08/20/2008 3:02PM

Day 25: 8/20/08


3:00 p.m.: There must be a big race here this weekend or something. Gentlemen from The New York Times and Washington Post have made their first appearances of the meet in the press box, and there was a post-position draw in the paddock this morning. The Woodward, starring Curlin, is not for another 10 days, and Big Brown's handlers are still trying to strike a deal for something like a $1 million Philadelphia Park Sophomore Turf Mile Presented by UPS! -- so what could all the fuss be about?

Ah yes, it's the 139th Travers, starring nobody, but with 12 3-year-olds entered this morning, the most since 1990. Everyone's taking a shot. Two surprise entrants were from veterans Allen Jerkens and Nick Zito: Jerkens dropped in Tizbig, a pace-pressing Tiznow colt who ran second in an allowance race here Sunday, and Zito added Amped, a come-from-the-clouds type who was third in the Henry Walton prep July 27. These two Hall of Fame trainers have seen enough Travers to know that this is a good year to take a shot with any 3-year-old who's eating well.

We'll start digging into the Travers card much later in the week. In the meantime, there should be plenty of competitive weekday racing as Week 5 begins with clear skies, optimistic forecasts, and a lot of belated grass racing on tap.

My week got off to an annoying start in Wednesday's opener, as I took a position against a bad favorite and still screwed things up. I have no idea why Flibberjibit was 3-5. I can understand picking her if you had to make a selection at gunpoint in a confusing field of 20k N2L filly claimers, but the only race that gave her any kind of edge on the field came four starts ago on Polytrack. It seemed like a good spot to fool around in contrary fashion, so I made a 1-3-5 exacta box and even a little 135/135/all tri partwheel. Flibberjibit never made the lead and began backing up at the top of the stretch as #5 Crafty N P began to draw away from the field at 19-1. The #1 got through inside and looked home free for second. Then just before the wire, a 30-1 shot who would have completed a very nice 5-1-9 trifecta just got up for second to make it a 5-9-1, producing a $714 exacta and $2704 tri. I know, I know, for another $36 I couldashoulda made a 135/all/135 tri but I didn't. Next.

The 2nd and 5th today were the first 2-year-old maiden grass races we've seen in eons, and I usually duck these races whenever possible. I know some people love poring over reams of data on these races but I find them to be unappealing lotteries. But I was sufficiently steaming about the first, and sufficiently convinced that only two horses could possibly win either the 3rd or the 4th, that I made an unusual and more than slightly embarassing early pick-4 play: Allx2x2xAll for $288.

Got a sort of neutral result when Relatively Ready ($14.40) -- a Donk second-timer beaten 22 lengths in the slop in his debut -- won the first all-button race, then got through the 3rd and 4th with Awesome I Am ($7.70) and Ardnavagh ($4.90). So I'm looking at something between losing money if the hot George Weaver firster ($195.50 for $1) wins, to getting 20-1 on the whole mess if Peace Baby Peace, a Joe Aquilino firster ($6600 for $1) comes in. I don't think I'll be including this wager in any future handicapping books unless I write one on not betting when you're annoyed. Even so, let's go Peace Baby Peace!

3:20 pm: Peace Baby Peace, dispatched at 47-1, broke sharply and chased 7-1 Such Flash from second for half a mile, but wilted when the real running began. Such Flash opened a three lengths in upper stretch, but Phipps/McGaughey firster Consequence ran her down late in a good-looking debut. Consequence, an El Prado filly out of dirt millionairess Educated Risk, might have a future beyond turf sprints, and may have been pointed for this spot because the same outfit had the promising Persistently ready for last Sunday's seven-furlong 2F maiden race on the dirt. In the last five years, McGaughey had run only seven first-time starters in turf sprints, and all of them finished off the board.

Consequence, 5-2 on the morning line, paid $14.80 and completed a $342 for $1 pick-4, well below the parlay, and giving me a return of just under 1-to-5 on my brilliant $288 play.

5:20 pm: More steam. Went five deep in the first leg of the late pick-4 and didn't play the race separately. My quintet included both 5-1 Tomlinson Hill and 45-1 Safari Kid, and the latter were dead even in upper stretch before Tomlinson Hill edged clear to win by a length and a half. I'm not going to pretend that I liked those two any better than the other three, but I guess you're supposed to do a little something besides rooting with a 45-1 shot, or at least make a five-horse exacta box since it came back $557.

Zada Belle was an easy winner of the 8th, the $80k Bennington Stakes for older fillies. Considering she was just 5-2 finishing second in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss, it's unclear why oddsmakers set her price at 2-1 instead of 1-2 and even $3.40 seemed a little generous. Zada Belle, an Indian charlie filly bought by Godolphin out of a 9-length (Beyer 98) debut victory as a 2-year-old at Santa Anita two years ago, is now 4 for 6.

6:00 pm: Big Who? We have a Triple Crown winner this year after all: Tin Cup Chalice, who ran his record to 7 for 7 with a gutsy victory in the Albany Stakes, completing a sweep of the storied Mike Lee-New York Derby-Albany OTB Big Apple Triple Crown Challenge for New York-bred 3-year-olds.

Tin Cup Chalice is a pretty neat horse, being a grandson of Damascus (through Crusader Sword) on one side and Spectacular Bid (through his dam Twice Forbidden) on the other, and being based at Finger Lakes. Bred, owned and trained by Mickael Lecesse, Tin Cup Chalice won the Finger Lakes Juvenile in his second start, is 5-for-5 at his home track, and now has won at belmont and Saratoga as well.

His prospects were greatly improved when Writingonthewall, the only other speed in the race, was scratched this morning, leaving TCC as the only thing resembling a frontrunner in the field. He was able to walk to the lead through fractions of 25.66, 50.88 and 1:15.33, allowing him to sprint home in 36 flat for a final time of 1:51.33. Big Truck was rated behind him early while making his first start since the Kentucky Derby. Ichabad Crane made a menacing move on the turn before flattening out in his first start since the Belmont, and the late challenge came from That'srightofficer, who was fourth in the Mike Lee and third in the NY Derby. He seemed to have Tin Cup Chalice collared in the final 100 yards, but Tin Cup Chalice held on gamely by a head to win a $250,000 bonus in addition to the $90k front end of the purse.

Much as his victory was a stirring and well-deserved one, these bonus arrangements -- when one horse is racing for significantly more money than the other entrants in a race -- raise uncomfortable questions. There is no particular reason to suspect that the scratch of Writingonthewall was anything but legitimate, but it left more than a few patrons wondering -- if only purely hypothetically -- whether some private arrangement to keep the only likely early challenger out of the race wouldn't have been a tempting notion.

And it's not at all clear why OTB, which claims to be so cash-strapped that the takeout is going up next month, needs to be sponsoring a $250,000 bonus to encourage a statebred who wins at Belmont and Finger Lakes to race at Saratoga.

Bella Atrice won the finale to complete a $2808 pick-6 that was way below the $13,701 parlay, but so were all the pick-6 will-pays, including just $564 and $827 to the two favorites in the finale when the parlay was already up to $1,802. Consequence may have been closer to her ML 5-2 in the pick-6 than her $14.80 mutuel, and Zada Belle was probably a universal single for small players, but the payouts were still bizarrely out of line.

Just looked at the complete Travers day entries for the first time: Twelve races, 152 entries, four graded stakes....and not a single N2L claimer or turf sprint on the card!

RichP More than 1 year ago
Call me Tony I Did the same thing on a pcik 4 at Saratoga about 5 years ago. I liked a 54$ horse in the first leg on a trainer angle. I had to make my bets on my lunch hour. Called the OTB result line, heard the results, thought I had a 10,000 score only to look at my tickets and realize I had written down the wrong number in the last leg in my haste to get back to work. I had the consolation of having the winner, but it put me into a tailspin for the rest of the week.
Matt M. More than 1 year ago
Can't tell 'ya how much I enjoy this blog! Steve does us (horseplayers) a tremendous service....he is an absolute eagle in this sport of ours.
Michael Thomas More than 1 year ago
Steve - Don't you think that if you're running for $250,000 in bonus money and some sort of triple crown you'd bring your own silks? Just saying.
buffalo joe More than 1 year ago
Walt- Nix to Delaware Park ever holding a BC, not since the inception of SLOTS. Delaware Park as most "racinos" have gone to a free addmissions policy, and the breeders cup association derives massive revenue from the sale of addmissions as well as seating, and give a very small share to the host track. It is always a money losing proposition for the race track (recall CD and NYRA were not happy with split, thus 2 years in Cali). A track like Delaware would never expect Slots players to pay to play, with a chance of getting 65% on their money back. IMO one of reasons Frank (the mental midget) Stronach did away with stands and horse player comforts at the new Gulfstream Park. He thought the slot money would come rolling in, guess again (dummy), see what he is getting in the over saturated market. Partners at Dania Jai Lai have choose not to open slots even though they are entitled to. The moron has not been born yet that will take that Pink Elephant off his hands at at more than 10 cent on the dollar of what Magna has invested there. Turtles will fly and Burnetti will be hosting the BC, before Gulfstream will be profitable again after what has been done there.
bochalls More than 1 year ago
If I show a profit at the end of this SAR meet it will be because of two huge angles: Lukas 2nd start at the meet (got 2nd at 45-1 yesterday) and Weaver Weaver Weaver ! I am sure we all think of ourselves as good handicappers (like dancing, driving and love making) but ain't it usually a couple of nice scores or good angles that make the difference btw a winning meet and a losing one? Most of my profitable meets/years come down to a couple of great days and big scores, not grinding out a daily profit. I would say about 80-90% of the time I am up or down $60 for the day. It's the really good days and really bad days that determine your year end balance. Ten days to go...good luck ya'll!
PEM More than 1 year ago
Steve-received CHAMPIONS yesterday-may well be the best thing you have touted on your blog this meet (and I mean no insult by that). I am quite sure you won't see any requests for refunds by even the most casual of racing fans. Great stuff! Caught 2 pee-wee pick-3's yesterday, both in the 60 dollar class, and while both involved $12-$14 winners, the parley value was pretty much comperable. My question is-when you see a race coming up in the betting sequence like yesterday's 9th-an race where there figured to be 3 horses in the 2-1/5-2 odds range (Big Truck/Ichabad/Tin Cup) do you sometimes pass simply because one critter figures to be overbet simply because of a "sympathy" or "emotional" angle ala Tin Cup? Do you pound another entry because of the same "crowd psychology" reasoning? I tend to do do this at my local (TBD) when a trainer tends to be a given to use in a race-I mean even the best still miss 7 out of 10. Then again-NYRA seems to have a hell of a lot more "singles" in a given week than Tampa Bay Downs...... To be honest I didn't even notice the possibles but I had to figure Tin Cup was the shortest price. Anyway-really appreciate the push on the book-showing some of those greats to my 8 years old daughter...maybe she'll understand and appreciate the game a lot more than my wife! Best, PEM
Dan MacKenzie More than 1 year ago
Thursday - Western Dynamo "unleashed a middle move along the backstretch to reach contention" On July 17 at Belmont. Interesting.
Walt More than 1 year ago
C: In regard to what you said about horses running at night, we have now had 13 runnings of the Dubai World Cup, which has always been a night race, along with the rest of the races of that festival. Many US-based horses have done very well racing under the lights (as well as without Lasix or Bute, but that is a whole other issue), and I have found racing under the lights is not that big a deal. The Euros often ship to Singapore for big races that also are often at night I believe, and over here, The Meadowlands Cup, which with one exception has always been a night race, has in the past been a very important prep for the BC. I don't think that would be that big of an issue having a BC under the lights. The biggest benefit of a nighttime BC (originally noted in the previous blog) is the likelyhood in my opinion of a severe bump in handle, almost all of it coming from Asia and Australia. Asia could by itself handle around $1.25 BILLION or so for the two nights of the BC (where it would be Saturday morning for the Friday events and Sunday morning for the Saturday events) while Australia could handle as much as $250 million or so for the two nights (late Saturday and Sunday morning and early afternoon there). That in turn likely would raise the purses of the BC races by leaps and bounds (except for two year olds as noted in my post in the Q & A blog that preceedes this one) along with massive supplements in other major races for older horses that might actually serve two purposes: 1. Keep horses who currently retire at three racing as four and five year olds. 2. Strengthen the breed, especially since with the massive purse increases, you likely also would get increased participation from Japan in particular at the Breeders' Cup. Given how the Japanese seem to put an emphasis on stamnia as opposed to speed, I think that can only help everyone long term. That is simply my opinion concerning the BC and why it should be at night. As for Delaware Park, since you brought that up, I think they would do a great job with the BC and it would be a very heavily publicized event here in the Philadelphia area as well.
Dave More than 1 year ago
Couldashoulda in pure logical fashion is an extra $72. You need ALL in the win spot also. Bend over so the press box can kick yo' azz. Hey, how many thoroughbreds do the Ken&Sarah Ramsey's own??
High Limit More than 1 year ago
Good luck to andyscoggins...... the showdown contest are really fun until..... go get em