09/10/2011 1:05PM

Belmont Opening Day: Tricky Late Pick-4



2:05 pm: Happy Opening Day at Belmont, where a tricky late pick-4 is made a little trickier by the complicated conditions for the first leg, the 7th race.

"Talking Horses" co-host Eric Donovan described the race as an unusual non-winners-of-one-other-than because the entrants were not the usual collection of maiden-special graduates and N1x veterans. He was correct because the race's Equibase class code of "OC $50l/N1x" is not entirely accurate. This is really an "Alw50000s"' -- a race restricted to horses who are N1x AND have started for a claiming tag of $50,000 or less. This is a frequent condition and one that, as you can see from the pp's of the horses in the 7th, one that many have been running in lately. That's a different, and lesser, race than a straight N1x because only horses who have run for a tag are eligible, thus the lack of the usual MSW graduates and straight N1x performers.

Where things got yet more complicated, and Equibase went astray in its race-coding, is that NYRA added a new wrinkle to these starter allowance races last month. In addition to those who must dual-qualify by being both N1x eligible and having previous $50k-or-less claiming experience, the races are now also open to anyone whose owners are willing to risk them for a $50k tag. Thus the #3 Top Surprize, a four-time winner including a straight N1x race at Arlington, is eligible to run because he was entered to be claimed today for $50k.

So what we have now are three types of races: #1 is the traditional N1x/OC$50k; #2 is the traditional Alw50000s where everyone must be both N1x eligible AND have been entered for a $50k or lower tag; and now #3 is this new variation of #2, which is being called #1 but is really closer to #2. It needs a differentiating class code of its own.

Phew. So, where were we? Happy Opening Day. Races 5 and 6 are off the turf while the 7th, 9th and 10th remain on it, with the complicated-conditions 7th also moved from the Widener to the Inner course.

The meet started with the feel of a dress rehearsal, with all sorts of technical glitches (open mikes, no graphics for the scratches) and then a seven-minute delay to the running of the first race after Guyana Princess was a gate scratch and the field was reloaded. All turned out well, at least for chalkplayers, as 6-5 Sunnybrook wired the opener in 1:11.40. In the second, 6-1 Motor Missile beat 3-1 (and 10-year-old) Callmetony, a reverse of their finish in a $7500 claimer back on July 16, closing weekend of the Belmont summer meet.

Here are my thoughts on that $300k guaranteed pick-4 today, scheduled to begin with the 7th at 4:13 pm:



2:35 pm: Here's the timetable for today's six graded stakes, the only ones scheduled for this weekend. There's only one more Grade 1 race anywhere in the country for the rest of September -- next Saturday's Graden City for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont -- then nine Grade 1 races on Saturday Oct. 1 -- five at Belmont (Jockey Club Gold Cup, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, Beldame, Flower Bowl and Vosburgh) and four at Oak Tree (Goodwood, Yellow Ribbon, Norfolk and Ancient Title.) There are 19 Grade 1 races during at the first nine days of October.


3:00 pm: Aubby K., Spence/Nicks homebred 2-year-old filly firster by Street Sense, banged 8-5 to 3-2 to 6-5 to 1-1 last four flashes and ran off to win by what looked like 15 lengths [actual: 15 1/2] in 1:05.10. Time less sensational than margin. Bizarre foul claim by Cohen aboard distant fourth-place finisher Chessrate against the winner, who was never near them. His beef, if any, was with Spring Breeze, who finished behind them.

Pick 6 (no carryover/not playing) starts shortly with race 5. Just thinking out loud here, but is it really necessary to have a mandatory closing-day payout when racing shifts among the three NYRA tracks? You have to do it with separately-owned tracks, and at the end the end of a calendar year for accounting purposes, but why not open the Belmont meet with a $128k carryover from closing day at Saratoga? I'm not eagerly advocating a change -- those closing-day payouts worked out well for me, and I like playing into a pool that has to be paid out -- but maybe it's worth some thought.


4:00 pm: Mr Magenta ($6.60) and Drink of the Day ($11.60) won the two off-the-turfers to start the pick-6. On to the $300k guaranteed late pick-4:

Found race 7 as tough to decipher as its conditions and class codes. In the 8th, Dutrow second-timer Takes the Gold, bet off the board and then cooked in the hot pace of the Currency Swap race, is highly eligible to drown these while loose on the lead but I took some backups as B's in case the stretchout to 8f doesn't agree with him. The two favorites in the 9th just look better than their Bowling Green opponents, and while I prefer Grassy to Sanegas, I didn't split hairs.


4:25 pm: Freshman Dorm floated to a nice $15.80 to kick off the late pick-4 but feel like I dodged a bullet with 3-1 Concert Stag, who ran an excellent race in defeat and lost the bob. WHile he caught a break early when Annawon laid off him and he got a soft opening 6f on the lead in 1:16.96, he surged back when a cavalry came at him at the top of the stretch and fought every step to the wire before being outbobbed by the winner.


4:55 pm: Takes the Gold ($3.10) used his speed more wisely today, sitting on the outside of a contested duel, taking over under no urging, and then drawing off through the stretch with a mile in 1:37.86. The Corinthian 2-year-old is trained by Rick Dutrow.

Grassy opened even-money, Sanagas 2-1 for the Bowling Green, which by the way is technically a handicap -- with a weight spread that goes all the way from 117 to 114. Why even bother?



5:30 pm: Grassy, 9-5 second choice to Sanagas at 3-2 by post time, won the Bowling Green like he was the best horse, surging past Center Divider midstretch when asked briefly for his best and then winning in hand under the wire by half a length. Center Divider, who was just off Sal the Barber's glacial pace (1:18.07 for 6f, 1:43.45 for 8f), held second by a head over Bold Hawk with Sanagas a close fourth.

All 12 in the finale covered in the pick-6, at payoffs ranging from 40 winners at $998 with Carson Bandit and 22 winners at $1,815 to Doublespeak to one winner at $39,935 with five longshots.


6:00 pm: Fast Grievance nailed a weary Carson Bandit in deep stretch to complete a $1,469 AAAC pick-4 and reward one pick-6 bettor with $39,985. Winloc's John Lee very wide, finished strongly to nip 5-2 Doublespeak for third.

Tomorrow's feature is the Ashley T. Cole for statebred turfers. Compliance Officer is the 5-2 ML fave off his West Point victory last time out but graded-stakes veteran Straight Story at 3-1 is the one to beat returning to the NY-bred ranks. Another point of interest is the 6th, an N2x allowance race at a mile that drew Buffum, the 3-year-old Godolphin colt who looked so good winning a Saratoga allowance race Aug. 7 by 10 lengths with a 103 BSF. The Bernardini-Storm Beauty colt's main competition could come from Bold Warrior, a 3-year-old son of Bernardini and Hollywood Wildcat.