08/02/2012 12:57PM

Saratoga Day 12: 8/2/12



1:55 pm: Two jumps down, nine flats to go on a sunny, fast and firm Day 12. Don't forget that the early pick-4 starts with the upcoming 3rd today instead of the 2nd, so there's still time to get into trouble there.

Today's opening steeplechase, an N2L/OC $20k nonwinners-of-two/optional claimer, went to Alajmal ($18.40), who ran 5th on the flat here just 10 days ago. The 4-year-old First Samurai gelding is a Shadwell castoff now being trained by Janet Elliot and was making just his eighth career start and third over fences. Brave Prospect was second at 30-1 to complete a fat $501 exacta. Mabou, last year's NY Turf Writers winner, was fifth at 9-2 with Bodie Island 8th as the 5-2 favorite.

The second was the A.P. Smithwick Memorial, a "Grade 1" in the steeplechase world, and if you thought a four-play 9-5 entry was a pretty safe show bet, you were wrong. The best the favored entry could do was a fourth-place finish by Decoy Daddy, as 25-1 Spy in the Sky ($52.00) held off 5-1 Left Unsaid with 14-1 All Together third. The entry ran 4-7-8-9, so even with the second choice running second, the show prices were $13.40, $6.50 and $10.60

Spy in the Sky, an 8-year-old Thunder Gulch gelding, has a history of paying big prices at NYRA tracks. He won the 2009 Turf Writers by 10 1/4 lengths and returned $43 for $2 that day. Two starts later he won a $35k optional claimer over the flat going 11 furlongs at Aqueduct, paying $22.40. He has now won 7 of 42 starts in a seven-season career that began at Saratoga six years ago when Kiaran McLaughlin sent him out to run a closing 5th in a turf sprint. Pretty neat horse.

The all-jump double paid $631.00.

You would expect a G1 to go faster than an N2L allowance, even over fences, and it did -- 3:50.92 for the Smithwick vs. 3:51.73 for the allowance race. Do not, however, make the mistake I did a few years ago and think that it might be profitable to make Beyer Speed FIgure equivalents for steeplechase races. I put way too much time into just such an experiment and found it be utterly worthless.


2:20 pm: Joe Vann, dropping from a $75k stakes to a $20k claimer for Zayat/Pletcher, opened 1-to-2, drifted to his ML price of 1-1 by post time, led the field to the stretch but weakened in the final furlong and ran 5th behind second choice Tuvia's Force ($8.00). Second winner for Zito in 20 hours after 0-for-16 start to the meet.


2:50 pm: Felt like Slumber could have been 4-to-5 in the 4th and some people thought he was "cold on the board" at only 2-1. Okay, he hadn't been out since November, but he's trained by Bill Mott, who has already won three races at the meet (two of them stakes) just with routers returning from long layoffs. And Slumber was not only beaten just 1 1/2 lengths in the G1 Hollywood Derby in his American debut, but was multiply G3-placed in Europe last year. Isn't he supposed to handle an American N2x field?

He did. The 4-year-old Juddmonte homebred was a professional winner, bursting through in upper stretch to a facile victory, and may be headed for stakes action now.

Slumber is by Cacique, a Juddmonte stallion who was produced by their incredible broodmare Hasili, the dam of Banks Hill, Intercontinental, Champs Elysees, Heat Haze and Dansili.


3:25 pm: Caution Sign ($11.80), twice second and thrice third in MSW company, efound $50k maiden claimers a much easier group and scored an easy victory in the 5th for Clement/Leparoux, The 4-year-old Mr. Greeley filly, off since December at Tampa, ran the mile in 1:36.51.

Your early pick-4 probables:

4:00 pm: Favored San Pablo ($4.70) raced just outside of 2-1 Isn't He Perfect from the get-go, took over in upper stretch, and pulled away to a decisive victory in the $100k Birdstone Stakes for Pletcher/Velazquez. The 4-year-old Jump Start colt, fourth to Whitney entrants Rule and Flat Out in the Monmouth Cup last time out, ran the 9f in a good 1:48.68 for his 6th victory in 11 career starts and third victory in an overnight stakes.

Isn't it a little odd to still have $100k open stakes races in New York when maidens are running for $80k and allowance races are going for as much as $95k?


4:40 pm: Just for some action and to change things up, I'm making a goofy late pick-4 play that reflects my feeling that the last four races are all chaotic events. It's an A's and C's only play, where I need 3 or 4 from column A to get home and am allowed only a single visit to the backup column. It's 144 all-A's for $1 apiece and 420 three-A's-and-one-C's at 50 cents each for a total of $354:

Yes, I know it has to pay $1416 for $2 for one of the 50-cent tickets to break even, or $708 for $2 to do the same on the $1 ticket. And yes, you are permitted to snicker when four chalks win and I get back $83.50 for my $354.


5:00 pm: Well, at least I was right about the "chaotic event" part. Still couldn't come up with 33-1 Silver Machine going six deep. And if you have to ask whether I'll now replay the rest of teh sequence as pick-3's, you're probably new around here.


5:30 pm: Okay, I'll say it before someone else does: Clearly the way to go today was to handicap the handicapper and make an All-X ticket of the horses I didn't use at all in any leg. Would have gotten you The Silver Machine in the 8th and now Sly Warrior ($9.20) in the 9th.


6:00 pm: Looks like nobody at Nassau OTB tv knows about the 11-race card today at Saratoga: The moment the clock hit 6:00, the NYRA feed was replaced by graphics showing quinella odds at Del Mar. 


6:10 pm: Signal back. Even with 3-2 fave Inaugurate winning the 10th, the pick-4's are paying a low of $9k and up to $130k. Only two of the 10 in the finale are covered in the pick-6, each for a pool-draining $77k:


6:40 pm: 7-2 second choice Notacatbutallama and 4-1 third choice Holy Endeavor were coveerd in the pick-6 but they ran 2nd and 3rd in a chalky finale to 5-2 favorite Archer Hill, so there's a $77k carryover to tomorrow.

I'm driving back up in the morning so may be joining you late for a 10-race card that begins at 1 pm. The feature, carded as the 9th, is the G2 Honorable Miss, which drew a contentious field of 10 where CC's Pal is the 5-2 favorite and no one is higher than 10-1 on the line.