08/21/2008 12:54PM

Day 26: 8/21/08


1:45 pm: Just watched poor old My Cousin Matt trail at every call and struggle home last as the 8-5 favorite in the 2nd race and can only hope that someone will give this gallant 9-year-old gelding a good home and a happy retirement.

My Cousin Matt -- who has $1.016 million in career earnings -- was making his 60th career start, and at a career-low $16k claiming tag. He's been racing since June of 2001, when he finished second to eventual Kentucky Derby runner-up Proud Citizen in his debut. As a 4-year-old in 2003, he won the General George, and finished third to Speightstown and Kela at 60-1 in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He ran against Ghostzapper in the Vosburgh and twice went to Dubai for the Golden Shaheen. And now claiming trainers are trying to unload him for $16,000.

It worked: Gumpster Stable and trainer Bruce Brown took him for $16,000. I'm sorry if they made a bad investment, but here's hoping they do the right thing and give him the dignified retirement he's earned.

4:30 pm: Been finishing up the Travers picks column while wagering without much success and after due consideration I ended up taking Pyro, Mambo in Seattle and Tale of Ekati. One of the reasons I went with Pyro was because of the 10f distance and my belief he'll be finishing fastest of all, based in part on this breakdown of the two stakes that 7 of the 12 Travers entrants prepped in:

As for the highlights from the earlier racing:

Race 1: The Price of Love($7.30) won a three-way photo after 19 furlongs over fences in one of the most formful steeplechases you'll ever see. The first three finishers were 5-2 or less and well clear of a quartet of 12-1-and-up challengers.

Race 2: Brooker D ($7.80), the most plausible alternative to My Cousin Matt in the 2nd, led every step of the way as the second choice, topping a $906 tri in a seven-horse field as outsiders Game of Skill and Tenacious Star ran 2-3 behind him.

Race 3: Success Fee, a $500k New York-bred 2-year-old purchase last year, was 0-for-6 while oddly being raced against open company in SoCal. Finally sent to the cozier confines of statebred racing, the Mineshaft-Immerse colt is a maiden no longer after a narrow victory in 1:22.89.

Race 4: If you forgot the pick-6 started here on today's unusual nine-races-only card, you probably saved money. Mickeless ($36.20) scored an improbable victory by default after the logical favorites either stumbled badly (Key Trip), moved too early and swerved in the stretch (Prominent), or stopped after being pushed to set fast fractions (Catie Boo, Live Life Outloud.) Mickeless, turf-to-dirt for 2-for-47 trainer Bob Dunham, ran the seven furlongs in a very slow 1:25.34.

Race 5: Biggest superfecta of the meeting (and a nice rebuttal to enemies of the small bettor who continue to claim that dime supers have ruined big payoffs) when 11-1 Clement firster Beckham Bend beat 29-1 Propensity, 49-1 Handsome Sport and 9-2 Western Dynamo (who I keyed 1-2-3 in tris and missed third by a nose) to produce a $102,977-for-$2 payoff. Since the pool was only $103,148 and the takeout (alas) is higher than 0.1 percent, that means just $1.50 worth of winning tickets were sold.

In the half-a-loaf-is-better-than-one department, the scheduled one-point increase in takeout on out-of-state races has been postponed until at least March 15, 2009, giving the tracks and OTB's another six months to convince the state why it is such a particularly bad idea.

5:15 pm: Wait a While ($3.70), the champion 3-year-old filly of 2006, ran her career record to 11-for-22 with a sharp return to top form in the G2 Balston Spa Handicap, a race she also won last year. Wait a While chased and ran down Sharp Susan, the lone speed in the field of five, to score by a length over 10-1 Carriage Trail. The time for the mile and a sixteenth on the Mellon course was a blistering 1:39.70 for a mile and a sixteenth, two fifths faster than her winning time last year. Could everyone now please stop talking about the slow and tiring turf course?

Wait a While, a 5-year-old Maria's Mon mare who races for Arindel Farm and is trained by Todd Pletcher, has now earned $1.94 million.

Carriage Trail's stock got a boost half an hour before the Balston Spa when Trouble Maker, who finished just a nose behind Carriage Trail in the De La Rose here July 30th, won the Old Red Stakes over a fast-closing Lady Carlock. Trouble Maker had to draw in from the AE's after the scratch of ML favorite Chestoria, and maybe that's why she paid $13.60 instead of $8.60 despite having the top last-out fig. Trouble Maker, a 5-year-old Labeeb mare, runs for Hickory Plains Farm and is trained by Tom Albertrani.

And no matter who wins the nightcap....carryover! Only the third of the meet. And if we can get another tomorrow, we'd have the first double-carry of the meet into Travers Day, when the sequence will include the G3 Victory Ride, the G2 Bernard Baruch, the G1 King's Bishop and the Travers. It's going to be tough to get another carry if Ginger Punch wins the Personal Ensign, but a fella can dream, can't he?

And if you're in Saratoga between 7 and 8 p.m. tonight and have nothing better to do, Andrew Beyer, Dave Litfin and I will be signing books and answering questions at the Borders bookstore on Broadway. But I'm cutting out at 8:01 sharp to get to work on that carryover.