Piassek's Plays: Saturday Spa Selections

Analyzing the races at Saratoga. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

In his regular gambling blog, John Piassek presents his top picks for the upcoming weekend in horse racing, offering betting options at different budget levels. Piassek’s Plays is brought to you by Horseplayers.com, the official online qualifying site of the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) and National Horseplayers Championship (NHC). Horseplayers.com offers low-cost feeders every day and BCBC and NHC qualifiers every weekend, and it’s the only site where you can qualify for the $1 million BCBC. It’s free to sign up – click here to get information about registering and how to enter contests.

Piassek has contributed to the horse racing sites The Racing Biz and Danonymous Racing and worked at Tioga Downs, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga Race Course. He joined America’s Best Racing in January 2021.

Saturday, July 31

Saratoga Race Course, Race 7, post time 4:29 p.m. ET

weekend Television schedule

Friday, July 30: 1 p.m.-6:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, July 31: 1 p.m.-7 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, August 1: 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m. on FS2; 3:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on FS1; post time varies on TVG

#6 Secret Time: A competitive field of eight allowance fillies and mares line up in this one-mile grass affair. This German-bred filly shipped to the United States last October, and while she hasn't yet won stateside, she hasn't run a bad race. She was fifth in the Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico in her American debut last fall, losing by less than four lengths despite a good deal of traffic trouble. She was then second in the Cellars Shiraz Stakes at Gulfstream Park West to conclude her season.

This year, she's raced twice. After a try in the Grade 3 Honey Fox Stakes, where she was outclassed, she dropped to an allowance at Keeneland, where she was a hard-charging fourth. She's hasn't raced since that April 3 effort, but now enjoys some more class relief and faces a field with a lot of vulnerable rivals. I would prefer it if she had a more recent race under her belt, but trainer Danny Gargan is an impressive 30% first off a 90-plus day layoff, so the break shouldn't cause too much trouble. I'm expecing her to sit a good trip in mid-pack and make a strong, winning move entering the stretch.

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$6 to win on 6

$2 exacta box: 6, 7 ($4 total)

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$11 to win on 6

$4 exacta box: 6, 7 ($8 total)

$1 trifecta: 6 with 7, 8 with 1, 7, 8, 10 ($6 total)

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$18 to win on 6

$8 exacta box: 6, 7 ($16 total)

$1 trifecta: 6, 7 with 6, 7, 8 with 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 10 ($16 total)

Saratoga Race Course, Race 8, $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, post time 5:03 p.m. ET

#9 Special Reserve: An excellent field of older sprinters has been assembled for this year's Vanderbilt Handicap, one of three graded stakes on the card. Since the start of the meet, speed has been very good in dirt races, and Mike Maker has been off to a hot start with all his horses. Here, he'll send out Special Reserve, who has plenty of early speed. This gelding has won four of his last five starts, including two recent stakes races. Last out, he won the Iowa Sprint Stakes at Prairie Meadows in impressive fashion, rating off a very hot pace and drawing away to win by 2 3/4 lengths. He won that start with Lasix, and while he will not have the benefit of using it here, he did win without it two races back in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Match Series Stakes at Pimlico, running a lifetime-top Equibase figure in the process. With lots of speed signed on here, it would make sense for Joel Rosario to rate his mount just off the leaders, being sure to stay close without getting too involved in what should be a contested tempo. From there, he can roll by and get the jump on the closers.

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$5 to win on 9

$5 exacta: 9 with 2

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$10 to win on 9

$10 exacta: 9 with 2

$5 exacta: 2 with 9

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$18 to win on 9

$8 exacta key box: 9 with 2, 7 ($32 total)

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