07/29/2009 2:51PM

Day 1: 7/29/09


2:30 pm: The first four races, and the first Hattie's fried-chicken sandwich, of Saratoga 2009 are in the books. So far, so good, especially the sandwich.

It's a steamy Opening Day at Saratoga with just enough gray in the sky and uncertainty in the forecast to think we could still have one of those Adirondack typhoonettes before day's end. So far, though, everyone's in that giddy back-at-the-Spa mood, even if they haven't cashed a ticket yet.

The opener, which looked impossibly tight on paper, was a 4 1/2-length blowout for 7-1 Good Prospect. The second, a two-horse race on paper that became a seeming one-horse race when Mythical Yarn was scratched a few minutes to post, was a squeaker at the wire, with 3-5 Freedom Rings prevailing by a whisker over 12-1 Cap The Thunder.

The first important race of the meeting was the 3rd, the $80k James Marvin Stakes, because it featured the return of Pyro. You remember Pyro, don't you -- the 2007 BC Juvenile runner-up who was sold to the Maktoums for a reported $20 million and finished 8th as the third choice in Big Brown's Kentucky Derby? The 7f Marvin (run on last year's third Saturday at 6f) was his first start since running 6th in the BC Dirt [sic] Mile last October, and since then he's been switched from Steve Asmussen to Saeed bin Suroor and officially joined the Godolphin racing string. In an attempt to salvage his value as a stallion, he's been returned to racing with stated goals of winning a Grade 1 race such as the Forego or Cigar Mile.

Chilly in the betting at 4-1, Pyro had an eventful return. He trailed early, ran into trouble trying to get through between the leaders in upper stretch, eventually made the lead but was run down late by the solid but undistinguished Gold Trippi ($18.00). It was a respectable effort off a 10-month layoff but still hard to gauge.

Played the early pick-4 just because, and fortunately Gold Trippi was my other A besides 4-5 Riley Tucker, who stopped badly. I should be alive for $1 to "all" in the finale but I now have $4 tickets because I put in my play before the late scratch of Mythical Yarn and while under the misimpression that Titan of Industry was still running in the 4th, and scratched into the winning favorite in both legs. So, let's Go Longshots in the upcoming 5th:



3:30 pm: The skies are darkening and they're sealing the main track.

Got Come From Behind (#8) home at $17.20 to complete an $875 for $2 pick-4. Thank goodness for my fairly boneheaded play and a rare use of the "all" button in the C slot: If you'd arbitrarily given me five horses, Come from Behind wouldn't have been among them -- he got a perfect trip behind a fast pace in his debut and did nothing but back up gamely. Today he improved mightily and had one of those angles-you're-supposed-to- ignore going for him: Trainer Bill Mott's birthday is July 29, and he always seems to win a race up here on his birthday. (Update: Turns out it's "only" his ninth birthday victory since 1994.)

Here comes the rain.....

Something looks wrong with the fractional and/or final time posted for the fourth race -- 6f in 1:13.42 and a mile in 1:35.36? That would mean that the victorious Get Stormy ran his fourth and final quarter in 21.94, and anyone who gained ground ran even faster.

4:30 pm: Steady showers, nothing torrential yet. On to the late pick-4:

LATE PICK-4, Saratoga 7/29/09


4:45 pm: They just announced that the 10th race at Saratoga is off the grass.

5:05 pm: It took over 20 minutes for NYRA to clarify what happens to multirace bettors when a surface switch is made after those bets begin. After announcing three times that the switched 10th race would now be an "all" race for pick-6 purposes only, Tom Durkin just now announced that the same goes for the pick-4. This sort of thing keeps happening at NYRA, which really needs to get everyone on the same page about exactly what happens when there are gate scratches and surface changes in the midst of these sequences, and announce all of the implications to the public clearly and immediately.

The 7th race, the traditional opening-day baby race for open 2-year-olds, went to second-timer Westover Wildcat, who was second in his debut at Philadelphia Park to El Rocco, who returned to run second in the Tyro last Saturday. The firster who took serious money against him -- Trappe Shot, an $850k 2yo buy in May for Mill House and McLaughlin -- had a horrorshow trip, stumbling at the start and getting repeatedly shuffled between horses after recovering. Expect a short price and an improved effort when he returns.

The 8th, a talent-jammed open N1x allowance, marked a winning return for beaten 2008 Gotham favorite Saratoga Russell, making his second start after a 15-month layoff. The 4-year-old Trippi colt wired a good field in 1:10.58.

5:50 pm: There's a spectacularly fast 2-year-old filly on the loose: Hot Dixie Chick, who set a Churchill Downs track record of 56.48 for five furlongs winning a maiden race last time, just won the G3 Schuylerville by 6 1/4 lengths in 1:10.18, which is 0.40 faster than the 4-year-old male Saratoga Russell ran half an hour earlier. The Dixie Union filly, owned by Mrs. Jess Jackson's Grace Stables, broke from the rail, was denied the early lead, but powered away from the field on the turn. Beautician was second, 6 3/4 lengths clear of Cowgirl Mally. Decelerator, the Debutante winner who edged Hot Dixie Chick when both made their debuts at Churchill May 14, ran fifth.

t's a bit unfair to compare her final time to Saratoga Russell's because the latter went nearly a full second faster to the half mile -- 44.65 vs. 45.50 -- but it was a sensational performance. Hot Dixie Chick earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 last time out and may well have cracked the triple-digit plateau again today, extremely rare for a juvenile filly.

And remember, if you're still alive in the pick-4 or the pick-6, you've already won: The upcoming 10th is an "all" race in those wagers because of the surface switch. No free bingo square in the final pick-3 because the switch was announced half an hour before the 8th race was run.

8:30 pm: Epilogue: It has been raining hard and without respite for the last two and half hours. I wouldn't spend a lot of time handicapping the six (including a steeplechase) grass races scheduled for the turf tomorrow.

George Quinn More than 1 year ago
Good luck replacing Harvey Pack. However you do it think of Walter Cronkite or John Facenda. To us horse players, he is in that category. Please come back Harvey. George in Tampa
bochalls More than 1 year ago
I hit one race yesterday. Thank the racing Gods it was a nice tri. Keyed the Duggan horse 2nd and 3rd and got Optimer up for the win. I am up $3 for the meet! Suckas!!!...Hey Evan G, I told you NYRA and the OTBs would hammer out a treaty before SAR opens. What I didn't know is that they would find other ways to interfere with your SAR fun. That's inexcusable.
The Budman More than 1 year ago
Steve, in a recent blog you noted that SIXTY (60) races had been taken-off the turf @ Belmont A/O that posting, and many more followed. (I also know well the guys who own the drainage system installed at Pebble Beach, Augusta, and elsewhere.) Question: As adept as you are at crunching numbers, is there a way you can approximate what, if anything, it costs the live product producer in percentage of handle -- in this case, Saratoga -- whenever a race is switched from turf to dirt? Thank you ...
Stanley Marcinkowski More than 1 year ago
You want a hot 2 yr old? 7th race at Del Mar Saturday-Deputy Max
Ken More than 1 year ago
Dan Mackenzie, what day were those Rain photos taken? they are amazing. thanks. Ken
dale tillotson More than 1 year ago
An intersting opening day at the spa for me. Hit the first race never a good sign for me as it usually goes down hill from their. With the weather forecast as it was I proceeded cautiously for the rest of the card as i had planned to head home for vermont and return Thusday. When get stormy won the fourth race under gloomy skies approaching I decided it was time to get out of town and return Thursday. My return trip home of 120 miles was the most harrowing adventure in my 48 yrs. of existence on this earth. The rain that fell in my path on the way home was the most powerful force ofweather that i have experienced,. including blizzards. It made me wish that i had pitched a tent in the closest wall mart parking lot and gone to the spa on thursday. But i got home and am now watching and studying intently thursdays races. what a trip home it was. Good news was car did not stall out through the trip home, although stopped for a pit stop and did not dare shut it off for fear of non restart and will live for the return to the rail at the spa next week. Good luck too all
Joel Ittner More than 1 year ago
Yeah, Hey, Steve - I find it hard to believe that more folks don't even have a clue as to the NYRA "off-turf" rule for pik-4's & 6's when it was such a controversy only two years ago. Thanks to a late addition of Saratoga Russell to my A ticket (saw speed was holding after the first six races) I backed into the late quad nineteen times. The rule finally came my way, and I'm a teacher who needed it to bridge the remainder of my SoCal summer. BTW - Let the connections know - WE WANT HOT DIXIE CHICK TO RUN IN THE BC!
Dave Schabell More than 1 year ago
I'd like to make one comment about the time of the Talking Horses show (11:45am - 12:30pm). While this probably works perfectly for the on-track crowd, it doesn't conclude until 30 minutes until post time, leaving those of us out in cyberspace only a few minutes to journey to our OTB or Simulcast facility - it can't be done. How about a fifteen minute compromise?????? We'd sure appreciate it. 11:30am to 12:15pm would make all of the differnece in the world to us. Ditto to all of those who cited that the moderator of the Talking Horses seminar/show should do just that - moderate. I have always resepected Little Andy's insights and frivolities and absorb what is said by the other guest. No need for a third voice to further complicate matters. I already miss Harvey!
Virgin Queen More than 1 year ago
michael_cusortelli according 2 my sources longtime nyra broom sweeper freddie the freeloader came across 1pic6 and twopic4 tickets that he plans 2 donate 2 magna corp 2 help get them out of chapter 11 ;)
peewee More than 1 year ago
Thanks to you Steve for your suggestion for last years BC recommending betting the rolling doubles to stay in the game. I hedged the day and caught 5 DD's and 1 P3 for the day building my bankroll up. Hope you all are staying afloat up there. Tomorrow should be a light day at best. With all this Hatties chicken sandwich talk, my laptop is smelling mighty tasty now.Thanks alot guys.