08/13/2009 1:50PM

Day 14: 8/13/09


1:50 pm: I'm having one of those unwelcome Saratoga days when work and meetings are putting the squeeze on the personal horseplaying, and I'm 8-5 against getting involved in the $52k one-day carryover. I seem to like the same two or three obvious horses that everyone else does in most races, and there are a couple of pitfalls in the sequence, such as seven first-timers in the nine-horse third leg, a juvenile-filly turf sprint.

A crucial decision for anyone contemplating involvement is what to do in the 8th race with Turn Away, one of the few obvious potential singles on a contentious card. Turn Away has made six career starts, winning a maiden and two allowance races and losing three stakes while running very well in two of them, including a close third to Porte Bonheur and Spritely last time out in the G2 First Flight.

Some will look at today's race as an easy spot for a stakes filly to win her N3x condition and move on to bigger and better things, and thus will stand alone with her. Others will view her as a sucker horse, more renowned for her connections and graded-stakes appearances than for her actual ability: She has absolutely no edge on the field time- or figure-wise. Choragus and Tar Hell Mom each have run three races that earned Beyers in the low 90's while Turn Away has yet to exceed her career-debut of 87 almost two years ago.

So what to do? Single Turn Away? Make her and A and Choragus and Tar Heel Mom B's? Use all three of them in equal strength? Or play against Turn Away for value and in the hopes of knocking out those who lean on her? We've got about 75 minutes to decide.


3:55 pm: Best bet of the day was probably taking the 8-to-5 that I'd play. And parlay that onto 1-to-5 that I'd be out early with a half-hearted $384 investment, which I am after omitting Linda Rice reclaim Willsboro Point in leg 2. This is what happens when you defy The Queen. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

Or I could blame Mike Watchmaker. DRF's National Handicapper is up here working for a couple of days and his priciest pick on "Talking Horses" this morning was 12-1 ML Aly's Wheat in that race. I preferred three other horses and was down to Willsboro Point or Aly's Wheat as my fourth horse and decided I couldn't leave out Aly's Wheat since I was going to be sitting next to the guy in the pressbox all day. Just to be sociable, I offered him one percent of my play for $3.84, and after I told him I'd used Aly's Wheat he went for two percent and $7.68. If it's all A's the rest of the way (1,8/6/4,8/2,9,10) I'm going to ask him for the 68 cents he didn't give me. (Props where due: Aly's Wheat outran his odds, running third beaten just a length at 13.20-1.)

As for The Turn Away Dilemma, I ended up making her an A, Choragus a B, and Tar Heel Mom a C. For pick-4 purposes, I'm using the option that was just too expensive for pick-6 purposes -- taking all three in equal strength.


5:40 pm: Played Court Jester to The Queen yet again. Call me Eeyore. Didn't think Mother Russia could go a mile and a sixteenth in the so-called feature, the New York Stallion Stakes. I was so sure of it that in addition to using the two logical alternatives, I even used one of the two maidens in the race against her in the pick-4 I was alive in -- the one who came flying late to miss by a neck as Mother Russia made Linda Rice the leading trainer at Saratoga by a 9-8 tally over Todd Pletcher.

Eight of the 10 in the turf-sprint finale are covered in the pick-6, ranging from $20,489 on favored Hanginonaprayer to $201,202 on Red Hot Baby and Wheels Up. Only Seasons Wise and My Anna Rose are uncovered. 

7:00 pm: Why it sometimes pays to be pleasant: I'm walking out of the track and a couple waves and the guy calls out to me, "Hey Steve! What did you think of Mother Russia today?"

I could have said, "You mean that overbet sprinter who walked around the track and beat a maiden by a neck to cost me $5k in the late pick-4?" Instead, I said, "Well, I didn't like her, but I hope you did."

"Of course we did," he said. "We own her!"