08/07/2008 1:11PM

Day 14: 8/7/08



2:00 pm: The game will keep you humble, at least for an occasional half-hour, and I really should be fitted with a dunce cap after my analysis of Thursday's 2nd at the Spa.

I though Digger was going to be a heavy favorite after seeing a couple of prominent newspaper handicappers make him their Best Bet of the Day, and I was completely against him. He was coming off a phony-fig victory against an inferior four-horse field, was changing barns off a troubling drop and wasn't getting the lead against superior sprinters today. I delivered a long tirade against him at Siro's, and was salivating at the prospect of getting a 6-5 shot out of the exacta.

Long story short: Digger not only won laughing, sitting third behind a speed duel and inhaling the tiring leaders late, but he paid $9.20 as the fourth choice in a field of six.


At least I didn't get involved in the early double since the opener was a steeplechase, and not just any steeplechase but the A P Smithwick Memorial. The 2-1 favorite was 7-year-old Salford City, an Irish-based jumper who in a previous career was fifth behind Shakespeare and English Channel in the 2005 Turf Classic. He led until the final fence, when the 8-year-old Theatrical gelding High Action -- fourth to Yeats in the 2006 Ascot Gold Cup -- ran him down from the inside. Dark Equation, who won an off-the-grass race here in 2004, was up for second, completing an uncoupled 1-2 finish by runners trained by P. Douglas Fout, as Salford City faded to third.

3:00 pm: It is suddenly raining cats, dogs, parakeets and hamsters here. Proceed with caution.

3:05 pm: Get out your scratch pencils: The remainder of today's grass races have been taken off the turf after an intense thunderstorm just soaked the track. Four of the day's last five races had been scheduled for the turf. The announcement was made eight minutes before the scheduled start of the pick-6. Hope you didn't bet it early. And in the time it has taken me to type the last three sentences, the rain has stopped, though there's still thunder rumbling.

5:30 pm: Naturally, it didn't rain an additional drop after the announcement that the rest of the day's grass races were being moved to the sloppy main track, but at the time the National Weather Service was issuing storm warnings. So management thought it was doing the right thing by making a snap decision before the pick-six started, but plenty of simulcast players had probably put in their tickets already and are understandably fuming. Had NYRA made the decision after the pick-six closed, the surface-switched races would have become "all"s for the pick-6, and four of the pick-six races were originally scheduled for the grass. Would have been an interesting 3-all-8-all-all-all payoff. I'm guessing we're looking at a carryover given that the "3" was $39.00 Selva, a David Carroll firster in the 5th, and that the "8" was 10-1 Will Never Bend.

And of course anyone who played the pick-six probably singled I Lost My Choo in the upcoming NY Stallion Stakes, where she was legitimately 1-10 against five completely overmatched NY-sired opponents. If you singled her, you're about to get switched to either Study Abroad or Western Slang, depending on which one goes off the post-time favorite.

Imagine if there had been a huge carryover into today and the announcement had been made eight minutes before the first leg. A lot more people would be screaming a lot more loudly than already are. I'm just thinking out loud but: The situation today makes me wonder if the rule shouldn't be changed so that if there are surface switches announced within 30 minutes of the start of a pick-six -- rather than after the close of betting -- the affected races should become "alls," and if there are more than two such races in the sequence, the bet should simply be cancelled for the day and all money refunded. Would that work?

5:35 pm: If you singled I Lost My Choo, you got Study Abroad, bet late to 6-5, and you got nothing: The favorite could do no better than run second all the way around the track to 6-1 Raffie's Treasure, second longest price in a field of five. Raffie's Treasure (Raffie's Majesty-Treasure Always) is a Majesty Stud homebred and a half-sister to Dr. V's Magic and Organizer, the last two winners of the Empire Classic, the biggest race on New York Showcase Day.

Stakes races for the best New York-breds are generally entertaining affairs with full fields, but these New York Stallion Stakes races, dirt or turf, are an embarassment and not just of riches. Their purses are wildly inflated -- $150,000 for yesterday's and today's editions -- while much better New York-breds routinely race for less in stakes races not restricted to the offspring of state stallions. The races are not helping to attract better stallions to the state, and would attract exactly the same fields if run for $50k or at Finger Lakes.

6:15 pm: There will be $39,692.55 awaiting pick-6 players tomorrow, a paltry carryover for Saratoga suggesting that at least some people were able to cancel their tickets after the storm. Nobody picked six or five, and there were only three 4-of-6 combos sold, worth $4410 apiece. (Top prizes would have gone to 3-of-6 with three of the eight starters in the finale.) Maybe it was a ticket that singled Silver Timber, who looked like a layover when the 10th was on grass: You didn't get switched off him to a sixth straight losing post-time favorite but instead inherited his main-track-only entrymate, Mor Chances, an $8.10 winner.

The Saturday card here was supposed to be "headlined" by the Yaddo for statebred grass fillies, but it only drew five entries as of this morning and they'll try again for Sunday with the possible addition of I Lost My Choo. So instead there will be four hundred-granders as co-features on Saturday: the James Marvin for older sprinters, the Solomon Northup for statebred dirt routers, the Madame Jumel for 3-year-old turf fillies and the Duke of Magenta, a possible Woodward prep that drew Magna Graduate, Fairbanks, Angliana and four others.

Life was so much simpler when a Saratoga Saturday was always either Whitney Day, Alabama Day, Travers Day or Hopeful Day, rather than Marvin-Northup-Jumel-Magenta Day. Or should we take the first two letters of each and declare it Manojuma Day?