07/19/2013 10:16AM

Saratoga Day 1: July 19,2013


11:15 a.m.: To quote the Wicked Witch of the West: I'm melting.

It's a steamy Opening Day for the 150th anniversary of Saratoga racing, with the temperature headed for 95 degrees. Scratches aren't up yet, but for now it looks like a good betting card with mostly full fields and three stakes including the G3 Schuylerville and G3 James Marvin.

Here are the picks I just sent down to the tv truck for "Talking Horses," where I'll be host Andy Serling's guest today and tomorrow, starting in the Carousel at 11:45:

1) 1-12-10-2

2) 6-10-4-12

3) 1-1a-7-3

4) 3-5-4-6

5) 7-3-5-8

6) 9-8-7-2

7) 4-8-2-5

8) 1-3-4-5

9) 5-4-1a-1


I'll be back after the show and my first Hattie's fried-chicken sandwich of 2013.

1:05 pm: One down, 399 (or so) to go.

Five of the 12 N1x turfers in the opener went off from 4-1 to 6-1 and they accounted for the super, with 9-2 Hardest Core wearing down 4-1 I'll Call, followed by 5-1 Cheyenne Nation and 5-1 Royal Blessing.


Early pick-4 starts with the second. Latest I'm hearing on the new pick-5 is that it may be ready to launch Whitney Day, Aug. 3. The bet would encompass the first five races on the card, except maybe on steeplechase days.


The first Hattie's of the year could have used a little more coleslaw and a little less salt but still the best chicken sandwich I've had since last Travers Day.

1:50 pm: The old 12-12 double came back a fat $214 -- I needed a 4x4 to get it, but the DRF Consensus box had it on a 2x2. First baby race of the meet, for open 2-year-old fillies, up next. Pletcher/Repole/Tale of the Cat firster Stopchargingmaria 4-5; Ireland (full sister to Hopeful winner Dublin), chilly at 8-1.

2:10 pm: Stopchargingmaria ($3.00)a box-to-wire winner in 22.84, 46.32, 58.33 and 1:04.69. The winner turned back a challenge from 22-1 pursuer J. Quirk in upper stretch, drew away comfortably and with something left.

"We’ll see how she comes out of it," said Pletcher. "I believe a stake will be in order, it’s just a matter of which one.”

3:00 pm: Hessonite, dropping from open graded stakes to statebred company, an easy winner at an almost generous $3.80 of the $100k On The Bus stakes for NYB fillies. If you like statebreds on the grass, tomorrow's card starts with five straight turf races, four of them for Empire Staters. The card then concludes with six dirt races, including the G3 Shuvee and G1 CCA Oaks.

3:50 pm: Race 6 ended in first nailbiter of the meeting as 9-2 Subtle blazed (21.17, 43.63) to an early lead in this statebred filly turf sprint, then desperately tried to hold off 38-1 My Uptown Gal...and made it by a whisker.

4:05 pm: A little late pick-4 play:

4:25 pm: Well that didn't last long. Race 7 completely fell apart late, from a half in 44.97 to a final furlong in 13.32, as duelers Titletown Five and Googleado faded, stalker Tenango came up empty, and along came 11-1 New Line, 15-1 Ithastobegeorge and 14-1 dawley to pick up the pieces and combine for a $322 exacta and $3,360 trifecta. (Reminder to new/returning readers: All payoffs mentioned in this space, unless otherwise specified, are the return on a $2 wager.)

5:05 pm: Sage Valley, an impressive winner of the Maryland Sprint on Preakness Day before running a flat 5th in the True North on Belmont Day, got a strong pace to run at and outfinished Politicallycorrect to win the G3 James Marvin. 9-5 fave Souper Speedy dueled through a half in 44.42(!) with Strapping Groom and both were wilting in upper stretch. Sage Valley found a seam to run through while Politicallycorrect had to shift paths a couple of times, but the winner was probably best.

Sage Valley, a 4-year-old Discreet Cat colt who did not make his debut until last January, was claimed out of his second start by owners Michael Dubb and Gary aisquith and trainer Rudy Rodriguez.

5:30 pm: Brazen Persuasion and Bahnah slugged it out through the stretch of the G3 Schuylerville in a stirring finish that could haver gone either way -- and ended up going both ways, as they finished in a dead heat.

Bahnah, 6-5 on the board, returned $2.40 while Brazen persuasion, 2-1 on the board, paid $2.80. Both paid more to place than to win -- $3.30 on Brazen Persuasion and $2.70 on Bahnah, because the two-for-the-price-of-one Todd Pletcher entry of Elena Strikes and Yes Liz was bet most heavily to place but ran 3-4 in that order.

The final time of 1:12.12 for 6f, after a half in 44.68, marked the third straight race with a big slowdown after fast fractions. (In all three races, wind was with horses down backstretch, against them in stretch.) One could argue that Brazen Persuasion got the moral victory, since she was slugging it out on the lead early while Bahnah stalked, but both had every chance to win. and both did, sort of. Six of the 11 in the finale are covered in the pick-6:

6:00 pm:  11-1 Sonnyandpally was covered in the pick-6, while 6-1 Birchwood Road wasn't. Sonnyandpally ($25.80) was up in the final stride to nip BW and complete a $2,551 pick-4 and $63,051 pick-6. One day down, 39 to go.