08/28/2008 10:42AM

Day 32: 8/28/08

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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.

Vida More than 1 year ago
Steve, I almost feel bad for pointing out the obvious, but you of all people have so much more information about all of those firsters than does the layman, you should be taking advantage of your informational riches instead of grumbling about race placement this way. Fact is, there is nowhere else in racing where the sum total of your available information about a collection of horses more greatly exceeds that of the average bettor (than on a race with all debuters). Turn your attention inward, my friend, and you will find that you'll eventually want all of those firster-filled fields 'hidden' from multi-race players.
BombsAwayBob Grant More than 1 year ago
Steve, with Twilight Posts at Saratoga on opening & closing weekend, why doesn't the "Racing Hall of Fame" offer an "Open House" on these two Fridays, allowing the casual racing fan the opportunity to check out the place & maybe get hooked on the grand history of this great sport during the extra time before first post?!
walmatt More than 1 year ago
Keyfig, You're right...colored saddleclosths are a Breeders' Cup must. Another must is the return of Tom Durkin. Trevor Denman is good but difficult to understand.
Wayne80 More than 1 year ago
I thought the Big Brown Turf Stakes was for straight 3yo's, no? Ragardless, I do hope some true graded quality turfers run to make it interesting and, more importanly, playable.
bob m. More than 1 year ago
today at the spa.. 2nd race.. i like the benzel entry (5-1) and master.. not much in the race.. 5th race.. i like sweet groom (12-1) dropping to claimer with speed.. arroyo doing well this meet 7th race.. bittel road 2-1) wire to wire. 8th race.. giant chieftan (6-1) to mow them down in the strectch.. good luck to all.. im going for the hatties chicken today..
bochalls More than 1 year ago
I have bitten my tongue on this whole 'bad card' topic that has been prevalent the whole SAR meet, but now I gotta gripe. Five 2yr old races on a 9 race card? Gimme a fargin break! I love NYRA but will not continue to play substandard cards. Takin the day off...and besides, ya'll could use a break from the string of losers I've been posting lately.
Dan MacKenzie More than 1 year ago
The scratch of Dressed To Win provided an opportunity with Easy Ashley - if you were willing to take a chance on a horse running on the turf for the first time. What was the reason for the scratch of Dressed To Win ? Friday - Mr. Petersson "saved ground throughout" on Aug 11. Interesting.
dk More than 1 year ago
Would love to see BB take on some real horses in the Monmouth Race, all I'm hearing is that they are lining up some local horses looking to run second or third for the big purse money. Hope we get to see one of Bobby Frankel or Kieran's turfers take a shot at him. Personally, I think Einstein would dominate the race. I still feel that BB is not 100% by the way he finished in the Haskell & his subsequent training since. He is vulnerable. Interesting side note to consider: they turned down $1 million to run in PA where they test for steroids and decided to run in NJ for half the purse. Timing of race also allows for adequate withdrawl time to compete cleanly in BC. I know that the trainer and owners say he is off them but do you really believe what those guys say???? I'm thinking he gets his shot next weekend... Since Monmouth Park has sold its soul to these guys, let's hope they can at least put on a good race!
Kyjohnson More than 1 year ago
...Until now I didn't complain[about including a steeplechase in Thursday's pick-4 and pick-6.] Like many others, I just didn't play either wager yesterday. Note that Thursday's Pick 4 handle was 10% less than Wednesday's and 16% less than Monday's. Agree with 98% of what you write, but on this one (and on the misleading practice of reporting superfecta payouts that are larger than the entire pool), I must respectfully disagree. I think NYRA should do a pick six involving greyhounds, trotters, pacers, jumpers,a jai-lai match, and a turf sprint for NY-bred maidens.
caesar rodney More than 1 year ago
Steve, Seems like connections based at Del Park have had a substantial impact on Spa racing this summer. It would be helpful to read about some of these horses if you could have some articles in your Track Coverage section in DRF online. How come you don't? Am I just missing it? You have Marquis Downs and Hastings covered? Thanks.