07/31/2008 1:32PM

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.

TAP RULES, DUDE More than 1 year ago
Don't go belittling Spinal Tap, now. The truth is you never saw them live. Being that you went to school in Boston during the period when TAP ruled the world. And, as the movie made know to all, Boston just wasn't a big enough college town for them to play.
Steve More than 1 year ago
Storming Off is a ridgling
zapper27 More than 1 year ago
Hey will somebody tell Illman his Spa babies page for 08/01 still reflects yesterday's entries? I am diving into the early pick 4 and wanted to use his info on the maiden races. I'm thinking it will end up being too late.
don auld More than 1 year ago
Steve: Seems to be a printing problem, my Friday paper lists races from Aprils Aqueduct. I have NYB Maiden claimers, open older maiden claimers and beated claimers in my paper. Does no one have respect for the track we loved? At least they will not have the gall to run eleven races again on the weekend after this card.
Floppydog More than 1 year ago
If I had bet Retribution yesterday, I'd be looking for Dr. Kervorkian today. BRUUUUUUUUUUUUTAL beat. Another loss, yet he's so...rootable! One of these days, Alice, he's gonna get there and I'm gonna jump in the winner's circle pic, just me and the hotwalker and the fun free front-runner who still out-pulled'em past the wire yesterday.
Dan MacKenzie More than 1 year ago
In the first 8 racing days at Saratoga, there have been only 5 horses whose previous race was at Arlington. All 5 finished in the money. SAR_20080724 09 Desert Party, 1st, paid 2.80 to place (no show wagering) SAR_20080725 02 Join in the Dance, 1st, paid 3.40 to show SAR_20080726 09 Indescribable, 3rd, paid 3.30 to show SAR_20080726 11 Friday Meeting, 2nd, paid 4.80 to show SAR_20080730 06 Borobudur, 2nd, paid 3.30 to show $100 on each of the 1 place and 4 show bets would have yielded a profit of $380. It may not appear to be a sound wagering strategy, but the results are positive - and it has certainly been more effective than what I have been doing since the meet opened ! Friday - Casino Kay looks interesting.
081305 More than 1 year ago
I am an owner and a casual handicapper. My wagering picks up when Saratoga begins. I have a beef with Monmouth this morning. It is rare that I play MTH, but I like the .50 pick 5--especially on off-turf days when prices are likely. Because of my career, I must wager off track. The MTH website AND the scratch line BOTH noted the 9 horse (Browning) in the 8th race as a scracth---so I singled Levine's horse. Come to find out the 9 wins over the 2, beats me out of a $644 ticket--because it was not a scratch. I am not an idiot--I know what MTH will say if a complain. But this is bullsh--. I guess the lesson to be learned is not to play MTH. Been killing Saratoga though. Thanks for the blog Mr. Crist.
bochalls More than 1 year ago
Why would Overbrook offer Storming Off for a tag today, regardless if he wins (which he did)? He is by Theatrical out of a Storm Cat mare. Surely that makes him a nice stud prospect. Was he gelded and it didn't appear correctly in DRF? I know the old studs get less fertile/potent in their later years, but jeeeez!......on this AOC topic Steve, the overqualified runners entered for the tag give me trouble sometimes since it boils down to trainer intent (in my opinion). Is the barn going for the win & claim, or are they unloading; praying for the claim? Throw in state bred conditions and their effect on eligibility in open AOC races, and the whole thing is just HAIRBALL!!!
ljk More than 1 year ago
I'm reading "Fabulous Bawd: The History of Saratoga" based on the recommendation of one of your blog comments. Many pluses and minuses as far as it relates to John Morrisey. But it seems like he is the man responsible for what we have today. As far as what we have tomorrow, I guess PJ Campo is responsible.
Pete More than 1 year ago
Thanks Steve! And thanks for the heads up on Hattie's too - my friends and I enjoyed it several times during opening weekend.