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Bernier's Best

Weekend Stakes Previews for July 16

by Matt Bernier
Updated On: July 16, 2022, 10:14 am ET

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Opening weekend at historic Saratoga Race Course is upon us, with Saturday’s card being highlighted by the enormous $532,907 carryover in the pick six.

Two races that will be part of the pick six sequence this afternoon are of the graded variety, including the G1 Diana and the G3 Sanford.

Below you will find selections from each of these races along with a pick from the $75,000 Azalea for three-year-old fillies taking place at Gulfstream Park.

After twenty-six weeks, here is the results tally (records reflective of $2 WIN / $2 WPS):

WIN: 12-76 (15.8%, -$77.40)
WPS: 42-76 (55.3%, -$136.60)

 

 

4:08 ET – GULFSTREAM R8 – AZALEA – 7 FURLONGS – DIRT

POIEMA (2) stretched out in distance for the first time on June 17 and delivered a smashing victory going a one-turn mile at odds of 17/1. She won’t be near that price this afternoon, but the Larry Bates trainee does loom as the most likely winner of today’s $75,000 Azalea at Gulfstream. There’s a scenario in which the daughter of Neolithic doesn’t clear to the lead and is forced to display a new dimension, but purely on speed figures that simply won’t matter if she runs back to the June 17 race. Poiema is lengths faster than this field based on her most recent performance and deserves to be a short price today.

THE PLAY: 2) POIEMA to win at odds of 9/5 or greater

 

 

5:03 ET – SARATOGA R8 – G1 DIANA – 1 1/8 MILES – TURF

Chad Brown has four of the six entrants in this year’s Diana, with the undefeated Bleecker Street being the filly to beat. As strong as she’s been throughout her career, I can’t help but feel like ROUGIR (4) is going to run better than she did when the two ladies faced off against one another in last month’s New York Stakes at Belmont Park. Rougir was bet down to odds of 3/5 that day and ran so poorly that I’m inclined to draw a line through the performance. If the four-year-old filly can replicate her effort in May’s Beaugay at Belmont, she’s not just among the likelier winners of this afternoon’s race – she is the most likely winner.

THE PLAY: 4) ROUGIR to win at odds of 5/2 or greater

 

 

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6:13 ET – SARATOGA R10 – G3 SANFORD – 6 FURLONGS – DIRT

An argument can be made that Forte is simply too much for this group of juveniles going six furlongs, however I think this year’s Sanford is extremely competitive, with several two-year-olds warranting consideration. Ultimately, I landed on Brad Cox’s MO STRIKE (6), who ships north from Churchill Downs following an impressive maiden victory in his career debut on June 19. Although the Beyer Speed Figure the son of Uncle Mo earned that day wasn’t overly strong, the way in which he earned the fig was. After putting away the other speed horses early, Mo Strike was able to dig in and repel the bids from multiple closers in the race, prevailing by three-quarters of a length in the end. The seventh, ninth, and tenth-place finishers from that race have all returned to improve their Beyer Speed Figures by nine, twenty-four, and thirty-four points in their subsequent starts, suggesting the Churchill race may be better than the figs indicate. Mo Strike is worth considering in this spot at a square price.

THE PLAY: 6) MO STRIKE to win at odds of 6/1 or greater

 

 

 

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Matt Bernier

Matt Bernier is a betting analyst for NBC Sports and host of "The Matt Bernier Show" podcast. His work has been showcased in the Daily Racing Form, on ESPN, as well as on TVG. Matt can be followed on Twitter @bernier_matt.