07/31/2008 2:32PM

Day 8: 7/31/08

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2:30 pm: Made it from Belmont to Saratoga in four hours flat, despite traffic on the Cross Island and a leg-stretch for the greyhounds at the Sloatsburg service area, getting me to the track with two minutes to post for the steeplechase. Didn't bet it, but made a lazy little 2x2x5x8 caveman play in the early pick-4 for $160 worth of entertainment while getting my feet back under me.

In the jump race, The Price of Love beat Be Certain by half a length in a dramatic four-horse surge to the wire. Both were making their first start since May 17 at Malvern, when Be Certain beat The Price of Love by 15 lengths. It's nice how they take turns.

Race 2 was for maiden 2-year-olds and the firsters Valiancy (Padua/Asmussen/$100k Tale of the Cat 2yo) and Keep'em Movin Dan (Hughes/Pletcher/$875k Distorted Humor yearling) were co-favored at 9-5. The two rocketed out of the gate, dueled while opening seven lengths on the field, and Valiancy prevailed late, drawing out by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:04.56.

Redefined shook loose from a tough turf-sprint allowance field in the third, and when he was all by himself after a moderate half in 45.24, the race was over. He flew home in 16.99 for the final three-sixteenths. Favored Hatta Fort was bottled up the entire way, up for third late.

Valiancy ($5.90) and Redefined ($6.40) were both second choices, which I guess is the optimal result when you start off two-chalks-by-two-chalks. So it's 1,2,3,4,8/1,2,3,5,6,7,8,10, or everbody except the 6 with everybody except the 4 & 9. Think I'm a bigger favorite to have it than to get my money back.

3:00 pm: Third choice Isn't That Special (out of Church Lady) took leg 3 at $7.70, setting up $2 pick-four will-pays ranging from $143 on Better Than Swiss to $10,670 on Caterina's Terms. My break-even number is $320, and 7 of my 8 are paying at least that much, but this feels like the silliest bet I've made up here so far. It would serve me right if one of the two I tossed -- Donna Mira (beaten 70.25 lengths in two starts) and Rhythm of Dixie (beaten 109.50 lengths in six starts) -- beat me.

3:20 pm: Okay, Donna Mira and Rhythm of Dixie didn't win, but serves me right that 7-2 second choice Laurens Go Go ($355.50 pick-4) just held off 20-1 Miss Dolan's Rose ($2842 pick-4) in the fifth. In all fairness, Laurens Go Go deserved it, carving out wicked fractions (a half in 44.78, vs. Redefined's 45.24 in a much better field) and just lasting. So I masterfully turned $160 into $177.75.

You'd think Storming Off, a Pletcher dropdown in the upcoming 6th, was Big Brown in the Haskell from the multirace will-pays:The double to him from a $9.30 winner is paying all of $11.80, with the next shortest double returning $87, and he'd complete a $71 pick-3 where the other will-pays range from $374 to $2575.

5:40 pm: The first $100,000 N1x allowance race in Saratoga (if not American) history was not exactly an aesthetic success, and may have illustrated why purse incentives are necessary to attract full fields going a distance of ground.

This was the first race of the meet subject to the new scheme where races at nine furlongs and up are enhanced by $5k to $10k for each starter over six, and this filly N1x at 9f drew a field of 10, so the standard $68k plus (4x$8k) equalled a cool hundred grand. The field included some lightly-raced prospects from toney outfits, but when it was all over, after what seemed more like an eternity than 1:53.51, 4-for-36 Borrowing Base ($24.80) had outstaggered the others home in a race where the last three-eighths were run in 41.33.

Morrissey
6:15 pm: In the featured John A. Morrissey Stakes for statebred sprinters -- named for the bare-knuckled boxing champion, Congressman and onetime brothel bouncer who co-founded Saratoga Race Course in 1864 -- Ferocious Fires was a dominant four-length winner, shaking off Endless Circle after a half in 45.12 and drawing away in 1:16.95 for 6 1/2 furlongs. Ferocious Fires, now 7-for-7 on the dirt (one via dq) and 7-for-8 overall, is a 5-year-old Lite the Fuse horse, owned by Sandy Goldfarb and partners and trained by Tony Dutrow.

In the finale, veteran head case Retribution, who had lost 10 straight races depite opening early leads of up to 15 lengths in many of them, almost pulled it off with a similar headstrong strategy going a mile on the inner course. Up by what looked like a dozen or more lengths down the backstretch through very un-turflike fractions of 23.53, 46.23 and 1:10.45, his lead evaporated with each stride down the stretch and favored Logic Way ($6.00) nailed him in the final stride. Logic Way completed a $5,699 pick-6 and $1,318 pick-4.

Retribution's last victory came in the 2006 Ashley T Cole Handicap, where he opened up 15 lengths on the field after a half mile and held on by 4 1/4 over a soft course at Belmont.