07/30/2008 1:36PM

Day 7: 7/30/08


2:20 pm: Week Two began with the first steeplechase of the meet, the Ninepins Novice S. delayed from last Thursday, and the National Steeplechase Association tried a novel if ethically questionable way of increasing journalistic support for its races: On Wednesday morning, its representatives handed out $50 betting vouchers, good only for this race, to members of the press, along with a letter that began "Your first bet's on us." I applaud the public position taken by Andy Serling of our Siro's seminars and NYRA's "Talkin' Horses" tv program, who announced over the air he would donate any proceeds from his voucher to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

I've changed my tune on steeplechasing over the years. I used to object to the placement of such races in the middle of the card because they interfered with multirace bets, but now that they are almost all harmlessly carded as the first race of the day, they're simply skipped by most bettors. They do offer a glimpse of an old tradition in a place that celebrates tradition, provide a showcase for a different type of horsemanship, and most importantly they provide a second career for flat racers.

Dynaski ($4.80), a 5-year-old Dynaformer gelding, won the Ninepins for Amata Stable and Tom Voss, but the most interesting part of the race was watching 5-1 third choice Look at Him: The 6-year-old Pape/Sheppard homebred lost his rider at the seventh fence but finished the race on his own, jumping the remaining fences without a rider as his saddle and irons flapped up and down.

The problem with today's $42k carryover pick six is that it's awfully hard to find even a shaky single to hang your hat on. Not to mention the eight firsters among the 10 statebred maidens in the turf sprint that kicks things off at 3:15. I'm still debating whether to play or to root for for a double-carry into tomorrow.

3:30 pm: Who am I kidding? Of course I played, but not too wisely, as Double Domino won the turf-sprint opener at 4-1. That'll teach me to make a Pletcher-firster-at-Saratoga a B instead of the automatic A it used to be.

Here's how I decided to invest $864:

Under this scheme, I am permitted one more B, but the C's are gone, meaning stakes favorites Stormy West and Ice Cool Kitty both must win. Arrrrr.

The live combos:

5:10 pm: Oh well. Got through the second and third legs with A's at $7.80 and $8.50, but then my first single, Stormy West, could do no better than finish on the short end of a four-way photo for third as Carriage Trail ($8.60) nipped Trouble Maker at the wire in a very tight photo. Stormy West was not helped by a bumpy trip from far behind a slow early pace, but Carriage Trail (Giant's Causeway-Manoa, for Janney-Phipps/McGaughey) overcame the slow pace and was probably best.

5:55 pm: Looks like it's going to take a Joe DeMola firster -- Baby Thinker, currently 36-1 -- to get a double-carryover, as the NYRA Rewards site lists that pick-6 payoff as $354, which I assume is for 5/6, while the others range from $3310 on Valiant Humor to $85,083 on Catsatiger. The pick-4's, however, are paying surprisingly well for a 5-2/3-1/8-5 start -- a range of $341 to $7211. DeMola is 4 for 28 with firsters over the last five years, including a 16-1 and a 27-1, so I suppose it's not impossible.

Co-favored Talking Treasure was a runaway winner of the Fleet Indian, sitting third in the garden spot early as Precise Action, usually a pure stretch-runner, was bizarrely sent after Ice Cool Kitty through an opening 22.95. [Update: Turns out Precise action had a broken rein.] I.C.K. eventually drew clear, but Thad nothing left when Talking Treasure went after her around the turn. Morning Gallop arrived late on the scene to get second from I.C.K. Talking Treasure, a 4-year-old Catienus filly, is now 6-for-12 for owner-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Charlton Baker.

6:00 pm: Ah, the joys of playing Saratoga from Long Island: At precisely 6:00.01 pm, with four minutes to post for the finale at the Spa, Nassau OTB TV was switched off for Cablevision's nightly presentation of Italian-language programming. They're making chicken.

6:30 pm: Valiant Humor, a $341 pick-4 and a $3310 pick-6 it was. Yes, I know I used all six winners on different tickets. Before somebody comments that this proves the superiority of one-ticket caveman plays, remember that a ticket using all my A's, B's and C's would have been a 6x6x4x3x3x5, a $12,960 play that -- even with one 6 and 21 conso's -- would have lost over $8500 as opposed to my $864 debit.

Driving back up in the morning, spouse and hounds in tow. I make myself 6-5 to get there by first post, the 1 pm steeplechase, and 3-5 to get there for the first flat race at 1:35 pm.