08/08/2008 12:54PM

Day 15: 8/8/08


1:55 pm: Fifteen minutes ago it was sunny and clear. At the moment, an ark would come in handy and hail is pelting the ancient roof. The 2nd and 5th were already off the turf and now the 8th and 10th are in jeopardy. The only race hit hard by scratches so far is the off-the-turf 5th, first leg of that pick-6 with $39k carryover, which went from 14 entries to six runners.

The biggest question on today's card besides the weather is whether you go with what looks like a very chalky flow at the end of the card or try to beat any/all of three formidable favorites: Smokin Hero in the 7th, Tejida in the 8th and Winning Point in the 9th. If two or three of them win, the pick-6 and late pick-4 are unlikely to be life-changing.

In the early double, Bruce Levine proved mortal, running second with dropdown/layoff Mukataway to Amblin Rose ($8.70). In the off-the-grass 2nd, Pletcher-trained Mega, off the board on turf and poly in two previous starts, galloped by 12 1/2 lengths with a drop to maiden-claiming and a switch to dirt at 7-5. Oh, and if you bet a hunchy 8-8 double on 8/8/08, you've got a refund coming: the 8 in the first, Sweetest Kiss, was a gate scratch.

The start of the third has been delayed. Stay tuned.

2:04 pm: The horses for the third are still in the paddock, and they just announced that the 8th and 10th are now also off the grass. No additional scratches yet, but they're coming.

2:14 pm: The horses for the third came onto the track 20 minutes late but just turned around and went back to the paddock. Seemed like a cancellation was in the offing, but Tom Durkin just announced it's only a further delay until some debris is cleared from the track. The sun is shining brightly at the moment.

2:17 pm: "In the interests of safety, the rest of today's live card at Saratoga has been cancelled."

4:45 pm: This is surreal. It hasn't rained a drop since they cancelled, it's a gorgeous day at Saratoga, Hattie's is still selling fried-chicken sandwiches...and there are maybe a couple of hundred people rattling around the joint betting Monmouth simulcasts. Tractors are still working on the holes on the track between the five-sixteenths and quarter poles on the stretch turn. Maybe they should have moved all the races from the main track to the grass.

Here's the recent history of Saratoga cancellations, as provided by NYRA:

On August 2, 2006, severe heat and humidity forced the cancellation of
Saratoga's entire nine-race card. That decision to cancel was also an
historic one, marking the first time in memory that an entire Spa card was
cancelled. Furthermore, it is believed to be the first time racing was
cancelled here because of heat and humidity. There was a heat point index of
110 that day. Prior to that, records indicate that, since the advent of
mutuels in 1940, no entire Saratoga card was cancelled.

On August 7, 1986, the last four races of a Saratoga race-day
card were cancelled because of severe thunder and lightning. Two years
later, on August 28, 1988, the last two races on the day's card, including
the John A. Morris Handicap were also cancelled. That day, a tree struck by
lightning fell onto the main track

On September 2, 1998, the last two races of the meet were
cancelled because of violent wind, rain and lightning.

The final race on Travers Day, August 28, 2004, was cancelled
shortly after Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone won the meet's biggest race by
a two and a half lengths over stablemate The Cliff's Edge.

As for the commenter who assumed there would be refunds on the pick-4, guess again. The 7-all-all-all pick-4 payoff is $4.00, less than Mega ($4.80) paid to win in the first leg, in large part because the pick-4 takeout is 25 percent and the win takeout is 15 percent. You ended up getting to make a win bet at a 25 percent takeout. Congratulations!

This is another of the many wagering rules that needs changing that no one can seem to be bothered to do anything about. Dan Hogan, the chairman of the State Racing and Wagering Board, told me rather forcefully earlier this week that I should stop blaming the SRWB for years of inaction on no-brainer rule changes, saying that the board has "tried to let NYRA operate like a business and has given NYRA every single thing they have asked for except uncoupled entries." NYRA officials dispute this version.

Nobody cares who's to blame; please just fix it. Permit trifectas in all fields of five or more, superfectas in all fields of six or more, don't cancel superfectas in races with coupled entries, give refunds for scratches in the first leg of pick-4's, reduce the takeout rate on multirace wagers when they're turned into win bets -- this stuff isn't exactly drafting the Constitution, and it could all be resolved in one cooperative afternoon, to the eternal gratitude of the wagering public.