08/08/2008 1:54PM

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.

George More than 1 year ago
What a great reason to not play an expensive Pick-4
trotter More than 1 year ago
I remember once in CA when the races were moved from the dirt trak to the turf due to some problem. Also bought seats for early in the Saratoga meet. Sent a check for $45 since I wanted clubhouse but only got grand stand since they were sold out. They sent the tickets with letter saying $21 refund would be sent seperately. Still have not seen the check. I thought Saratoga was the last refuge for respect for the racing fan but now that is also over. I am from MD and vacation there for week every year since 1991. Kids love the Lake George area but perhaps I will go off season now. Constantly escalating prices, lack of action from stewards, horrible racing cards have made it a shell of what it once was.
Rich More than 1 year ago
With regard to that Pick 4 on Friday, a fan in the picnic area was livid that he was not refunded his Pick 4 ticket wager in its entirety, and I think his point was legit. Races 3 & 4 did not involve any "scratches", as those races were not run. If one makes a wager based on 4 races, anything short of 4 races being run should be declared a "non-event". He should have received his money back.
tjo More than 1 year ago
I recall back in the 90's they had a water main break at Hollywood Park and had to move the entire card from dirt to grass.
C More than 1 year ago
Pete, You make some good points, but I guess we see some things differently. Larry, There is time required to bring horses to the paddock and onto the track, but it probably could be cut down a little. What drives me nuts is the 70+ minutes we have to wait before the Kentucky Derby every year. It's like they want to keep you there all night long. The more they postpone it, the more money gets bet in the pools. Pretty simple, actually. All, Please get a grip: Saratoga is a PLACE. It is not GOD, nor is it a world leader. It's a racing venue which is run by an inept organization. It's OK to call NYRA boneheads for moving the Woodward, thereby having 2 separate 9 furlong Classic preps at the same track with many of the same horses. If you think that kind of decision makes for good or exciting racing just because it's Saratoga, we'll have to agree to disagree. Lawyer Ron's utterly predictable victory in last year's Whitney Part II against the same field he trounced 4 weeks earlier was not a high point for racing.
Steven_Crist More than 1 year ago
ron, The current forecast is for maybe some more light rain overnight but supposedly clear skies tomorrow. I'm handicapping as if it'll be fast dirt and good turf. str3268, I've been playing the Emerald late pick-4's on the weekends with indifferent results. Fields have been a little short but I still find the racing there entertaining. august_west, A 7-all-all-all payoff of $4.20 was posted, but I don't see it in the official results or charts. It seems to me your $32 ticket should have returned $33.60, since you "had" the $2.10 for $1 payoff 16 times.
David F. More than 1 year ago
There was a Sunday (circa 2003) where we had another rain of biblical proportions in the early part of the card. They cancelled one or two races and fixed the track. I wasn't up here yesterday but it's hard to say why they wiped put the whole day instead of just a couple of races. Here in Saratoga now - picture perfect Saturday - but no graded stakes which isn't right. The town was jumping last night - Caroline St etc.. was never better. From an optimist's view, we have 11 live races including four minor stakes plus the Arlington simulcast stakes. Life is good. As Durkin says, "ENJOY YOUR DAY, HERE AT THE SPAAAA!"
Wayne80 More than 1 year ago
Nice of NYRA to "exchange" purchased seats based on future availability. Most folks go to Spa once a year for two or three days, and purchase seats for those days in advance so will never need the seats again. What they should get is a REFUND, and it should be available via mail.
Dan MacKenzie More than 1 year ago
Saturday: R Fast Favorite ran a strong race finishing 2nd to Bill Place last time. Interesting.
bochalls More than 1 year ago
If we all spent more time studying and less time bawling about NYRA,IEAH, SAR groundskeepers and refunds from Friday, etc...what an opulent and content group we might be. Rain happens (sometimes in mass quantities)...believe me, I used to live in New Orleans until August of 2005. Been going at it pretty hard this meet and I work on the only dark day of the meet (Tues), so yesterday was a great opportunity for me to recap the meet and get up to date on biases, trips etc...today is another day, and once the races begin, you will have forgotten yesterday sooner than you think.