08/14/2010 2:16PM

Day 20: 8/14/10

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SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Day 20 of 40 dawned a sparkler here, sunny and clear, fast and firm for a Saturday card featuring an inscrutable renewal of the "Grade 1" Sword Dancer.

The Sword Dancer is always an entertaining race and provides useful employment for the veterans who contest it year after year, but no one should misconstrue it as a truly world-class grass race. Not many American grass races are, despite the rampant grade inflation that pretends otherwise, but even among the ranks of soft Grade 1's, the Sword Dancer sticks out like a sore thumb for being run either directly against (most years) or a week apart from (this year) the Arlington Million.

The U.S. runs three times as many dirt races as grass races, and produces at least three times as many world-class dirt horses as grass horses. Yet the U.S. graded-stakes calendar has 18 Grade 1 races at a mile or more for 3-and-up males on the grass and only 10 such races on the dirt (plus four on synthetic tracks in California.)

Something's backwards here:

Grade 1, 3 and up, one mile or more, GRASS: GP Turf, Kilroe, Maker's Mark, Woodford Reserve, Shoemaker, Whittingham, Manhattan, United Nations, Man o'War, Eddie Read, Sword Dancer, Arlington Million, Clement Hirsch, Joe Hirsch, Shadwell Mile, BC Mile, BC Turf, Hollywood Turf Cup.

Grade 1, 3 and up, one mile or more, DIRT: Donn, Met Mile, Foster, Whitney, Woodward, JC Gold Cup, BC Dirt Mile, BC Classic, Clark, Cigar Mile.

Grade 1, 3 and up, one mile or more, SYNTH: SA Handicap, Hol Gold cup, Pacific Classic, Goodwood.

 

2:30 pm: Bulldogger (right), who made such an impressive debut as a 2-year-old here last Aug. 29 winning in the slop, returned triumphantly to dirt and Saratoga today, drowning a N1x allowance field by 4 3/4 lengths in 1:09.47. The Dixie Union colt, trained by Bob Baffert, was off seven months after that race, then ran a tiring third as the 7-10 favorite over Pro-Ride at Santa Anita in March. The King's Bishop looks too soon (Aug. 28) and too tough (Discreetly Mine), but Bulldogger is a potential force in the 3-year-old sprint division.

One race earlier, some wild betting and wild riding among the three l;eading jockeys at the meet enlievened a statebred juvenile dash. Exley, privately purchased off a troubled open-company debut at Calder, was  slammed early and often, including a final drop from 8-5 to 1-1 as the  field went into the gate. Exley shot to the lead under John Velazquez but Javier Castellano went to work on second-choice D'Sauvage at the inside, and the two of them went at it like it was the All-American Futurity with a first quarter in 21.88. Ramon Dominguez seemed to be sitting pretty in third behind the mutually assured destruction of the top pair, but then he got impatient too and went after them before they'd straightened out. Not surprisingly, all three got the staggers in  midstretch, with Exley winning the pace battle but losing the losing the race war as Private Rules and Cooks Forest lumbered past the pacestters in a dull 1:12.49. That's three full seconds, a mere 50 or so BSF points, slower than Bulldogger.

 

 

5:00 pm: That loaded-looking baby race wasn't so loaded beyond the winner who had already run: Stay Thirsty, who earned an 88 Beyer runninge second to Sovereign Default in his July 15 debut, dueled early and then drew off. Brock, Jess Jackson's $2.3 million 2yo purchase last February, ran next to last as the 3-1 second choice. Stay Thirsty, a half-brother to Andromeda's Hero from the first crop by Bernardini, was a mere $500k purchase from the same sale for Repole/Pletcher.

 

6:15 pm: Unexpectedly made a little score on the Sword Dancer, not by particularly liking Telling ($22.60) but by having no idea why Expansion was 9-5 after perfect-trip hang jobs in both the Man o'War and Manhattan, and not liking 9-2 Marlang off his Sunset Handicap against a very weak field. Tossed those two plus the clearly outmatched Romp, Interpatation and Grassy, boxed the remaining four and caught the $150 ex and $1,028 tri, missing the $14k super when Interpatation hung around for fourth.

Telling has won 2 of his 12 starts in 2009 and 2010, both of those being the Sword Dancer. Last year he won at 33-1 and ran the 1 1/2 miles in 2:29.43 under Castellano, who rode Expansion this time. Today he was 10-1 and was timed in 2:25.29 under Gomez.in the finale to complete a $22k pick-6

Seven of the 10 in the statebred turf finale are covered in the pick-6, at payoffs ranging from $10k to $40k.

 

6:45 pm: Bishop of Nola won his second race of the meet right off the Bruce Brown claim, romping in the finale to complete a generous $22k pick-6 and a stingy sub-parlay $425 pick-4. Guess, from my choice of adjectives in the preceding , which one I had.

Twenty down, twenty to go.