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Day 28: 8/29/09
8:28 am: Main track sloppy, turf soft, races 1, 5 and 13 already off the grass.
It's been raining heavily for most of the last 12 hours, and it's still coming down.
9:45 am: Still raining. All three off-the-turfers will be run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Scracthes still haven't been posted but should be up in the next hour.
11:20 am: The 6th race is now off the turf as well. So only the 4th and 9th -- the Lure Stakes and the G2 Ballston Spa -- are on the grass. Races 1,5,6 and 13 are off.
12:20 pm:The track is sloppy and not very quick, with off-the-turf statebreds going 9f in 1:51.82 in the opener, and a good-looking 2-year-old filly firster needing 1:11.65 to complete 6f in the second. The latter, Glencrest/Pletcher Devil May Care ($6.70), is a half-sister to Regal Ransom, the UAE Derby winner who won his debut on this track last year.
Keep in mind there's a third pick-4 today. The three sequences are races 2-5, 5-8 and 9-12, the final one being the $1 million guaranteed one comprising the Ballston Spa, Ballerina, King's Bishop and Travers. The pick-6 (races 8-12) brackets those four races with a 2-year-old maiden sprint and an off-the-turf statebred maiden route where darts might come in handy: 10 of the 13 still in have a combined seven career dirt starts. It could be a very long nine furlongs.
12:44 pm: Schneerson almost let Soda Jerk come back on him but saved the headbob to win the 3rd in 1:24.14. Good news if you used Eagle Strike in your pick-4's: He was scratched in the paddock and you got switched to the post-time favorite -- Schneerson.
It was also just now announced that Our Edge will have two bar shoes on in the Travers.
1:25 pm: Not sure what to make of the turf course after the first of the only two races left on the grass. Get Stormy went wire to wire winning the Lure Stakes for 3-year-olds, holding off Mikoshi in 1:37.91 on the inner course. He wired a N1x allowance on the same course and distance on opening day, going 1:13.42 early en route to a final time of 1:35.36 (a 21.94 final quarter, if accurate.) Today, Get Stormy hung up a 1:14.22 six-furlong split, coming home in 23.69.
The upcoming added pick-4 on races 5-8 may be...I can't believe I'm about to say this...a little too much multi-race action even for me. My problem is that the sequence begins with the last leg of a pick-4 I'm already alive in (dollars to the 2,10 and 13) and ends with the first leg of a pick-6 I'm probably playing. I think I'll get myself into trouble on the 5th and 8th just once rather than twice.
2:25 pm: Six races down, seven to go. The Roundhouse, beaten favorite in the 2007 Saratoga Special and Breeders' Futurity, won his third race from 11 starts after getting through on the rail to win the off-the-turf 6th. Second winner of the day for Pletcher, moving him into a tie with Linda Rice atop the trainer standings with 14 apiece. Rice's only starter on Travers Day is the longshot Trix in the City in the upcoming Victory Ride. Pletcher still has Captain's Lover in the Ballston Spa, Munnings in the King's Bishop and Quality Road in the Travers.
2:40 pm: Just to echo a couple of commenters below: If you're betting through NYRA Rewards, bet early. Took me four minutes to process a single ticket through the system just now, and I also got the following somewhat unsettling message when I was done: "This balance is a calculated balance and may not reflect your true balance."
3:20 pm: Between the weather, the lack of carryover, and a confusing board for the firster-filled opening leg, I settled on a just-in-case-I'm-right $480 caveman pick-6 play: 1,11/2,3,5,6,8/4/2,3,8/3,4/2,3,8,10. The thinking:
Race 8: Expected the Baffert firster, Bulldogger, to be more heavily bet, concerned that he isn't. I'll take him and the one who's run, No Truth Told. I could use four other firsters on guesses, but this play is not worth $1440.
Race 9: Pitched the two favorites and took the other five. I like Rutherienne but not on a soft course, and I was very unimpressed with Cocoa Beach's latest. Rooting for a chaotic result.
Race 10: Singled Indian Blessing. If she's still Indian Blessing, she'll romp.
Race 11: Took all three of the logicals: Munnings, Capt. Candyman Can and Big Drama.
Race 12: Quality Road, who might be good enough to overcome is light preparation, and Warrior's Reward, who was given a pure prep for this in the Jim Dandy and who might really like it wet.
Race 13: I took the four most likely not to fail in a complete tossup of a race.
I plan to play the late pick-4 along similar lines, though with backups and a little more flexibility.
3:40 pm: Bulldogger got the job done, shooting off to the early lead, shaking off Bo Truth Told on the turn, and splashing away by himself. Zito firster Our Dark Knight finished well for second, might be worth following.
One race earlier, Sara Louise made a winning return to the races in her first start since being purchased by Godolphin after running second to rachel Alexandra last Nov. 29 in the Golden Rod at Churchill. Sara Louise -- the last horse to finish in front of Rachel, when she beat her in the Pocahontas (Rachel's last one-turn race) -- overcame the layoff and a distance probably below her best to run down Bold Union to score by two lengths in 1:09.66.
4:55 pm: Oh well. Had an exciting half hour there after the anti-fave spread in the Ballston Spa worked by a few inches and 24-1 Salve Germania was up to nail Rutherienne at the wire, keeping the little pick-6 alive and starting the pick-4 on a strong note. But I didn't see Music Note beating Indian Blessing and Informed Decision in the Ballerina, so I'm dead all around.
Salve Germania, a Euro import with late-announced Lasix on, is an international production -- an Irish-bred daughter of Peintre Celebre and the German mare Salve Regina. 10-1 on the morning line, her price climbed as she threw a fit in the paddock, and she ended up the longest shot in the field of seven.
The Ballerina was an unexpected 5 1/4-length rout by Music Note, who missed winning the Alabama (and, as a reult, the 3-year0old filly Eclipse) by just a head here last year. She was an awful fifth in her only prior start this year, but like so many Godolphin runners at this meeting, she was primed for a career-best performance today. The race unfolded surprisingly, with Indian Blessing being challenged early by both Music Note and Informed Decision, fillies who had never shown that kind of early lick. Music Note held her position at the rail inside Indian Blessing around the turn, then powered away under her own steam as Indian Blessing passively held second and Informed Decision never made her usual late move.
After the dominant performances by Sara Louise and Music Note, Godolphin now seeks a graded-stakes triple with Vineyard Haven, last year's Hopeful and Champagne winner but unraced since a poor outing in the UAE 2000 Guineas Feb. 12. Vineyard Haven, coupled with darley's Everyday Heroes, is currently the fourth choice in the betting at 6-1.
5:30 pm: Vineyard Haven continued the astounding streak of Godolphin performances at the meet, reaching the wire a head to the good of Capt. Candyman Can, but was the easiest dq you'll ever see if you look at the head-on. Under aggressive and needless left-handed whipping from Alan Garcia, Vineyard Haven came out several paths and repeatedly bumped the runner-up.
Still, take nothing away from Vineyard Haven, whose performance was sensational. He disputed a much faster pace than the Ballerina -- 44.64 as opposed to 45.76 -- and finished just a fifth slower in 1:22.35. The return of last year's best dirt 2-year-old makes the fall, and the sprint division, a lot more interesting.
6:30 pm: Summer Bird was clearly much the best winning the Travers, but the race sure came apart behind him. Hold Me Back, the longest shot in the field, clunked up late to be second; nothing went right for Quality Road and he was dead tired and shortening stride badly as he grimly held third. Kensei tripped over his pedigree on the far turn, while Charitable Man and Warrior's Reward proved conclusively they're just not Grade 1 horses.
Summer Bird has to be considered the leader of the 3-year-old males with a Belmont and a Travers under his girth. You could argue that needs to be settled by a rubber match with Mine That Bird, but such a matchup seems unlikely unless and until both take on older horses in the synthetic-surface Breeders' Cup Classic. And Mine That Bird's fans will point out that he was beaten just a length by Rachel Alexnadra in the preakness whereas Rachel beat Summer Bird by six in the Haskell. It's a funny year when you measure the top 3-year-old males by their relative margins of defeat to a filly.
Summer Bird completed that all-stakes pick-4, which paid $8,546 for $2 (sigh) from a whopping pool of $1.63 million. Then favored Whirlwind Poppy won the finale to complete a $45k pick-6 on four winning tickets. Only two other horses were covered -- Spa City Fever and Jacob's Dream -- and there was just one live ticket worth $180k to each of them.
As per custom, this was my last live day of Saratoga. The landlords move back into the rental house tomorrow, and human/hound caravan heads back to Hempstead for the final eight days of the meeting. The plan is to be on the road by 9 a.m. and home for the first of the four statebred races that begin Day 29.
The NYRA must have a death wish carding six grass races for Travers Day. Grass races are nice, but the two Stakes would have been fine. (Thanks to Formulator, I avoided the Oh for off the turf Baker steed that you guys touted and went to Tagg who showed 12 for 52 with a $2.56 ROI; but off the turf races still suck.) There was a time when there were zero turf races on Travers Day. (This was during the few years they allowed people into the infield on Saturdays.) About Vineyard Haven, I didn't notice the whipping. It looked to me like he was spooked by things he saw on the track. And after having Summer Bird at 43-1 in the Derby, I haven't been able to play him at 4-1 or 5-2. But then I didn't have his Daddy in the Belmont of the Travers either.
Did anyone notice the ride Garcia gave Rutherianne? He never saw the 8 horse and should have put the hammer all the way down. What a cocky ride that was... why doesn't he finish the dramatic "splitting horses" move with an all out run to the wire. This cost me multiple pick 4s. Why he went left handed on VH only to get DQ'd is also beyond me. Winning the jockey title last year seems to have made him a bit arrogant.
Hi Steve, Hope you have arrived safely. Your handicapping analysis and other insightful contributions at the SPA meet, live and on site, were deeply appreciated! I don't want to offend many of our serious handicappers but I do have the following suggestion: ...I spent endly hours hhandicapoping the SPA races yesterday. However, due to the uncertain track conditions, I did not make any wagers even though my A and B Horses won several races, including exotics, at decent prices. I remainrrue to my betting convictions. I never bet into a Sloppy Track or Maiden races. This strategy has saved me several thousands of dollars that I eventually commit to Fast tracks and bettable races. Keeneland Race Course has survived and prospered with a great Synthetic Course. If they can, do it, any NY Track can also prosper in the 21st Century. It's time to move forward and accept modern technology for the betterment of the Horses, the Betting Public and Race Track Management. Good Luck and hope for a Fast Track everyday! You deserve the best conditions for your betting dollars! Don't settle for less!
Maybe NYRA can get the Beldame race together and we can add Careless Jewel, Sara Louise & the winner of Monmouth's Molly Pitcher Lets see the fillies go head to head and decided the best on the track.
who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew, cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two, the (captain) candyman can!!! the candyman can cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good:)
Many thanks to you and DRF for your blog and also the Bonus Pick 4 video's with Dan and Harvey. It was nice to see Harvey looking so well.
Steve: Thank you once again for another outstanding job on your blog from the Spaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! Your insights make the casual fan like myself appreciate this game much more. Hope you had your fill of Hattie's, found enough fans to bring you your Cheese Waffies and cashed some nice sized tickets. Highlight of the meet for me was 6 way photo finish on Aug 22nd. Doesn't get any better than that. Safe trip back home.
It'll feel good to get back home, Steve. Nice work. Your live reporting from horse-racing heaven has been much appreciated.
I was amused by C's thoughts on Steeplechases. He really should have a crack at handicapping the Grand National. Run at Aintree over 4 and a half miles, with 30 fences to jump, and up to 40 runners, its one hell of a challenge, but its actually FUN to do. Its also a brilliant spectacle (as long as all the horses are uninjured), and it attracts a massive worldwide TV audience (in the US?). Give it a go next year. Regards - Bernard
OK Steve, last comment for a while...The Lakers lost to the Charlotte Bobcats last season. Since they lost "head-to-head" that makes the Charlotte Bobcats better, right??? Nah. At the end of the season you look at the records and the races won, etc. If Summer Bird wins the BCC, does Rachel still get HOY just because she is a filly? (Just like she gets the weight allowance??) Was Tim Ice ever suspended? I haven't heard that HE was. How hard is it to keep an open mind until the end of the season??