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Horse Racing expert Andrew Champagne provides his Saratoga picks for Friday's action

Friday's Horse Racing Predictions: Saratoga Free Picks

Usually, my analysis focuses on Pick Four plays, but today, I’m going in a different direction. With big fields and a horse I like a fair bit in the Friday feature at Saratoga, we’ll focus on the Grand Slam, one of my favorite bets when the circumstances in question fall into place in just the right way.

For those who haven’t heard of the bet, here’s the gist: You pick at least one horse to finish third or better in each of three consecutive race, and you must pick the winner of the fourth. You can have multiple combinations live at once, and because of that, the Grand Slam can act as a way to enhance win odds on a horse you like in the payoff leg. If field sizes are large, more combinations are possible and (in theory) payoffs should increase.

With that in mind, here’s how I’ll attack Friday’s sequence with my Saratoga picks!

RACE #6: We’ll start things off with a maiden race for state-bred 2-year-old fillies. These races are always fun puzzles, and in this case, eight of the 10 runners will be debuting in this spot.

#2 LET HER INSPIRE U is my top pick. She fetched $500,000 at auction earlier this year and is bred to be any kind. Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez team up, and by all accounts she’s been working to her lofty price tag in the mornings.

I’ll also use #5 TOUGH STREET and #7 NOVEMBER REIN. The former is a Chad Brown trainee coming in off a strong series of four-furlong drills, while the latter did everything but win in his debut last month at Belmont Park. Remember, only one of these horses needs to hit the board in order for us to move on, so if these horses don’t win, it’s not necessarily the end of the world.

RACE #7: Things don’t get much easier in the second leg, a turf sprint for older fillies and mares. Once again, I’m going three-deep, and I wouldn’t advise going deeper than that in any race. Only three horses can hit the board at a time, so playing more horses than that guarantees that at least one combination you play will be a loser.

#2 TOO SEXY exits a good second downstate and seems to have found new life as a turf sprinter. She hasn’t run a dud in any of her five outings going seven furlongs or shorter, and while she’s shown she can pass horses late, she also has some tactical speed should jockey Joel Rosario choose to use it.

#3 MUMBAI and #10 RIVENDELL are also on my ticket. The former hasn’t finished worse than second in three tries this season, while the latter gets a big rider switch to John Velazquez and has flashed potential in several of her four starts to date (including an impressive debut win last year that had me thinking she might be a stakes horse).

RACE #8: Here’s where we get a bit bold, and where the Grand Slam structure helps us. #6 EASY TO BLESS and #8 PATTY H will take most of the win money. However, they both want to go early, and they won’t be alone. For that reason, I’m using neither of them and singling a stalking type that may luck into a dream trip.

#3 POLISHED GEM won at this level two back at Churchill Downs and finished second for a slightly higher tag last time out. In that race, she showed an ability to rate a few lengths off the pace and come with a rally, which is the type of trip that would suit her perfectly here. Luis Saez will hop aboard, and my hope is that Polished Gem hits the board while at least one of the chalks does not. Doing so would knock out plenty of tickets heading into the final leg.

RACE #9: That final leg is the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple, and my entire ticket has built to a single in this leg. By solely using #3 VALUE PROPOSITION and hopefully being alive to a few different combinations, I’m hoping to extract value out of a runner that’s 5/2 on the morning line.

He’ll likely go favored in here off of a win last time out against optional claiming company. This is his third start off a layoff, which may mean he’s sitting on “go,” and he’s won going two turns over this turf course in the past. I think there’s a lot to like, and if I can get this ticket home, perhaps I can enjoy a better return than most with my Saratoga picks. 

Saratoga Picks: THE TICKET

R6: 2,5,7

R7: 2,3,10

R8: 3

R9: 3

Article Author

Horse Racing

Andrew Champagne is a horse racing handicapper with a specialism in juveniles. One thing is for certain, Champagne gets the party started.


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