08/09/2007 12:27AM

Firster Fest


Day 13 featured four maiden races, all of them won by daylight by firsters who weren't very well-kept secrets. It was another day of chalky results, with pick fours paying $136.50 and $294.50 and an $888 pick six. Not coincidentally, this was the first card of the meeting to lose grass races to rain, with two of the day's three turf races rained off. The main track, upgraded from good to fast during the card, played consistently throughout the day. Some highlights:

*Race 2: Maimonides, the Vindication colt who made headlines when sold for $4.6 million at Keeneland last September, ran to his looks, works and pricetag taking his debut by 11 1/4 lengths in 1:04.41 for 5 1/2 furlongs. He broke right to the front, was clear through a mild first half in 45.37, then ran off and hid down the stretch. Maimonides, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 89, is one of the Bob Baffert trainees that owner Ahmed Zayat pulled out of Del Mar last week after fighting with track officials there over the condition of the Polytrack surface. Zayat, already the leading owner at Saratoga, has won races here with trainers Bill Mott, Tony Dutrow and now Baffert.

*Race 3: Crossword was the third winner of the meeting for trainer Neil Howard (Grasshopper, Smart Bunny), all of them in 1 1/8-mile races.

*Race 6: The split division of the Maimonides race also went to Zayat, whose Z Humor won by 5 3/4 lengths in 1:05.40, 0.99 seconds slower than race 2. Z Humor, a $240k Distorted Humor yearling, gave Bill Mott his meet-high 10th winner and Kent Desormeaux his meet-high 14th. If anyone took bets on such things, you could have gotten at least 100-1 that those two would be atop the leaderboards after 13 days of racing here. Mott keeps saying he doesn't have enough bullets to hold off Todd Pletcher for the training title, but keeps firing new ones.

*Race 8: Thunderestimate, a 3-year-old Flying Zee homebred son of Western Expression, won his fourth straight taking the $150k Cab Calloway New York Stallion Stakes in the day's best finish. Prado gave the winner a superb ride, getting him to the rail early, fending off an early challenge, taking a breather round the turn and saving just enough to hold off Logic Way by a neck.

*Race 9: Dale Romans sprung a very quick 3-year-old statebred filly firster in the off-the-turf finale: Sort of Tricky, who blazed through faster early fractions (21.36, 44.76) than Maimonides en route to an 8 3/4-length romp in 1:05.26.

--Reminder: The Thursday card starts with a steeplechase (The A. P. Smithwick Memorial) so the betting menu is a little different. The pick fours will again overlap, on races 3-6 and 6-9.

--The pp's are up for Saturday's Arlington card, which includes the Arlington Million, Beverly D. and Secretariat and a pick-three on that trio of Grade 1 grass races. All of them are "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup races, which seems reasonable for the Million and Beverly D. but sort of silly for the Secretariat, which is restricted to 3-year-olds and lacks anyone who at this point seems remotely like a serious candidate for the Breeders' Cup Turf. Making every stakes race on these ESPN telecasts a "Win and You're In" event seems like overkill, and might well end up bumping a more deserving candidate for the Turf than whichever 3-year-old wins the Secretariat.