08/28/2008 11:42AM

Day 32: 8/28/08


11:45 am: Can you stand one more complaint about race placement at Saratoga? It's not about today's steeplechase being part of the pick-six, which fortunately has no carryover. That happens exactly once a year, and it's not unreasonable to showcase one jump race by running it somewhere other than the first of the day. It's about the following race, the 9th on a 10-race card, which could not have been more poorly positioned.

Why is a maiden race with seven first-time starters being run as the 9th of 10 other than as a craven attempt to create a carryover? That placement conceals any peek at the tote from not only pick-6 players but also late pick-4 and pick-3 players. Why not run it as the 7th, where a full field of fully-exposed turf sprinters currently resides? Or as the 4th, where a six-horse stakes race is now buried for fear that a small field will hurt late handle?

I'm not complaining about the number of maiden races -- that's part of the fabric and the charm of Saratoga, and occasionally you have a card so chock full of such races that one or two end up in less than ideal spots. This, however, is a case of deliberately and unnecessarily placing the race in which the public has the least information in a blind spot. Not to mention putting a maiden race in the spot where the best or "featured" race of the day is usually run.

4:00 pm:With the late pick-4 being unplayable today, I dove into the early one and lost it by nostril in the first leg when Violette firster Mona from Deltona ($14.60) somehow won a photo I was sure she'd lost to 9-2 Rice Firster Irish Mama. I can't agree with similarly photoed commenter "Justin" that Cornelio Velasquez stood up two strides before the wire -- he hit her 11 times through the stretch -- but he did appear to think he had won the race. Anyway, I watched the rest of the play come in and pay a fat $3461 with gritted teeth, especially when logical Bruce Jackson first-turf/second-timer Scientist, 9-2 ML, somehow paid $30.60 winning the third.

Seems like we've had a lot of close photos at this meet. Interesting note from Ed Fountaine in Wednesday's NY Post that veteran photo-finish operator Don Morehouse said the Travers photo was the closest in a New York stakes race since Meadow Star's over Lite Light in the 1991 Acorn.

In the 4th, the overnight Halfmoon Stakes for nonwinners of an open stakes in 2008, Nick Zito ran 1-2 with the uncoupled entry of Silver Knockers ($4.40) and Debbie Got Even, who ran 2-3 behind Over Forli in the Lillian Russell Stakes July 28.

Dale Romans ran 1-2 in the 6th but this time they were coupled and 2-year-old filly firsters firsters Megalicious and Glacken Queen paid $9.60, $8.10 and $4.90 acorss the board. Jimmy Jerkens firster So probable, pounded to 2-1, was in contention but faded to fifth with no apparent excuse.

The early pp's for Woodward Day are up. Curlin drew post 5 in a field of 8 and I'd be shocked if he went off as high as his ML price of 3-5. Trivia time: Name the last two reigning Horses of the Year who raced at Saratoga. Answer is in the Saturday column I just finished writing, which I'll put up a link to after it's been edited. Here's the roster of the last 25 winners and what, if anything, they accomplished after being named HOTY:

6:30 pm: Thanks to a mild upset in the steeplechase and a whopping one in the buried maiden race, we've got a $48k carryover into Friday's twilight card.

The 67th running of the New York Turf Writers' Cup went to Dark Equation ($19.00) by half a length over second choice Be Certain, with 2.45-1 favorite High Action a neck back in third. High Action and Dark Equation ran 1-2 in that order in the A. P. Smithwich Aug. 7. Dark Equation, a 7-year-old Polish Numbers gelding, won 2 of 15 starts (including a 2004 Saratoga off-the-turfer) when trained on the flat by Christophe Clement and is now 4 for 13 as a jumper.

Turns out a peek at the toteboard wouldn't have helped in the 9th, where D. Wayne Lukas firster Be Smart became the first Smarty Jones 2-year-old to win in New York and paid exactly $100.00 after wiring the field by 1 3/4 lengths. A 20-1 Mike MacDonald firster was second to complete a $1241 exacta, as 6-5 McLaughlin second-timer Justwhistledixie was third and 2-1 Baffert firster You Can Dream faded to sixth. Be Smart, a $325k sales tearling, ran the 5.5f in 1:04.42, 1.19 seconds faster than the first division of the race won by Megalicious three races earlier.

Lukas and owner Thomas Van Meter nearly swept the late double with longshots as their 11-1 Spirit Line fell just short of winning the finale, running second to Seeing Clearly ($9.50), who completed a $14,692 pick-4 that would have paid $42,517 with Spirit Line. After Be Smart, no one was alive for 6/6 and only two horses were covered for a one-winner $16k 5/6 payoff -- Frozen Prospect and Paint Me Red, who ran 3rd and 4th. So Seeing Clearly completed a sequence where 4/6 was good for $508.

Nine-race card tomorrow, first post 2:45, first pick-six race (the 4th) scheduled for 4:27 p.m.