08/04/2012 12:11PM

Saratoga Day 14: 8/4/12



1:05 pm: A long, hot and crowded Whitney Day just began with the first of 12 races -- six on fast dirt, six on firm turf -- that includes three stakes, five maiden-specials, three allowance races and just one claimer. A rare daily double of numbers and quality.

The opener looked like a mismatch on paper: Stopshoppingmaria, runner-up in last year's G1 Frizette and G2 BC Juvenile Fillies Turf, in an N1x turf sprint. Sent off at 2-5, she broke sharply, had good position close up on the inside, but then had absolutely nothing in the stretch and lost a photo for fourth behind Madame Giry, Vuitton, Strategic Missile and Buleria. With $77,938 of the $115,120 show pool on the favorite, the first three finishers paid $10.20, $6.70 and $17.20 to show.

It was announced earlier that due to a "nationwide data outage," according to the NYRA, none of the track's 12 ATM's is working today. A couple more results like that and there may be an exodus to the ATM's at the gas stations up on Broadway. I'm told that newer ATM's with modem backup are still working but those are not the kind installed at Saratoga.

Madame Giry first starter at the meet for Cam Gambolati, trainer of 1985 Derby winner and Horse of the Year Spend a Buck.


1:35 pm: Tritap, promising 2-year-old last year when he mixed it up with likes of El Padrino and My Adonis, returned from nine months on the sidelines to post a game victory over older maidens in the 2nd for Asmussen/Leparoux. The Tapit colt, a $450k yearling of 2010, went to the lead from the inside, was pressed all the way, but fought off 6-1 Cape Glory for the length of the stretch. The runner-up was a Marylou Whitney runner on Whitney Day -- she gets another chance with Flying Bird in the 7th but faces odds-on Palace Malice there.


2:05 pm: Darley unveiled a very good-looking 2-year-old colt in Fortify, Distorted Humor firster who was close to a quick pace, took over with authority in upper stretch, and drew away through 6f in 1:09.54 en route to a final time of 1:16.34 for 6.5f.

Yet another case of careless arrangement of races -- why not have made the 3rd race the 2nd so that early pick-4 players could have seen the solid betting action on the $10.40 winner? Why start the sequence with a field full of exposed and experienced runners and bury a firster-filled field as the second leg?


3:40 pm: Six down, six to go. Palace Malice, second to Carried Interest July 5 with an 88 BSF, has opened 1-to-9 for the 7th race, first leg of the no-carryover pick-6.

The early pick-4 on races 2 through 5 paid a fat $1,458 for winners at 2-1, 4-1, 4-1 and 3-1, suggesting the Darley firster was longer in the blind.

Eventful 6th race for statebreds as Riverdance Rock, leader around stretch turn, suddenly and without apparent provocation hung a right, dumped his rider, and headed to the outside fence. He appeared just clear enough of the field that he didn't bother anyone, and heavily-favored Poliziotto ($3.90) inherited the lead and held on.

Upcoming 7th most dramatic case yet of 2-year-olds running without Lasix: Four of the eight starters are owned by the group of about 40 owners who have announced they will not race their 2-year-olds without Lasix this year, when the Breeders' Cup juvenile races are scheduled to be run without Lasix. The split in this race reflects the difference of opinion on the matter among prominent owners: The non-Lasix starters here include runners owned by Claiborne Farm, Darley and the Phippses (scratched), while the Lasix users include starters from Dogwood Stables, Marylou Whitney and Lansdon Robbins. 


4:20 pm: Palace Malice ($2.70) ran slightly slower winning the 7th in his second start than Fortify did winning his debut in the 3rd, taking the 7th (with Lasix) in 1:16.48 (vs. Fortify's 1:16.34.) The question is whether Palace Malice ran back to his 88 BSF debut at 5f while stretching out today -- he didn't exactly look like he was getting stronger down the stretch, with a final sixteenth in 6.93.

Whatever the case, Palace Malice, a $200k 2-year-old in training, is a Curlin-Palace Rumor (Royal Anthem) colt who races for Dogwood, and became Pletcher's eighth 2-year-old maiden winner at the meeting.


5:30 pm: Guess Agave Kiss's shocking defeat at 3-to-10 last time out in the Victory Ride wasn't a fluke or a case of getting cooked by a hot pace: Today in the Prioress, she got loose on the lead in ordinary fractions, got tired on her own, and was passed in the final furlong, first by Judy the Beauty and then by Emma's Encore ($12.40).

Emma's Encore, who won the Victory Ride at 39-1, got up in the last stride under the red-hot Junior Alvarado, who won both of Friday's stakes here with patient and well-timed rides. The 3-year-old Congrats filly was the first winner of the meet for trainer H. Allen Jerkens.

The Prioress was moved from Belmont to Saratoga this year, and regardless of site is really not a Grade 1 race -- none of today's six starters had won above the G3 level. How about trading it down to a G2 if the Graded Stakes Committee restores the Hopeful to a Grade 1?

One race earlier, Julie's Love held off a late charge from Dealbata to win the $100k De La Rose Stakes for nonwinners of a graded stakes in 2012. The first two finishers are useful fillies but their final time of 1:34.87 was only about two lengths faster than statebred allowance runners turned in behind a similar pace earlier in the card, suggesting they're not going to be major players in graded stakes this fall.


6:00 pm: Wasn't crazy about Fort Larned at his 7-2 ML price, but he was probably an overlay at the 7-1 odds at which he just won the G1 Whitney in 1:47.76.

A confirmed pace-presser from an outside post in a race with plenty of speed, Fort Larned avoided an early barbecuing by relaxing perfectly under B. J. Hernandez, falling into a perfect stalking trip behind the headstrong pacesetters Endorsement and Trickmeister, He was well positioned to slip through when the leaders began backing up at the top of the stretch, unlike Ron the Greek, Flat Out and Hymn Book, who all were spun wide and could not get to the leader in the final furlong, finishing 2-3-4 in that order.

Fort Larned has now won 4 of 7 starts this year. The E Dubai 4-year-old, a Janis Whitham homebred, is trained by former Carl Nafzger assistant Ian Wilkes.


6:30 pm: Dominus ($3.70), last year's Dwyer winner, made a successful return from a 49-week layoff in the 11th, shaking off early challenges and drawing off to beat three longshots in 1:22.50 for 7f. The Smart Strike colt, trained by Steve Asmussen last year, now is in the Pletcher armada.

If you liked him, the way to go was the old 6-all-all-all superfecta -- which came back over $11k for $2 as the 4-5 winner was followed home by 46-1 Our Dark Knight, 22-1 You Gotta Have Soul and 44-1 Wishful Tomcat.

All 10 in the last-call 12th covered in the pick-6, at payoffs ranging from $2k to $200k:

7:00 pm: 7-5 fave Balance the Budget easily held off 3-1 second choice Not Today to complete an $841 pick-4 and $2,147 pick-6.

For those with any money and energy left, racing resumes tomorrow at 1 p.m. and I'll be in the Carousel for Talking Horses at 11:45 am to discuss an 11-race card that's set up for the possibility of late-day rain: Six of the first seven races are on the grass, and the last four are on the dirt, including Shackleford vs. 7 in the G1 Vanderbilt.