08/04/2010 1:20PM

Day 11: 8/4/10

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SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Lots of thunder and lightning in these parts last night, scaring speculators and beastlets alike at the yearling sales, but it's 90 and sunny and muggy today and only one of five turf races (#5) has been moved to the main track.

The early double showcased the turf-course condition, which is officially "good" but could just as well be labelled "firm," though it's a second or more slower than the hard courses of recent days. In the opener, 7-2 Abilio, a Linda Rice sprinter stretching out to a mile on the inner, was "blinkers off" but that didn't exactly settle him down: He rocketed to a double-digit lead under Channing Hill down the backstretch. His margin wasn't quite the "sixteenth of a mile" that Tom Durkin called (that would be roughly 35 lengths), but the chartcaller had him 16 in front after a half in 46.27. He coasted home 6 1/2 lengths in front at the wire after a mile in 1:35.97.

In the second, Fiscal Stimulus scored at $3.10 to give Chad Brown his 7th winner at the meet from 16 starts. Twenty minutes before the race, Durkin said he had "a very unusual announcement to make" and he sure did: Kidd, a German-bred firster who had been announced as a scratch at 11 a.m., would in fact be running -- though obviously non-parimutuelly and for purse money only. The Unscratching Incident, the result of a paperwork snafu, did nothing but save everyone money since Kidd faded to finish last of eight.

2:45 pm: Yesterday's Dark Day report: Began my first Tuesday here appearing on a panel at the Albany Law School's Saratoga Institute on Racing and Gaming Law, talking about horseplayer-unfriendly regulations. Monday's card here had offered a textbook case when the inane no-superfectas-in-races-with-coupled-entries rule reared its head twice: In the 5th, when the superfecta was cancelled because there was an entry, and in the Amsterdam, when a cancelled superfecta ws restored only after part of an entry was scratched, leading to small pool that few knew was even open. Some Racing and Wagering Board members were in the audience, so here's hoping.

Afternoon was devoted to a visit to the weekly Congress Park crafts fair that gets bigger each Tuesday and to my first stroll through town since arriving. If you're a sucker for useless merchandise festooned with horseheads and racetrack scenes, I recommend Saratoga Saddlery (460 Broadway), where the following set of tins beckoned strongly. What's your guess on the price?

I picked up the medium-sized "Coffee" tin and the tag on the bottom said $49.95, making my guess for all four a prohibitive $200ish. Then I saw it was $49.95 for the WHOLE SET, plus 10 percent off for a dent, and I felt like I had just won $155.05 and bought them before reason could set in and suggest I'd actually lost $44.95. Sort of like when people blow back most of their winnings for the day on the last two races but say it's okay because they were "playing with the track's money."  

Then, having gone without a fried-chicken sandwich for going on 30 hours, it was dinner with friends at Hattie's, where you get the sandwich innards on an actual plate, plus fixins unavailable at the track.

The final night of the sales was a little weird with everyone outside the pavillion ducking for cover every time the lightning and thunder started up again. It was nicer inside, especially since Fasig-Tipton has finished renovating the place, which is lighter and brighter and has a swanky new Buyer's Lounge where speculators can drink up until they have enough courage to spend up to $1.2 million on a yearling. There's also an exhibition of horse and sport art lining the walls, all of it for sale, but the only one I really liked was $17,455 more than the tin canisters -- and since that was for just one painting, not a whole set, I passed.

 

3:30 pm: Meanwhile, back at the steamy horse park, you could choke on all the chalk today: the early pick-4 of Fiscal Stimulus ($3.10), Kid Kate ($3.80), Bug Juice ($5.80) and Daily Star ($5.30) paid $45.00 for $2, a nickel more than those discounted canisters. If this keeps up, no carryover intG2 Nassau lboth the G3 Mint Julep and G3 Locust Grove in her last two startast time out and Keertana was beaten less than a length in o tomorrow, which means that the new $100,000 guarantee for Thursday pick-6's at the min the eet might be meaningful.

 

4:45 pm: Runweiser ($21.20) and previously 4-for-34 Garrett Gomez broke the run of favorites in the 6th, and Glenwood Canyon and Gomez almost posted the shocker of the day in the 7th, giving 3-to-10 Convocation a much tougher stretch fight than expected before succumbing to him by a long nose. Convocation, dropping into a N2x allowance after three credible graded-stakes tries, including seconds in the Westchester and Suburban, went here instead of the Whitney, which now certainly looks like a wise choice. 

 

5:15 pm: 5-2 shots Miss Keller and Keertana ran 1-2 in the featured De La Rose. The race was for fillies who hadn't won a graded stakes on the turf this year and they'd come closer than the rest: Miss Keller was second beaten half a length in the G2 Nassau last time out, and Keertana was beaten less than a length in both the G3 Mint Julep and G3 Locust Grove in her last two starts.

All but two (#'s 3 and 8) are covered in the Pick-6, at payoffs ranging from $2k to $11k.

 

6:00 pm: Chad Brown firster Silver Medallion wore down Forum in a stretch battle of 7-2 favorites to finish a $2,999 pick-6. Runweiser seems to have been more than 9-1 in the multirace wagers -- he blew up a $36 pick-3 on the last three races into a $681 pick-4.