09/07/2009 11:10AM

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:


Ramondominguez2:40 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.