08/30/2008 1:32PM

Day 34: 8/30/08


2:15 pm: Happy Woodward Day. They left the main-track-onlies in until 12:30 but finally scratched them then, and the forecast is for "isolated" thunder storms and a 30 percent chance of rain between now and 7 p.m.

Race 1: A relatively quick (23.50, 47.61) and contested early pace set the table for a 1-2-3-4 finish by $20k claimers who were running 9-8-5-7 after six furlongs, led by good old Delta Sea ($12.00), who swept from last to first on the far outside during the fourth quarter and held off 2.55-1 favorite Terrific Storm after 9f in 1:51.89. At least we have one dirt route on the card against which to measure the Woodward, a fig-making luxury we didn't have on Travers Day.

Delta Sea, an 8-year-old NY-bred gelding by Sea Hero (before the 1993 Derby and Travers winner was moved to Turkey), has now won 12 of 66 career starts and earned over $400k. Twelfth winner of the meet for Dutrow, third to McLaughlin (16) and Pletcher (15).

Race 2: Loved second-timer Offshore, a half-brother to Pine Island trying the grass after an educational dirt debut, but couldn't hook him up with Whitley ($36.80), a tough-to-like third-timer coming off equally dull dirt and grass races at Arlington earlier this summer. Less than a length separated the first five under the wire and the spread was only 3 1/2 lengths among the top eight. Whitley, an Arthur Hancock homebred by Menifee, is trained by Rusty Arnold.

Race 3: : Benny the Waiter beat Rollers in a statebred N1x here July 26, but Rollers was making his first start in nine months and got stuck behind the winner at the rail. The public understood all that, sending off Rollers at 3-5 and Benny the Waiter 9-5 in their N2x rematch, and Rollers ($3.50) proved them right with an easy victory in 1:09.56, looking like he's ready for statebred sprint stakes.

4:00 pm: If you weren't a Whitley fan, it's been hard to make money since, with three odds-on winners in the last four races and a chalky start to the Woodward Day pick-6 (I passed.)

Race 4: Unexplained late jockey change on 9-10 Chief Talkeetna from John Velazquez to Julio Garcia, and the latter made the most of a rare live Saratoga mount. Chief Talkeetna, claimed by Ward from Kimmel from a blowout 20kN2L blowout here Aug. 2, strolled to the lead uncontested but looked in deep water as Defrereoftheheart made a sustained run outside him on the turn and Jump It slipped inside them both to take the lead and start drawing away. But Garcia had plenty of horse left after a soft opening half in 47.03, sent Chief Talkeetna ($3.80) back after Jump It, caught him with a sixteenth to go and won by a length. No one took the winner but Ramsey/Maker took runner-up Jump It from Contessa and Jacobson took fourth-place T.J.'s Posse from Trombetta, both for $25k.

Race 5: Warn ($14.60), 0-fo-8 since maiden victory here 7/25/07, dropped in for $35k tag and got the rail trip under Albarado to win by 1 1/4 for Oxbow/Werner. Favored Jamaludin second best, calimed by Ramsey/Maker from Pletcher. Early Pick-4 paid $1,069 despite 3-5 and 4-5 sandwich filling between 17-1 Whitley and 6-1 Warn.

Race 6: Western Fable, Flying Zee homebred who was fourth as 3-1 favorite in 5.5f turf-sprint unveiling July 30, added blinkers for second start, shot to lead under Prado, enjoyed a mid-race breather in front and had enough left to hold off well-meant Contessa second-timer Triste Doble Q to pay $3.80 in first lg of no-carryover Pick Six.

4:15 pm: Race 7: This N2L sprint was a speed duel waiting to happen with Sammarco and Nautical Storm both in the gate, but the public went for Sammarco at 3-2 anyway off his third-place finish to Abraaj in the Vanderbilt July 26. The two hooked up early, cooked each other in 21.54 and 44.29, and along came Freedom Bay ($20.20), away since two promising efforts at Gulfstream Dec./Jan., to sweep past on the outside and win in 1:09.74, giving Kimmel his fouth winner in two days. August Rex might have won had he gone wide instead of trying to get through inside, where he finally got clear for second late, and Nautical Storm held third. Nautical Storm, entered and scratched from the King's Bishop, held surprisingly well after those fractions and could have a future if he can learn to harness his speed a little.

Barclay Tagg firster Hello Broadway, 2yo half-brother to Nobiz Like Showbiz, just opened the 9-5 fave for the 8th, first leg of the late pick-4. Going to walk the hounds.

5:30 pm: Two highly promising 2-year-olds made smashing debuts in the 8th, and First Defence ran away with the Forego after favored Lucky Island was eliminated at the start.

Race 8: 2-1 Hello Broadway and 20-1 Imperial Council both looked like colts of high promise making their debuts in the 8th. Hello Broadway ($6.80), a chestnut son of Broken Vow (Unbridled) and a half-brother to Nobiz Like Showbiz, won a three-way duel through a half in 44.93, and turned for home on top. But Imperial Council, a McGaughey-trained son of Empire Maker and the Thunder Gulch mare Jaramar Rain, who broke slowly but then worked his way up the rail to fourth behind the leaders, swung out and collared him in midstretch, looking ready to draw off. Hello Broadway came right back at him, they raced together for a few strides, and Hello Broadway prevailed by a long neck in 1:16.80 for 6 1/2 furlongs. It was 7 1/4 lengths back to Zito firster Ruler's Vision, a half-brother to War Pass, who made a nice middle move in a race where he was bet (9-1) as if they thought he might need one.

Race 9: First Defence's best distance is seven furlongs, he ran Commentator into defeat in the Met Mile, he ran a big race over the track when he was second to Hard Spun in last year's King's Bishop, and at $17.60 was an overlay. But he was lucky as well as good winning the Forego by 6 3/4 lengths on two counts: He ended up loose on the lead, and 0.75-1 favorite Lucky Island had a nightmare trip.

(Un)Lucky Island, coming off four straight victories including the Bold Ruler and Tom Fool, stumbled when the gates opened, and then got sandwiched between Real Estate and Greeley's Legacy, getting squeezed back behind the field when he finally got into stride. He actually made a strong wide middle move to get within three lengths of First Defence turning for home, but was understandably spend by then and gained no more. Meanwhile, First Defence, a 4-year-old Unbridled's Song-Honest Lady Juddmonte homebred, was drawing away from the field, stoping the timer in 1:21.55. Greeley's Legacy won a four way photo for second with Ferocious Fires, the statebred who was 8-for-8 on the dirt, getting the nod for third over Tasteyville.

6:30 pm: If I were in the Big Brown camp, I might be kicking myself right about now for ducking him in the Woodward. Curlin registered one of his least impressive victories today winning the Woodward by a length and a quarter from 40-1 pacesetter Past the Point, collaring him in mid-stretch but requiring 14 seconds for his final furlong.

Curlin was in slightly tight quarters around the first turn as Past the Point laid down strong fractions of 22.89, 46.20 and 1:09.61 with Wanderin Boy chasing him from second. Curlin settled into fourth down the backstretch just outside Divine Park, then made his move going into the turn. He went right by Divine Park, who raced like a horse who hadn't been out since May, but Curlin seemed to lose momentum as he got to the leaders and took over. Past the Point had every right to chuck it after a mile on the lead in 1:35.49, but raced evenly through that slow final furlong of 14.01 as Curlin broke the beam in 1:49.34.

I'm guessing the race will get a Beyer in the 110 neighborhood -- the final time was 2.55 seconds (about 25 Beyer points at 9f) faster than Delta Sea's 1:51.89 in the opener. Maybe Past the Point, a talented colt with a lot of gaps in his record, finally put it all together and belongs at this level. But as nice as it was to see Curlin win at Saratoga, it just wasn't a tour de force on the order of his BC Classic or Dubai World Cup.

Rock Lobster ($11.80) came flying late to win a tight photo over Ground Hero, Come Close and Sea of Trees in the finale, completing a $17,708 pick-six and a $642 late pick-4. Two more days.

9:00 pm: Preliminary Beyers:

First Defence--109
Hello Broadway--89