08/10/2009 1:05PM

Day 12: 8/10/09


2:00 pm: Early start to the pick-6 today -- race 4 on just a 9-race card after a weekend of 11-a-days -- but I'm still undecided. I'd have to lean heavily on Communique in the 5th and Rereadthefootnotes in the 8th because the other four legs are wide-open races with at least six open contenders in each. I'll make a gametime decision.

In the second race, Proud Zoe paid $4.70 instead of an expected $3.60 or less due to strong money for Phipps/McGaughey firster Protesting, an A. P. Indy-On Parade filly with two sharp recent workouts. Protesting opened 6-5 against Proud Zoe, who had run second and third in three fast Churchill Downs races, including a second to the phenomenal Hot Dixie Chick.

While playing Hamlet about the pick-6, I'll pass on some good news for entrepreneurs and bad news for diners: the opening of the Shanghai Grill, which I saw driving into town two weeks ago and finally sampled last night, has not changed the fact that you can't get decent Chinese food in Saratoga. Please, someone, open a good Szechuan place and make yourself rich: You can fleece homesick downstaters like me during racing season, and hold your own feeding college kids the rest of the year. Delivery's a no-brainer in a compact, bike-friendly town.


Two hungry journalists in a forgiving mood picked up (no delivery) a big bag of chow from Shanghai Grill last night. Hot and Sour Soup accomplished the impossible by being neither hot nor sour; Spicy Pork wasn't; tangerines couldn't disguise the tough and gristly beef in Tangerine Beef; even something as foolproof as Chicken Lo Mein was a greasy disaster. In all fairness, however, I must report that the greyhounds thoroughly enjoyed the ample portions of leftover meat.

Maybe their raw fish and curries are better. The Shanghai Grill offers Chinese, Japanese and Thai food, usually a sign of a place that does none of them well. I can only vouch for the Chinese part.

3:00 pm: I played for $684, just in case both Communique and Rereadthefootnotes won and I could split the others up the right way in the tough 6th, 7th and 9th.


I rarely play a pick-6 with two flat-out singles, but the other races were so tough that each backup horse in the two singled races would have cost an extra $144 on a day when I was looking to keep the whole play to around $700. Off to a good start with Riptide ($15.60), who I picked on "Talking Horses" because I thought he had by far the worst trip of the four contenders emerging from the July 16 running of the $35k/N3L condition at Belmont. He was farthest back behind a slow early pace, and altered course sharply in the stretch. I expected him to be the second choice to Clement dropdown Gravitational at around 7-2, but he somehow floated to 6-1.

Weird running of the Albert the Great Stakes one race earlier. Cool Coal Man may have run himself into the Woodward with a huge runaway victory, but stakes-winners Ready Set, Barrier Reef and Da'Tara couldn't have been worse bringing up the rear. Da'Tara, last year's Belmont stakes winner, looked like he was going to be pulled up into the first turn, then Alan Garcia began riding him again down the backstretch before giving up in the final furlong.

"Alan said he didn't break," said trainer Nick Zito. "In the first turn he was taking him up. Then he took him to the outside for some reason and the horse went off mentally. Dr. Verderosa checked him out. He's perfect. I might have to put blinkers on him. He's never done anything like that. I'm disappointed because I thought he was the horse to beat."

4:00 pm: No regrets on not putting more into the pick-6: Even if I'd backed up Communique in the 5th race, I couldn't have used Queen of Hearts, a recent maiden graduate by half a length over Upper Gulch -- who lost for the 13th time in Sunday's second race. I guess Queen of Hearts is bred to go long but it was kind of hard to see her beating last year's Beverly D. runner-up.

The 5th race had been run in the past as the Waya, and that's what local broadcasters were still calling the race last night, since that's how it's still listed on NYRA's stakes schedule on its website, but at some recent point the name of the race was changed to the Signature Stallion.

It's "Sales Week" up here, and a few of the weekend's overnight stakes were renamed for sales-related things amid a generally confusing sponsorship deal between NYRA and Fasig-Tipton, whose yearling sales start here tonight. All weekend, Tom Durkin had to announce the updated standings after every single race for some sort of trainer and jockey competition, based on race results and whether horses had been sold at Faig-Tipton, that few if any fans understood and fewer cared about. Twenty-two announcements updating which jockey would pocket $3,000 seemed like about 21 1/2 too many for live and simulcast customers to endure.

5:05 pm: Rough day for Alan Garcia. After the Da'Tara fiasco, he was on the lead in the 8th with 4-5 Rereadthefootnotes, desperately and unsuccessfully trying to get him to change leads in upper stretch, when he looked back suddenly as if concerned something had gone awry and eased up momentarily. Then he decided all was well and rode him out, barely saving third in a photo. Weird day. And yeah, pretty funny, got the A's home in those impossible-looking races while both singles stunk.

5:55 pm: No pesky double-carryover to ruin the dark day: Lofty Banner, longest price of four live horses in pick-6, got the job done to the tune of $196,575 for one winner.

Was alive to him and five others in dollar pick-4's but felt obliged to bet him straight since I picked him this morning -- and then I got greedy/stupid: I split the intended investment between a win bet and a 1/all/all/all superfecta key since the race looked so chaotic. You know how that usually works out: 7/2, 4-1 and 7-2 shots ran 2-3-4 behind him. So the dime supers returned only $90.95 for each $33.60 invested, effectively turning 9-1 into 8-5.

Next post at Saratoga: 43 hours, 5 minutes.