08/25/2008 12:50PM

Day 30: 8/25/08


1:45 pm: It's an interesting and playable Monday card at Saratoga, especially if you like to guess about things like 2-year-olds trying the grass and first-time starters in maiden-claiming races. Not my cup of hemlock, but I fooled around with the early pick-4 for some light entertainment.

Bruce Levine swept the early double with a pair of much-the-best winning favorites, giving him seven for the meet. He's got a serious statebred sprinter in Driven by Sucess ($3.10), who improved on his Aug. 6 maiden victory here with a 15 3/4-length rout in a sparkling 1:14.97 for 6.5f. In the second, Five Star Chowdair ($6.00), second to the very impressive Pletcher-trained statebred 2F Paradise Playgirl in her debut, led all the way to win by 7 3/4 lengths in 1:04.38. When's the last time a trainer swept the daily double ($9.90) by a combined 23 1/2 lengths?

I was too tired to get involved in that juicy Pacific Classic card at Del Mar last night, and like everyone else am still waiting to hear what in the world happened to Midnight Lute. The reigning champion sprinter could not have come into his comeback in the G1 Pat O'Brien any better. His last four works were bullets -- best-of-85, best-of-62 and best-of-60 blowouts, and a track-record-equalling 7f in 1:21 3/5. But he was uncomfortable in the gate, backed out, put back in, and then neglected to run a step at any point in the race. Perhaps he had a recurrence of the chronic breathing problems that have required three throat surgeries, but this was one of the most baffling non-efforts of the season. [Update: Jay Privman reports Midnight Lute "tore up the back part of his left front foot."]

And congrats to Bill Mott for breaking out his 2-for-50 Saratoga nightmare with Go Between's victory in the Pacific Classic. Winning a $1 million race makes up for a lot of losers around the barn. But I do think Mott's record at this meet, and the reaction to it or lack thereof, reflects a rather uneven treatment of individuals that says more about our expectations and prejudices than the actual source and significance of trainers' slumps.

A year ago, when Todd Pletcher was something like 4-for-50 early in the meet, it was a dominant topic of discussion, and nefarious accusations were being publicly hurled every day about veterinary and pharmacological matters. Mott's runaway victory in the trainer's race was widely hailed as some sort of triumph of natural horsemanship. This year, Pletcher is back on top and Mott is having a much, much worse Saratoga than Pletcher did a year ago, but everyone's just saying, Poor Bill's having an unlucky meet.

I'm not suggesting that anyone should be saying anything different: Mott is universally well-liked for good reason, and has earned every bit of the goodwill and benefit-of-the-doubt he's receiving. Like Pletcher a year ago, I think it's primarily a matter of a)random distribution of results and b)a slow-developing or substandard group of 2-year-olds. But can you imagine what people would be speculating about if Pletcher, Steve Asmussen or Rick Dutrow were 2-for-50 at this meet?

2:30 pm: The usual mess when there's a part-of-entry gate scratch occurred when Zito firster Golden Jungle, coupled with second-timer Brave Victory, was scratched at the post. Brave Victory ran for purse money only, pick-4 players got switched to the new post-time favorite, and there was a baffling array of conso doubles and pick-3's and refund doubles and pick-3's. Perhaps a very loud tape recording of Tom Durkin's laborious explanation of all the permutations could be played on a loop for members of the State Racing and Wagering Board at their next meeting until these rules are rewritten.

At least it all ended happily for those who were switched, as McLaughlin firster Regal Ransom ($4.10) became the favorite and won in a very impressive debut, beating the talented Brave Victory by half a length in 1:22.42, excellent time for a debuting 2-year-old. The Distorted Humor colt was purchased as a 2yo-in-training for $675k by Darley.

4:00 pm: Goodday($4.30) and Maram ($17.00) completed a $177 pick-4 that almost got me even for my $180 investment thanks to having it for the whole $2 due to the gate scratch. Big-time gambling: Minus $3 after the first half of the card.

Goodday, privately purchased out of a winning July 17 Del Mar maiden-claimer and turned over to Dutrow, was bet like she couldn't lose the $80k Vichy Stakes for statebred 2-year-old fillies, but barely survived a staggering finish and a stewards' inquiry. Runner-up Akilina may have been bothered late but the result stood after the Good and Tough filly ran the six furlongs in 1:11.34.

In the 5th, Chad Brown ran his record at the meet to 13: 5-3-0 when Sahm firster Maram came running late to win this 2yo maiden turfer in 1:42.49. The 6th, a $35kN2L scramble for older turf fillies, ended in a blanket finish with second-choice Princess Westly just holding off 7-5 favorite High Draw. Longshots Adorable You and Maggie's Miracle ran 3rd and 4th to blow up a $21.20 exacta into a $4,440 superfecta.

6:45 pm:While I was out with the hounds, we got ourselves a little $55k carryover into Wednesday. No bombs, but a tough sequence and it looks like half the field was covered in the finale, and the shortest one who wasn't was Ultimate Event ($13.60), second of the day and sixth of the meet for Chad Brown.

In the featured $80k Saratoga Dew Stakes, Talking Treasure did what horses used to do at Saratoga: Win a sprint stakes early in the meet and come back and win a route later on. A 5 3/4-length winner of the Fleet Indian at 7f July 30, Talking Treasure ($4.00) scored by 1 3/4 lengths today over 19-1 Aristo, withe second choice (and last year's winner) Ice Cool Kitty another 1 1/4 back in third after nine furlongs in 1:51.52. Talking Treasure, a Ramsey homebred by Catienus and trained by charlton Baker, now sports a flashy 13: 7-4-0 record.

Five weeks down, one to go, with Curlin in the Woodward, plus the Forego, Hopeful and Spinaway still ahead.