09/30/2008 10:19PM

Run 1-2-3 and You're In?


Wednesday's Pilgrim and Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont are the first two of 14 "Win And You're In" races during the first five days of October, eight of them for juveniles. Six of the 14 races are at Keeneland, with four each at Belmont and Woodbine:

The 57-race WAYI schedule concludes a week from Thursday at Keeneland in the oddly-scheduled (just 15 days before its corresponding BC race) Jessamine for 2-year-old fillies Oct. 9, a berth-earner for the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf.

The Pilgrim and Miss Grillo turn out to be incredibly important qualifiers for the two BC juvenile grass races -- not only because of their WAYI status for the winners, but also because they and Saturday's Woodford Reserve at Keeneland are the only U. S. graded stakes for 2-year-olds on the grass prior to the Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf. So the only ways to earn graded-stakes points, used to determine other berths for those races, are either to run in group races in Europe or Canada -- or to run in the Pilgrim or Miss Grillo. In other words, today's Belmont co-features could well turn out to be "Run 1-2-3 and You're In" races.

They're also legs 4 and 5 of a Belmont pick-6 that starts with a $51k carryover from Sunday's card. The lineup:

Race 4: 3+FNY AlwN2x -- 8f -- Field of 8
Race 5: 3+ Clm 60k -- 6f -- Field of 8
Race 6: 3+ Clm 30k -- 8f -- Field of 11 (inc. two entries)
Race 7: 2F G3 Miss Grillo -- 8.5f-WT -- Field of 12+1 MTO
Race 8: 2M Pilgrim -- 8.5f-IT -- Field of 9
Race 9: 2FNY MdClm35k -- 6f -- Field of 13 (inc. one entry, four firsters)

Regrettably, NYRA in recent weeks appears to have embraced the player-unfriendly Southern California philosophy of running maiden races with first-time starters as the last race of the day, in an apparent attempt to build carryovers. Both of last weekend's cards ended with maiden races won by firsters. This obnoxious practice frustrates both pick-6 and late pick-4 players, who are forced to guess on firsters without seeing a single betting pool on the race.

Ah, for the bygone days when the New York pick-6 was run on races 3-8 on a nine-race card, and your pick-6 fortunes were decided by the feature race, often a stakes. By contrast, last Saturday's pick-6, on the premier card of the fall meeting, began with five Grade 1 stakes and ended with...a New York-bred maiden claimer won by a first-time starter.

[Update 10/1 5:35 pm: I passed on the one-day carryover and dodged the last-race bullet that sunk all 47 live tickets: After five plausible winners, 61-1 firster Warrior Hill came from far behind a crazy speed duel to win the finale going away at $124.00 for trainer Glenn DiSanto, 0-for-25 this year and winless since august of 2007. Two-day carryover of $201k into Thursday's card.]