08/09/2009 1:26PM

Day 11: 8/9/08

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1:26 pm: A gray sprinkly Sunday at Saratoga that could go either way. The forecasts say "scatered T-storms," a few of which would be welcome after a dry week, but warns that "some could be severe." Here's hoping severe ones hold off until the featured Vanderbilt, a true summit of speed in which all six entrants -- Fabulous Strike, Benny the Bull, Fatal Bullet, Kodiak Kowboy, Eaton's Gift and Go Go Shoot -- are still scheduled to run.

Between Bullsbay's upset victory in the Whitney and Gio Ponti's fourth victory in the Arlington Million, it occurred to me this morning that if I had to vote for a "champion older male" of 2009 today, I'd have to go for the grass horse in a division that always rewards a main-track runner. Gio Ponti's victory was his fourth consecutive Grade 1 (Kilroe, Manhattan, Man o'War, Million) and he's won on both coasts and in between. The six G1 main track races for older males at a mile or more have been won by six different horses: Albertus Maximus (Donn), Einstein (SA Handicap), Bribon (Met Mile), Macho Again (Foster), Rail Trip (Hollywood Gold Cup) and now Bullsbay (Whitney).

Gio Ponti and Rachel Alexandra have each won four Grade 1 races this year. No one else has won more than two.


2:10 pm: Tried to turn Elusive Heat into better than 1-to-5 with a little early pick-4 play singling her and playing against Bribon in the final leg. The $100 unit caveman ticket isn't worth a full graphic: It goes 3,4,5,8/1,3,6,7,8/8/4,6,7,8,10. Nothing promising at the halfway point, with $7.80 favorite Minishaft and $7.90 second-choice Girolamo taking the first two legs.

I'm a Bribon fan when he runs on the dirt but my thought here was that he'd be overbet off his Met Mile victory while returning to the grass after 17 straight dirt starts in the last 25 months. 


2:45 pm: Elusive Heat won by 5 1/4 in 1:08.93. Excellent return, and kudos to her connections for resisting what must have been strong temptation to run her in yesterday's Test instead of this gentler spot. Elusive Heat, now 3 for 4 with her lone defeat being by a nose in a G3 in her second start, responded twice during the race when someone got near her. She actually surrendered the lead for a few strides when Slam the Cat was driven up inside her early, and she spurted away late when Northern Belle got close to her in midstretch,

Elusive Heat is a daughter or Elusive Quality and Xtra Heat. Here are her champion dam's past performances:

Download XtraHeat


Duncecap1

3:15 pm: So each $100 on Elusive Heat to win would have returned $135. My pick-4's for each $100 invested, were returning $509, $302, $55, $142 or $379. But my return was $0 when Bribon handled his return to the turf just fine, rallying to win with a sharp mile in 1:33.68.

Next stop: $1 million Woodbine Mile on the grass.


3:30 pm: According to the NYRA, yesterday's lone winning $483,828 pick-6 ticket, sold through YouBet, was a $2,592 play that singled the two $11.20 winners, Gold Vendetta and Flashing, and used six horses in each of the four other legs. The ticket went:

4,5,6,7,8,10/3/1,2,3,4,8,10/6/1,3,4,5,6,7/1,3,5,9,10,12.

It remains unknown if this was the winning player's only ticket or part of a larger play. Either way, it took an "all" in the Whitney to come up with Bullsbay.

In case you were wondering, a $2,592 parlay of those two $11.20 winners would have come back $81,473.


Queenscrown

3:45 pm: They just ran a turf-sprint stakes. Do you even have to ask who the winning trainer was?

Ahvee's Destiny, who led a 1-2-3-4 Linda Rice finish in last August's Mechanicville Stakes here, scored by a neck over favorite Smart 'N' Fancy, who checked repeatedly down the backstretch and was probably best. Rice had three others in the race, but managed only a 1-4-8-9 finish this time around.


4:15 pm: And here are career pp's for Commentator, whose retirement was made official this morning:

Download Commentator


5:00 pm: Which was the most surreal part of the 8th race? The skies opening the moment the field started loading into the gate? The race's being called, and not very well, by "guest announcer" Bobby Flay as some sort of promotion for the yearling sales? Or the victory after an agonizing nine furlongs in 1:53.07 by 32-1 Freddy the Cap, trained by Finger Lakes-based Oscar Barrera Jr.?

Maybe none of the above. If you watch the replay carefully, coming out of the first turn, it appears winning rider Sebastian Morales is hit in the head by an unfortunate seagull, who bounces off him and then hits Julien Leparoux, aboard A Zero Trap, also in the head. At this time I can not determine the further fate of the seagull.


5:30 pm: Speaking of surreal, I just made a win bet. On a 6-to-5 shot. Let me explain.

It only happens a few times a year. I honestly believed Game Face was going to be 1-to-2 or 3-to-5 in the G2 Honorable Miss against what I thought was an overmatched field. With a minute to post she was 7-5 with Port Bonheur an astoundingly low 8-5. I feel compelled to step in on these rare occasions when I think a grave mistake of this magnitude is being made. If you give me a pair of aces against 7-2 offsuit, and offer me even-money to play out the hand, I'll do it every time.

I'm not proud of it, I don't recommend it as a steady diet, but I took the $4.40.


6:10 pm: No, smartypantses, I didn't take the $4.00 on Fabulous Strike, which seemed a fair rather than generous price, but as a fan I was rooting for him. The 6-year-old Smart Strike gelding ran his record to 14-for-23 (on the day that Commentator retired 14-for-24) against an all-star field. He comfortably sat just off Go Go Shoot's solid fractions of 22:02 and 44.52, then ran him down in the final furlong to win by a length in 1:08.69 -- just over two full seconds faster than Game Face's Honorable Miss half an hour earlier. Kodiak Kowboy was third with reigning sprint champion -- but 0-for-3 this year -- Benny the Bull fourth. Fatal Bullet, last year's BC Sprint runner-up but winless on actual dirt, was last of six. 

Lucky for him the BC Sprint's at Santa Anita again this year; not so lucky for Fabulous Strike, who was fifth in the race last year in a completely uncharacteristic performance in his lone start on synth.

Thanks to Freddy the Cap, only half the field in the finale is covered in the pick-6; $58k carryover with the 1,3,5,6,8 or 11.


6:40 pm: 15-1 Meese Rocks held off 2-1 favorite Better Than Swiss to complete a $5779 late pick-4 (with $4.40 and $4.00 winners in the middle) and give us a $58,527 pick-6 carryover for the final day of Week Two.