08/16/2007 12:41AM

Blue Wave



The second half of Saratoga 2007 began with the rarely-linked training trio of Saeed bin Suroor, Bob Baffert and Gary Contessa winning six of the day's nine races including the featured G2 Adirondack.

*What I neglected to say in the previous post about the card's three optional-claiming races was that Godolphin Stable and Bin Suroor would sweep them with the day's three fastest performances. In the opener, New Zealand-bred Astronomia, a 5-year-old mare previously campaigned in Australia and England, cut back from a 10-furlong try a year ago to rally from far back in a 5 1/2-furlong N2x turf sprint. In the 3rd, Council Member, a 5-year-old by Seattle Slew. earned a 103 Beyer after surging late to beat Fleet Valid and Will he Shine in 1:09.51. Finally, 4-year-old Palace Episode, who won the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy as a 2-year-old, topped an all-Maktoum exacta winning a N3x turf allowance.

Godolphin/bin Suroor have extremely high percentages with their American starters, who are handled locally by Rick Mettee. While two of today's three victories were on grass, the outfit is even stronger on dirt, having won with an amazing 18 of its last 31 dirt starters in this country. They also fire especially well off the bench, winning with 7 of their last 16 dirt runners coming off a layoff of more than a year.

*Baffert ran his Saratoga record to 2 for 2 winning the Adirondack with the 2-year-old filly More Happy, a winner of her debut on Polytrack at Del Mar. Like Maimonides, the $4.6 million colt Baffert unveiled with an 11 1/2-length debut romp last week, More Happy is from the first crop sired by Vindication, the Seattle Slew colt Baffert trained to win the 2002 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. As with Maimonides, Baffert brought More Happy east to escape Polytrack, where he thought she struggled to win her debut.

More Happy won the Adirondack by only a diminishing three-quarters of a length after opening 4 1/2 on the field at the furlong pole, and her final time of 1:17.51 (final sixteenth in a pokey 7.39 seconds) was good for only a mediocre Beyer of 80. But she ran fast early, bounding to the front in 21.88 and 44.93, and those who chased her early faded badly. Second-timers A To The Croft and Passion appeared to be gaining quickly in second and third, but the winner was coming back to them from her early efforts.

More Happy was going to pay at least $6 to win when she crossed the wire, but ended up paying off at $5 after the stewards declared second choice Phantom Income, who reared at the start and finished last, a non-starter in yet another starting-gate mishap.

*Contessa, the leading trainer at Aqueduct and Belmont but off to a slow 5-for-79 start here, won his sixth and seventh of the meet with the biggest price and then the final leg in a pick-six carryover sequence that ended happily for 18 winners who received $12.860. Contessa won with first-timer Keen Irish in the 5th, a statebred maiden grass route, and then sent out Willi's Sweet Girl to win her third straight older-filly grass claimer in the finale.

Keen Irish was my undoing. I didn't use him on a single pick-six ticket, even as a "C," though I suppose in retrospect I could and should have, given the weakness of the field he was in. Still, my handy-dandy Formulator stats told me Contessa was 1-for-20 with first-time starters on the turf the last five years, and 0-for-12 with turf firsters at a mile or more, and that was good enough for me to toss him. Keen Irish mowed down the field to win by nearly three lengths with a mile in 1:36.76, paying $20.40.

Here's an oddity: In the ninth race, the first three finishers went off at nearly identical odds -- Willi's Sweet Girl was 4.60-1, runner-up Bridal Path was 4.50-1 and third-place Ohbeegeewhyn was 4.60-1. But the pick six was paying $12k to 18 tickets on Sweet Willi's Girl and $43k to just five tickets alive to the two other 9-2 shots. Some of those tickets were surely people who were going to have it twice, since anyone who used Phantom Income in the Adirondack was moved to More Happy, the post-time favorite, who they probably already had.

--Reminder: It's another wacky Steeplechase Thursday with overlapping pick-fours on races 3-6 and 6-9. The lynchpin race is a doozy: a 10-filly baby race with eight firsters. You can either bet it blind as the last leg of the early pick-four or watch the board and play it as the first leg of the late pick-four.

--Restaurant Foray #6: Maestro's (371 Broadway, no website) is a reliable standby for a high-quality bistro meal and it seems to get better each year. Located next door to the Adelphi Hotel on the west side of Broadway, Maestro's has a crowded little outdoor seating area that's perfect for people-watching and a more comfortable inside area with about a dozen tables. People somewhat carelessly list it as an Italian place, perhaps because of a formerly pasta-heavy menu, but there are no checkered tablecloths and not much tomato sauce in sight, and I made a fine and decidedly non-Italian meal of Thai shrimp and smoked-chicken pasta. No hard hooch to be had, but beer and wine are available.

Jim More than 1 year ago
So the NYRA thinks hireing Robert Duncan as a consultent to their new Starter is going to help improve their starting crew. Can anyone remember the last meet that Duncan started at Saratoga? I think there were quite a few declared non starters at that meet. When Frank Calvarese retired and Duncan took over is when the problems in NY started.
Dave Schabell More than 1 year ago
I've already vented on the New York WWGC (Worlds Worst Gate Crew) in past posts, so I will suffice it to say that this is not just a Saratoga specific problem - it is a NYRA problem. It is only highlighted now because the eyes of the world are presently focused on the Spa. Another wonderful loading job by the WWGC today (Thursday) in the sixth race with the seven horse - Secret Gypsy. They not only couldn't load the horse - but when they did they shoved it right out of the front of the gate. This must be a super filly - she won (convincingly) anyway. Perhaps she needed to be stirred up before breaking from the gate. This past Saturday a NYRA official (whose name escapes me) was on a televised interview prior to the Siro's seminar, and he explained off the gate crew's collective incompetence by calling it "sheer coincidence." At least Indian Charlie blames J.R.V..
Green Mtn Punter More than 1 year ago
Quote of The Day From Bob Baffert: "It was nice coming back here (the Spa). You guys have some serious fans here. Your horses are appreciated here. At Del Mar everybody's just getting drunk and going to the beach." I always love to see Baffert show up and liven up things!Quote from a story by Sherry Ross in today's Daily News.
Tim Franklin More than 1 year ago
Steve I have enjoyed reading your comments about the meet makes it seem like in some way like I am up there. Thanks Tim
Andrew Carpenter More than 1 year ago
I didn't realize that Vindication was by Seattle Slew. If he stays sounds in the shed, he may one day catch SS's other great son, A.P Indy. I do remember his BC Juvee victory however, which was brillant. If Baffert gets some colts by Vindication, expect to see him back on the Darby trail in the near future. The polytrack at DM is funky and developing a trend of ....
AndyScoggin More than 1 year ago
OK, I feel it is necessary to toss in another view about the starting gate problems! Has anyone else noticed the change in the way jockeys act in and near the starting gate. They are very quick to jump off horses that are fractious before loading and even as horses misbehave in the gate. I read that in one instance, I think, it was JRV had one foot out of the stirrup at the start. Has this been part of the gate problems, as the assistant starters are trying to hold horses for jockeys that aren't ready. This is not meant as a criticism of the jocks, the gate is quite dangerous.
Stephen MacDonald More than 1 year ago
Getting real tired with the starting crew at the Spa. What the hell is going on? Are these people in the 5th grade. I can only wonder how much money has been tossed on the ground by the day tripper's. I would guess around 15-20k. They are costing the real player's money and we are getting tired of it. Why isn't an article or two being written by the NYRA about this? Get your act together or my money goes to Del Mar!!!!
EJXD2 More than 1 year ago
I'm shocked that all you had to say regarding the Adirondack is that it featured "another starting gate mishap." Maybe there's nothing more to say, but as someone who is a champion for the betting public, I thought you'd weigh in a bit more. Keen Irish was my undoing, too.
ml/nj More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure what the "starting gate mishap" was with Phantom Income. At least on my computer 180 miles south, it appeared that the filly just reared at the start. I didn't see any indication that a starter was involved in any way. What's next? Are stumblers going to be declared non-starters?
Diceman More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve, Thoroughly enjoy your informative and entertaining blog! The very best in the racing industry! Steve, what is happening to our ability to speak clear and understandable English in either emails or blogs! I have been betting, booking and touting horseracing for the past 60 years. Never have I been more dumb-struck by the universal use of pig-english to describe betting patterns and race results. Such unacceptable english is driving new fans, who are better educated, away from racing and into the Casino Resorts. Obviously, the language used by racing blogers appeals to hard-core racing bettors. I love both casino and racing action. But, frankly, I prefer casinos where the players, employees and management personnel speak clear and unambigious english! Steve, thanks again for your Saratogo comments! You make my day!