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Day 11: 8/9/08
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
A few things I really enjoyed this second Spa weekend. Richie Migliore winning the Test. Plenty of years have gone by since he was just a kid riding up here. The NYRA/MSG+ Saturday At Saratoga program. What a winner! Informed, articulate and opinionated show hosts, and great production values. No stooping to the "new camera angle trick of the week" like every network racing program seems to do. Hope they continue the program through the fall. The big dude, Fabulous Strike, doing his thing. Feel sorry for him and his connections having to face going back to Santa Anita for another BC. Gio Ponti. Wow. As I watched him being pulled up he looked like he could have dusted another fresh field on the spot. When weekends like this deliver it makes it worth the wait from those tough winter days of January. Steve, we've not seen a call on the new Chinese place in town yet. Maybe this week?
thanks for the p-6 info - I hope someone sent Eibar a gift basket for getting Gold Vendetta home, and very interesting that the three races other than the Whitney all had second place finishers that weren't on the ticket... yikes!!
Arcstats, And then we wonder why we have a shrinking fan base? Saratoga racing fields are bountiful and the envy of this SoCal race fan. I must admit that about the only good thing I have heard about the amenities of Saratoga are the lovely trees. I visit Del Mar each Summer. Weekend crowds make it hard to navigate the plant but it is difficult to keep a good thing a secret. The weather is ideal, well maybe a tiny bit too humid, and the track does not gouge the fans. A grand tour of great American tracks, upon retirement, is a goal. But in all honesty I firmly believe once all the tracks step into the 21st century with HD telecast there will be little reason for visiting the track when you can play the races from the comforts of home.
I'm thinking of giving up handicapping and just playing Linda Rice in turf sprints. I'm sure I'll make more of a profit and I know it will be a lot less work. I studied yesterdays card to death and most of my profit was from the above angle. Ditto Today LOL
A view from afar: Let's see, 25% of the toteboard lights don't work, races being timed by hand, unwatchable TV monitors throughout the entire plant, pathetic guest announcers, price gouging at its highest level - what manual is the NYRA operations management staff working from at Saratoga these days? When you think about it, other than Belmont Stakes day, the 36 days at Saratoga are probably the greatest attendance days at any New York track. And this is how you treat your customers? Face it - over 90% of the patrons have to put in some extra effort to attend Saratoga - either through out of town travel, getting their stuff together for an afternoon in the picnic area, trying to acquire reserved seats, whatever... And this is what awaits them? Before I retired, I always envisioned spending the entire meet at Saratoga. But nowadays it sure seems that unless you have some compelling reason to blindly support the track under these conditions, why do it? I know it doesn't feel the same monitoring the action from home, but at least I don't feel like I'm being treated like a sapp - like thousands must feel at the end of each day when they walk out of Saratoga.
Attention...ATTENTION! Tutti Va Bene runs well for a tag. Got it?
I know I have posted this numerous times about Zenyatta: Only two things will beat Zenyatta: 1. Weight 2. Mike Smith.. How many times do we have to hear this: "admittedly overconfident ride from her jockey, Mike Smith, to satisfy an adoring crowd on Sunday at Del Mar." or Jockey error (re: Stardom Bound), Mine That Bird....etc,,,,, The man WAS a great rider and is only STILL at the top now because of the horses he rides....not his skills. Any time Mike Smith is on a horse that needs to come off the pace, you better make sure he is the best horse in the race by far since you know he is swinging 5-20 wide on the turn as he does not go through horses anymore or try the rail (Borel). I still believe in a match up with RA he would win..but would have more confidence if Zenyatta had Bejarano on her.
Steve, I've been waiting for a horse to run up at Saratoga, my yearly bomb. So I look through the entries everyday to see if he's entered. While looking I noticed something, the proliferation of 5 1/2f turf sprints for 2 and 3 year olds. I know they attract full fields, add to the betting pools and are great workouts for horses not really meant for the turf, but 3 a day? Why so many? Mike A
arcstats....you don't get, stay home and let the rest of us enjoy...
Uncharacteristically uncharitable comment on Flay's race call. A competent effort for a first timer and it is the enthusiasm of celebrities like Flay that I believe does attract others to dip their toe in the water to try this game.