08/03/2008 12:54PM

Day 11: 8/3/08


12:55 pm: Sunny and pleasant, fast and firm for Day 11, but let's start the day by expanding our horizons here a little. It's easy to get provincial while Saratoga's in session, but there's important racing being conducted elsewhere, like today's Haskell at Momouth and of course that little race meet they've got going just outside San Diego, where Zenyatta remained undefeated in yesterday's
G2 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap.

Zenyatta, now 7 for 7, is just plain fun to watch. The massive daughter of Street Sense Cry looked like a Clydesdale running down ponies yesterday as she trailed early and kicked in when it mattered:

As for the Haskell (Live tv coverage from 6 to 6:30 Eastern on ESPN News, ESPN Classic and TVG), Big Brown is supposed to trounce his six second- and third-tier opponents if he's anywhere close to where he was in May. He wouldn't be running at all if his connections and investors thought there was still anything amiss with him, and I'm going to root for him to return in the pink with a gigantic performance for both sporting (makes the fall more interesting) and selfish (sets him up for a bet-against if they have the fortitude to run against Curlin) reasons.

Finally, I'm feeling a little guilty that I never handicapped or paid any attention to yesterday's Claiming Crown, a worthy and always-entertaining card that returned to its proper home at the very likeable Canterbury Park. I think the event would draw more national visibility (and handle) if it were run in July before Del Mar and Saratoga open, and if more tracks would get behind it. And I'll repeat my annual suggestion that it be made the focus of a national day of education, fundraising, and honoring popular old claimers.

1:15 pm: Cable, a 3-year-old grass filly with a boundless future, made it 2-for-2 in her first start against winners in today's Spa opener.

The daughter of Dynaformer and half-sister to Exchange Rate made a spectacular debut at Belmont July 13, winning with an explosive late run after twice checking and altering course during the race. She wasn't quite as flashy against today's strong N1x allowance field, and found a seam right up the rail, but still rallied from dead last into tepid fractions to get there. She trailed after six furlongs in 1:12.72 and went last to first into a strongly-run final five-sixteenths in 28.87, probably shading 28 flat herself. That's some serious acceleration.

Tough call in the upcoming second: Baffert second-timer Miss Bodine has opened at 2-5 in the filly baby race, an unconscionable price on a filly who lost her debut despite a perfect trip and set-up while earning a lowly Beyer of 58. I understand she's supposed to be better than that, but still. Question: Does the fact that the three firsters among her four opponents are sitting on the board like icebergs at 5-1, 5-1 and 8-1 a sign of her morning glory or their lack thereof?

1:45 pm: Answer: More of the latter. After Outside was scratched at the gate, Miss Bodine comfortably outran the three firsters. 10-1 Tapitha (Wilkes)made a menacing move at her on the turn but then dropped back suddenly as if something went wrong; 5-1 Abigail's Gold (Pletcher) ran evenly for second; and Wickedly Spicey (Asmussen), who got bet to 5-2 late, trailed while showing nothing. Too soon to know if Miss Bodine's pokey-looking winning time of 1:19.06 says more about her or the racetrack, but I don't think we just saw the Spinaway winner.

2:15 pm: Today's 3rd race a N2x allowance at 9f, offered a purse of $70k, while the 5th, a maiden race at the same distance, is going for $78k -- purely because of field size. The purse bonus for betting interests in excess of six in 9f+ races kicked in for the maiden race, which drew nine and thus increased by (3x$6k) from $60k to $78k, while the N2x only drew six. A full field would have sent the purse over $100k.

In any case, even-money Sightseeing found another way to lose, or at least a variation on his usual too-little-too-late routine: Alan Garcia tried to get him into the game earlier and hold position inside horses on the first turn, but had to check back when Sightseeing wasn't quick enough to get through despite a slow opening quarter of 25.11. Past the Point (Dave Litfin's Best Bet of the day at $8.60) was an easy winner and Sightseeing settled for third. Another disappointment was Ketchikan, so promising a 3-year-old last year, who has now returned from a year's absence with three dismal efforts.

Lunch Break: Thumbs (claws?) up on the Seafood Gumbo ($6.25) from the One Caroline Street/Mouzon House booth in the backyard Restaurant Row. Billed as "shrimp and crabmeat in a lobster stock over rice," it's even better than that: It's more of a mildly spicy lobster bisque, and there's also genuine lobster meat sprinkled on top. Unlike some gumbos that load up on the rice and okra, this one is chock full of fish and has no more than five grains of rice per spoonful.

3:00 pm: Freshman sire Read the Footnotes got his second statebred juvenile winner of the meet when West Point/McLaughlin firster Rereadthefootnotes ($5.00) took the 4th. The $75k yearling purchase put away J T Moore through a half in 46.07 and won off in 1:05.33 as firsters Aoja and Gold Prospect were up late for the minor awards. Read the Footnotes, by Smoke Glacken, is also the sire of Cribnote, who earned a outstanding Beyer Speed Figure of 90 winning by 13 1/2 lengths here July 27.

4:30 pm: The 5th, the $78k maiden race, again showed why encouragement is necessary to get horses racing longer. The race went in 1:52.05, more than two full seconds slower than the N2x, and the back two-thirds of the field appeared eased or not ridden out as they struggled home gapped out dozens of lengths behind the winner, Skills Coach ($27.00). The 4th through 9th finishers were officially beaten from 18 1/2 to 45 lengths. Runner-up Forest Echoes may have been best dueling through faster fractions than the N2x and grimly holding second while running his final furlong in over 14 seconds and still widening the gap on the rest of the field.

Just as the skies above Saratoga suddenly darkened, Dark Sky took the turf-sprint 6th at a generous $7.90, and by generous I mean I honestly thought she'd be 6-5 off a top-fig dirt debut and a strong grass pedigree. Instead the bettors made a 2-1 favorite of Phi Beta Mom, a full sister to Teufelsberg who had set a soft pace against a weaker field than this one. It rained hard during the race but the dark skies passed shortly thereafter, though black clouds continue to linger threateningly.

Mpenzi lit up the board at $38.80 in the 7th, a $40k claimer for older turf fillies, running down favored Survived in the last stride for John Pregman, previously 0-for-46 this year. Mpenzi won at 5-2 (at Laurel) the last time she was entered for a $40k tag but that was one of only three victories before today in a 38-race career.

6:00 pm: Red Giant, off since running second to Nobiz Like Showbiz in the Jamaica Oct. 6, returned running today with a strong late move to run down 16-1 Stalingrad the the wire and win the featured G2 Fourstardave Handicap. It was a length back to Thorn Song in third. Danak was pulled up and vanned off but appeared to be walking okay.

Red Giant could be an interesting addition to the top rank of American grass horses the rest of the year. He now has an 8: 5-3-0 slate on the grass, and showed promise winning the Virgina Derby and running second to Shamdinan in the G1 Secretariat. The 4-year-old Giant's Causeway colt, owned by Peachtree Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher, ran the mile and a sixteenth on a wet but firm Mellon course in 1:41.99 under John Velazquez -- who seems to be riding with a vengeance this year in Garrett Gomez's absence.

I'm going to gloat a little about race 10 because I made the speech in public this morning: Dulcet Tone was a big bet-against as the even-money favorite. She came into this N2L with a towering 96 Beyer, but earned it against a horrendous field of maidens at Belmont -- a first-time starter and five others who have yet collectively to crack a Beyer of 59. Horses who can get totally loose against such fields sometimes run giant figures that they have no chance of replicating when faced with early pressure, and Dulcet Tone was facing stakes-caliber early speed today. Dulcet Tone never got near the lead today and was off the board. If you're a Sheets adherent, I guess you would say she just "bounced," but I like my theory better.

Not that anyone was likely to beat Elope ($12.80) today. The 4-year-old Gone West filly, a winner of her lone start 10 months ago, chased Overandabeauty to the turn, zoomed by her, and drew off impressively in a quick 1:16.52 for 6.5f. The Ballerina might be asking a lot of her in her third career start, but this one is headed for stakes action.

6:45 pm: Wow that was ugly. It's hard to imagine Big Brown racing again after his desperate, bearing-out victory in the Haskell, but stranger things have happened. And at least he'd go out a winner and with just one career defeat -- in the Belmont -- just like his future fellow Three Chimneys Farm stallion, Smarty Jones.

The maiden-claimer turf finale at Saratoga, however, was a thing of beauty, at least for me. Alive to six horses in my anti-Dulcet Tone pick-four play, I had neither the 3-1 nor 7-2 shots who were well clear of the field with a furlong to go. Then along came one of the firsters I'd used on a complete guess at 54-1 to get up at the wire and complete an $11k for $2 combo; some ammo for tomorrow's $78k carryover.

Virgin Queen More than 1 year ago
callmetony if your daughter is smart she buy dad a box of cigars why she is spending the rest on clothes.saratoga_mike..others on dans blog have also brought up how thin bb looked compared 2 a couple of months ago.
Mike More than 1 year ago
RE: Pick 4 scores. Very nice! Do you play the Pick 4's the same as the Pick 6. Main, backups, As Bs Cs ETC or do you play those differently? Thanks for explaining!
Dave More than 1 year ago
Steve, I tend to defer to you since you've seen about 10,000 times more horse races than I have. Living in NJ, I see a lot of races at Monmouth. And I know that a lone speed horse is very, very tough to run down on that track. Coal Play looked gone at the top of the stretch and it impressed me that Big Brown ran him down, despite drifting out as much as he did. Look what Curlin did in the Haskell last year, first time back off the tough Triple Crown series. His career wasn't over by any stretch. I hope they bring him back. If the Travers is too soon, then give him the extra week and try against older in the Woodward. I tend to think he'll be better next time out; he needed a race. I'm not sure why IEAH would continue to run Big Brown if the feet were an issue. That theory makes no sense.
Turn Back The Alarm More than 1 year ago
Personal observation: BB was thinner and not as broad through the chest as he has been. While not dull, his coat was not as shiny either. He appeared to have a touch of diarrhea. He was alert and calm throughout the saddling and walking ring. As soon as the riders went up, BB's demeanor changed and he got his game face on. You could tell he knew what was coming. BB has a lovely head and a large, intelligent, kind eye. I did not like KD's ride and don't think the horse did either.
Stewart More than 1 year ago
Congrats Steve on the Pick 4 score. I, of course, had the #9 horse for three $1 Pick 4's and had to watch the 54-1 FTS beat me at the wire. Such is the nature of this game we love. As for BB's win in the Haskell, I thought it was better than it looked given that he had to chase a lone speed through some swift fractions after a 2 month layoff. I would give him another race before declaring his career over.
bochalls More than 1 year ago
If you win enough, people will begin to hate you. Big Brown won while not at his best. Keeping him in training is best for horse racing (even though we know Curlin would kill him). Just look at the Red Sox. I hate 'em, and back in the 90's I hated the Braves. Uhhhhhh, go Cubs?!
walmatt More than 1 year ago
Can anybody remember when NYRA has carded 10 maiden races over a two-day period at Saratoga. Lots of maiden claimers too. By the way, I'd also like a breakdown of how you handle your a,b,c, p6 and p4's..thanks
Michael Thomas More than 1 year ago
Completely concur on the gumbo. Had it the first week. Mine had a little more rice, but very satisfying.
Brian McLean More than 1 year ago
Steve was wondering if you heard the ‘props’ you got from Russ Harris yesterday? He was being interviewed by Jon White on HRTV. Russ recently picked 8 of 9 winners I think. I’ll paraphrase because the Bud Lights had kicked in… He said something like ”The Form is twice as good now that Steve Crist runs it”.
AndyScoggin More than 1 year ago
OH NO, the Big Brown craziness is back. You can't compare Curlin and BB unless you discuss the competition. Remember who Curlin ran against--Street Sense, Lawyer Ron, Rags to Riches! BB could not beat any of them! Steve is completely right about BB. I hope he runs again against older horses. Again BB looked disinterested in the paddock pre-race. And you KD bashers are wacky. The only reason he won the Haskell was KD's ride. He was smart to push him out of the gate and not let him loaf. KD's hard ride was why they got the win down the stretch. BB had no interest in winning himself. IEAH should look back to Patrick Reynolds, who knew from the get go that his feet were so bad! BB's first race was on the turf!!!