07/20/2012 12:00PM

Saratoga Day 1: 7/20/12



12:55 pm: They’re not quite off at Saratoga yet but the emphasis already is on “off.”

Technology is not our friend thusfar on Opening Day. Scratches were not posted until almost 12:30 because there was no working audio in the announcers’ booth, and “Talking Horses,” which was supposed to be 45 minutes of me and Andy Serling handicapping the opening-day card, was scrapped at 12:20.

The new free public wi-fi system was working just fine at 10 a.m. but began cutting out intermittently an hour later, and since that’s what the press box is now hooked up to, I haven’t been able to post anything to this blog until now.  It’s still supposedly just 5 minutes to the first race; we’ll see.

Maybe we should think of it as an unscheduled Throwback Day, a low-tech reminder of the game back in the day.


1:10 pm: A rousing but inscrutable (unless you had it) start to the meet as 13-1 Nine O Wonderful edged 7-1 Followmyfootsteps and 14-1 Midnite Silver to win the opener, an $85,000 (that is not a typo) N2x allowance race at a mile on the turf. Trainer James Bond and jockey Rosie Napravnik top the standings after one (1) race.

Race was allegedly run in accelerating fractions of 24.87, 49.66, 1:13.17 and 1:35.60.

The sound system seems to be working and (if you're reading this) the wi-fi is back up.

And in the biggest upset since the sun rose in the east this morning, first lunch of the meet was...the Hattie's fried-chicken sandwich. Still $8.95 and still delicious. Full reports in the days ahead on the new dining options here. I know my cardiologist will be thrilled to hear that they include a Mac-and-Cheese truck and an outpost of a Montreal-based purveyor of poutine, which reportedly is French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds.


1:40 pm: Alwaysinmycircle, slight favorite at 5-2 over 3-1 Bourbonology, looked collared with a furlong to go but turned back a menacing bid from 10-1 Kibosh through the stretch to win the 2nd for Dominick Schettino/Junior Alvarado.

Upcoming 3rd and 5th races are divisions of a two-year-old filly maiden special, and like all juvenile sprints at the meet, will this year be limited to eight starters. The new policy -- which, depending on who you talk to is supposed to either a)make the juvenile races fairer and/or b)produce more maiden winners for the stakes races and/or c)is supposed to compensate for a shortage of 2-year-olds in a diminished foal crop -- ought to work out well, at least until a rainy day when there are four scratyches and a field that might have scratched down to 6 or 8 becomes a four-horse race.

In the 3rd, Pletcher/Coolmore firster Kimono ($550k Bernardini 2-year-old purchase) has opened the 6-5 favorite but third-timer Lignite (Wesley Ward) was favored in early pick-3.


2:45 pm: Sorry about that -- wi-fi went down for an hour. Couldn't access "NYRA Wi-FI" but -- I am not making this up -- the "other network" choices available included "Jerry Bailey's iPhone."

In the 3rd, 9-5 Lignite rocketed out of the gate in her fourth start (after 2nds at Kee, CD and Bel) and held off 8-5 Kimono, who ran well in her debut. Time of the race was 1:05.02 for 5.5f. First dirt race of the meeting highlighted the new elevation of the rebuilt (heightened and widened) Mellon Turf Course -- horses feet disappeared from view around the turn.

Only surprise in the 4th was that Book Review paid $3.70 instead of an expected $2.70. Book Review, trained by Chad Brown, had to work a little to get past former Brown trainee Ullapool down the stretch but got the job done. Book Review's performance had some bearing on tomorrow's CCA Oaks, since last time out Book Review was second by 3 3/4 lengths to Questing, 3-1 third choice in the Oaks off a giant 105 Beyer that day.


3:20 pm: Wowie Kauai. Kauai Kate ($5.60), Stonestreet/Pletcher firster by Malibu Moon, just won her debut by 12 lengths, stopping the clock in 1:03.66 -- compared to the 1:05.02 posted in the first division of the race an hour ago. The winner, purchased as a 2-year-old in March for $490k, is out of the More Than Ready mare More Than Pretty. Early favorite for the Spinaway.


3:55 pm: 6th looked like best wide-open betting race of the day on paper -- field of 12 older turf $20k claimers, intriguing mix of droppers and move-ups. I talked myself into a 53-1 shot who made a big move on the turn before fading to obscurity. That kind of a race.

And the winner was...36-1 Presumptive, trained by my former Saratoga neighbor Roy Lerman, who puts one over at a big price when you least expect it at Saratoga. The most lightly-raced member of the field (a 5yo gelding making just his 9th career start), Presumptive hadn't raced since taking a $25k N3L claimer at Tampa on April 27. He paid $6.00 that day -- $75.50 today.

Over the last five years, Lerman was just 3 for 50 at Saratoga, but those winners actually showed a flat-bet profit even before today because they paid $31.20 (Privacy), $37.00 (Essex Ferry) and $38.40 (Purplegreenandgold).


4:15 pm: Union Rags retired too now. Question (to which I don't know the answer): Have all the winners of a season's Triple Crown races been retired by July 20 before?

Well, got to bet on something the rest of the way so here's a fool-around pick-4:


5:10 pm: Outstanding ride by Joel Rosario to get Pacific Ocean ($14.20) home in the G3 James Marvin. After breaking the 5-year-old Ghostzapper gelding sharply from the gate, Rosario was able to slow the pace to a relative crawl for top-class sprinters on a fast track, getting the first quarter in 23.19 and the half in 46.67. Crossbow and Caiza Electronica appeared to be gaining in upper stretch, but Rosario had plenty left after the milld fractions to beat Golddigger's Boy by 1 3/4 lengths, with Crossbow a length back in third. Jackson Bend, previously unbeaten over the track including Marvin and G1 Forego scores last year, had little chance off the slow pace and was another neck back in fourth.

Pacific Ocean, a runaway winner of the G3 Underwood at Hollywood last fall, was turned over to Rick Dutrow after that race and returned in the True North on Belmont Day, setting a blistering pace (44.58 vs. today's 46.67) before getting swallowed in a duel.

The winner's final time of 1:2253 makes Book Review's 1:22.85 in the 4th look pretty good, which you could take as a positive sign for Questing in tomorrow's CCA Oaks.

All six fillies in the upcoming G3 Schuylerville are between 3-1 and 5-1 with 17 MTP.


5:40 pm: Half an hour after Rick Dutrow sent out Pacific Ocean to win the G3 Marvin, brother Tony Dutrow saddled So Many Ways to win the G3 Schuylerville. Narrrowly favored at 5-2, So Many Ways took advantage of a contested pace to wear down early leader Baby J (trained by Rick) and Can't Explain, who finished second. Baby J was third with Fully Living fourth in the field of six. So Many Ways, an eigh-length winner of her debut at Parx last month, is a Sightseeing filly owned by Maggi Moss.

The winner's time was 1:11.51 for six furlongs, significantly slower than Kauai Kate's winning debut in 1:03.66 for 5 1/2 furlongs earlier in the day.

No live pick-6 tickets into the finale, presumably thanks to Presumptive, so there's a carryover into Day 2. Here are the willpays; those in the final column are for 5-of-6 (single asterisk) or 4-of-6 (double asterisk):

Better go save a little with the Rudy Rodriguez firster I omitted from my live sextet in the pick-4 -- he opened at a someone-likes-him 5-1.

#6 Godric just announced as a late scratch. Leaves "only" five who can beat me.


6:15 pm: Phew. To Dubai held off to complete a Tony Dutrow late double and a $2,126-for-$2 pick-4 but I think I got lucky: Way of the West, the Rudy firster, was knocked around early and finished like a rocket to be third.

Tom Durkin just announced that the pick-6 carryover "has yet to be calculated." I'm guessing it's in the $50k neighborhood. 


6:20 pm: Slightly better neighborhood: The carryover is $60,316.