08/04/2008 1:46PM

Day 12: 8/4/08


Big Brown's Haskell didn't get a lot prettier with a few morning-after viewings, but I suppose there's a case to be made that it's not as bad on paper as it looked and felt viscerally. On the positive side, he did win a Grade 1 race off an eight-week layoff; gathered himself and rerallied after looking like he might be finished on the turn; managed to run down a loose leader who probably ran the best race of his life; and earned a winning Beyer Speed Figure of 106 is still the co-second-best by a 3-year-old male at a route this year, behind only his own Kentucky Derby and equal to his own Florida Derby.

Still, he just didn't look like the dominant colt of this spring, and the way he struggled and bore out makes you wonder if whatever was bothering him on Belmont Day is really behind him. You also wonder, since a sold and syndicated stallion prospect is managed for value rather than purses or glory, where his handlers go from here. He has the 3-year-old championship locked up, and there's no upside going to the Travers and taking on the same mediocre 3-year-olds he thrashed all spring. Maybe you point for a Curlin-less BC Synthetic Classic and hope he likes the still-unbuilt track and that you don't have to beat much more than Student Council and some European grass horses. Maybe you prep for that Classic with a transition-to-synth start on the grass.

Big Brown's handlers were still talking some brave but wacky smack this morning, saying their colt's just as good as Curlin because he a)won his only grass start and Curlin lost his only grass start and b)Curlin lost the Haskell last year while Big Brown won it. Rather than argue the point, I"m hoping it gets the Curlin people sufficiently riled up to designate the Woodward as Curlin's next start and that they dare Big Brown to show up. But I wouldn't bet on it.

Still have some work to do on today's very challenging carryover. Back after the first leg (3:13 pm).

3:25 pm: The good news: If I have the pick-six today, I'll have it twice, after 13-1 Skipadate and 18-1 Ninth Client dead-heated for the win in Leg 1. The much worst news: Both were the skimpiest of backups, so I'm down to one pathetically thin live $72 ticket (CAAAAA) that singled the next two legs:


The first leg was a 2-year-old maiden grass route, and there was apparently an international good thing: Moral, a Claiborne/Albert Stall colt by Dynaformer, who was the favorite in the double($12.00 with a 3-5 winner in the 4th), pick-3 ($29 with a 9-10 and a 3-5) and pick-4 ($454 with an 11-1/9-10/3-5 start.) This qualifies as serious action. The second choice in all three pools was Lime Rickey, an undistinguished Dogwood colt who had already run and been beaten five lengths at Belmont. The only other firster taking strong money was Sneak Peek (Kenny McPeek), third choice in the doubles and 9-2 by post time.

Moral, pounded late to 5-2, was six lengths behind the rest of the field after a furlong and made no impact thereafter. Ninth Client -- a Marylou Whitney/D. Wayne Lukas Malibu Moon second-timer, named for former Gov. Spitzer's status in an FBI surveillance report as "Client No. 9" -- went to the front, got away with an opening six panels in 1:13.51, turned back a bid from Lime Rickey in midstretch and then dead-heated with late-running Mark Casse firster Skipadate at the wire.

Given that they were the 7th and 8th betting choices in a field of 9, you have to think it's mostly the first-race all-buttons who are still alive -- or those like me who split the nine runners into tiers of three and managed to put both winners in the bottom tier.

The day's first four races were dirt sprints, three for maidens and three for statebreds. The most noteworthy winner was Pletcher firster Paradise Playgirl ($3.30), by freshman sire Speightstown, a 7-length winner against 2-year-old statebred fillies in 1:04.02.

4:00 pm: I'd take a short price on a big carryover for Wednesday after Fiddler's Princess took race 6 at $29.60. The previously 1-for-17 filly had run four straight times at this same level at Belmont, collecting checks for distant 3rd-through-5th place finishes, and appeared to be meeting a tougher field today. Oh well, on to the late pick-4.

Late Lunch Break: One should probably beware any chowder that requires seven words to describe it. The "Award Winning Kentucky Bourbon Smoked Corn Chicken Chowder" ($6.00) at the Panza's stand in the backyard restaurant row is an inoffensive, peppery creamy soup with plenty of diced chicken, corn and potatoes but lacks any hint of smoke or bourbon, making it kin to one of those Kentucky Fried Chicken (Presented by Yum!) "Famous Bowls" of mushed-up starches. Perhaps the wordy title should be read literally in sequence and the only thing actually smoked with award-winning Kentucky Bourbon is the corn.

5:10 pm: Can I hedge on that carryover prediction? Two straight even-money winners have made it less likely, especially since the latter one (Indian Ashton in the 8th) also took all the money that went through second-choice Caesar Beware, a gate scratch. When there's a late scratch and the post-time favorite wins, his odds don't truly reflect the amount that stays alive in the pick-4 and pick-6, since everyone's win odds decrease proportionately but 100 percent of the money bet on the scratched horse is transferred to the PT fave.

Adriano opening at 4-5 for the National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame Stakes (another eight-word title) is a surprise. Is it because he ran in the Kentucky Derby (where he finished 19th at 28-1 off a Polytrack victory against the mighty Halo Najib and Medjool)? I know Adriano won big on the grass earlier this year and trainer Bill Mott wins this race all the time, but that's an awfully short price on a horse who's been off the board in his only two previous grass-stakes attempts and on paper is only the third-fastest horse in the field.

5:45 pm:Six of the nine turf sprinters in the finale are covered in the pick-6 (all but the hopeless-looking 2,7 and 8). They're paying from $32k to $147k and all of them are covered multiple times, making me think there would be winners collecting twice or more due to the dead-heat in leg 1 and/or the late scratch in leg 4.

As for the Hall of Fame Stakes, I almost got out for the day with an anti-Adriano play, a pure case of making a bet based on what you think is a bad price. In the pick-6, I used Wesley and Deal Making as A's and Adriano as a B, with no great preference among them. At 3-1, 5-1 and 1-1 respectively, I pitched Adriano entirely for intrarace bets, and got a little lucky when a 26-1 (George Weaver again, with Thou Swell) held second in between Wesley and Deal Making for an $811 tri in a seven-horse field. Of course, you have to get a little lucky in a race where only 1 1/2 lengths separate the first six finishers under the wire.

Wesley, a gray El Prado colt owned by Willmott Stables and trained by Mark Hennig, won his grass debut over next-out winners Holiday Trip and Willsboro Point in a June 28 allowance race and is now 2-for-2 on the turf. He unleashed a powerful run from last in both races, and today won despite lagging behind a slow pace of 1:14.77.

6:15 pm The faves ran 1-2-3 in order in the finale, so congrats to those who cashed 6/6 for $58,882. Ten winning tickets, probably fewer winning individuals, with some having it two or four times.

Week Two ended with a pair of familiar names atop the human leaderboards after a one-year absence:

6 tied with 4

J. Velazquez-17
C. Velasquez-13

Dark Day #2 tomorrow. Have to speak at the Albany Law School's Saratoga Institute forum in the morning to complain about the looming (Sept. 15th) 1 percent takeout increase on live and simulcast races in NY, and just might take the rest of the day off.

Don Reed More than 1 year ago
Just returned tonight from a week at Del Mar. Time to catch up on Da Blog! The Zenyatta race was simply breath-taking. It also meant a lot to us personally, being long-time jockey Mike Smith fans. Five days earlier, we stopped after the races at a local restaurant, and there at the bar was Alex Solis, Mike Smith, and a mutual friend. I walked over and said hello, reminding Mike that we had met at the Turnberry Isle resort hotel during the 1999 Breeders Cup at Gulfstream. To my amazement, he remembered the event. I then stated that my guess is that after winning the 2005 Derby on 50-1 Giacomo, 15,000 people afterwards all told him that they had bet on Giacomo. He laughed & agreed that the estimate was right (obviously, that many people would have knocked the actual odds down to 15-1). "How would you like to meet someone who actually DID bet on Giacomo? It's my wife." "Sure!" He excused himself from his friends, joined us at our dinner table -, and could not have been more pleasantly accommodating. Elena - surprised, to say the least - explained how she became a Holy Bull fan (the sire of Giacomo) in the early 90s - and how she ended up frozen stiff in disbelief at the end of the Derby (clutching her front/backwheel Giacomo/"All" exacta bets that cost $38 and which returned almost $10,000!). At the end, he mentioned that the Zenyatta race was coming up, and that he was really looking forward to it. Frankly, before this moment, the Zenyatta race really didn't mean anything to either of us. Now, it loomed like the San Diego sun on a cloudless afternoon. On race day, I overlooked the paddock with ten minutes to post, and looked down. There was Mike on Zenyatta, on his way out to the track. I looked at that scary "1/5" on the tote board and started worrying that this would be another Fave Running Out Nightmare (we didn't bet the race, other than a small amount across the board on Model, Mike Baze up). Zenyatta got off dead last, and still trailed about half-way on the back stretch. Model looked superb, and at the top of the stretch, had the lead. "No...Don't let this happen to Mike." What I was worrying about must have had the racing gods howling, in stitches. Zenyatta at that point cranked it up, and with the exception of Model (2nd), just destroyed her competition. A happy ending - and at a track where the most important people are the racing fans (the actual clients). The NYRA, Magna, & and Churchill executives really ought to report to their probation officers at this wonderful facility - in the hopes that they'll finally see how and why a successful racing business is run. Steve - get some rest! It's the Dark Day Getaway opportunity. Mini-golf in Milton?
hay oats water More than 1 year ago
prediction: IF IF IF Big Brown runs again it will be on the turf or a restricted 3yo race. I think old school horseman Zito has it out for Dutrow. He will Race Commentator where ever Big Brown does if he can. Mass Cap? does anyone think Big Brown can pass Commentator as the chaser? Don't think so.
Scott More than 1 year ago
Steve, Are we gonna stay on the turf Wednesday? I'm really liking Cannonball in the 9th, if the race stays on and his MTO entrymate scratches and pushes Cannonball's price up to 2-1.
Don Reed More than 1 year ago
Addendum to the Del Mar scene, seen on July 27th 2008 in the San Diego Union-Tribune - possibly a unique racing media event: On each succeeding day during the Del Mar meet, the UT runs a "results box" for their four handicappers - listing the winners each one had tabbed 24 hours earlier. There's also a firth and sixth column for "Racing form" and "U-T Consensus." On July 26th, ten races were run. The winning prices: R1 $11.00; R2 $10.20; R3 $11.20; R4 $39.00; R5 (see below); R6 $11.80; R7 $44.20; R8 $49.20; R9 $17.60; R10 $49.00. In the results box: Nothing. Zip. Blank. It was the perfect handicapping nightmare: ZERO for SIXTY! But I bet they weren't as embarrassed as the editor who hadn't noticed that the fifth race results had been entirely omitted. Or this author, who - after being detained in the airport Hertz Rent A Car prisoner compound ("They can't FIND our car?!") - then left after Race Five, wiped out by jet lag and so discouraged by the results of his pathetic wagering that he decided not to go with his main bet, Storm Mesa ($17.60, winner of the 9th race).
Justin More than 1 year ago
All the more reason to go to 8 races a day or maybe run 10 races on 5 days. You how to get the attendance up.....PUT THE SLOTS IN!!!!. Does anybody have any speed numbers on Big Browns Haskell, the first couple of races were slow, but the times got faster as the day went by.
cjdstable More than 1 year ago
I'm about a day or two late with this post, but having been at MTH on Sunday for Haskell, I must agree with sedonia that I have never heard a roar as loud at any sporting event -- and certainly not at any ractrack, including on big race days -- as I heard in the last 1/8 of the Haskell. It really was amazing. For all of the negative things that are written on the blog (which is great -- keep it up Steve) about this sport, Sunday's Haskell was a day the sport should be proud of: star horse, with people lined up 6 deep to see him saddled (including my 8 year and I); Grade 1; huge crowd; exciting race; Zito and Dutrow; Prado and Kent (who was signing autographs left and right); great undercard of stakes races; historic track; record handle; even the traditional free Haskell hat -- it doesn't get any better.
neddy53 More than 1 year ago
They should run Big Brown in the Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine at 1 1/2 miles the same day Kip Deville runs in the Wood bine Mile. Both are Grade 1 races on Sept.7
mikev More than 1 year ago
Hey michael_c: you're right maiden races on 2-7 wednesday 8/6. SC: does nyra really need to run 6 consecutive maiden races? I know it's a wednesady leading up to the least important weekend of the meet, but c'mon.
bochalls More than 1 year ago
Every time a Weaver bomb runs well I tell myself that this is SURELY the last time those shrewd Saratoga players will let him get away....not yet, apparently. Big fan of Ramon Dominguez but he was beaten to the hole by Prado yesterday in the stretch. He was aboard Waytotheleft and Prado aboard Lost Without You (R8?). Ramon just waited and waited while Edgar was gettin on with the business of winning the race. He found himself behind tiring speed and couldnt get out; then he was too late and barely held 2nd...Ramon has been heating up, but he blew this one.
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
re: michael c I don't recall even Finger Lakes running 6 maiden races in one day. Yeeeeeeessshhhh!