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Day 20: 8/14/10
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.
I love your "Talking Horses" on the web with Andy Serling. Unfortunately the show didn't come on today (Sat.) until you were discussing race 6. Also, it often a few minutes late in starting. What's up?
Thanks again for the book Steve.... just missed yesterday's Pick 6 on my B-A-A-A-A-B. Got beat in the second leg (I used the 5,8,9,) so I caught the 3 conso's and the late Pick 4. I was alive to four Pick 4's with the 9 horse... but he didn't really finish after showing up nicely. The Stewards cost me the late signer Pick 4 at Santa Rosa. I think they went home early (because it was the last race) and no one knew what to do. The #1 clearly comes over and impedes the #9 who was trying to shoot thru a hole on the inside. I tried calling Santa Rosa's phone number that is provided in the Form... but no one answered that either.
Steve somebody let TVG know that Saratoga is running, and that no Saratoga race should ever go on tape delay let alone 5 of them in the last 2 days so we can watch a 5 horse field from Rubber on the Beach. I had a great trip to the Spa last week, coming home watching on TV just isnt the same.
Agree about stake grading inflation. Don't believe the Sword Dancer deserves G1. But of all the stakes at Saratoga for the committee to downgrade, I don't understand how they chose the Go For Wand. Also think it's odd that there is a 10f G1 for 3yo colt, fillies, and older mares; but none for older horses at the Spa.
Great shot of #2 nose on the wire. I am wondering in the % of dirt to turf race #s in u.s. Are they classifying the poly in the dirt catagory? It is a surface change. All the best to the exotic players. I am jumping ship to Del for Sun. 2 day 1 mil. p. 6. c.o.
SC, In case you throw some dollars towards that little Del Mar carryover... Sunday Del Mar race 6: #2 Royal FJ in his last race was 3 wide out of chute onto oval, 3-4 wide both turns, lost by 1/2 length. I watched this one on track, the Trakus system showed he ran an extra 57 ft compared to winner. Say hello Pick-6 single. Good luck.
The overwhelming response, from "Horseplayers," regarding the stewards non-dq of Pelican Lake in the 5th race on 8/6/10 is utterly bewildering. Clearly, Pelican Lake, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, committed a foul where he bore out sharply and bumped She Wears the Best. It is equally as clear that Pelican Lake was the best horse in that race. Furthermore, even a casual horseplayer could have determined that She Wears the Best, who lost third by seven lengths was never going to be better than the fourth that she finished. Accordingly, the stewards were faced with two choices. The first was to disqualify the best horse and put up a throughly undeserving winner. The second, and correct choice, was to let the best horse stay up and not "punish" the horse players who selected the best horse and 8/1 winner. Parenthetically, I was not involved in the race at all. Any argument, which more than a few commenters have made, that the NYRA circuit will now be relagated to the wild west is just silly. The jockey will get days whether or not the horse is dq'ed. A horseplayer can only hope that the stewards will continue to employ the NYSRWB rule that if the foul did not effect the outcome then the horse does not have to be dq'ed. The stewards made an excellent call and should be applauded by all horseplayers.
3up Grade I's at a mile+ in NY used to include the Metropolitan, Suburban, and Brooklyn, before Saratoga; and the Marlboro (for a while), Woodward, JCGC, and maybe the Aqueduct (now Cigar) Mile. (The Mile really never attracted the best horses is my recollection.) The Woodward used to be at Belmont (or Aqueduct for THE Woodward with Buckpasser, Damascus and Dr. Fager) at the end of September. Now it's almost a month earlier at Saratoga. The Breeders' Cup really killed the fall racing schedule, and even the rest of the calendar. And not just for 3 up Mile+ races. Remember when the Hopeful was really an important event? I do. There were even 2yo Stakes in June in NY, with horses that had more than one win entered.
I'm not quite as disappointed by the non-DQs I've seen as some others here, but the "explanations" are a joke. "We saw no reason for a disqualification." Well, duh. What else would anyone think if no one comes down?
Steve, the Pick-4 payoffs are frequently stingy here and you know the main reason why...the absurd 26% takeout. I avoid playing them for that very reason, focus on the rolling doubles instead.