08/16/2008 12:29PM

Day 22: 8/16/08


1:15 pm: Every horse in today's first seven races at Saratoga is either 0-for-life or 1-for-life, as commenter yuwipi pointed out, which is not quite what you expect on Alabama Day. It's not as if anyone's sitting in the executive suites saying "Hey, let's put on four consecutive maiden races, followed by two N2L conditioned claimers on one of our biggest days"; it's what the horse population has come to around here.

Having said that, it's not a bad betting card if you think, as I do, that there's an attractive mix of straightforward and chaotic races, the stuff that multirace opportunities are made of. I can't get past stickouts like Light Green in the upcoming second, Forest Trail in the finale, the two favorites in the Alabama or the three favorites in the Sword Dancer. But races 4-6 in the middle of the card are somewhere between wonderfully and impossibly muddled.

The opener was the best race on the card until the Grade 1's begin, and it paid off for those who stuck with National Pride, the Godolphin 3-year-old who stumbled badly and ran 7th in his season debut here Aug. 2. Today he was off cleanly, rallied strongly, and paid a generous $8.10 after holding off Posse Cat in 1:22.60 as favored Joppa Flats was up for third. National Pride was purchased privately by Godolphin after winning his debut for Winning Move/Contessa last November at Aqueduct, beating subsequent stakes-winners Saratoga Russell and Mint Lane.

1:35 pm: So much for cinches. Light Green looked like one off her July debut at Belmont, where she dropped a photo to Softly Spoken while beating next-out winner Casanova Move in a race that earned a 79 Beyer, good enough to win most 2F MSW's. Sent off at 1-2 today, the Pleasantly Perfect filly showed little, running along in fourth early and never mounting a challenge to the two lightly-bet firsters who ran 1-2 around the track in front of her: 7-1 Obsequious and 13-1 Abunduntia. Obsequious ($16.20), a $70k Fusaichi Pegasus 2-year-old purchase, is the first career winner, and only second starter, for trainer Elizabeth Gray, a former Dale Romans assistant.

Did Light Green take a big step backwards or did she run into two monstresses? Too soon to tell, but the winner's very ordinary time of 1:05.78 suggests the former.

2:45 pm: At a meeting where we've already seen 0-for-30 Worth a Shot and 0-for-20 Joppa Flats finally escape the maiden ranks, you can now add 0-for-18 moneyburner Fiona Freud to your list of Saratoga winners. At least Worth a Shot and Joppa Flats were both 34-1; Fiona paid $9.50. Worth a Shot, by the way, who's in Sunday as a main-track-only in the finale, earned a Beyer of 43 winning the 4th race here July 24. Can anyone remember a lower winning Beyer at Saratoga?

3:45 pm:We just saw a couple of very nice 2-year-olds run 1-2 making their career debuts going seven furlongs in the 5th race.

The slightly nicer one today was Girolamo, a Darley/McLaughlin production by A.P. Indy and the Mr. prospector mare Get Lucky (Mr. Prospector-Dance Number), making him a full brother to Phipps stakes-winners Accelerator and Get Lucky. Girolamo was a very poorly-kept secret, a heavy favorite in the double, pick-3 and pick-4 ending with the 5th, and bashed down to 6-5 by post time. He broke slowly, worked his way through at the rail, then swung wide and collared Romp at the furlong pole before drawing off by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:24.72. Romp, a $700k Farish/Howard Unbridled's Song colt, held very well for second, five lengths ahead of the rest of them.

The race isn't going to come up a scorcher, especially in comparison to National Pride's 1:22.60 in the opener, but it's perfectly respectable for a debuting 2-year-old.

And you're not going nuts if you think you already saw a horse named Romp run at the meeting. This Romp is a Kentucky-bred 2-year-old colt. The one who ran 4th in the 6th race here Aug. 7 is a 4-year-old Argentina-bred gelding, Romp (Arg).


The 6th was a Durkin Delight, as Arrrrr won his second race at the meeting while the announcer bellowed his name in the voice of a rum-fueled pirate the entire length of the stretch. Thank your lucky stars that Doremifasolatido is a filly and unlikely ever to square off against Arrrrr. It would sound like Captain Hook slicing up the Van Trapp children.

4:30 pm: My little no-carryover $660 pick-6 play's alive at the halfway point, but chalk won my spread races and now I've got little but chalk ahead:

5:45 pm: Wow! That was the race of the meeting and might well end up deciding a championship. Proud Spell and Music Note ran the final furlong of the Alabama as a team, with Proud Spell holding off the 2-5 favorite to win by a head. It was 4 1/2 lengths back to Little Belle, coupled in the betting with Music Note, with Mushka and Sweet Vendetta completing the order of finish among the winners of the Kentucky Oaks; CCA Oaks and Mother Goose; Ashland; Demoiselle, and Black-Eyed Susan. Proud Spell paid $5.90, a bit of an overlay in a race where Music Note was a legitimate favorite but the prices should have been more like 4-5 and 7-5 than 2-5 and 9-5.

Music Note beat Proud Spell by 3 1/2 lengths in the Mother Goose June 28, but Proud Spell had a trip from Hades that day and then suffered the further indignity of being disqualified and laced third for an insignificant foul. Music Note burnished her reputation with an impressive 11-length victory over Little Belle in the CCA Oaks but it wasn't that much of an improvement over her prior race, where Proud Spell would have been right there with a better trip.

What made the Alabama finish so exciting was that Music Note looked like she was going to go right by Proud spell in mid-stretch when she ranged up alongside her, but Proud Spell fought back from the inside and held her off stride after stride until they hit the wire.

As for the Sword Dancer, Grand Couturier was two lengths clear of Better Talk Now at the finish and paid $9.30 as the third choice in a field of six where Dancing Forever was surprisingly bet down to 3-2 favoritism. Presious Passion tried to steal it on the front end and Dancing Forever stayed closest to him of the three favorites, but came up empty after 10 furlongs as Grand Couturier and Better Talk Now got rolling from the back of the pack. Grand Couturier, who was third in the '06 Sword Dancer and upset English Channel at 15-1 in last year's edition, is clearly at his best going a mile and a half. He and Better Talk Now both will be pointed for the BC Turf.

Both stakes broke the best way for my pick-6, so I'm alive to #3-Forest Trail ($2,443), #6-Higher Incentive ($14,912) and #9-Queens Full ($7,017). Six minutes to post.

6:10 pm: Oh well. If you're going to be wrong, you might as well be really wrong. Needed a 3, 6 or 9 and the finale finished 1-10-11. I hope all you George Weaver fans bet the victorious Miss Challenge ($19.60); I still can't make her even now that the result is official. My three consos at $193 apiece don't even get me back the $660. Arrrrr.

And now I get to don my tuxedo for the first and only time of the meeting for the annual Jockey Club dinner at the National Museum of Racing. Dinny Phipps, chairman of the Jockey Club, sent out the last two losing favorites of the day in Dancing Forever and Forest Trail but I'm sure he'll be highly sympathetic about my $81 in pick-6 losses. Full report later or, if it's a really good party, tomorrow after the Round Table.