07/23/2008 12:12PM

Day 1: 7/23/08


1:15 p.m.: Into each Saratoga a little rain must fall. It used to happen a lot before someone broke the weather a few years back, so today's soaked and off-the-turf opener almost made one nostalgic for the days when Marshall Cassidy would carefully and deliberately recite what seemed like 82 late scratches.

Today there are a mere 41 so far, and we're down to fields of 6, 7, 6, 10, 7, 6, 7, 5, 10 and 7.

In the opener, main-track-only's Coach Butts (1-1) and Saint Barr (5-2) took all the money, and the latter sprinted away to a big early lead, but Star Player ($12.20) advanced steadily from second and ran him down, making Chad Brown the leading trainer at Saratoga for at least half an hour.

3:05 pm: Cognito, discussed in the previous post, was a $4.60 winner of an interesting first baby race of the meeting in the second race. The light gray colt broke to the lead from the rail, which is not looking like the best part of the track so far, fended off an early challenge from Gone Astray and a late one from Brave Victory to score by half a length in 1:05.11 over the sealed sloppy track.

Gone Astray, a Dixie Union-Illicit firster, showed surprising early foot for a Phipps homebred and went off at 13-1. Brave Victory, a Zito firster bet to 4-1, made two nice runs in the race, the first down the backstretch after a slow getaway and the second a good surge nearing the wire.

Accredit ($3.60) completed the first of the rolling doubles that have been introduced at the meet, and this one paid a whopping $7.50. Accredit got away with a clear lead through soft fractions (23.01, 46.57) and finished with a strong final quarter of 23.84 for a final time of 1:10.41. The victory snapped a five-race losing streak, albeit one that included three stakes placings and a dq.

5:00 pm: It's still raining and there's more on the way. There's no grass racing tomorrow again, and Thursday's first race, a steeplechase, has been flat out cancelled since it can't be taken off the grass. (Please, don't even think about it.) So first post will be 1:35, when what will still be called Race 2 will kick off a nine-race card. The cancelled steeplechase will be run next week.

With five today and three tomorrow, there have now been more off-the-grass races the first two days of the 2008 meeting than there were in the entire 36-day meeting last year, when only six were moved.

Second-timer Lookin at Her ($11.40) took today's 5th but keep your eye on runner-up Vinnie Van Go, who tried to come up the soupy rail, altered course and finished with a flourish for second. In the 6th, Steve Asmussen became the first trainer with two victories at the meet, following up Cognito in the 2nd with Jazz Nation, a 3 1/2-length winner in 1:04.07. Jazz Nation($6.70) was the 18-1 shot who in his second career start ran second to Margo's Gift in the $250k Favorite Trick Stakes last year on the Breeders' Cup Friday undercard. He'd lost his four subsequent starts, all on turf or synthetics, but was back at home in the slop today.

I played a little 2x2x5xall(7) $1 caveman late pick-4 for $140 worth of entertainment to complete what had to be my lowest-handle opening-day of the current milennium. There just wasn't much to bet on between the scratches and the slop, which I suspect will be borne out in the comparative handle figures at day's end.

I'm not a favorite to get my $140 back after dominating victories by Building New Era at 6/5 in the off-the-turf 7th and by Stormin Normandy at 3-5 in the off-the-turf 8th, the High Rock Springs Stakes for statebreds. Stormin Normandy, a 4-year-old IEAH/Dutrow colt by Stormin Fever, is now 7-for-13 lifetime and was timed in 1:03.97.

6:20 pm: Went from underdog to cinch to get that $140 back when Jardin ($26.40) won the Schuylerville as one of my five. Here's what I liked (a little) about her: While her winning Beyer of 68 in her CD debut was a bit slow for this group, she had one of the strongest finish-up times in today's field -- a final furlong in 12.10. It was a race where no one had won at six furlongs and I was looking for possible closers since both favorites looked like committed front-runners.

Glad I didn't fool around with the intrarace exotics because I would have had a lot of trouble coming up with 22-1 Cameron Crazies for second or 15-1 Girlfrienontheside for third, unless I had made the old greyhound-racing play of boxing the outside posts on a sloppy track. (The sometimes sharply banked turns in dogdom make the water and goop roll to the inside.) Maybe some old dog bettors were playing Saratoga triples because the 11-9-10 Schuylerville number was a little light at $2210. Second choice Collegiate held fourth while favored Ocean Colors (Orientate-Winning Colors) ran last after blasting to the early lead and stopping badly around the turn. Steve Asmussen trains the first- and last-place finishers.

Jardin, a $425k Ocala 2-year-old purchase by Satish Sanan's Padua Stables, is a Florida-bred daughter of Montbrook and the Valid Appeal mare Unlimited Pleasure. (Pretty good slop breeding too.) Her victory, the only won of the day at higher than 5-1 shot, gave Asmussen his third of the day.

The nightcap was a thriller that ended less than optimally for me and my "all" when 12-1 Sonny Pajamas somehow squandered a huge lead and lost the bob to 5-1 Debating, a 7-year-old Phipps castoff. The two were making their first starts since meeting June 26 at Belmont -- when Sonny Pajamas was the one who won by a nose.

Debating and Sonny Pajamas are the kind of horses you can set your watch by as a figuremaker. Eight of Debating's last 12 Beyers are between a 76 and a 79, and he was timed in 1:11.98. So it's going to be hard to come up with a particularly strong figure for the Schuylverville, which went in 1:12.79 half an hour earlier.

No carryover into Day Two: The pick six paid $20,869.

As for tomorrow, remember: The first race has been cancelled; the 4th, 6th and 8th are off the grass; and David Grening reports that Notonthesamepage, the morning-line favorite in the Sanford, will be scratched.

One down, 35 to go.