08/21/2008 12:54PM

Day 26: 8/21/08

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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.

TC Franks More than 1 year ago
I could not agree more with you on your analysis of the grand slam. This has become one of my favorite wagers and I typically just play it straight, with the idea of hitting it multiple times. It's fun to get one of your horses in on one of the first legs and cheer for the favorite to "get off the board." Definitely a little different type of wager. I became a fan when I got Dream Rush home at 3-5 last year at Saratoga for a $219 payout that I had five times. (big stuff by my standards, lol) I've had a few more stories like that, including at this meet where I hit a nice one ending with Dr. Pleasure. I hope the word doesn't get out too much. I have a feeling a lot of people are not playing it quite right. Thanks for the recent kind words about my story on the Thoroughbreds in the Olympics.
bochalls More than 1 year ago
Macho Uno got a major break in the weights for the Jim Dandy, getting 6-8lbs from Pyro and Ekati. Equal weights this time, and with the way Pyro advanced on him in the Dandy, he gets by tomorrow. Did I just pick Pyro? I really like Ekati though...did I just pick Tale Of Ekati? He is the only LEGIT Gr 1 dirt winner in this field. Col John won his on kitty litter and Da' Tara will have to validate his Belmony before I bet him. Great trip looms from the rail (the place to be going long this meet) and I think Prado moved too soon in the Dandy...we will see. C Street runs today!!!
AJV More than 1 year ago
Steve and Unitas, Unitas- You have said in your comments what I've been feeling all meet- a distinct lack of "Saratoga Specialness". It now feels like any other meet to me, like Belmont in the late spring/early summer- nice weather, nice venue, some good horses now and again, but basically the same ole grind. I see it and feel it. Or, rather, I see and feel something lacking. I am a fiercely loyal NY racing fan and I support NYRA when they deserve it, but geez, has NYRA done the impossible and killed the Spa Buzz? What's the saying, "A fish stinks from the head down"? I'm almost ready to get the fish knife ready. AJV
Dan MacKenzie More than 1 year ago
Friday - Quasicobra "lacked the needed stretch response" on August 2. Gets a jockey change. Interesting.
e_s More than 1 year ago
The Way Things Were Wouldn't it be nice to have the ability to pluck from the past those splendid moments in our lives, and re-live, or re-create them in the present? Alas, time is a cruel master. Hoping that NYRA can simply rewind the clock, undo all its mistakes, change the actions of its competitors, is simply idle folly. More realistically, one should urge the NYRA folk to better analyze industry trends, and figure out how to set new ones rather than get caught up in a numbers game (horses, dollars, people) it can't always control. e_s
Stephanie More than 1 year ago
I think the coupling rule has something to do with the fact the the Travers is a 1,000,000 dollar race. It seems to me I heard/read that NYRA does not couple horses with common owner/trainers when the purse is 1,000,000 or more. I could be mistaken but I'm pretty sure thats what I found out.
G82YR More than 1 year ago
Bochalls--Looks like Macho Again gave Pyro 6 pounds in Jim Dandy. He gains to 126 for the Travers, but he's carried 120+ several times and done well.
C More than 1 year ago
...I'm totally confused about the coupling rule. Kodiak Kowboy and Lantana Mob share some common ownership and are coupled in the King's Bishop, yet Zito/LaPenta have an uncoupled 3-horse entry in the Travers. Both are Grade 1s. I thought I knew the rule, but apparently, I don't.
SFDan More than 1 year ago
Steve - ...Your blog is the first thing I read every morning out here on the west coast! could not get back to the Spa this year so I appreciate your efforts...
Steven_Crist More than 1 year ago
ejxd2, The Grand Slam IS interesting but I always seem to forget about it in the midst of pick-4's and pick-6's. My take on it is that it's best played as a cold punch to improve the price on a horse you like in the last leg, not as a partwheel like a pick-3 or pick-4. It's surprising how often you can turn a horse you wouldn't really want to bet at 6-5 into a 6-1 shot just by getting three previous runners to hit the board. Today you could have turned Wait a While from 0.85-1 into 325-1 but that $653 payoff was really unusual -- and stemmed from a first leg where the three "show" horses were 11-1, 29-1 and 49-1. ajv, There's definitely something weird going on with the fractional and possibly final times on the inner course. It's bizarre that half an hour after WAW ran 8.5f on the Mellon in 1:39.70, Offhand Remark runs a mile on the inner in 1:39.06 -- and supposedly with a final quarter in 22.94! hz_hackenbush, MCM made his one and only start today for owner Vincent Scuderi and trainer James Ferraro. He enjoyed most of his success for owner Richard Englander and trainer Scott Lake. Travers, Thanks for the catch -- fixed it. And nice meeting you too. Several regular commenters dropped by Borders tonight, including Travers, whose first name really IS Travers.