08/07/2010 1:06PM

Day 14: 8/7/10

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SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Happy Whitney Day. Fast, firm, sunny and pleasant at Saratoga for an 11-race card featuring the G1 Whitney and G1 Test.

In the opener, a N1x 3-and-up allowance, Whitney connections were on display as Brother Bird, a half-brother to Mine That Bird, ran down a Todd Pletcher-trained front-runner, Monsignor. Omen? Not as far-fetched an outcome as Mine That Bird running down Quality Road later on today, and hardly a setback for Pletcher since he trains both Brother Bird and Monsignor, who were uncoupled in the betting and were the 6-1 and 11-1 second and co-third choices. The disappointment of the race was Pistols at Dawn, a very impressive off-the-pace winner of his debut at Churchill Downs last month. Sent off at 1-2, Pistols at Dawn unexpectedly shot to the front this time, was engaged by Monsignor through a brutal half in 44.73, and Brother Bird came along to run by them both in 1:21.91. Looks like we've got a very fast track today.

If you're flipping through the channel guide looking for a major-network broadcast of the Whitney and/or Clement Hirsch, don't bother. After last Saturday's Haskell, there's no more racing on ESPN until Oct. 2. Good thinking: Why would you want to showcase Quality Road, Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra or Lookin at Lucky on the road to your Breeders' Cup telecast?

 

2:15 pm: Ramon Dominguez just lost with his third straight odds-on favorite in three races today when Alan Garcia and Hear The Footsteps nailed him at the wire aboard 4-5 Dougie. Dominquez also rode 1-2 Pistols at Dawn in the opener (3rd) and 4-5 High Prize in the 2nd.  

 

3:45 pm: Chaotic start to the pick-6 with a one-day $53k carryover. About five minutes to post for the first-leg baby race, Asmussen/Zayat firster Justin Phillip, 7/2 on board and favored in 5th/6th double and pick-3 willpays, ran off and was scratched. I had about two-thirds of my pick-6 tickets punched in at that point, scrambled to adjust the others, and am still not entirely sure where I stand.

If you used Justin Phillip, you scratched into the coupled Pletcher/Mott/WinStar entry of Gospel Lesson and Thiscatismine, which was bet down to 2-1 favoritism over higher 2-1 Chad Brown firster Tiz Blessed. But you only got half a chance because Thiscatismine reared at the start and dumped Velazquez (who's fine.)

Fortunately, my A's were the scratched Justin Phillip and...Tiz Blessed, who got up in the final jump to nip 13-1 Alexander second-timer Punster in a slow (1:17.96) race I doubt will yield the Hopeful winner.

Here's the matrix (I think):

 

4:40 pm: Going to watch the stakes races in the great outdoors. Back later for an accounting of where things inevitably went wrong.

 

5:00 pm:  Pick-6 handle was $360k on top of the $53k carryover; pick-4 handle was $729k. Alive 3x1x3 at the halfway point (1,9,10/3/9,10,12) and it can't be terrible with Mystic ($12.60) and Sea Lord ($25.00) winning the last two.

 

5:30 pm: Never mind.

Didn't expect to see all three of my fillies in the Test part of a four-way chase for the lead, but can't complain since the fourth chaser, Champagne d'Oro, turned them all back and drew off in a more impressive effort than the final time of 1:22.71 -- just two-hundredths faster than the maiden colts in the 4th -- would suggest.

Champagne d'Oro has now won two Grade 1's this year (Acorn and Test), as have the division leaders Blind Luck (Las Virgenes, Kentucky Oaks) and Devil May Care (Mother Goose, CCA Oaks.)

 

6:15 pm: Quick take on the Whitney: Great horse race between two very nice horses. Quality Road was hounded throughout but the fractions were mild and Blame was very good to run him down. I'm not big on weight carried, but others will say that the five-pound swing (121 vs. 126) might have acounted for the winner's margin of a head.

In any case: Carryover! Blame knocked out the few remaining live tickets, so Sunday's Honorable Miss/Vanderbilt card will start with $253,084 in the pick-6 kitty. Those two stakes are the only dirt races in the sequence, which begins and ends with turf sprints for maidens. Oh goody.