01/31/2009 12:58PM

Donn Day

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The plan was to get back into the pool today for the first time in a week, but the afternoon's two big multirace bets involving the Donn Handicap are problemmatic:

The problem is that both sequences contain two maiden races laden with first-timers, which to my mind is inexcusable in a specifically-designed national wager such as the Magna 5. There were other full-field races at Santa Anita that could have been positioned differently to be part of the sequence; I understand not wanting to make the Santa Monica and odds-on Ventura part of the sequence, but there are two contentious turf sprints on the card that would have been much better choices -- and you know how little I like turf sprints.

Maybe someone at Magna is experimenting, seeing if Magna 5 bettors enjoy guessing on races loaded with firsters without a chance to see the betting. I'll vote with my feet and take a pass.

Whether you play the Magna 5 or not, the opening leg, the $50k Dancing Count at Laurel, is worth a look. Mr. Fantasy, a half-brother to Tin Cup Chalice who won his debut by 10 1/2 lengths with a Beyer 97, has been scratched but there's still Russell Road, who has won five straight at Charles Town by a combined 43 3/4 lengths.

The Gulfstream late pick-4 sequence is somewhat more appealing than the Magna 5, despite also containing two maiden races, because the first of them features the debut of Nicanor, a full brother to Barbaro. This is one of those rare situations in racing, a little like Smarty Jones or Big Brown at 2-5 in the Belmont Stakes, where the most casual of bettors are going to create a false set of odds by betting on a horse solely because he has received a tremendous amount of publicity. I think those people are mostly going to be making win and across-the-board bets rather than pick-4 investments, but there still will be value if Nicanor loses his debut.

Today's Donn at GP and Santa Monica at SA are the first two Grade 1 races of the year. The Donn's 10 starters have a combined record of 0 for 25 in Grade 1 dirt races, so it's not going to be a shock if someone weird steps up and beats logical favorites Einstein and Arson Squad. The Santa Monica looks like a virtual walkover for Ventura since Indian Blessing is expected to be scratched.

Gulfstream could have had a spectacular all-stakes pick-4 sequence today had it carded the Hutcheson and Forward Gal alongside the Holy Bull and Donn instead of somewhat oddly running those two races yesterday on a Friday. Not that either yielded boxcar results: Frolic's Dream paid $5.00 winning the Forward Gal in 1:24.15 and Capt. Candyman Can paid $7.40 after winning the Hutcheson in 1:23.69.

There's also a little $29k pick-6 carry at Aqueduct today, following a card that produced the first 3-of-4 pick-4 payoff I can remember at a NYRA track. In a pool of $148,158, no one bought a ticket combining Wyatt's Women ($51.50), West Coast Flyer ($9.50), Lilly of Paradise ($18.00) and Amongooseamongus ($53.50). Any three of them were worth $1,467 for $2.