeding and past performances, but I don't like the winner to come from that group. Nor do I like Awesome Twist, who's shown absolutely no evidence that he'll like 9 furlongs. Lawyer Ron is theoretically intriguing, but the 11 post may require him being used too early as well, and if not, he's going to be outkicked by a bunch of others. I have bet Ass Hat precisely two times, and in both races, he flopped miserably and got hurt. For his sake, I will not use him here. Sun King is doomed to be the Don Mattingly of the class of 2005 and will not get a Grade 1 win. That leaves us with three ponies, of which I like Magna Graduate the most. Had he gotten up in the Stephen Foster, he's be the probable favorite here. Instead, thanks to a poor trip and a head bob, he's more likely to be sitting at 6-1 or so, and I think is Pletcher's best horse. Diamond Stripes is very intriguing with 5 nice starts under his belt and nowhere to go but up; my question with him is whether or not Notebook is the ideal sire for a Grade 1 9-furlong race. Lastly, Dry Martini has been consistent all year, but the real question is what caused that bump in speed figures in his last: Barclay Tagg or the Bute? I'm leaning towards the latter, and thinking a regression is in order. Still, he's tough to leave out of serial wagers. Picks: (1) Magna Graduate; (2) Diamond Stripes; (3) Fairbanks; (4) Dry Martini.
It's a fun card today (which is more than I can say about tomorrow), so play it well.