09/05/2009 11:21AM

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.

Robert Slifer More than 1 year ago
I knew I was going to read people knocking Rachels effort but folks lets really take a look at it.First Borel gave a terrible ride based on the way the track was on Saturday all day long horses were clsing from the back of the pack and winning which makes her effort even more amazing. Second why on earth he gunned I will never know all he had to do was sit and pounce Da Tara was done at the half the same would have been true had he sat and moved at the 3/4's I think the weight break saved her in the lane but she did dig in and refused to let a horse who had more momentum go by her she is a special horse and probally the best I have seen. I hope she gets a break and then prepares for the 2010 world cup. Bob
Jeff Smith More than 1 year ago
While handicapping the races over the last few days, I've also come across some fractional times that don't make sense. So, why can't NYRA make sure this works properly? If the technology exists to time Indy cars going 225 mph, horses ought to be a snap.
JIM R. More than 1 year ago
1st off amen to blogger beyou, I agree wholeheartedly and as for horse of the year debates Rachels horse of a lifetime let alone this year theres no argument or discussion against that.
Mike More than 1 year ago
Just a side note, nice to see Pyro get back to making a nice late kick. Although he certaintly received the better trip that Kodiak Kowboy, it was still an impressive turn of foot for a horse only making his second start coming off such a long layoff. Will certaintly be looking foward to his next start now that he is racing at distances in which he belongs, from seven furlongs to a mile on dirt.
Mike More than 1 year ago
To all of those who ask for Rachel to run in the Breeders Cup, I have great news, she is going to! Next year, in 2010, when it is run on a real racing surface of dirt. Regarding this year, Rachel is probably done for the year. After that effort she deserves a nice break. She has done pretty much everything she could do this year, and done it in jawdropping fashion. She is the horse of the year no doubt about it. Zenyetta could win the BC Classic and still not have the resume of Rachel. Why? Because the BC Classic will be the only true test that Zenyetta has faced the entire year. Rachel's resume this year features dominating twenty length wins over fillies, multiple wins over three year old males, and now a win over older males. Zenyetta's resume features wins over the same fillies and mares over and over agin. Zenyetta had a chance to run in the Pacific Classic this year but chose not to why? Because she has never raced at Del Mar? Yet people criticize Rachel avoiding the synthetics, now Zenyetta is pretty much avoiding all but two tracks. Zenyetta's connections had a chance to make a claim for the HOY by challenging their mare, they chose not too, which is why the HOY race is over, it was over before the Woodward, Rachel is your Horse of the Year, Horse of the Decade and more than likely will go down as Horse of the Century when it is all said and done. All hail the queen! RACHEL ALEXANDRA.
C. Rich More than 1 year ago
When Zenyatta wins the Pacific Classic on Sunday then she should be considered in the same class a RA. I forgot, her connections have decided this year to enter her against horses that can't beat her. Her campaign this year is embarassing. They entered Life Is Sweet against the boys. Her streak is starting to lose significance they keep on avoiding the boys or racing out of CA.
JoefromDMR More than 1 year ago
RA is spectacular, she beat a field of older males with a grand total of 3 G1 wins showing in their PP's, and she has rightly earned legendary status. Beating a very good field of older males is excellent, but to be HOY, one should beat a great field on occasion. She will find one in November at Santa Anita on a date everyone has been aware of for several years. To crown RA HOY if she skips and Z wins the BCC is preposterous.
Silver Charm More than 1 year ago
Steve you have now seen the replay. How great?
Lucinda Walsh More than 1 year ago
Mr. Crist, Please tell Diceman that saying so doesn't make it so. The world is not flat. And Rachel won the race. Those are the facts. Deal with them. LW
george quinn More than 1 year ago
Just read and blogged back on Jay Hovdays blog where he refers to Zenyatta as "the queen" Well I have news for him and everyone that lives in California. There is only one queen and her name is Rachel. All you need to know is Zenyatta could end up undefeated, win the Breeders Cup Classic, and not win Horse of the Year. Amazing huh? George in Tampa