08/12/2009 12:14PM

Day 13: 8/12/09


1:15 pm: Hot, partly cloudy, fast and firm for the start of Week 3 at Saratoga, a clean-out-the-closet kind of card with a few oddities, likeable and otherwise.

The fourth is a two-mile dirt race which has drawn a weird field of nine ranging from the last-place finisher in a recent six-furlong stakes at Presque Isle to a 3-year-old grass filly to long-winded 6- and 7-year-old geldings such as Lord Kipling, Firewood and Critical Acclaim. A 16-furlong race obviously qualifies for the distance-based purse-incentive program, so a field of nine in which six are racing under $35k optional-claiming tags offers a $78,950 purse.

That's still barely half as much as the nominal feature, the "Cab Calloway Division" of the New York Stallion Stakes, where a $150,000 purse for statebred 3-year-old grass runners just makes it look like the state breeding program has more money than it knows how to spend. The same horses would have shown up for half as much money and it's hard to argue that these races are attracting better stallions to the state as six of the eight entrants were sired by New York stallions standing for $5k or less.


--Took an actual day off yesterday and strolled through town, where foot traffic and retail sales appeared sluggish in comparison to recent seasons. Even the crafts fair in Congress Park had half as many booth as usual. Every year it seems that few more quirky Saratoga stores disappear, replaced by outlets of national chains. Most interesting new place: A studio on Broadway selling pianos, some of them hand-painted with racing scenes (confusing artsy picture shot through window, at left.)

Since it was a dark day, I got to do the afternoon-dogwalk honors, and two complete strangers asked if the spotted hound was the famous Popeye of 17-pound spleen renown.

I know they mean well, but it drives me crazy when other people who see me out with the hounds, here or downstate, routinely ask if they are "rescue dogs," as if I had to sneak into a dog track in the middle of the night to liberate them from their cruel racing masters. They're not rescued from anything. They are put up for adoption when they're retired, and almost all of them find homes nowadays because the word has gotten out about what great pets and companions they are.

3:00 pm: Maybe this is what Saratoga was like back in the 19th Century: Lord Kipling, coming off a 1 5/8-mile race just five days ago, led all the way to win the 2-mile dirt race in 3:27.78. The 6-year-old gelding is a son of Kipling, the son of Gulch and Weekend Surprise best known for siring Kip DeVille. Million Seller, a 3-year-old filly by A. P. Indy and a Japanese-bred Sunday Silence mare, was the distant runner-up as the only filly in the field.

Lord Kipling, the runner-up in the 13-furlong Coyote Lakes and Gallant Fox at Aqueduct last December, is a possibility for the Breeders' Cup Marathon, which has been extended from 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 miles this year.

4:20 pm: It's not thrilling, but it's action:


5:48 pm: My three live pick-4 horses are the only live pick-6 horses: D'Wildcard ($696 pick-4, $13k pick-6); Bold Vindication ($903 pick-4, $26k pick-6), and Hint ($1235 pick-4, $52k pick-6). Anyone else wins and there's a $52k carryover into tomorrow.

6:15 pm: Noooobody picked 6 and I didn't pick 4 after 32-1 Masterofthehouse, 1-for-28 lifetime, stretched out from three losing turf-sprint efforts under a perfect rail ride from Sebastian Morales to upset the applecart in the finale.