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Day 26: 8/21/10
By Steven Crist
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- It's a great Alabama showdown, but the rest of the Saratoga card? Yeesh. Fortunately, there's two hours of compelling stakes action at Arlington to fill out the afternoon.
Arlington runs only three Grade 1 races a year, all on the grass, and they'll all be contested between 4:37 and 6:15 ET today on a 13-race Arlington card where all but the day's second race are on the grass. An all-graded-stakes pick-4 starts at 4:05 ET with the G3 Stars and Stripes at 1 5/8 miles, followed by the G1 Secretariat for 3-year-olds at 10f, the G1 Beverly D. for fillies and mares at 9.5f and the 10f Arlington Million.
My plan is to start out 2x2 -- Free Fighter and Perfect Shower in the S&S, Paddy o'Prado and Wigmore Hall in the Secretariat -- to get alive to most of them in the wide-open Beverly D and then all the Euros in the Million (Tazeez, Summit Surge, Debussy and Tajaaweed.) Gio Ponti is the only local I'll use in the race, just to get my money back; I want no part of Just as Well, General Quarters and Rahystrada. Gio Ponti is a cut above them, but I'm not convinced he has any edge on the second- and third-tier Euros in the race. This is no knock on Gio Ponti, a very nice horse who waged an admirable cross-country campaign last year but who has yet to be tested against good Euro grass horses -- who are almost always better than ours, just as our dirt horses are the best on the planet.
2:45 pm: Meanwhile, back at the ranch where the Alabama Day card includes two statebred maiden races, a $20k maiden claimer, and three conditioned-claiming races:
Pletcher ran 1-2 in the 2nd with first-timer Curlinello ($5.40) nailing second-timer Joe Vann at the wire. It was his 11th 2-year-old winner in 25 days of racing here. His record with 2-year-olds at the meet is 27: 11-5-2, which is actually a 50 percent strike rate because he has started two in five of those 27 races. In the five races where he has had two runners, this was the third time he has run 1-2.
In the third, Linda Rice sent out the filly We Need VLT's ($12.60), a first-time-starter she also owns, to beat male statebreds in a grass sprint. The filly was supposed to debut last summer when the VLT-contract issue was in greater doubt. They're still needed, but it looks more and more like they'll finally be up and running next year.
3:15 pm: John Velazquez completed a sweep of the early pick-4 aboard runaway N1x winner Morning Line ($6.50). The all-Johnny-V pick-4 paid $213.
4:00 pm: Didn't play today's non-carryover pick-6, but this was a good example of helpful race placement for those who did: With this firster-laden statebred maiden race as the first rather than last leg, players got to see 6-1 ML firster Pin Number open as the red-hot 3-2 favorite and eventually win at $9.40.
5:30 pm: With $200k in the win pool and 20 MTP, Devil May Care is 1-5 and Blind Luck 9-2 for their Alabama showdown. Crazy prices that will get a lot closer as the betting continues, right?
Velazquez got his fifth of the day aboard Dogwood dropdown Zapster in the 9th so will be going for his 6th on Devil May Care.
With 12 MTP and $271k in the pool, it's 1-2 on DMC and 2-1 on BL.
5:48 pm: With 2 MTP and $490k in, it's 4-5 and 8-5.
5:55 pm: Blind Luck reaffirmed her status as the best 3-year-old filly in the land by overcoming a slow pace and running down Havre de Grace to win the Alabama as favored Devil May Care came up empty in the stretch to run fourth.
The victory was Blind Luck's 5th in seven starts this year -- at five different tracks (SA, OP, CD, Del, Sar) -- and her third Grade 1 of the year following victories in the G1 Las Virgenes and the G1 Kentucky Oaks. She is now 9 for 13 lifetime and 5 for 5 in her career on dirt tracks.
Devil May Care clearly didn't run her best race, being outfinished for third by Acting Happy, whom she'd trounced in the CCA Oaks here four weeks ago. The two fillies might meet again in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (Ladies' Classic) at Churchill Downs Nov. 5.
Half the field in the finale is covered in the pick-6; otherwise, it looks like an $80k carryover into Sunday's 10-race card. The "featured" Lake Placid is being run as the 4th race before the sequence starts.
6:40 pm: No carryover, as 2-1 favorite Recharged got the job done -- third winner of the day for Linda Rice, two of them with in-from-the-AE-list runners. Recharged completed a $977 pick-4 and $10,241 pick -6 (eight winners).
At Arlington, I still can't come up with the winner of the $18.80 winner of the Stars and Stripes who kicked off the $3,048-for-$2 pick-4, but the all-G1 pick-3 of Paddy o'Prado ($3.00), Eclair de Lune ($14.80) and Debussy ($24.00) came back a delightfully robust $439.20.
No Talking Horses for me tomorrow -- it's a putting-on-the-tux night and then a Jockey Club Round Table morning, so I'll be getting a late start on an uninspiring Sunday card that may get some rain.
Tomorrow will also be the start of Cristblog Restaurant Week. I had to have a Hattie's sandwich today after five days of downstate withdrawal, but starting tomorrow I'm going to consume and review a different piece of alternative track fare each day so you'll all know what to eat on Travers Day, okay?
Try the Rueben at the ground floor stand hear the Carousel.
Thought I'd take a look at Saturday's offerings from Monmouth and Del Mar after the fact. Know the below doesn't mean anything authoritative but anyway: Saratoga - 109 total entries, 114 lifetime wins Del Mar - 81 total entries, 109 lifetime wins Monmouth - 136 total entries, 301 lifetime wins Yeah, I know high priced maiden specials can't add to lifetime win totals and they are an integral and special part of the Saratoga heritage. I don't play Monmouth, NYRA exclusively, but it has looked to me on more than a few occasions that they have been more successful at carding the old fashioned straight claimer. Remember the races with a field of 8 or 9, each horse with a 2 or 3 year resume of work, with 5 or 6 lifetime wins and as many placings and showings. Well, that's it for me with yeesh. On to the Travers!
Devil May Care ran her race. She just doesn't want 1 1/4.
Hoping Blind Luck's win at the Spa will ensure that Hollendorfer's visit next year is for his long overdue induction ceremony to the Hall of Fame. What are they waiting for?
Steve I do not know if milkshakes are 'food' but the shakes at the shake shack are a great addition to the fare at Saratoga.
DMC "did not fire" because she can not get 10f, a feat that RA is also unlikely to handle next weekend. Why is it there is so much focus on the 1 1/4 distance of The Derby but the distance factor is so often ignored in the other longer races?
Try the meatball sub at Brandisi's . It is very good and the best value at the track. Only $5.50!
The name of the restaurant on Nelson is the Mexican Connection. Stop at the Horseshoe (less pretentious than Siros) for a few beers and across the street for a burrito or two. It may be the best kept secret in town. Saw Charlie Heyward in there a few years back. Downtown is the Stadium Cafe. A great menu that appeals to everyone. A bit noisy but the food is great and the prices are even better. Tons of TV's if you've got money in your account and are looking to get out for the day at Del Mar.
As a regular at Delaware Park I was very happy with the outcome of the Alabama. The first two horses from the Delaware Oaks finished one/two (same as the Jim Dandy top two who came from a Delaware allowance). This is the third year in a row that the winner of the Delaware Oaks has won the Alabama. It's time to consider raising the Delaware Oaks to Grade 1.
Steve -- In terms of Memorial Maniac, I think the only thing that can be said (and reason I used him) is that he finished ahead of Perfect Shower twice at Keeneland, which I would consider to be the same type of turf course as Arlington. Also, did anyone else think David Cohen stopped riding on Joe Vann in the 2 yr old race Saturday and let the Edward Evans horse catch him.
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