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Submitted by Noel Michaels on Friday, August 9, 2019 at 10:35 AM

By Noel Michaels
Friday, August 9

There are tons of winners to be had at Saratoga if you apply the right handicapping methods that get the job done. And with big fields and wide-open races at Saratoga, you can land on a perfectly logical horse and still get a solid payoff. Here are some examples of such winners during the first half of the 2019 Saratoga meet.

Before looking at some winning horses, it’s important to look at some top trainers and jockeys too. In the jock’s room, the first couple weeks at the Saratoga meet were notable because of the slow ice-cold start that perennial leading rider contender Irad Ortiz got off to at the meet. However, after a losing July, Irad Ortiz has gone on a tear so far in August and has quickly made up ground on the upper echelons of the jockey standings. Currently, Irad Ortiz is second in the jockey race with 27 wins from 129 starters for 21%. Leading the way currently is Jose Ortiz with 30 wins from 131 mounts for a 23% win percentage. It’s a long way back to third place where Luis Saez and Javier Castellano are tied with 19 victories each. The other riders with more than 10 wins each, as of August 8, are the resurgent Jose Lezcano with 16 wins, Joel Rosario with 15, and Junior Alvarado with 13.

The trainers’ standings through August 8 at Saratoga contain very few surprises. Chad Brown is running away with the title at present with 19 wins from 93 starters for 20%. It’s a long way back to Bill Mott, Todd Pletcher, and Jeremiah Englehart, each with 8 wins. Some others to watch at Saratoga this season in terms of trainers angles include Danny Gargan, who has 7 wins and is among the leaders in terms of ROI and winning percentage at 30%. Also winning at higher than 30% is Robertino Diodoro, who owns 5 wins from his first 16 starters at the meet (31%), and with fewer starters, you can also put Jorge Navarro (3-for-9) and Chris Englehart (3-for-10) in the hot category. Trainers who are really struggling early at the 2019 Saratoga meet include George Weaver (1-for-17, 6%), Joe Sharp (2-for-21, 10%), David Donk (1-for-27, 4%), and Mark Hennig (1-for-22, 5%)

When you can pair up the best jockeys and trainers with the best horses, you will have the recipe for success at Saratoga. Here are some examples of nice wins out horses have scored at The Spa meet so far:

On the opening weekend of the meet in Race 7 on July 14, T Loves a Fight scored and paid a very nice $13.20 in a 6 ½-furlong allowance optional claiming race. This was an example of using a horse’s good current form as your primary handicapping methodology. T Loves a Fight came into the race off back-to-back claiming wins at Belmont and raised up in class at Saratoga into a tougher allowance optional claiming spot. The masses bailed out on the horse due to the class rise, but if you stuck with T Loves a Fight when he went off at 5-1 odds at the higher class level, you were rewarded with a $13.20 win payoff just for sticking with the horse in the race with the best current form.

You don’t have to be a big longshot to be an overlay. Sometimes 2-1 odds is good on a winner when that horse stands out as a bargain when that horse is far and away the best horse in the race.

That was the case in Race 8 on July 21, a maiden race where Basin won and paid $6.00. This was an example of using the key race angle as your main handicapping methodology. Basin exited a solid second-place finish in the career debut in a good effort that looked even better after the horse that beat him, By Your Side, returned in his next race to win the G3 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. The third-place horse, Verb, also flattered Basin when he returned to run third in the G3 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs. Despite not going off as the favorite, Basin was the best horse in the race and was able to deliver an easy win.

Turf sprints are a big part of the Saratoga handicapping puzzle, so you need to win those races if you’re going to earn money at The Spa. You can’t get out to bad starts in turf sprints and hope to win, and outside posts are better than inside posts. That knowledge came in handy in Race 7 on July 24 when Rinaldi won and paid $8.10 as a strong overlay. Rinaldi was a prime example of trip handicapping. The race before, Rinaldi had thrown a fit in the starting gate and ejected the rider, then got pinched back at the break yet still outran 29-1 odds for third in his turf sprint career debut. All he needed was a clean start to win, and that’s exactly what he did.

Sometimes pace is the best handicapping methodology, and that was true in Saratoga’s Race 7 on August 3 when Final Frontier won and returned $7.00. In the race before, Final Frontier had gotten hooked in a blazing :21.1 three-way battle for the lead and held on best of the speeds for third, just a head out of second, in his first race back from a six-month layoff. The pace was softer on August 3 at The Spa, and Final Frontier took advantage to go wire-to-wire.

You can also put these angles together for exactas, as well, just as we did in Race 3 on August 7 at Saratoga. In that race, Crack Shot, who had broken a step slow in his last race and then was used hard to rush up and make the lead in :21.2 until fading to third as a result of those early efforts, just needed a decent start to post the upset. He went off at a shade under 5-1 odds as the best horse in the race and paid $11.80 to win. If you had used him with the race favorite, Lead Guitar, who was exiting a sharp debut, you would have cashed-in on an easy $45.60 cold exacta.

Find the best connections and pair them with the best handicapping angles and methodology, and it is possible to pick off easy winners at Saratoga. You can get solid payoffs on logical horses that should pay much less.

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