08/01/2009 9:50AM

Day 4: 8/1/09


10:50 am: Hot, sunny, track "good," turf "good," only the second race is off the turf. There's a $126k pick-6 carry, a $500k guaranteed late pick-4 and an excellent card.

I'm the guest on "Talking Horses" today and tomorrow, and a live stream should be available on the NYRA website if you click here. There are a few other nice customer-friendly innovations available on their site, including NYRA photo-finish pictures and race replays (the latter for NYRA Rewards members only), and turf-course updates, which would have told you at 6:48 this morning that only race 2 was off the turf.

1:30 pm: The early part of the card looked pretty chalky to me, so I'm making the following little stay-out-of-trouble early pick-4 play for background action while I work on the pick-6:

SARATOGA EARLY PICK-4 8/1/09               Graphics via TicketMaker


For each $48 invested, the tickets break down as follows:

AAAA: 9/10/4,6,7,10/1 @$5 = $20

CAAA: 4,11/10/4,6,7,10/1 @$1 = $8

ACAA: 9/5,7/4,6,7,10/1 @$1 = $8

AAAC: 9/10/4,6,7,10//3,8,10 = $12

2:00 pm: The day's first two races -- a $20k older-male claimer and an off-the-turf older-male maiden-special -- are worth keeping in mind because they're two of the three dirt routes on the card before the Jim Dandy and thus will be key points of comparison in gauging the time of that race.

In the opener, Commodore Way got a nice stalking trip just off a sharp pace of 1:11.79 and finished in 1:49.79. In the second, odds-on Hoopoe came from off a slower pace of 1:13.01, shot past the field into the stretch turn with a big lead but tired late and just held off third-time starter Zimmer in 1:51.46. The two races don't fit together perfectly, but for argument's sake let's say Commodore Way ran a career-best Beyer 95 and Hoopoe fell off his recent form and ran around a 75. If those are reasonable estimates, you would expect to see the Jim Dandy final time be under 1:49.

2:15 pm: Feh. I "picked" Dixieland Star second to William Thomas in the third race, but left him off the pick-4 play expecting poor value as the 7-2 second choice. My thinking was that if I went to a C in this spot, where I thought the favorite was close to a cinch, I wanted it to be a price horse, not a 7-2 that probably wouldn't even get me my money back with 3 other A's, I also thought that if William Thomas lost, it would be because of a speed duel that would reward a closer like my longshot backups Brave Soul or Phantom Gunslinger, rather than another front-runner such as Dixieland Star. Unfortunately, Phantom Gunslinger was feeling frisky off a nine-month layoff and made the early run at William Thomas, setting the table for the change-of-tactics Dixieland Star. Minus $144. Back to work on the pick-6.

3:15 pm: Make that "well, well under 1:49" as a likely Jim Dandy time after 1-for-9 Retriever just won the N1x 5th race in....1:49.01. Retriever completed a $4321 early pick-4.


3:30 pm: None of the firsters is being bet, making big-fig second-timer Discreetly Mine headed for even-money or below. Putting most of my pick-6 eggs in his basket.

3:45 pm: ...and most of those eggs just broke. 4-5 Discreetly Mine, softened up by a protracted challenge from 27-1 Contessa firster Eightyfiveinafifty, won the battle but then got the staggers late and 8-1 Lukas second-timer Dublin swept to victory over late-running 11-1 Hockley,  Eightyfiveinafifty and Discreetly Mine dueled through an insane half of 44.21 before tiring to run third and fourth in that order.

Dublin, a son of first-crop sire Afleet Alex, emerged from a June 11 Churchill Downs maiden race that has to be called a super-key race: The first five finishers have now all returned to win their next starts including Backtalk, who took the Bashford Manor and Thursday's Sanford in his next two starts:


(Graphic above from DRF Formulator, where you can click on a pp line, look at a race chart, and click again to see how each horse did in his next start. Next-out winners in italics.)

As you can see from the grid below, I used Dublin as only a C, so I'm alive by a thread on a single CAAAAA backup ticket that goes 2x2x1x3x3 the rest of the way: 8,12/5,6/10/3,4,5/1,4,6.



The $126,281 carryover attracted an additional $500,349 in pick-6 wagers today.

4:30 pm: The thread lives on. Sette E Mezzo wore down Picou in deep stretch to win the second leg as the second choice while favored Winchester was dawdling in last early before rallying only mildly. For all the water the course took, the field ran the final five-sixteenths in 29:40, "Sette E Mezzo," in case you were wondering, is Italian for 7 1/2, and the name of an Italian card game similar to blackjack.

5:00 pm: Halfway home after Chestoria powered to vicory in the Lake Luzerne for statebred fillies, which was also the first leg of the late pick-4. NYRA easily met its $500k guarantee on the bet, handling $834,279. On to the day's important racing, the G1 Diana and the G2 Jim Dandy,

5:35 pm: There's nothing quite like watching a champion win a grand old race at Saratoga, whether or not youre singled to her in the Pick-6. Forever Together, the nation's reigning champion grass filly, won her second straight G1 Diana, storming from next-to-last to edge a game Carribean Sunset.

And now the Kentucky Derby winner's running in 15 minutes. At Mountaineer Park.

5:50 pm: Five minutes after upsetting Big Drama and Mine That Bird in the West Virginia Derby with Soul Warrior, Steve Asmussen sent out Kensei to win the Jim Dandy Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths over Warrior's Reward and Charitable Man.

I'm so glad that when asked about the West Virginia Derby at the seminar today, I said I'd looked at it only long enough to see that it was a race between "Mine That Bird, Big Drama and four guys named Joe." The Joe a/k/a Soul Warrior, a five-length loser of the Iowa Derby last time out, simply outfinished Mine That Bird as both were gaining on an exhausted Big Drama, and the Kentucky Derby winner flattened out to settle for third.

Kensei kept that thread alive into the last leg, where I'm alive to Hype ($7,200), Cardiff Road ($43,411) and Liscarroll ($23,797). Here's hoping. 

6:25 pm: Liscarroll second at 6-1. Cardiff Road third at 9-1. Tough game. But there's no better place to play it.