Thursday’s Best Bets and Quick Picks: Saratoga stakes plays

June 6th, 2024

Handicapper J. Keeler Johnson shares best bets and quick picks for Thursday, June 6 at Saratoga, along with tickets for the $3,029 Super High 5 carryover at Churchill Downs.

Today’s special offers from TwinSpires include:

  • Churchill Downs $2,500 Thursday Leaderboard: Place $10+ win wagers at Churchill Downs on Thursday to accumulate points and compete for your share of $2,500 in prizes.
  • 10x Points on Harness Racing: Receive 10x reward points on all harness racing wagers (excluding show bets) on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
  • Hoosier Park $1,000 Late Pick 4 Hit It & Split It: Hit the Late Pick 4 at Hoosier Park on any Thursday in June to win your share of a $1,000 daily prize pool.
  • $5,000 Let 8 Ride at Woodbine Mohawk: Place winning win wagers in Race 8 at Woodbine Mohawk on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for a chance to win your share of $5,000.

Best Bets and Quick Picks

Saratoga: Race 2: Tremont S. (5 1/2 furlongs on dirt, 1:22 p.m. ET)

#5 Three Echoes (5-2) displayed eye-catching professionalism when debuting in a five-furlong maiden special weight on May 24 at Churchill Downs. After tracking the pace in third place, the Steve Asmussen trainee battled through a small opening along the rail to prevail by three-quarters of a length.

Three Echoes finished strongly and earned a solid 84 Brisnet Speed rating. Asmussen won the 2023 Tremont by nine lengths with Gold Sweep, who likewise came out of a five-furlong Churchill maiden heat, and Three Echoes has every chance to repeat the feat. We’ll bet him to win and play him over first-time starter #7 Touchy (2-1) in a small exacta.


  • #5 Three Echoes (5-2)
  • #7 Touchy (2-1)
  • #4 Brereton’s Baytown (8-1)


  • $20 to win on #5 Three Echoes
  • $5 Exacta: 5 with 7
    Total: $25

Saratoga: Race 9: Astoria S. (5 1/2 furlongs on dirt, 5:17 p.m. ET)

#9 Long Neck Paula (2-1) delivered an eye-catching debut in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight on May 2 at Churchill Downs. Despite breaking from post 11, she flashed impressive speed to secure the early lead and pulled away down the homestretch to score by 3 1/2 lengths.

Visually speaking, this was a big performance, and Long Neck Paula’s quick final time of :51.56 earned a respectable 85 Brisnet Speed rating. We’ll bank on this Wesley Ward trainee to win right back under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez; over the past two months, Ward and Velazquez have won at a 43% rate teaming up together.

A win bet is in order, and we’ll also single Long Neck Paula to start a double wager.


  • #9 Long Neck Paul (2-1)
  • #8 The Queens M G (6-1)
  • #5 Aoraki (5-1)


  • $20 to win on #9 Long Neck Paula
  • $10 Double: 9 with 12
    Total: $30

Saratoga: Race 10: Belmont Gold Cup (G2, two miles on turf, 5:50 p.m. ET)

Godolphin homebred #12 Siskany (1-1) won this race by two lengths in 2023 and remains in strong form. He’s 2-for-3 in 2023, most notably winning the Nad Al Sheba Trophy (G3) racing about 1 3/4 miles in Dubai.

According to Brisnet statistics, trainer Charlie Appleby wins at a 49% rate with horses shipping to the United States, so we’ll count on Siskany to score a repeat win in the Belmont Gold Cup. We’ll single him to conclude our double wager, then play a cold exacta using last year’s Belmont Gold Cup runner-up #11 The Grey Wizard (8-1) for second place.


  • #12 Siskany (1-1)
  • #11 The Grey Wizard (8-1)
  • #5 Starting Over (9-2)


  • $15 Exacta: 12 with 11

Carryover Watch

Churchill Downs: Race 1: $3,029 Super High 5 carryover (2:13 p.m. ET)

The $1 Super High 5 went unsolved in Wednesday’s final race at Churchill Downs, which means there’s a $3,029 carryover up for grabs in the Thursday opener.

Race 1 is a maiden special weight for two-year-olds sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on dirt, so we’ll have to rely on trainer stats, pedigrees, and workouts if we want to assemble a winning ticket. After all, six of the 10 entrants are first-time starters, and the four experienced horses haven’t raced more than once apiece.

Among the experienced entrants, #7 Conquering Cat (4-1) is worth a long look. He debuted with a runner-up finish sprinting five furlongs over this track and class level on May 16, beaten only one length while earning an 86 Brisnet Speed rating. That’s one point higher than the par winning rating for Thursday’s conditions at Churchill Downs.

Conquering Cat ought to produce another competitive showing, but he’s not a lock to win. We actually prefer the chances of the unraced #6 Magnitude (3-1). He’s a son of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up Not This Time, who sires a lofty 19% winners from first-time starters. Magnitude breezed a swift half-mile from the Keeneland starting gate in :47 last month and looks like the type who can win on debut for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

Underneath, we have to respect #3 Summer Vibes (7-2), a son of champion juvenile Good Magic and a half-brother to She Feels Pretty, who won the Natalma (G1) at age two. Trainer Brad Cox doesn’t win all that often with juveniles debuting during the first half of the year at Churchill Downs, going 1-for-13 (8%) with such runners since 2019, but nine of them (69%) finished in the top three, and the work tab of Summer Vibes looks promising.

First-time starter #9 Munson (10-1) could factor at a price for Tom Amoss, who has gone 10-for-33 (30%) debuting juveniles in dirt sprints at Churchill since 2021. And don’t underestimate #4 Fiddling Felix (8-1), who has put together a sharp work tab for D. Whitworth Beckman, a 15% winner with horses debuting in maiden special weights.

Here’s how we’ll bet the Super High 5:

  • $1 Super High 5: 6 with 7 with 3,4,9 with 3,4,5,9,10 with 1,3,4,5,9,10 ($48)
  • $1 Super High 5: 6 with 3,4,9 with 7 with 3,4,5,9,10 with 1,3,4,5,9,10 ($48)
    Total: $96

Good luck!