09/02/2007 10:25PM

One Last Chance


On Saturday, Gary Contessa gave 15 pick-six winners a $20k payout by dropping a 40-1 bomb amid five otherwise logical results. On Sunday, Contessa gave the rest of us a carryover for closing day by dropping an even unlikelier 34-1 bomb when he sent out Mission Approved to win the Saranac. Even though the last two winners after that were 6-5 and 7-5, nobody picked six.

So there's an extra $102,600 in what was already going to be a healthy Labor Day pool, since there's a mandatory closing-day payout. For those unfamiliar with this phenomenon, New York state law requires that pick-six pools not be carried over from one meeting (or one calendar year) to the next. So if nobody picks six Monday, the 5-of-6's will be paid as if they're 6-of-6's and there will be a consolation payoff for 4-of-6's. If 4-of-6 is the best anyone can do, that'll get the front end of the pool, with consos for 3-of-6.

The sequence, which starts with race 5 on a 10-race card and includes five grass races, features three straight stakes races: the $80k Weekend Madness for 3-year-old turf fillies, the $100k G3 Glens Falls Handicap at 11 furlongs for older turf fillies, and the G1 $250k Hopeful, which drew just four 2-year-olds: Ready's Image (4-5 ML), Maimonides (7-5), Majestic Warrior (6-1) and Georgetown (15-1).

The three Hopeful favorites will be sent out by the three trainers who have been the biggest stories at the meet: Ready's Image by Todd Pletcher, who won the Whitney and Woodward with Lawyer Ron but has otherwise won at an uncharacteristically low 10 percent strike rate, ending a streak of five straight Saratoga training titles; Maimonides by Bob Baffert, who has won with 5 of 8 starters at the meet, including four juvenile winners and Midnight Lute's G1 Forego; and Majestic Warrior by Bill Mott, who won three more races Sunday -- all for Zayat Stable -- to bring his meet-high total to 26, twice as many as Contessa, Pletcher and Rice, who each won one race Sunday.

---Kent Desormeaux rode all three Mott/Zayat winners, plus Crusader's Code in the finale for Howie Tesher, to knot the jockeys' race at 43 with Cornelio Velasquez, who went 0-for-10 Sunday. There's could be a lot of last-minute scrambling for mounts Monday morning: Edgar Prado was named on eight but is now out at least six weeks and Garrett Gomez's status in unclear after taking off all his mounts after Sunday's 5th race. At the moment, Desormeaux has 9 mounts to Velasquez's 7, though the latter has a 2-1 edge in morning-line favorites.

---The Hopeful is the last of Saratoga's 14 Grade 1 races. The 13th was Sunday's Spinaway for 2-year-old fillies, won by Irish Smoke, the Biancone-trained Smoke Glacken filly who won her debut Aug. 2 going five furlongs. She became a G1 winner in her second start after scoring by 3 1/4 lengths over A to the Croft, the Adirondack runner-up, with 54-1 Yonagucci another 3 1/4 back in third. More Happy, the Adirondack winner, faded to fifth after opening a five-length lead in 22.02 and 44.82.

The winner's final time of 1:24.24 in the day's only seven-furlong race seemed extremely slow in relation to the day's three other dirt sprints: Earlier on the card, a 2-year-old statebred race went in 1:10.45 for 6f and a 2-year-old filly maiden race went in 1:17.44 for 6.5f.

--A few other Sunday notes:

*Race 1: Linda Rice sent out her sixth straight winner dating back to Thursday's ninth race when Ahvee's Destiny took the opener. Four of the six, including this one, were in 5 1/2-furlong turf sprints. The streak came to an end in Sunday's finale, when her firster Influential trailed at every call.

*Race 2: That wasn't any ordinary statebred 2-year-old who went 1:10.45: It was Rollers, a $500k (!) 2yo-in-training purchase by Lael/Tagg. The Stormy Atlantic colt took over early and drew out by 6 1/4 lengths. It was a sparkling debut but, if you're wondering, not quite as sparkling as the statebred 2-year-old Tagg unveiled 4 years and 51 weeks ago: Funny Cide won his debut at Belmont on Sept. 9, 2002, by 14 3/4 lengths.

*Races 3,4,6: The Mott/Zayat/Desormeaux triple came with an allowance grass filly (Queen Joanne), a dropdown N2L 3yo claimer (Minister's Appeal) and a 2-year-old filly firster (Moon de French).

*Race 8: Pletcher, who at least is over $300k in front of Mott in earnings for the meet, won the first of the day's three stakes when Jesse's Justice was up late to score by half a length over Tishmeister in the $82k Irish Actress for 3-year-old statebred grass fillies.

*Race 9: Pletcher had the 8-5 favorite to win a third straight stakes with Distorted Reality in the Saranac, but he fell three-quarters of a length short of catching Mission Approved, who led all the way and got away with soft fractions on the hard turf course. After going 49.23 and 1:12.67 under Coa, Mission Approved had enough left to spurt away in upper stretch and then hang on while running his final 3 1/2 furlongs in a sharp 41.14.

Mission Approved was more than a little tough to like. Two starts back he was beaten 22 lengths by Distorted Reality in the Lexington, and finished seventh at 45-1 last time out in the restricted Glow Stakes won by Pays to Dream, a late-closing third here. Mission Approved paid $70. If he weren't trained by the leading trainer by victories in New York this year, who popped at $83.50 just a day earlier. he might have paid over $100.00.

Time to burn the midnight oil.