By Andrew Champagne
The first Saturday of the 2021 racing meet at Pleasanton features an eight-race program, and with it comes a late Pick Four sequence starting in the fifth. I’ll be offering insight on certain races and sequences each Saturday during the meet, and I think this particular bet is a very interesting one. It certainly doesn’t seem as though there will be many short-priced favorites, and if you can take a stand or two and be correct, you could be in line for a nice score. Here’s how I’ll play the late Pick Four!
RACE #5: Right off the bat, we’re greeted with what I think is an excellent wagering opportunity. I’m by no means sold on #1 SOMARA or #6 MARK WHATS MINE. Somara has shown she’s better on synthetic than dirt, and Mark Whats Mine has never tried dirt.
I’m going two-deep, and I prefer #3 COASTAL STARLITE on top. She’s won twice in six 2021 starts and earned a victory over this surface a season ago. Evin Roman rides for trainer Jonathan Wong, and I think she’ll be in a perfect spot just off the pace going into the turn.
I’ll also throw in #2 REGAL LADY. She hasn’t won in a while, and perhaps she’s not the same horse she once was, but she’s never finished worse than third in six starts at Pleasanton and has hit the board in 12 of 14 lifetime dirt starts. This is absolutely what she wants to do, and at her likely price, she needs to be on all of my tickets.
RACE #6: I’ll take my biggest stand of the sequence in this maiden claimer. We’ve got a field of six, and I understand why #5 MR. ARTISTIC will probably go favored. However, at 0-for-12 and with four straight losses at 9/5 odds or lower, I’m simply done giving him chances. If he beats me, he beats me.
There doesn’t appear to be much early speed signed on, and because of that, I’m very intrigued by #3 BELHAM. Belham has shown some early zip in the past, and his one prior dirt race was a very strong one for the level (it produced four next-out winners). I think jockey Billy Antongeorgi is going to send this one, and that he’ll have every chance to get brave on the front end. If he does, he could prove tough to catch, and for that reason, he’s a single for me.
RACE #7: This optional claiming event doubles as the Saturday feature, and it drew a field of eight runners. Unlike the prior two races, I’m using the likely favorite, but I don’t think he’s any sort of a cinch.
#2 BOTTLE OF SMOKE is logical, but I prefer #4 AUTISMS WORLD, who comes in off a bit of a layoff. He was most recently third against what was probably a better group at Santa Anita in March, and he ran well in two starts here last summer. Isidro Tamayo’s runners tend to fire when fresh, and I think he could be sitting on a big race.
I’ll also need to use #1 DR. HOFFMAN, who also ships up from Southern California. His win two back was very good, and he followed that up with a fourth-place finish against winners on turf. He likely needs a pace to run at, but he’s shown ability on dirt and may be the one they have to fend off late.
RACE #8: We’ll finish things off with a claiming race for older fillies and mares. It looks like a good betting race, and your guess is as good as mine with regard to which runner will go favored.
Unlike many others in here, #6 SENORITA ESTRELLA does not need the lead in order to run well. Her wins usually come when she sits just off the pace and makes one run, and she should have an abundance of pace to chase here. She ran well over this surface last summer, and by all indications, she’s developed considerably since then.
Owner Johnny Taboada owns #1 EMPRESSIVE CAT and #7 BOUNTY OF GOLD, and I’m using both runners. The latter is an interesting case, as she’s won twice at Los Alamitos and shown a lot of early speed. She’s got one way of going, and I think she’ll go as fast as she can for as long as she can. The question is, how hard will she have to work in doing so?
18 Bets, $9