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Day 2: 7/24/08
2:45 pm:Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott have yet to start a horse at Saratoga 2008 while Steve Asmussen has already won four -- three on opening day and the so-called opener on Thursday's Day Two card with second-timer Stunning Electra ($11.60) in a statebred filly baby race.
Thursday's first race here was Race 2 on the card, with race 1 having been cancelled amid yesterday's torrential downpours -- which didn't stop with the rain-soaked Wednesday card. It rained hard and steadily until about 10:30 pm, then sporadically overnight and again today.
It's too early to say much about today's sloppy track. Stunning Electra ran her five furlongs in a decent 58.79 from off the pace, and then Race 3, which figured to be run faster, went in a pokey 1:13.09 as Peleliu ($11.40) got loose through a slow half and the favorites floundered.
Saturday's 11-race Breeders' Cup Challenge Day card has been drawn out. A quick first look:
Race 7 -- 4:12 pm -- G1 Diana Handicap: Field of 10 including Wait a While, Vacare, Rutherienne, Bayou's Lassie and Bit of Whimsy.
Race 8 -- 4:43 pm -- G2 Vanderbilt H. -- Field of 7 including highweights Bustin Stones (118), Thor's Echo (118), Black Seventeen (116) and First Defence (116).
Race 9 -- 5:15 pm -- G1 Go For Wand -- Ginger Punch will carry 124 pounds, spotting 9 to 11 pounds to six opponents. The second highweight is Ginger Punch's stablemate Spring Waltz at 117 but she is believed to have been entered only as insurance if Ginger Punch comes out of the race.
Race 10 -- 5:46 pm -- G1 Whitney -- Field of 11 including Commentator (120), Student Council (117), and A. P. Arrow, Grasshopper and Notional at 116 each.
3:00 pm: Graveyard of.....oh never mind. Really, anyone who uses the sobriquets "Graveyard of Favorites" or "Graveyard of Champions" in relation to Saratoga, a formful track where favorites win as often or slightly more than anywhere else, should be smacked. But Worth a Shot, who just paid $71.50 after winning Race 4, was a longshot to remember: The 5-year-old mare came into the race 0 for 30 in her career, and trainer (and owner) James Corrao came into the race 0 for 30 this year.
I'm not going to pretend to have liked her but this was a race where it was definitely worth a shot to beat the favorite: Scott's Choice was 8-5 in this nine-furlong off-the-turfer off two six-furlong starts in which she was beaten 13 and 11 lengths. She may have looked like the "speed" but was a very shaky proposition, and she tired badly after leading to the stretch. In what may have been the slowest nine furlongs ever run here, Worth a Shot was timed in 1:57.99.
In Race 5, co-favored Mine all Mine ($6.10), scratched from the Schuylerville, blasted away to a 9 3/4-length victory to complete an overlaid $17,985 pick-four on which only $12 in winning tickets were sold.
6:15 pm: Desert Party and Visionnaire recorded visually impressive victories on Day Two, but my first impulse is to look to play against them in their upcoming Grade 1 engagements.
Desert Party came through at the rail after an up-and-back trip in the slop to stay unbeaten and win the G2 Sanford by 3 1/4 lengths. The Street Cry colt, bought for $2.1 million at auction by Darley last Feburary, won his debut at Arlington June 22 despite a slow getaway from post 10 going just 4 1/2 furlongs. Today he was squeezed back a bit as he tried to come through on the backstretch, fell back to last turning for home, then came on through and drew off.
That's the positive version. On the other hand, he enjoyed a perfect trip in the Arlington race and earned a mediocre Beyer Speed Figure of 71. Today's race was in a four-horse field where both the lone stakes-winner and the towering top-fig were scratched. Today's track looks like it's going to be tricky to quantify, but Desert Party's 1:12.23 is unlikely to come up a quick number: Half an hour earlier, fillies went 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.62, meaning Desert Party's winning time was 8.61 seconds slower for an additional sixteenth.
He'll be dubbed the early favorite for the Hopeful tomorrow morning but I'm not sold.
Visionnaire, who won the Gotham before running 5th in the Blue Grass, 12th in the Derby and 3rd in the Northern Dancer, ran down a solid field of older N3x allowance rivals in the 7th after looking hopelessly beaten with a furlong to go. He's being pointed for the G1 King's Bishop on the Travers undercard, where he's going to meet some much quicker 3-year-olds, and may need another meltdown pace to be effective. Today he trailed the fastest early fractions of the meeting by far -- a quarter in 21.52 and a half in 44.74 between the dueling Knights Cross and Street Magician. So while it looked cool for Visionnaire to win from 11 lengths off that pace, it wasn't really surprising that the leaders wilted badly in front of him. Knights Cross was extremely game to hold second after that early toll, while Street Magician clearly needed a race off a nearly 14-month layoff.
---Dining with Cap'n Steve: I can reaffirm my unbridled 2007 recommendation of Hattie's, where I walked in without a reservation an hour after the opening-day races and easily got a table. The chicken gumbo appetizer and signature fried-chicken dinner (comes with your choice of two sides; mine were smashed potatoes and cranberry slaw) were as excellent as I'd remembered.
Hattie's is one of the five local restaurants (along with Brindisi's, Grey Gelding, One Caroline Street and Panza's) in a new "Restaurant Row" of adjoining stands in the track's backyard, offering reduced-price lunch items at $7.95 or less. You can sample the Hattie's chicken in either a $7 sandwich or $7.95 three-piece meal.
I can not, however, recommend today's lunch, the "lobster sandwich" from the new Lobster Hut cart on the second floor of the clubhouse. I was expecting something akin to a lobster roll -- a delicious summery, mayonnaisey thing on a hot-dog bun sold close to the beaches of New England and Long Island -- but for $7.75 I instead got a pink lump of wet, vaguely sour, chopped fish of indeterminate origin on a hamburger bun. I can't imagine that the garnish of field greens, which I of course asked to be held, would have improved the experience.
And don't forget: First post isn't until 2:45 pm Friday.
This will make you cringe, Steve, but "Worth a Shot" was one of three horses in the field with mud calks. I only know this because friends at the Spa called me assuming I had made a huge score on this "caveman" angle. I had not because I was in Midtown Manhattan in my office on my computer where Durkin's live audio feed (and shoe change announcements) were still banned as of yesterday by the NYSWB. Who can I sue?
Haven't been to Hattie's for years, since Hattie and 2nd (or was it 3rd) husband Bill ran the place. You are pretty convincing, Steve, so just may need to try it at the track on Saturday. Also, you didn't mention the peach cobbler which was the perfect sugar rush compliment to the southern fried chicken! Is the cobbler still on the menu?
July 25. Hamsa. Coming out of the Mother Goose. Interesting.
Steve, thanks for being the guinea pig on the Lobster Cart. I walked passed it on my way from my seat to the windows many times and was already tasting my assumed version of a lobster roll. Guess I'll blow the money on a Blue Moon instead. Respectfully disagree on Desert Party. I'm going to ignore his race time and Beyer and focus on his heart and brains. Its a mighty game and mature 2yo that can win a race in the manner that he did. I'll be hoping that those who didn't see the race will dismiss him next time out based on his numbers and I'll get a juicy price on a very nice horse.
LJK, saving a couple of dollars on Hattie's to eat chicken out of a bucket at home doesn't feel much to me like the Saratoga experience. Don_Reed, Lanci's announced it is closing after the meet so make sure you get there this August. The owners, Kathy and John, are moving on to other things and said it was "just time". Get the dessert with vanilla ice cream, expresso and sambucca all mixed together. fantastic.
Lanci's either has, or is in the process of, going out of business.
I agree while Desert Party won going away and was full of run until Prado asked him he did get a perfect trip besides Prado tapping the breaks on the back side. Today, very interesting card. I like the european in the feature as she was only about 2 lengths back from Zavaka who may be the best filly on the planent and one of the favorites for the Arc. I will try to structure some multirace wagers around this one. In terms of 'toga dinner spots, I have a love affair with the Wheatfields and the zebra stripped, mushroom ravioli. I will be there tomorrow evening.
David, According to all of the advertising for Saturday, there will be a $500k All Stakes Pick 4. Good luck considering the opening event. The Diana looks LOADED.
Steve, thanks for the feel of the place, and especially the food reviews. Not usually in town long enough to sample many spots, so great to have a scouting report. I arrive tomorrow and will be checking out restaurant row, hoping it is good enough to justify skipping the full restaurant experiences available downtown, particularly the lines. Dabbling from home with a small P6 ticket, landed only five as I could not bring myself to toss Out Of Gwedda, one of those horses you win once with and follow to the grave.
Don't forget Lanci's Restaurant, which up the street from the public library in the center of town. It's a little hole-in-the-wall joint that has great food. Try to get there as soon as it opens (5:30 pm?); the seating is limited and it gets crowded quickly. Heller's on the corner of Index & Graveyard also has great burgers (just down the street a ways from the Saratogian).