08/21/2010 2:27PM

Day 26: 8/21/10

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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?