08/10/2008 12:55PM

Day 17: 8/10/08


1:55 pm: Every day around here is like a slasher movie: It starts off all bright and sunny and innocent, then the dark clouds and ominous music begin. Today's first race went off under happy blue skies, but by the second there was lightning flashing across the sky and five minutes later the rain started.

Before the deluge, the double consisted of a pair of runaway winners by a combined 24 1/2 lengths. In the opener, Hawkwood ran off and hid from six fellow statebred N1xers. A 12 1/2-length top-fig winner against lesser last time out, he looked on paper like he might get hooked today, but no one challenged him early and once he was loose he widened to a 13-length margin by the wire.

In the 2nd, second-timer Precursor was whacked to even money as most of the firsters came up dead on the board. The one who took some money did so for a good reason: Second choice Charitable Man, banged to 7-2, went to the front and increased his advantage thereafter, winning by 11 1/2 in a fine-looking debut as Zito firster Miner's Escape caught Precursor at the wire for second. Charitable Man, a $200k Lemon Drop Kid yearling owned by the Warrens of Saint Liam fame and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.61, compared to the older and more experienced Hawkwood's 1:16.84 for the same 6.5f distance.

They rang the bell for the third race 10 minutes ago but the horses are still under cover in the paddock. Might be another two-race card like Friday's.

2:15 pm: They ran the third on a freshly-harrowed wet main track still offially labelled "fast," and Kamboo Man affirmed that he is the horse you would use as a textbook example of a horse who prefers any kind of dirt to Polytrack. He won his debut by 9 1/4 lengths on Woodbine's inner-dirt (actually its harness track) surface a month before the track started racing on Polytrack. He ran on that surface seven times and lost every start. Last time out, switched back to real dirt at Fort Erie, he won by 8 3/4. And today he led all the way, completing a 1-2 finish by a Bobby Barbara-trained coupled entry that paid $9.90 to win and $11.00 to place.

They just took the 5th and 11th races off the turf. (The upcoming Yaddo and the 7th, the West Point, are still on grass.) That makes the last leg of the early pick-4 an "all," since the change was announced after two legs had been run, so if you get through the upcoming fourth....you win!

Main track just downgraded from fast to good, turf from good to yielding.

4:45 pm: No more rain since about 2:30, but the turf's been downgraded again, to soft after the Yaddo illustrated how slow the course has become. Factual Contender was rank and sprinted off to a 10-length early lead, but the fractions were only 25.27, 50.12 and 1:14.89. She squandered all 10 lengths through a fourth quarter of 26.80 as Latitude Forty($10.00) nailed her, then You Go West made a late charge but came up a neck short after 9f in 1:55.16. Rewrite flattened out to be third, a head in front of factual Contender. Chestoria was a noontime scratch, meaning that the Yaddo -- oridinally carded for Saturday and moved when it drew only a field of five -- was run with a field of five. Latitude Forty, a 5-year-old Chester House mare, races for Dee Zee Stable and is trained by John Hertler.

The Yaddo was the third leg of the pick-4 but effectively ended it since race 5 was an "all" after the surface switch. Every ticket beginning with a 5-1-2 was a winner, and the parallel multirace markets proved efficient: the 5-1-2 pick-3 on races 2-4 paid $283.50 and the 5-1-2-all pick-4 paid a nearly identical $277.

The wisdom of the rule mandating an "all" after a surface switch was apparent when Luck ($27.20) won the off-the-turf 5th. I'm sure someone will complain that he loved Luck and couldashoulda gotten a $2k pick-4 payoff, but I submit that someone would be lying. Luck, unable to win in six grass tries at a much lower level than this N1x allowance, was completely uncompetitive if you thought the race was on the grass but put the 1 in her 1-for-16 record with an off-the-grass victory in the mud last time out.

The 6th was a filly baby race and it looked from the betting as if we might see Smarty Jones's first winner in New York. Belle Jour, a Tracy Farmer homebred sent out by Zito, opened at 6-5 into the teeth of big-fig second-timer Casanova Move. The start was delayed a few minutes when Tasha's Star flipped in the gate and the field had to be backed out; Tasha's Star looked okay but was a late scratch.

Casanova Move broke right on top with Belle Jour in hot pursuit, but the daughter of Smarty Jones gave it up on the turn as Zayat/Mott firster Kays and Jays closed in menacingly, but Casanova Star sprinted away to win by 9 1/4 lengths in 1:11.62. Casanova Move, third to Softly Spoken and light Green in her Belmont debut last month, is a Ned Evans homebred by Langfuhr and trained by Jimmy Jerkens.

I headed for the winner's circle after the race because it was named "The DRF" in honor of some involvement America's Turf Authority apparently had in sponsoring today's seat-cushion giveaway, and because no other employee with a sportsjacket could be recruited. Jerkens was long gone when it was time to pose and Evans was apparently not on the premises, so Mrs. Blog and I presented the hardware to a lonesome Eibar Coa in what may have been the briefest and least festive winner's circle ceremony of the meeting.

The 7th was the West Point, the annual inscrutable scramble among the same entertaining statebred turf veterans who also turn up for the Kingston, Mohawk, Cormorant et al. Banrock ($7.80) is making a habit of winning these things this year, as he took the Kingston May 11 and the Thunder Puddles July 6 before today's triumph. Classic Pack was along for second, just ahead of rank outside My Man Lars. Banrock, a 5-year-old Go For Gin gelding, races for co-breeder Nyala Farm and is trained by Tom Bush.

There appears to be a big difference between the inner and outer turf courses today: The Yaddo (on the inner) went in 1:55.16, nearly four seconds slower than the West Point (on the Mellon course) time of 1:51.41.

5:30 pm: My late pick-4 hopes ended in precisely 1:05.79 when French Song ($30.60) won the 8th race, running down Demaliat. Didn't use either of them.

Still time to get into plenty of trouble. As I said (probably at mind-numbing length) at Siro's this morning, I'm taking a position against Discreet Treasure, the ML favorite in the 10th off a widely-ballyhooed career debut that I believe does not hold up under scrutiny.

Discreet Treasure is a half-brother to Discreet Cat, and from the same initial connections, so comparisons were drawn when Discreet Treasure won his July 5 debut at Belmont by 12 1/4 lengths in the mud after trailing by more than a dozen lengths early. That was in that day's 5th race. But in the 6th, the winner also came from 15 lengths back and ran exactly as fast as Discreet Treasure did (1:25.25 vs. 1:25.24) -- a 2-for-13 statebred named Overextended, who has never been confused with a stakes horse. So why was Discreet Treasure's debut victory the start of some championship march?

Discreet Treasure is of course allowed to improve, but stretching out to nine furlongs for his second career start, and facing proven routers such as stakes-placed Dr. Pleasure and Screen to Screen, he just seems to me like a colt who's been wildly overrated and will be a big underlay.

He just opened at 4-5.

6:40 pm:Discreet Treasure was beaten eight lengths at 6-5 but in all honesty he ran a better race than I expected off his overhyped debut. He was sent to the front today, was part of a solid if not sizzling four-way duel down the backstretch and turned back those challengers. He had nothing left when Dr. Pleasure ($8.20) made his move and went right by him, drawing off to win by 8 1/4 lengths as Discreet Treasure barely lasted to hold second by a diminishing head over 17-1 Optimistic Steve. But the three other colts who contested the pace ran 5-6-7 in the field of 7, beaten 20 to 35 lengths. He's not as good as people made him out to be off a misleading debut, but he's better than today's 8 1/4-length defeat and whatever figure he'll get for it.

As for Dr. Pleasure, an Oxley/Ward 5-year-old son of Thunder Gulch and Beautiful Pleasure, he was winning for the first time since his outstanding 2005 debut here, when he won by 7 1/4 lengths. (Now THAT was a debut I fell for, even taking a flyer on him to win the BC Juvenile at 44-1 that fall.) Dr. Pleasure had lost 13 straight since his debut, though those losses included a second in the Cowdin, a 3rd behind Bernardini and Bluegrass Cat in the '06 Travers, and a third to Brass Hat and Fairbanks in the '07 Mass Cap.

The off-the-turf finale went to 5-1 Manitoba Miss, who wired the field in 1:24.92 for Weaver/Coa to complete a $951 pick-4 and $6173 pick-6 that look a little low until you remember that Gansevoort, the only plausible alternative to Spanky Fischbein in the 9th race, was a late scratch. So those who had it may have had it twice.

Off to the ballyhooed Max London's. Full report tomorrow.