08/17/2009 1:41PM

Day 18: 8/17/09


1:45 pm: Pick Six, Pick Schmix. Set lifetime personal bests today making the drive from Saratoga to Belmont in 3:16 and to home in 3:29. No stops, obviously, as the greyhounds slept straight through from  Coxsackie all the way to Franklin Square.

This was a scheduled trip back for mid-meet mother and horse visits, not a mission to find a big enough bridge to jump off after yesterday's fiasco. I'll do a little autopsy later, but first I want to watch the return of Gayego in the upcoming 3rd at Saratoga (he opened 4-to-5) and craft a little late pick-4 play for the last four races of the first half of Saratoga 2009.

2:00 pm: Just read that Mine That Bird will be making the same trip I just did some time tonight, stopping at the Ruffian Equine Medical Center across the street from Belmont where he'll undergo surgery tomorrow morning for an entrapped epiglottis. Horses have come back quickly to race after the operation, most famously Alysheba in the 1987 Kentucky Derby, but the 11 days to the Travers will be cutting it close. 

3:30 pm: The post-mortem on Sunday's pick-6 play:

Here's an old-style "matrix" rundown on my tickets. I couldn't alter the TicketMaker graphics yesterday to illustrate a slightly new wrinkle I employed -- two more categories than usual, called AA and D:

It's not that big a departure. D's are just like C's, in that you only get one; the difference is that the five other legs must be AA's, which are sort of super-A's that function as plain old A's in every other respect except that if you get a D, you need five AA's. It's a way to cut down on the cost of single-backups, that can get very expensive if you're backing up in a race where you've singled.

For example, the ticket that almost made it yesterday was a $432 single-backup AACAAA ticket (8,9/1,2,8/1,3,8/1,2,4,9/7/7,8,9). But in addition to using the 1,3 and 8 as backups to Siren Serenade in leg 3, I wanted to use a little bit of the 5 and 7 as well. Adding them to that ticket would have been another $288. So I used them, and my D's in other races, with a slimmed-down version of the A's -- singling One Note Samba instead of going two-deep in the first leg, and using only two of my four A's in the fourth leg. That made the cost of each D horse only a quarter of what it would have been had they been straight C's.

This turned out to be entirely academic, since I went to a C in leg three and was AAA the rest of the way. But suppose that Siren Serenade had won the photo to win leg 3. Because One Note Samba had won, and because Citifest in the next leg was an AA, I would have picked up three more backups in the Banrock race, including 16-1 Pennington, who almost won it. Granted, I still would have gotten blown out in the finale, but I've been experimenting with ways to stay on track if I can really, really hit five races correctly and not get beaten by a very marginal longshot who might otherwise be a last-minute cost-cutting toss as a pure C.

As for hedging, normally I'd empty out my account hedging when alive to 3 of 10 horses for $50k+ on a $2k investment, but it's hard to hedge when one of your seven leave-outs is the 2-1 favorite. So I just made a pair of big insanity-insurance doubles from Banrock to the 3 and 5, the two B's I'd no longer be alive to, but big deal -- the Banrock/Smart Trade double paid a whopping $15.20. Between that and a buck of the late pick-4 and four consos, it was technically a profitable day, but of course I'll always remember it as the day where if I'd used the favorite in the last leg I would have collected $119k (okay, $105k if there had been eight winners instead of seven.)

When you're talking about only 7 or 12 tickets being alive from a pool of over $1 million, there can be anomalies. But here's a striking one: There were only seven tickets alive to Smart Trade, the 2.10-1 favorite, but there were 12 alive (including me) to Latest Secret, who was 11.90-1.

3:50 pm: Back on the horse. The late pick-4 play:


4:30 pm: Between Sky Fever at $29.60, Top Lass at $30.80, no carryover and two contentious races still to come, it's odds-on we'll have a carryover when racing resumes Wednesday.

Sky Lass completed an unusual-looking 10-10-10 pick-3 worth $586.

5:05 pm: Despite another turf-sprint victory for The Queen, with favored Awakino Cat in the $70k Troy Stakes, no live tickets in the pick-6. Linda Rice will be Saratoga's leading trainer at the halfway point with 10 victories in 18 days, one more than recent training-title winners Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher.

Wednesday's carryover: $41.301.