07/27/2008 1:15PM

Day 5: 7/27/08


1:15 pm: I assumed all of today's grass races would be rained off by last night's violent thunderstorms, but you know what happens when you assume. Two of the three remain on the turf, with only the 5th being moved to the main track. The 7th and 11th, legs 2 and 6 of the first pick-6 with a carryover at the meet, remain on what what is being labelled "yielding" turf.

The carryover (which pales next to the $1.56 million on offer at Del Mar today) is a toughie, with two firster-laden maiden races, the two wet-grass events, and two nine-furlong stakes for 3-year-olds, the $90k Henry Walton and the $500k G2 Jim Dandy. (Which reminds me: Ever heard of Henry Walton? Neither had I. The most famous one I could find was an 18th Century British portrait artist (right), but I suppose it's more likely that the race's namesake is the 19th Century Saratoga Springs land baron whose family owned the Magnesia Springs here. If anyone has a better guess, I'm all ears.)

While trying to decide how much to put into this tricky pick-six, I made a last-minute, half-hearted $6 four-horse anti-favorite box in today's opener, and it broke the best way when my fourth choice at 20-1 beat my third choice at 13-1 for a $343.50 exacta. That's a $1,030.50 return for $72, a completely unexpected and perhaps undeserved $958.50 profit, so there's my answer: I'm aiming to put in $960, and you can follow along once it starts.

2:30 pm: Today's second race for statebred juveniles included a pricey Pletcher firster and a fast-working Tagg firster, but when they came up only a tepid 7-2 and 6-1 on the board, it was clear that no clockers or connections were singing their praises. Second-timer Cribnote was steadily pounded down to 4-5, which seemed pretty short until the gates opened. Cribnote broke to the lead, fell back to third, then swallowed the Pletcher firster turning for home and rocketed away impressively, winning by 13 1/2 lengths in a snappy 1:03.32. The track, sealed after the Whitney, is both officially and actually fast. Cribnote is by first-crop sire Read the Footnotes, who was never the same after running a 113 Beyer winning the 2004 Fountain of Youth. Rick Violette trained both Read the Footnotes and the well-named Cribnote (out of Totebook, by Notebook.)

I said at Siro's this morning that I wished today's pick-6 started with the 3rd race, because City Roar looked like such an easy single. Whoops. Saved $960, at least for a couple of hours. City Roar, sent off at 3-5, neglected to break with the rest of the field, rushed up to join the party, and steadily retreated thereafter as second choice Critical Cathy went box to wire in 1:09.99.

Lunch Break: Determined to try all five of the new Restaurant Row eateries in the track backyard this summer, I somehow resisted the siren lure of a Hattie's fried-chicken sandwich and moved two booths down to the one being run by One Caroline Street Bistro for a so-caled "Cajun Po' Boy" sandwich. I give it an A-minus, with the minus coming only for picayune disagreement with its nomenclature and garnish.

The sandwich was excellent but is really a Cajun sausage-and-pepper sub masquerading as a Po' Boy. The latter is usually served with lettuce (if you must), tomato and mayonnaise garnish to cut the Cajun spices or moisten the fried oysters, and this version could have used a splash of sweetness because this is one hot sausage. Expect small beads of sweat to form on your brow within 45 seconds of ingestion. The sausage seems genuine Andouille, which calls for seasoning with cracked pepper and garlic and slow smoking over pecan wood and sugarcane. The garnish of red and yellow peppers and celery didn't add anything, but neither did it detract from an outstanding sausage, and is certainly preferable to the griddle-grease gravy that drenches most mere sausage-and-pepper subs.

4:10 pm: Phew. Made it through the firster-filled first leg of the pick-six with Miss Ocean City at 5-1 with an assist from the will-pays from the new rolling doubles.

I was against the three 2-year-old fillies who had already run, who had earned Beyers of 51 to 59 in their debuts. Sure they could improve, but the winning par at this level at Saratoga is around an 80, meaning that to win they'd have to improve by leaps and bounds AND none of the firsters were killers. This scorned trio included 5-2 favorite Pearl of Valor, who ran second to subsequent Schuylerville winner Jardin in her Churchill debut. Peart of Valor hadn't really run as well as her running line looked, as she closed into the slowest portion of the race and had no real challenge late. Also, Jardin is not exactly the second coming of Ruffian.

So I was looking for signs and portents regarding the six firsters. The early win pool and the pick-3 probables were a muddle, but in the race 5-6 doubles, only three horses were coming back at less than $85: Pearl of Valor and fellow second-timer Ride With the Herd at $36 each and Miss Ocean City at a well-whacked $46. That made it easy to make MOC one of my three "A's."

Miss Ocean City, a Mineshaft filly owned by former trainer Leon Blusiewicz, was timed in 1:11.64.
The second and third finishers in the race, both firsters, bear watching after making strong runs from 8th and 9th. Runner-up Pumpkin Shell (Lion heart-Changing Ways) was up for second, 3 3/4 lengths behind the winner and 1 3/4 in front of Persistently (Smoke Glacken-Just reward), who came flying from 16 1/2 lengths back after the opening quarter. That's right: A Mineshaft ran the field of its feel early, and a Smoke Glacken came from the clouds.

The tab was $1,026. Here are the remaining live tickets:


The two mostly-singles are Pretty Carina in the 8th and Pyro in the Jim Dandy. Pretty Carina ran well in a super-key race in her lone start at 2 and switches to Frankel. I've never been that big a Pyro fan, but I'm hoping for a Mint Lane -Da' Tara early hookup that will drop the race into his lap. Here's hoping.

5:20 pm: Congrats to Kent Desormeaux on finally notching his 5,000th career victory in race 6, but I wish he had waited another day since I used 3-2 Bella Atrice and 10-1 Sonic Sound in equal strength and they finished in that order. Desormeaux earned his landmark because Bella Atrice is a capable but hang-prone filly, and he put her into the race sooner than usual and practically carried her over the finish line as she was looking for a way to let the others catch up.

The race was run in a driving rainstorm that came and went in the space of 15 minutes. The main track was sloppy for the 8th, where Pretty Carina ($4.10) won like a single should, going to the front and increasing her advantage to win by 7 1/2 lengths. Her time of 1:11.22 on the rain-slowed track does not do her performance justice, and she has the look of a future stakes performer. The track was then harrowed before the 9th, so we're probably looking at a day when races 1-7; 8; and then 9-10 will have to be viewed as three different entitities.

Made it through leg 4 by a whisker when Mambo in Seattle came back after being engaged and then passed for a few strides by You and I Forever to win the Henry Walton Stakes in 1:50.98 over the newly-harrowed track. The first two were well clear of the rest and might now be candidates for the Travers. It will be interesting to see how the Jim Dandy comes up, since they don't appear to be fooling with the track between the two races.

Better a short price than a long face, but this thing is looking pretty chalky. I'm down to nine live combos: a 4/1,4,6,7,9 and a 1,5/1,7.

6:30 pm: I guess the good news is that there's probably going to be a big field for the Travers. The 3-year-old colts of 2008 beyond Big Brown did nothing in the Jim Dandy to change the perception they're a very, very ordinary group. The race went slower(1:51.16 vs. 1:50.98) than the restricted Henry Walton half an hour earlier, and the quicker pace of the Jim Dandy should only have helped the first four finishers, who came from well of the kamikaze duel between between Da' Tara and Mint Lane. Pyro had every opportunity to catch and run by Macho Again and failed to do so, while Tiz Now Tiz Then and Tale of Ekati both hung after making mildly menacing middle moves.

Steve Asmussen remains the leading trainer here with four victories in the first 11 races at the meet, just ahead of Rick Dutrow and Frankel with three apiece, but it was a frustrating weekend for the trainer: Pyro's second-place finish in the Jim Dandy was Asmussen's third runner-up finish in a graded stakes here this weekend, follwing his seconds with Copper State in the Go For Wand and Student Council in the Whitney.

It will be interesting to see if Da' Tara and/or Mint Lane return in the Travers. If only one does, he might prove to be the controlling speed.

If Big Brown returns to form in the Haskell next Sunday, he'd be odds-on in the Travers, but it's not clear that a victory against the same 3-year-olds he trounced all spring does anything for his resume or his value. I'm still rooting instead for a Big Brown-Curlin matchup in the Woodward a week later. And what if Commentator -- who got a 120 Beyer for his Whitney victory -- showed up too? (Commentator now owns the year's biggest sprint(119) and route(120) Beyers.)

As for that pick-6, I was annoyed after running 2-3-4 in the Jim Dandy, less so when I completely whiffed on the finale, running 3-7-8-9-10 in a field of 10 with the five I'd have been alive to through Pyro. Such is my lot, more often than not, in turf sprints. The three wise men or women who were sage enough to use both Macho Again ($18.40) and Come Close ($33.80) in the last two legs were rewarded to the tune of precisely $136,000.