09/06/2009 12:09PM

Day 35: 9/6/09


12:09 pm: The handful of commenters who keep saying a horse has to run in the Breeders' Cup to win a championship are welcome to share that opinion (once a day max, please) but to state this as if it is either a fact or a rule is simply incorrect.

Dozens of horses have won Eclipse Awards without competing in the Breeders' Cup, including both of last year's champion 3-year-olds (Big Brown and Proud Spell) and several Horse of the Year titlists including John Henry, Spend a Buck, Holy Bull, Charismatic, Point Given and Mineshaft.

Analogies to other sports with year-end playoffs and championships are specious. In horse racing, like it or not, titles are in fact often earned during the "regular season."

As for today at Saratoga, the scratch of Adirondack winner Worstcasescenario leaves a field of 8 for the G1 Spinaway, the only race of the day in which none of the four contenders for the two-legged Saratoga titles is involved. (Update: Garcia picked up the mount on Opus A in the Spinaway.) Linda Rice begins the day with a 20-19 lead on Todd Pletcher, and has 11 horses entered today to Pletcher's four, but those 11 are in only five races: She has three two-horse entries, and an uncoupled four-horse entry (in a field of just seven). In the jockeys' race, Ramon Dominguez starts Day 35 with a 42-37 edge on Alan Garcia and both have 10 mounts on the card:



3:15 pm: Rice sent out three of the six starters (Meriwether Jessica was a late scratch) in the inaugural Commentator Stakes but did no better than a third with Ahvee's Destiny. Hardly her fault: Cannonball and Silver Timber, the 1-2 finishers in a blistering 1:00.84 for 5.5f, were clearly the best horses in the race.

Perhaps Commentator, who made a farewell appearance in the paddock and got one of those edible keys to the city, could be honored in future seasons with something more appropriate than a turf sprint. It also would be nice if some of the recent daily $70k stakes were at least run for the same divisions of horses every year instead of having their names slapped on completely different sorts of races each year.

Dominguez's victory on Cannonball gave him a six-victory lead over Garcia with 17 races left at the meeting.

4:30 pm: If Pletcher ends up losing the training title by a single victory, it will be Winthrop House's nose that made the difference. Pletcher's Echo to Eternity lost a head-bobber to Winthrop House in the 7th to keep him one behind Rice. Doubt it takes the sting out that Winthrop House is trained by Pletcher's friend, and fellow former Lukas assistant, Kiaran Mclaughlin, last year's leading trainer at the meet.


(Photo-finish photos courtesy of NYRA.)

6:10 pm: Hot Dixie Chick both got the job done at 1-5 and received some useful schooling while winning the G1 Spinaway.

Those two things may not have seemed in sync to bettors who needed her. and there may have been some anxious moments as she sat third on the turn while Beautician ranged up to take on Bickersons, who Hot Dixie Chick and Robbie Albarado had not engaged early. Once they straightened out, though, HDC and Albarado came through at the rail and wee in complete command, as Beautician continued on well to hold second and Bickersons faded to be a distant third.

Hot Dixie Chick, a Dixie Union filly, was purchased for $435k at a February 2-year-old sale by Barbara Banke's Grace Stables. Banke is married to Jess Jackson, who owns Rachel Alexandra and campaigned Curlin. It remains to be seen whether Hot Dixie Chick will be sent west to try a synthetic trrack in the BC Juvenile Fillies or try to wrap up a title while staying on dirt. Her next start is likely to be the Frizette at Belmont Oct. 10. The way she rated and drew off today, the one-mile distance shouldn't be a problem.

No carryover into closing day unless Rosary Beads or Lovable McGriff takes the finale. A victory by favorites Runfromthestorm or Better Than Swiss would complete a chalky pick-6 payout of either $1237 or $1268.

6:35 pm: Runfromthestorm was a runaway winner of the 11th, completing a $108 late pick-4 and $1237 pick-6. No carryover, but don't forget there's a mandatory pick-6 payout tomorrow since it's closing day, with an 11-race card featuring the Hopeful. I'll be taking a final swing.