07/23/2010 6:15PM

Saratoga Day 1: 7/23/10




1:00 pm: And they're off at Saratoga.-- under gray skies and pouring rain. Ten minutes ago, it was announced that races 4, 5 and 6 are being switched from the grass to the main track. The first two races remain on the grass while the 3rd and 7th through 10th are carded for the main track, currently labelled "good" but getting muddier by the minute.

1:30 pm: Julien Leparoux rode the $449.50 early double of Dontstealmyland ($48.60) and Kathern's Kitten ($17.20). The former, a Suffolk Downs shipper, is a 4-year-old gelded son of Badge and a Robyn Dancer mare, and was tough to like unless maybe your wife's name is Robin and your first dog was named Badge. Oh wait, that would be me. In the second, where I picked a 2-3-6 finish on Talking Horses, it came in 3-2-6 for an $800 triple. Didn't play


But neither rain nor missed opportunity nor flickering and illegible infield tote boards can dull my spirit at the moment. I have consumed my first Hattie's fried-chicken sandwich of 2010 and its magical, psychotropic elixirs are coursing through my veins, making me one with the gods. 



2:30 pm: NYRA just issued a press release saying that starting today, the stewards will provide timely explanations for their decisions on inquiries and objections. Good move, and the kind of thing that should be done everywhere.

The first dirt race of the meeting produced a $4150 superfecta in just a  seven-horse field when 11-1 Bank Merger and 13-1 Footcandles led an outsiders' parade. Aspire, last year's Hopeful runner-up and the 2-1 favorite, was well-placed early but faded badly late in the slop.

First three winners of the meet made their last starts at Suffolk, Churchill and Monmouth. They combined for a $6,318 pick-3.


3:30 pm: Off-the-turf favorites Tar Beach and Roderick completed the first pick-4 of the meet to the tune of $781.00 -- well below the parlay, but there were multiple late scratches in the off-the-turfers and everyone scratched into the winning favorites. So maybe you had it more than once and don't even know it yet.


4:00 pm: First Finger Lakes winner of the meet as 13-1 Cinder Cone wired the final off-the-turfer. The 6-year-old is a rare New York winner for the successful California stallion Unusual Heat, whose offspring seem to handle anything from dirt to synth to turf....and apparently Saratoga slop too.

The first baby race at the meeting, for 2-year-old fillies, kicks off the late Pick-4 and the toteboard isn't much help -- there are different favorites in the win, place, show, double and pick-3 pools at the moment. Can't go all day without playing, and at least the day's last four were all originally scheduled for dirt, so let's get our feet wet figuratively, having already done so literally:


5:00 pm: Vineyard Haven, the 2008 Hopeful and Champagne winner, made a successful 4-year-old debut winning the $75k James Marvin, fighting off a prolonged early challenge from Flat Bold and then holding off Full Metal Jacket by 1 3/4 lengths. VIneyard Haven made a similar return off a long layoff last year, finishing first in the G1 King's Bishop going seven furlongs in the slop here, though he was disqualified and placed second for interfering with Capt. Candyman Can.

Vineyard Haven, who went on to win the G1 DeFrancis and run third in the G1 Cigar Mile last year, ran the seven furlongs in 1:22.20 over a track that's going to be tricky for figure-making. There probably hasn't been been a cumulative half-hour without rain since 10 a.m. and the track just keeps getting sloppier.


5:40 pm: Congrats if you liked Le Mi Geaux (apparently faux French meant to be pronounced "Lemme go"), but that was one ugly Schuylerville she just won. The riders of the three favorites all came blasting out of the gate as if it were a two-furlong dash, running a contested first quarter in 21.81 (faster than Vineyard Haven), and --surprise! -- they all were wheezing by upper stretch. Show Me The Bling was slipping and sliding all over the track in an erratic performance and Le Mi Geaux had to work her way around her while rallying midly from far back, eventually beating Stopspendingmaria to win by a length and a half in a glacial 1:13.67. The winner made up two lengths on a final furlong run in 14.23 seconds.

Le Mi Geaux is from the first crop of First Samurai, who won the Hopeful and Champagne in 2005 when co-owned by Lansdon Robbins III, who bred and races Le Mi Geaux.

6:15 pm:  Only one live pick-6 ticket into the finale (on, strangely, 8-1 Adams Circle), so despite favorite In Just We Trust's triumph in the nightcap, there's a $42k carryover into Saturday's card. No word yet on the status of tomorrow's four scheuled grass races, but three of theem are in the first four races, with only one in the Pick-6 sequence. The forecast, for what it's worth, says there will be some more scattered thunderstorms tonight but it's supposed to be sunny with a high of 90 tomorrow.