09/05/2009 12:21PM

Day 34: 9/5/09

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12:25 pm: Seat belts fastened? Woodward, Forego, Spinaway, Hopeful, trainer and jockey titles all up for grabs in the next 56 hours during the final three days and 34 races of Saratoga 2009.

There are eight Grade 1 races at Saratoga and Del Mar this Labor Day weekend, including the year's first four Grade 1's for 2-year-olds, with a pair of G1 events in each of four divisions: 2-year-old males (Hopeful, Del Mar Futurity), 2-year-old fillies (Spinaway, Del Mar Debutante), sprinters (Forego, Pat O'Brien), older males (Woodward, Pacific Classic.) Though of course it's not an older male who's going to be odds-on and trying to make history in the Woodward.

As Day 34 begins, trainers Linda Rice and Todd Pletcher are tied with 18 winners at the meeting. Both are serious about trying to win the title and have made some ambitious and aggressive entries in the next three days in an attempt to win the race. Ramon Dominguez has a 40-37 lead over Alan Garcia in the riders' standings.

The Woodward will be shown live on a one-hour MSG+ telecast from 5 to 6 pm ET with post time scheduled for 5:52 pm.


1:45 pm: No changes in the trainer and jockey races after Starforaday (Contessa/Maragh) and Callide Valley (Kenneally/Leparoux) accounted for the $86.00 early double. Here's today's Pletcher/Rice/Dominguez/Garcia scoreboard:


3:45 pm: I'll say it again: Be careful betting back the fractions and come-home times in these one-mile races on the inner turf course. I understand that Ramon Dominguez and Rice-trained Mother Russia put the field asleep behind them wiring the 4th, but the official fractions of 25.19, 49.94, 1:14.37 and 1:36.47 mean that the front-runner ran progressively faster quarters of 25.19, 24.75, 24.43 and 22.10. This would also mean that Exclusive Scheme, who closed two lengths in th final quarter to be third, came home in something like 21.75. I'm just not buying it.


5:05 pm: Speaking of early fractions, the two seven-furlong races earlier on the card were run in nearly identical final time, but the fractions were a world apart. In the second race, Calide Valley was two lengths nehind 39-1 Captain Stone's slow half in 47.23 and ran him down in 1:23.76. In the 7th, Gun Rock gets extra credit for being just a length of Krypton's much quicker half in 45.62 before winning in 1:23.81.


5:30 pm: Pyro, one-time early favorite for the 2008 Kentucky Derby, finally became a Grade 1 winner knifing through the field to take a closer-dominated Forego in 1:21.48. Favored Kodiak Kowboy was second and Ready's Echo was up for third over My Pal Charlie. The first two finishers are both formerly trained by Steve Asmussen.

Pyro continued Godolphin Stable's tremendous run at this meet. The outfit has won the G1 Go For Wand with Seventh Street, the G1 Test with Flashing, the G1 Ballerina with Music Note, the G3 VIctory Ride with Sara Louise, and finished first (dq'd to 2nd) with Vineyard Haven in the G1 King's Bishop.

Rachel Alexandra has opened at 1-9 in the Woodward, attracting $364k of the $479k already in the win pool with 21 minutes to post.


6:10 pm: Wow. Tired from setting fast fractions, and looking like she was sure to be caught, Rachel Alexandra dug back and held off Macho Again by a neck to become the first filly ever to win the Woodward, capping a historic campaign that seems certain to make her the Horse of the Year.

Her narrow margin over Macho Again, a G1 winner but a horse who has never been mistaken for Man o'War, was deceptive. Rachel Alexandra's pace -- 22.85, 46.41, 1:10.54, and 1:35.48 -- was sensationally fast for a nine-furlong race at Saratoga, and when Macho Again came running at her late, he would have gone right by any ordinary racehorse. But Rachel Alexandra had something left, running her final furlong in 12.81 to turn back the challenge. 


6:32 pm: After getting two seconds and three thirds from his first eight starters on the card, Pletcher hit the winner's circle with Kinsella ($10.20) in the 11th to move back into a tie with Rice at 19 winners apiece.

The pick-4's are paying from $327 with Rice-trained favorite Gentle Ride in the finale to $11k with Lady Wynne and Sinister Deance. The latter two are uncovered the pick-6, as are Imandra and Stayawaystella. Otherwise, the pick-6 will pay as little as $15k to Gentle Ride or Readyformycloseup up to $121k with Judge's Pride.


7:05 pm: And just like that, Rice moved back into the lead, 20-19 with 22 races left at the meet, after Gentle Ride ($6.70) wired the field in the nightcap.

Now I'm going to go watch the Woodward replay a few times and just enjoy what a great filly looks like.