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Day 36: 9/7/09
12:10 pm: Todd Pletcher has seven starters today to Linda Rice's four as the 2009 Saratoga trainers' race, where Rice has a 20-19 lead entering closing day, could go down to the wire.
Pletcher's seven include Aikenite and One Note Samba in as wide-open a renewal of the Hopeful Stakes as you'll ever see. Fast 2-year-old males have been slow to surface this year -- the filly Hot Dixie Chick has run three of the four fastest Beyers in all 2-year-old races across the country -- but perhaps someone will step up today in the division's first Grade 1 race of the year.
Pletcher has one heavy favorite, Good to be Seen in the 5th. He was second by half a length last time out to Hopeful entrant Aspire, and it was seven lengths back to the third horse. Good to be Seen could be the key to both the trainers' race and to how much you like Aspire later on.
The Hopeful, and the back-to-back maiden grass races in the 6th and 7th, make the closing-day, mandatory pick-6 sequence a tough one. It's still a tempting proposition, and I'm trying to work out a manageable play. Here's the title scoreboard. The jockeys' race is effectively if not technically over, as Ramon Dominquez begins the day with a 44-37 edge on Alan Garcia:
2:40 pm: You can put up the Official sign on Ramon Dominguez's first Saratoga riding title. He and Alan Garcia each rode an early winner, but when Garcia was off the board in the 4th race, that left him seven behind Dominguez with just six mounts left on his dance card.
Dominguez, who is 32 years old and was born in Venezuela, has been the leading rider at all three NYRA tracks this season, and his Saratoga title should silence any remaining question about his ascent to leadership of the New York colony.
3:10 pm: Good to be Seen, 2-to-5 to win the 5th and knot the trainers' race, showed absolutely nothing and finished a dull fifth. That leaves Pletcher with three tepid chances to catch up: First-timer Eskendereya in the upcoming 6th, and longshots Aikenite and One Note Samba in the Hopeful.
3:30 pm: Let's gather 'round the campfire and sing the pick-6 song one more time for Saratoga 2009:
(All A's and B's= $432; backups=$288, $192, $192; Total= $1104)
I know, it's a weird play, lacking a single single yet going only two-deep on the main in the wide-open Hopeful. If I can survive the first two legs, I'll cast a wider Hopeful net in the pick-4.
4:00 pm: Pletcher firster Eskendereya ran well to be second but couldn't catch Kimmel-trained front-runner Billions Boy ($8.80). It was Pletcher's 28th second-place finish of the meet, compared to just four for Rice:
Linda Rice: 74: 20-4-8
Todd Pletcher: 133: 19-28-19
5:00 pm: Argggh. Desormeaux took the inside route with Corey's Coming (#7) while Garcia came late and wide on Kiss the Cruiser (#8) and it made a few inches of difference at the wire:
5:20 pm: Commenter jim asked earlier about the dirt/turf breaksown on Rice's and Pletcher's winners at the meeting. By my count, Rice has won 18 grass races and two dirt races, with both of the dirt wins being races scheduled for the turf and moved to the main track. Pletcher's 19 winners were in 14 dirt races and five grass races. Of Rice's 20 victories so far, 11 were at 5 1/2 furlongs -- nine turf sprints and two such races rained onto the main track. She also has won five one-mile grass races and four 1 1/16-mile grass races. In races carded for the dirt, she's 0 for 12.
Pletcher has won three graded stakes at the meet -- the G2 Amsterdam with Quality Road, the G2 Honorable Miss with Game Face and the G3 With Anticipation with Interactif. Rice won six ungraded stakes -- four turf sprints with Ahvee's Destiny (Finney), Awakino Cat (Quick Call, Troy) and Canadian Ballet (Lena Spencer), and two statebred turf races with Mother Russia (NY Stallion Stakes, Peerless Springs.) So it only seems fitting that Pletcher's last bullet comes in 15 minutes in the Grade 1 Hopeful, while Rice's comes one race later in...a New York-bred turf sprint.
6:10 pm: Dublin ($8.20), a D. Wayne Lukas trainee from the first crop sired by Afleet Alex, won a slow-looking Grade 1 Hopeful from 8-1 Aspire, with Aikenite third at 20-1 and previously unbeaten Backtalk fourth. The winner's time under H. J. Theriot was 1:23.52, right between two starter races for claiming fillies earlier on the card that went in 1:23.64 and 1:23.31. The winners of those two races, Spina and D'Wild Ride, routinely run Beyer Speed Figures in the high 80's. The pace of the Hopeful was much stronger than those earlier races, however -- 44.97 to the hal, as opposed to 45.95 and 46.24. The defeats of Aikenite and One Note Samba made it official: Linda Rice has won the trainer's title, becoming the first woman to do so.
Congrats to her and, before I forget, to DRF colleague Dave Litfin, whose daily published "bankroll plays" came out in the black for the meet after D'Wild Ride's victory, and whose pick-6 play for an OTB promotion garnered a $15k payoff for participating customers last Saturday. Finally, thanks to all of you for keeping the conversations going during an interesting and entertaining six weeks of racing. One race to go: The favorites look pretty imposing in the nightcap, but I'll try to get out for the meet with a (currently) 38-1 shot named Raging Meese. It only takes one race.
6:40 pm: Raging Meese provided 44 seconds of cheap thrills at 45-1, contesting the lead until the top of the stretch. Benzel firster Cash'n in Dixie, a $200k statebred, exploded through the final furlong to win the last race of the meeting at 11-1, completing a $32,686 pick-6, a $3,282 pick-4 and topping a $24k superfecta.
Only 90 hours and 20 minutes till first post at Belmont on Friday.
Steve, Bad Bad Opening day? I'm on the jersey shore and I am almost betting that MP cancels their card today. Too windy....
Ryan: The Bowling Green was postponed from today to Sunday because the NYC Metro area was expecting two inches of rain today (which will play havoc with both the 9/11 ceremonies and US Open Tennis Championships). The weather is going to be much better on Sunday for the re-scheduled running. Question now is, should NYRA have also postponed tomorrow's Garden City (Grade 1) to Sunday as well? That may wind up being the only race on turf tomorrow.
I missed seeing the percentage of winning favorites at Saratoga. Please post them to satisfy my curiosity. I am betting that they will be higher at Belmont.
hey ken the comment on enrico's last race says it all.
@Walt P. So let them stay home. It becomes increasingly obvious that synthetics were a poor decision, hastily made.
Love the blog Steve. I spent four weekends at the spa commuting from Maryland as I do every year and was glad to see no injuries until sadly the last race on the last day Todo K brokedown in the stretch and was euthanized. A terrible ending to what was once again the best race meet in North America. By the way, concerning the comments on poly, there is no way that a properly maintained dirt track is anymore dangerous than a polytrack. Personally, I wouldn't run my horses on a glorified Landfill.
You know Steve, I just have to pop off another comment. Scanning the Saturday Belmont entries just to get a feel for what's coming up and I see that The Ruffian is carded as the 4th race on a 10 race card. This bugs the heck out of me and I think it can only be explained as a P6 related move. Stopping now or foul language will ensue.
Hopefully after winning the traing title at Saratoga, Linda Rice will get some of those expensive yearlings. It's a lot easier to win "Quality" Races if your owners have bottomless pockets. But it's a truly amazing feat to win the training title beating out Todd Pletcher who has tons of expensive horses and started twice as many as Linda Rice. Give Linda the same type of expensive horses and she'll win the quality races. She swept the 2Yo stakes races at Saratoga with City Zip not too many years ago. Tod Pletcher Didn't eaxctly taer up the stakes races.
Steve, what a sad state of affairs when a Grade 2 stake (Bowling Green) doesn't fill for opening day at Belmont. I see they are trying to bring it back for Sunday. Are there not enough marathon turfers to go around?
To those who hate the synthetics and how it affects this year's BC: As I recall, once reason BC Ltd. (aside from wanting the BC at the same site for two straight years) was so quick to give Santa Anita the BC over synthetics for two straight years was because as I remember reading at the time, a considerable number of Euro outfits said they would not come back for the BC if it were on a conventional dirt surface following the breakdown of George Washington in the 2007 BC Classic over a very sloppy Monmouth oval. Obviously, the Euros backed off that somewhat since the 2010 BC is at Churchill, but I would think that BC Ltd. is very concerned about losing a lot of Euro outfits who I suspect don't their horses even having to warm up over a conventional dirt surface for a BC race, which I think was a big reason why they chose a synthetic track for two straight BCs. If the 2009 BC had not been Santa Anita, I suspect it would have been at another synthetic track like Arlington for instance to appease the Euros.