08/04/2008 12:46PM

Day 12: 8/4/08

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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:

9/5/1,3,10/1,5/3,5

Clientno9b
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.

Bourbon
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:

Trainers:
Pletcher-7
Asmussen-6
Contessa-5
Dutrow-5
6 tied with 4

Jockeys:
J. Velazquez-17
C. Velasquez-13
Prado-10
Garcia-9
Coa-8

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.