07/26/2008 12:11PM

Day 4: 7/26/08


1:10 pm: Happy Whitney Day, unless you've ingested the Kool Aid and want to call it Breeders' Cup Challenge Day.

Three early scratches in the stakes races. As expected, Spring Waltz is out of the Go For Wand, as is Inside Passage, who would have been 30-1. The other defection is Bustin Stones from the Vanderbilt, after the undefeated 4-year-old came up with a stone bruise.

His defection seriously alters the complexion of the race. Whether you liked him or not (I was against), his defection reduces the likelihhod of a kamikaze speed duel with Black Seventeen, who has run sub-22 opening quarters in his last four starts. There still could be an early scramble if E Z Warrior guns from the outside and if Sammarco can keep up early, but Black Seventeen's prospects of dominating the pace and the race are now much stronger.

In the opener, Benny the Waiter ($9.90) blasted clear of 7-10 Rollers early to gain an uncontested lead through a moderate half-mile and had enough left to hold him off when the favorite tried to come through on the rail. Coa, riding the winner, kept things tight but legal on the favorite, who was making his first start since October. Rollers didn't look comfortable trying to come through on the inside, but should have been able to reel him in with his best effort.

The track looks pretty quick, as Benny the Waiter stopped the timer in 1:09.74.

3:00 pm: Seemed like old times as a big-ticket Coolmore/Pletcher/Velazquez firster made a splashy debut. Munnings ($4.10), a $1.7 million 2-year-old-in-training purchase "looked like a million...maybe a million-seven!" as Tom Durking put it in his call, shooting to the lead and turning back an intense challenge from well-meant (3-1) Zito firster Just a Coincidence to score by 4 1/4 lengths in 1:09.94. Just a Coincidence had another 5 1/4 on Sean Avery. Munnings is by first-crop sire (and former Pletcher trainee) Speightstown from the unraced Holy Bull mare La Comete.

In the 3rd, a turf race for older maidens, Baronial (Kingmambo-Personal Ensign) was a solid winnner for Phipps/McGaughey. Baronial is the final foal of the pensioned Personal Ensign, who also produced Miner's Mark, Our Emblem and My Flag.

In the 4th, Unbridled Heart, the $1 million Godolphon colt who won his debut by 10 lengths on the Peter Pan undercard, suffered his second odds-on defeat since then when he fell a neck short of catching Acai ($26.20).

3:45 pm: I wrote the following at the bottom of the Saturday newspaper column:

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board took one small step toward allowing New York to join the 21st Century world of wagering this week when it granted Saratoga the right to offer superfecta wagering on any “qualifying” race instead of the previous limit of three per day. Now it’s time to get rid of those qualifications, ancient and indefensible restrictions which could be said to have outlived their usefulness had there ever been anything useful about them.
First is the requirement that a race must have eight starters for the track to offer a superfecta. This was the face-saving fruit ofa 30-year-old harness race-fixing investigation, and it made no sense then or now. The second is a prohibition on coupled entries in superfecta races, instituted because some ill-informed and long-departed board functionary thought that horseplayers would be confused if both #1 and #1a finished in the top four in a race. There is not a horseplayer alive who does not understand that you go to the fifth-place finisher to complete the winning super combo in such cases, just as you go to the fourth-place finisher to complete a trifecta combination when two parts of an entry in the top three.

If the Board needs any further proof of the idiocy of this rule, look at what happened in today's 6th race. It was one of the juiciest races on many a card, with a field of 14 older maidens and plenty of live-looking longshots. A perfect candidate for superfecta wagering, and one was scheduled. Then, when there was an early scratch from the body of the race, an also-eligible drew in -- but because he was coupled with another horse in the race, meaning there was now both a 1 and 1a in the field, track officials had to cancel the superfecta

In addition to needlessly depriving fans of the bet, the rule puts the track in the bad position where it would have been to their advantage to scratch the also-eligible horse in order to have a superfecta. Just a bad deal all around.

0-for-20 Joppa Flat's lit up the tote board at $70.00 in the 6th, and if it's possible for an 0-for-20 winner to be an overlay, he was it. Unlike, say, Worth a Shot here on Thursday, Joppa Flat's had run very competitively at the level time and again and his eight second-place finishes included runner-up performances behind decent horses such as Winstrella, Communicator and Merchant Marine. He ran in a nearly identical version of this race here last summer, finishing second at 5-2.

5:00 pm:In my book, Forever Together was way too big a price winning the Diana at 9-1 while Abraaj was no bargain taking the Vanderbilt at 8-5.

Forever Together was coming off a fast-closing third to Ventura and Lady of Venice in the Just a Game last time out, a race with a relatively slow pace (46.55) considering the blistering final time (1:32.75). Forever Together came flying late into the fast final fractions. Seven of the 10 fillies in the Diana were under 10-1 and Forever Together somehow got lost in the shuffle.

The Vanderbilt had a "formful" result but seemed like an oddly-run race all around. Black Seventeen was outrun early by Sammarco, then he prompted the leader into a 44.57 half, setting the stage for the closers. Abraaj looked like he wasn't kicking in, then finally lumbered up on the outside and won by 2 1/4 lengths, but his winning time of 1:10.23 was shockingly slow -- given that the day's first two races (a statebred allowance and a 2-year-old maiden race) both broke 1:10.

The skies are darkening here, a bit earlier than the weathermen had predicted, and we could still have a different track by the time the Whitney rolls around.

5:30 pm: Ginger Punch ($2.40) was so much better than her five opponents in the Go For Wand that she managed to win despite being bottled up and repeatedly shut off before finally finding a seam with a furlong to go and winning far more impressively than her slow time of 1:53.43 and 1 1/4-length margin would suggest. It's not going to be a picnic making figs for this card.

The track took a few minutes of showers before the race, but now the sun's back out with 18 minutes to post for the Whitney.

6:45 pm:I'm an unabashed Commentator fan of long standing, so forgive me for beaming. That was pretty cool. The 7-year-old gelding, who held off eventual Horse of the Year Saint Liam to win this race three years ago, was in good position after getting clear through an opening quarter in 24.18, as an expected early challenge from Tasteyville never materialized, and he just kept going. He opened up each time anyone got near him and drew away through the stretch to win by 4 3/4 over Student Council, who had another 8 1/4 on Grasshopper.

Commentator, the first horse since Kelso to win the Whitney twice and the oldest since Kelso won it for a third time as an 8-year-old in 1965, has a 2008 resume that's looking pretty impressive. He won two Gulfstream sprints by a combined 27 3/4 lengths, was a gallant second in the Met Mile and now won the Whitney by daylight. He's the only horse in at least a decade besides Ghostzapper to have run three Beyers of 119 or higher. With all due respect to win and Funny Cide, Commentator is probably the best New York-bred ever.

The $442.50 all-stakes pick-4 payoff was pretty generous considering it was a virtual pick-3, that Abraaj was favored and Commentator was the ML favorite and second actual betting choice.

And thanks to Lyke a Hurricane's victory at 12-1 in the nightcap, we finally have a carryover at Saratoga 2008! There's $120,938 waiting for us tomorrow, and it doesn't look easy. I'll try to make some sense of it by 10:45 a.m. tomorrow, when I'll be doing the Siro's seminar with Harvey Pack and "Cajun Racing" author Ed McNamara.

Clifton P. Juarez.. More than 1 year ago
After Bevy's Best destroys the field in the Amadevil at the Columbus Races and wins his fifth in a row at six to seven furlongs, he will be supplemented to the BCS Sprint and win at astronomical odds, perhaps as high as 847-1. This horse is a killer. Wiley Owner Dr. Timeoteo I. Munson de Pascua and veteran trainer Larry Staroscik have waited for this day to sucker the racing world. You heard it hear first folks.
Tony More than 1 year ago
While I was highly impressed by Commentator, I think he's only an equal to the best of all time. Win, Fourstardave/Fourstar's Allstar (they're interchangable) and the mismanaged Funny Cide certainly qualify for the debate---poor Win doesn't get much respect anymore.
Dan MacKenzie More than 1 year ago
The comment from July 11 at Belmont says that R Fast Favorite "Threw down the gauntlet" and was a "mighty handy winner". Claimed that day. Interesting.
sero More than 1 year ago
arcstats, Have to disagree with your take on the Tyro. The Tyro favorite scratched out of Saratoga a few days prior with a temp and was not probably 100% to begin with. Second ....are you looking for the horse to go 21 flat(in an attempt to gut out the other 2..perhaps)?? Third, based on the circumstances had Trujillo gone to the stick earlier, it appeared he would have been blown by anyway. I'm a fan of 27 yrs (prob as old as you) and I do agree with your take on Prado with a number of "brain dead...no perseverance" rides elsewhere. Good luck in the SHOWdown. Always see your name on the leaderboard. Took it down twice (w/a 3rd) for $50k. Its a great contest.
Stewart More than 1 year ago
Steve: The track program listed a superfecta for Race 6 notwithstanding the coupled entry. When I went to bet the race yesterday, it took 4 clubhouse tellers before I could find someone to correctly explain to me why there was no superfecta on the race. Truly stupid rule!! P.S. Regarding hay oats water's comments on Funny Cide, FC was good for 6 weeks as a 3yo and was a glorified NYB allowance horse by the time he was a 6yo. A very good horse, yes, but he couldn't carry Commentator's jock.
bob m. More than 1 year ago
had exacta and triple with joppa flats.. but did not bet to win due to 0-20.. was annoyed triple only paid 1500.. any thoughts as to why? 34-1 over 4-1 over 8-1 with fav out.. i like kevazinga in 3rd today, if he can beat city roar.. rice has working bullets. i also like bella attrice in the 7th, as long as it is on the turf.. also you and i forever could wire the field to get kent 5000... good luck to all.. 5th straight day at the spa..
grasslover More than 1 year ago
Hey AndyScoggin- Best of luck to you as you continue to "survive". I was knocked out on openeing day when I used Collegiate in the filly feature. With the lead turning for home, and 6/5 Ocean Colors quickly dropping back to what would be last place, my "survivor selection" got beat by three bombs who, on paper, didn't stand a chance. Nothing like a totally implausible ending of a race to take the wind out of my sails a whole 4 hours after the contest started. In retrospect, I should have bet another $10 and taken the "under" on how long I'd last in this contest! LOL. Continued good luck and keep on keepin' on.
jk More than 1 year ago
I hit the late pick 3 ($173) at the Spa which paid $68 less than the late double ($241). Ginger Punch provided negative value in the first leg. I will skip the 1-10 shots in the first leg from now on.
hay oats water More than 1 year ago
regarding stewarts comments, there is no way commentator could win the derby or preakness, NEVER! horses today are blown apart by the triple crown. if funny cide was carefully handled the way commentator is it is much more possible for him to win the races commentator has won than for commentator to win the races funny cide has won.
Silver Charm More than 1 year ago
Steve, Forever Together in the winners circle at 9-1 looks juicy after race but before now that is a different story. Several Graded winners were sitting at 6-1 and 7-1 and some of them were Grade One winners. Forever Together was at best a nice looking turf prospect with only two starts on turf. Coming off a fast closing third in the Just A Game. 9-1 was about right and good for you if you had her. Double Thumbs up to your New York Handicapper pro Dave Litfin who made Forever Together his selection in print BEFORE the race, not AFTER like you did. Shame on you. I agree on Commentator. We give to much adulation and attention to the here today gone tomorrow 3YO. When he is on he is special. Enjoy the blog. Seems like it started about a year ago now with the Whitney timer problem. Don't ever stop. A fan. Silver Charm