08/15/2009 1:00PM

Day 16: 8/15/09


2:05 pm: We might have just seen one of those future-star Saratoga maiden races as four first-time starters made promising debuts in the 2nd race.

The winner was Liston, a Darley/McLaughlin Storm Cat colt and half-brother to Country Star, who led most of the way to win in 1:10.49. It's early, but the time looks good considering that solid $16k older claimers who had been running in the 85-90 Beyer range needed 1:23.26 to negotiate 7f in the opener.

The runner-up was Chief Counsel, a WinStar/Mott Officer colt who was pounded to 8-5 favoritism and had to hesitate when trapped inside on the turn before getting out. Running third was Brother Bird, a Dogwood/Pletcher half-brother to Mine That Bird by Yonaguska. Even fourth-place finisher World Record, a Phipps/McGaughey Awesome Again-Finder's Fee, wasn't bad despite a slow getaway in a race probably below his best distance.

It's a scorcher here today for the third Saturday of the meeting, a little bit of a letdown Saturday in comparison to the next three (Alabama, Travers, Woodward.) It's better than last year, when a quartet of ungraded stakes had to carry the day, and while it's good to see the Sword Dancer rescheduled here, the race suffers from being run just a week after the Arlington Million. Having said that, there are some nice storylines: Grand Couturier going for a third straight Sword Dancer; Better Talk Now, the 2004 winner, trying again at the age of 10; and the American debut of the good French stayer Americain.


Haven't decided how involved to get in the pick-6 with $53k carryover, which starts with the 6th race, but I'm already a winner for the day. Just as I finished "Talking Horses," my eyes blurred with perspiration from being roasted under broiling stagelights on an already broiling day, I made out the figure of a man walking towards the stage, clutching what looked like an armful of golden treasure. And it was indeed the unholy grail os snackfoods: Two pristine bags of authentic Wise brand Cheese Waffies. Thank you, faithful reader.

Was feeling okay about today's seminar picks after giving out the unimaginative $23.80 early double, then watched a pair of heavily-favored 3-year-olds I'd picked run fourth in both the 3rd and 4th. First it was 3-5 Hot Minute, a 4 3/4-length winner of his debut with a 94 Beyer over another firster who returned to win by 9. Today, however, Hot Minute was done after a hot 44.98 half, and backed up through the stretch. Half an hour later, even-money McGaughey third-timer Strong Commitment failed to run back to his debut for the second straight time. Even if he had, not sure he would have beaten runaway winner Sean Avery, making his first start since running third to Munnings in his debut here a year ago. Sean Avery, a 3-year-old Cherokee Run gelding now trained by Mike Hushion, went right to the front and increased his advantage throughout six furlongs in 1:09.47.

4:10 pm: Double-carryover! Well, not officially after just one leg, but Heavenly Blaze at $51.50 was a promising start for such a prospect. I laid off and played just a tiny caveman that went to the same early grave that a 10-times-as-expensive investment would have. On to that $500k guaranteed late pick-4.

4:20 pm: Double-carryover!!! Okay, still not officially, but how many tickets began with Heavenly Blaze at $51.50 and now Prince Dubai at $57.50?

4:53 pm: The sixth-race exacta sure came back light: 24-1 Heavenly Blaze over 10-1 Star of new York paid only $258. Before you call in the Feds, it may have been a case of what Harvey pack used to call "coupled horses": The two of them came out of the same race, finishing a nose apart in the same order while running a distant 2nd and 3rd to Al's Deputy here Aug. 2.

Pick-4 got off to a nice start for me as D. Wayne/Marylou dropdown Ninth Client just held on at 7-1. The spready play:


5:10 pm: Looking ahead to tomorrow's almost certain $209k (plus yesterday's $53k) double-carry:It's another one-on-the-dirt followed by five-on-the-grass sequence, on races 6 through 11.


6:15 pm: That was the weirdest Sword Dancer you'll ever see. For some reason, the riders of Lauro (Chavez), Americain (Velazquez), Quijano (Starke) and Musketier (Jones) all thought they could steal the race on the front end, even after it became clear that all of them had the same idea. After setting ridiculous fractions of 23.48 and 46.80 for a 12-furlong race, they and the race fell apart in the stretch, Grand Couturier didn't feel like running, and the four longest shots in the field (33-1/11-1/14-1/26-1) ran 1-2-3-4 for a $79k superfecta.

Telling, a 5-year-old A.P. Indy horse who had lost 10 straight races and never won above the allowance level, became a Grade 1 stakes-winner by two lengths over a couple of gallant old veterans, Better Talk Now and Brass Hat. He paid $68 after completing the mile and a half in 2:25.43 under Javier Castellano.

Obviously no one's alive for 6 or even 5 in the pick-6. The payoffs are for either 3 or 4 out of 6 depending on who wins the nightcap. The pick-4's are paying from $19k to $240k.

Only Rising Moon's eighth-place finish kept me from hitting the Super Low Five: my five live pick-4 horses ran 5-6-7-9-10.

6:30 pm: Cops Fever won the finale at $8.40 to complete a $64,196 late pick-4 and a 4-of-6 consolation payoff of $6,973. Tomorrow's carryover: $262,998.