10/23/2010 1:55PM

It's NY Showcase Day Live

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There's a kind of Catch-22 to New York Showcase Day and some of the other similar statebred-stakes festivals run around the country each fall: The idea is to showcase the best horses in training from the local statebred ranks, but the very best of them may instead be running in open-company stakes or even pointing for the Breeders' Cup.

That's how it has shaken out for today's NY Showcase at Belmont, which consists of seven statebred stakes worth a combined $900k in purses. The three top New York-breds in the game are all missing from the entries. Haynesfield, the Suburban and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, is instead being aimed for the BC Classic; Rightly So, winner of the G1 Ballerina, will run a day earlier in the BC Filly & Mare Sprint; Silver Timber, a multiple graded-stakes winner, is aiming for the Nov. 6 BC Turf Sprint.

I don't see an easy fix to the situation and maybe it doesn't need one. It's sort of a nice problem to have when your top statebreds are "too good" for the restricted ranks and have more important assignments this time of year. From a betting and handicapping standpoint, maybe it's just as well that Haynesfield and RIghtly So aren's 1-to-10 favorites in the Iriquois (which RIghtly So won last year) and the Empire Classic.

Here's the lineup of today's stakes. I have no idea why the climactic Empire Classic is the 9th instead of the 10th or why we couldn't have an all-stakes pick-6 on one of the few cards of the year with seven stakes races, but I've given up trying to decipher how cards are arranged at NYRA.

I'm taking a rare pass on attending Showcase Day due to the 3:57 pm ET start of game 6 of the National League Championship Series. I mean no disloyalty to New York-breds, but while there's a Showcase Day every year, my SF Giants have a realistic shot of making it to the World Series about once a decade. [Update: Thanks to commenter Steven, who just woke me up to the rescheduling of the game to 7:30 pm due to the end of the Rangers-Yankees series last night. Too bad: I wanted the Yankees -- there's a 48-year-old score to settle for the heartbreaking finish to the 1962 Giants-Yankees Series.]

We missed a golden opportunity to get there at home in Game 5 Thursday night, when Phillies ace Roy Halladay had only a mediocre (for him) outing while struggling with a pulled groin, but the Giants gave up three runs early on a string of miscues and never caught up, losing 4-2.

And as long as I'm digressing: I have a particular soft spot for NY Showcase Day, where the statebred theme is extended through a fair-like area of booths at Belmont selling other New York products. At the 2002 Showcase Day, one of the booths was for greyhound adoption and we signed up as prospective adopters and a couple of weeks later brought home our first hound, the late Badger Pluto. Two years later we tracked down and adopted one of his littermates, Badger Popeye (black and white, above, with pal Dondo), who had his 11th birthday last Monday and continues to thrive. Since having his spleen removed two years ago, Popeye has undergone a complete personality transformation in his dotage, changing from a timid and nervous scaredy-dog into a playful and affectionate companion. He makes me think there's still hope for all of us who are getting up there in years.

They just ran the first Showcase race and General Maximus ($12.20) smoked the sprinters in the Hudson in 1:08.84. Endless Circle, surprisingly pounded to even-money, came up empty in the stretch while 2-1 second choice Driven by Success, last year's winner, missed the break and flattened out to be fourth after trying to loop the field on the turn.

Back later with a late pick-4 play or maybe a pick-6 (which starts with a sad little $19k carryover) if I can make any sense out of the 2-year-old maiden turf sprint that starts the sequence.

 

2:15 pm: Trainer John Terranova completed a sweep of the first three races on the card when second-timer Zellweger ran down favored Soinlovewithuami to win a maiden race. Zellweger is a half-sister to Midnight Mass, who won the opener. Terranova's three winners paid $13.80, $12.20 and $16.40, combining for a $292 for $2 pick-3 that was sharply below the $690 parlay. Terranova's only other starter today is Chorus Music in the finale, the $125k Ticonderoga.

 

3:20 pm: Clement firster Adirondack Summer, a Thunder Gulch colt bet down to 3-1, romped in his debut to win the 2-year-old turf sprint that began the Showcase Day pick-6.

I passed on the pick-6, but won one of the stupidest bets of my life. I noticed that second-time starter Majestic Raffy -- beaten 26 lengths at 90-1 in his debut -- was produced by a dam named Badger Pocket, and having written about a couple of other Badger P's above, bet $5 across on him at 99-1 just in case. (He was 99-1 on the board and actually went off at 130.50-1.)

Majestic Raffy improved sharply on the grass to run a distant second, and the son of a Badger P paid $95.50 to place and $32.80 to show, a $320.75 return for my idiotic $15 investment.

[Update: Turns out the $95.50 place payoff was the largest at Belmont in 12 years, since Said Enough paid $122 to place in the second race on July 1, 1998.]

 

3:55 pm: Just as well I skipped the Six, as I would have virtually singled Straight Story, who just got nailed at the wire by Pocket Cowboys in the $125k Mohawk. Straight Story, who has been keeping Grade 1 company between starts against statebreds, was softened up early by 26-1 Midnight Billy, won that battle and was three lengths clear in midstretch but the early challenge took a late toll.

The $300k guaranteed late pick-4 got harder the longer I looked at it, and the play below is a very loose one. I found less separation than usual between my A's and B's and almost arbitrarily split them in races 8 and 9:

My biggest lean is Bandbox in the first leg, the Sleepy Hollow for 2-year-olds. His last race, a 9 1/2-length romp against open company in the $75k Charles Town Juvenile, would destroy this field but if it's not him it could be just about anyone.

 

4:30 pm: Bandbox, bet from 3-1 ML to 3-5, didn't have the smoothest of trips but was clearly best winning the Mohawk after a sluggish start and a wide trip. The 3-for-3 Tapit colt, trained by Maryland-based Rodney Jenkins, joins Bug Juice as the leaders of the statebred juveniles. Bug Juice, a Mingun gelding, has won his last three by a combined 23 lengths, including Finger Lakes' Aspirant and NY Breeders' Futurity.

oth are reportedly being pointed for the $1 million Delta Jackpot Nov. 20, a G3 race that -- under Churchill Downs's screwy Derby eligibility rules -- guarantees the winner a berth in the Kentucky Derby and would likely get the runner-up most of the way towards qualifying as well.

 

5:00 pm: Meese Rocks ($10.40) led all the way to win the Iroquois, an AA albeit chalky start to the pick-4. Mother Russia was disqualified from 4th to 5th for bothering Lovely Lil at the top of the stretch, elevating the latter to the final superfecta slot.

 

5:30 pm: Friend or Foe ($4.60) turned the Empire Classic into a front-running rout, getting the first six furlongs in 1:10.39 and finishing strongly to stop the timer in a sharp 1:46.94 under Alex Solis for the 9f around one turn.

The 3-year-old Friends Lake homebred, owned by Chester and Mary Broman and trained by John Kimmel, was 6th in the Travers and 4th in the Jim Dandy in his last two, his only losses in six career starts.  Friend or Foe, who doesn't need the lead but was happy to take it today, looks ready for bigger and better things next year -- kind of like last year's Empire Classic winner, Haynesfield.

The pick-4 willpays aren't terrible for a sequence with a $3.30 and $4.60 winner -- the lowest is $202 to You Go West Girl. Seven of the 10 Ticonderoga runners are covered in the Pick-6, from 1 to 6 times each, with a double-carryover only if My Magic Moment, Paraiba or Ms Stiletto springs an upset. 

 

6:05 pm: John Terranova looked like he was going to complete a four-bagger as Chorus Music had a clear led mid-stretch, but favored You Go West Girl ($8.40) came swooping from far back to run her down and win the Ticonderoga  for the second straight year.

The 6-year-old Mr. Greeley mare had lost six straight since her 2009 Ticonderoga victory (she was second to Love Cove in the 2008 edition), but three of those were in photo-finishes.

You Go West Girl completed that $202 pick-4 and a $14,811 pick-6.

And now it's almost time for some baseball. 

 

[Update 11:38 pm: The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!]