08/24/2008 3:49PM

Day 29: 8/24/08


3:15 pm: BEAUTIFUL DOWNTOWN HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Made it back from Spa City in 3:15:00.01 or so, and after some misadventures with greyhound-unloading and faulty smoke alarms at the homestead, qwik-capped the card just enough to play this very difficult carryover that's starting in 20 minutes or so. The opening leg is a board-watcher's delight, so let me do some tote-gazing and ticket-punching and I'll be back after the 6th, dead or alive.

4:00 pm: Phew. Made it through the first leg with a B+, Baffert firster Heavenly Vision ($9.40) in a race with a tricky board and an all-firster finish at 7-2, 25-1, 32-1 and 14-1.

Nan, who I didn't use at all, opened the 2-1 favorite off a fast-closing second in a turf sprint, where she finished well enough to inspire a private purchase by J. Paul Reddam, the Cashcall guy. But that was in a turf sprint, which I totally discount when it comes to dirt ability. Nan ended up the co-second choice with the winner behind 2-1 Pumpkin Shell, who I liked best off her debut second between Spinaway-bound Miss Ocean City and Matron-bound Persistently.

Heavenly Vision was tough to read on paper, having worked very well over Del Mar Polytrack and less well over Saratoga dirt, and 7-2 on a Baffert firster isn't exactly Indian Blessing/Maimonides kind of action. But she took a big whack in the races 5-6 double -- actually favored over Pumpkin Shell in that pool -- and was half the price of any other firster. So I singled Pumpkin Shell as an A and made Heavenly Vision a "B+," the plus meaning I can have all 3 rather than the usual 2 B's today:

I know, it's sort of a goofy play. I'm completely guessing on firsters with two of my three in race 8; I just wasn't crazy about most of the ones who have run.

In any case, the C's are now dead and I effectively have one live caveman ticket that goes:


At least no singles. But with the exception of the Ballerina, it's all-turf the rest of the way. And you remember how predictable that was yesterday.

4:30 pm: Another statebred turf sprint, another 1-2 finish by The Empress. (She only had two in the race.)How could Linda Rice top her superfecta sweep of the Mechanicville stakes? How about by sending out Lady Rizzi ($9.30) to set a new course record of 1:00.66 for 5.5f on the Mellon Asphalt Course?

Sort of Tricky, making her first start since January, shot to the lead with a quarter in 21.09, with Rice's duo in hot pursuit. Myaka got to the leader first after a half in 43.24 -- I'm not making these fractions up -- and then Lady Rizzi took over. Rice aside, Lady Rizzi had a little bit of an edge on these statebreds, having won an open N1x turf sprint at Gulfstream and run credibly in a $200k turf sprint at Calder earlier this year.

Hmmm, my two guess-firsters in leg 3, for older maiden grass fillies, just opened as the fourth and sixth choices at 6-1 (Pletcher) and 8-1 (Sheppard) in the win pool, 5th and 7th choices in the pick-3 and 2nd and 7th choices in the 7-8 double. I guess neither one is the second coming of Pebbles, but here's hoping they don't have to be.

5:13 (or 5:06) pm: My sincere apologies to the NYRA Rewards phone operator I was just yelling at, telling her that betting for the 8th race couldn't possibly be closed because I was watching live on TV and it was 3 minutes to post. She insisted the race had been run. Then I looked at the clock an it turns out she was right. Guess I'd used the DVR to go backwards and check some payouts and never fast-forwarded back. Oops. But it saved me money, since I was trying to make saver pick-4's against my pick-6 horses, and it turned out that Sandstorm Cat, one of my three in the 8th (the non-firster) had already won and paid $15.20.

Halfway home.

5:45 pm: Two-thirds of the way home as Kapanga ($9.80) wins leg 4. Even if this chalks out it's got to be okay.

6:15 pm: Arrrrrg. Maybe I'm prejudiced since it just knocked me out, but what in the world was Javier Castellano doing prematurely sending Sugar Swirl after Mystical Plan in 44.88, exhausting both fillies by the time they hit the furlong pole together? You'd have thought he'd learned his lesson in the Humana Distaff, when he sent her after Hystericalady into a four-horse duel after she'd won her two previous seven-furlong stakes starts by stalking and pouncing.

In any case, the Ballerina ended the same way as the Humana, with Intangaroo in the winner's circle, and it's hard not to be happy for her and her connections even while tearing tickets. She's the best horse ever trained by veteran Gary Sherlock, who was making his first trip ever to Saratoga this weekend, and she's now upset three Grade 1 races this year -- the Santa Monica at 26-1, the Humana at 14-1 and the Ballerina at 5-1. All of those races are at 7f, the same distance as this year's BC F&M Sprint, where she could wrap up the filly sprinter title if she hasn't already.

Five of the eight in the finale are covered in the pick-6, all paying $96k or better. Time for a cocktail.

In better news, it's 6:17 and I'm still watching Saratoga on Nassau OTB instead of Cooking With Sergio on RAI Italiano. Thanks to whoever finally figured out that Saratoga runs past 6 p.m.

6:40 pm: Would have gotten blown out by the shortest price in the sequence anyway as Exonerated ($7.00) wired the field in the statebred finale, running a strong 8.5f in 1:41.70 on the inner, significantly faster than the two open-company maiden races today at the same course and distance. The Johannesburg filly actually looks worth the $105k that former NYRA trustee Earle Mack paid her breeder, former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, for her at public auction two years ago.

As for me: Bid, loomed, hung. But tomorrow is another day.

Mark More than 1 year ago
Steve, The Breeders Cup website has a "countdown" feature, showing the days, hours and minutes to the big event. It seems to indicate that the first Breeders Cup race will begin at noon Eastern time and 9 a.m. Pacific time. Is this correct? If so, what time will the pre-cup races start?
Dan MacKenzie More than 1 year ago
Monday - Alyssa Givonna. Closed well after stumbling at the start on July 28. Garcia rode this horse at Belmont in 3 races where she "took the overland route and came home willingly", "surged to the front in deep stretch" and "lodged a bid". Interesting.
yuwipi More than 1 year ago
"Bid, loomed, hung." Reminds me of my favorite trouble line comment, not used much anymore, "came again." First saw it given to an old Phipps filly named Alpine Lass back in the 70's. Think she earned it 3 races in a row. Regarding Castellano, I've always liked him but have felt he finds his way into more trouble than he should. I came to the conclusion a few years ago that he somehow felt he could "Ghostzapper" his way through some races. Don't know if the stalk and pounce approach would have worked, but plan B is what I thought he would do. Didn't help my pick of Miraculous Miss though. Andyscoggin: Bummed.
jel More than 1 year ago
No excuse for Castellano's ride. If I'm the owner/trainer I'm looking for a new Jock. Would be nice to get a quote from him on what he was thinking.
C More than 1 year ago
Here's a totally inane question: If there was a dead heat in the Travers, which silks would be painted on the jockey statue? Half-and-half?
AJV More than 1 year ago
I agree that the Pacific Classic being run so late on a Sunday evening needlessly costs the track the east coast's viewers and handle. But maybe that's why the Pick 3 with Whatsthescript, Go Between (both favored), and the playable Pictural in the 11th paid a fat and juicy $372 for $1, thank you very much. I was barely awake to watch it though. I love taking west coast money! AJV
peewee More than 1 year ago
Roger that on the chicken sandwich,big thumbs up...
bochalls More than 1 year ago
My thoughts on the weekend: if there ever was a horse that wanted no part of 10f it's Tale Of Ekati...good lord. Perfect trip and no response. Maybe he will be a good sprinter at some point. As Joe Pesci said in My Cousin Vinny, "I'm through wit you!".....Visionaire, my only friend on a sad Travers Saturday at SAR....hey Unitas, i agree with you about Jan Rushton...hope you are watching the NYCOTB Saratoga show each morning. Great guests (the handicappers aren't too good but I don't listen to them anyway). really enjoy interviews with Jerkens, Shug, Weaver (I could not have picked him out of a lineup), Barry Irwin,etc...great show.
Evan Gewirtz More than 1 year ago
Steve, Nothing has been " figured out" regarding NYRA/RAI. Before the beginning of the Saratoga meet, Nyra requested that they have channel 74 until 7:00 on weekends and later on the two sunset Fridays. You will be cut off at 6:00 today on Cablevision.
anthony More than 1 year ago
went to saratoga on wendsday last week. asked several jockeys for a sat of goggles for my grandson who was vwith me. they were rude to us.i took care to not ask any that were talking with trainers.i see riders at arlington and other tracks giving to the kids all the time the prima donnas at spa. could not be bothered.