08/19/2010 1:22PM

Day 24: 8/19/10

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Enough good news before post time for Day 24 that I'm considering this a winning day whether or not I cash a ticket.

Frank Stronach's announcement that Santa Anita is returning to dirt racing starting December 26 is of even greater joy to California fans and horsemen than it is to horseplayers 3,000 miles away. I fully respect those advocates of synthetic tracks who sincerely believe they were trying to help horses and jockeys with these new and unproven surfaces, but it's pretty clear that it hasn't worked out too well and that it has compromised, divided and confused the sport with no tangible benefits. Having races like the Big 'Cap and the Santa Anita Derby back on the dirt is a cause for celebration, as is the likelihood that future Breeders' Cups in California will be run on dirt and grass as they should be.

Closer to home, Dondo's tests came back clean, a huge relief after the upstate ER clinic vet had diagnosed his infected paw as having a soft-tissue tumor and recommending a toe amputation. Instead, antibiotics have just about healed up the toe, and the whole household can head back up to Saratoga tomorrow for a final 10-day run.

As for today's card, it's playable if you're feeling daring and creative but I'm not touching the pick-6 despite the $60k carryover. I have no quarrel with the way the races were arranged -- the three firster-loaded baby races were commendably positioned as the first legs of the early pick-4, pick-6 and late pick-4 -- but there's still way too much guessing for my taste, and there's not a race in the sequence with an inspiring candidate for singling.

The last two years I leaned on Banrock in today's feature, the West Point for New York-bred turfers, and while he came through both times he faces two rivals today who might be tougher than anyone he beat here in '08 (when Classic Pack was 2nd) and '09 (when he beat Pennington). I think you're about 95 percent to get through the race by using Banrock, Minnie Punt and Straight Story, but personally I'd have to use all three in equal strength.

 

3:30 pm: Weird start to the pick-6 carryover with a field of eight 2yo $75k maiden claimers set to go 5 1/2 furlongs -- three who had run and five firsters. First, the longest-priced firster (Pretty Mr. D) was a scratch at 8 MTP. Then one of the three who had run (Thankfulness) had to be wrestled into the gate. Then second-choice second-timer WIcky Jones threw his rider out the front of the starting gate during the load.

When the gates finally opened, the three who had run and the only firster who was bet (Ry Bread) all went for the lead as the others fell far behind. At the top of the stretch, Ry Bread packed it in and those who went with the three experienced favorites must have been feeling home free and pretty smart. Then the three leaders all got the staggers in the final furlong, 7-1 Whitney/Zito firster Mountain Bird shot through an opening at the rail, and 15-1 Hennig Firster Eighth Avenue cam storming down the outside, and 11-1 Darley firster Dawly got up to complete a $1490 all-firsters trifecta. 

Mountain Town paid $16.40 as the fifth choice -- only the next two finishers were longer prices -- and completed a $3359 pick-4 that was the seventh biggest payoff among the original eight.

 

4:00 pm: Narrow favorite Star of New York ($7.60) took the second leg to complete a rare big overlay in the rolling daily doubles: The parlay of $16.40 and $7.60 winners is only $62.32 but the double paid $102.50.

There's got to be an appealing story floating around about the David Duggan firster, Dual Citizen, in the upcoming 7th for statebred 2-year-olds on the grass. The Proud Citizen gelding, 10-1 ML, opened up as the 3-1 co-favorite.

 

4:35 pm: The story was legit: Dual Citizen, 9-2 at post time, shot to the lead and led at every call....except the last one, where 9-5 Deciphering Dreams caught him right at the wire.

 

6:10 pm: Such Time as This held on grimly to win the nightcap and deprive us of a two-day $266k carryover into Friday's card.

After Mitigation upset the 9th at $45.20, there were only eight live tickets: 6 of them to Such Time as This at $44k and one each to the 3-1 second choices, Cover Story and Jazzy Moves, who ran 4th and 5th. SO that means either 4 or 5 of the winners had to sweat it out with a single on the favorite. Well done, you 4 or 5.