08/05/2012 11:54AM

Saratoga Day 15: 8/5/12



12:50 pm: It's summer-squalling at Saratoga, where the sun was out 10 minutes ago but the main track is quickly turning muddy. With races 1,2,3,5,6 and 7 scheduled to be run on the grass, keep an eye out for possible surface switches before putting in any advance bets.

When the card was drawn three days ago, rain was not expected until late afternoon, which is why 6 of the day's first 7 races were carded for grass with the last four on dirt.

A wet track clouds the prospects of Shackleford, the 6-5 favorite in today's featured G1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap. While six furlongs is the shortest he's ever run and probably not the best distance for a Met Mile and Preakness winner with high cruising speed, he is the class of the field by a wide margin. His two off-track efforts, however, while far from definitive, suggest that wet footing may not be his favorite. He faltered in the Belmont Stakes last year, tiring to finish 5th in the slop, and backed up to 7th in the Donn Handicap on a "good" track early this year. One could argue, however, that his undoings in those two spots had other causes -- the 12 furlongs of the Belmont may have been beyond his scope, and in the Donn he contested the pace off a three-month layoff.


1:15 pm: The toteboard still says Fast and Firm, but the rain is pounding down.

The opener went to Phipps/McGaughey Trophy Wife ($8.30), who relighed the added distance of the 9.5f turf race in her second grass start. The 3-year-old is a daughter of Giants Causeway and Pleasant Home, the 2005 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner.

The search for a perfect lobster roll led me to the Putnam Street Market booth at the "Taste of Saratoga" quartet of local eateries in the backyard. Well, actually it was the sudden rain that led me to take shelter there, and as long as I was there I figured I'd try one, despite the pricey $16.00 tag.

The good news is that unlike the lobster roll at the Lobster Hut in the carousel I sampled last week, this one is all lobster meat, not a few chunks sticking out of a generic seafood salad. The bad news is that that's all it is -- chunks of lobster, devoid of any sauce or dressing, on an untoasted hot-dog bun. Good lobster, completely uninteresting sandwich. nd $16 still seems like a lot -- for that you can buy yourself a 2x2x2x4 pick-4 partwheel at 50 cents a throw.

Turf course downgraded to "good."



1:40 pm: Here's how much rain the turf course took between the first and second races: Both races were run in 1:55 and change. The first was at a mile and three-sixteenths. The second was at a mile and an eighth.

The second went to Lelaps ($10.60), a recent Team Valor purchase who made his last start running 5th in the $17,100 YPO Pennine Best of Britain Handicap Stakes at Haydock. Today he was an easy winner in an $85,000 Maiden Special Weight at Saratoga.


1:42 pm: Races 3,5,6 and 7 have been taken off the rain-soaked grass. Scratches galore ahead, and the early pick-4 will pay to "all" in races 3 and 5.


2:15 pm: Race 3, moved to sloppy main track, was a complete mess. Rockin Boogie, 4-5 favorite in scratched-down field of 5, unseated Ramon Dominguez (he's fine) right after the start, then veered out and carried Loud Pipes several paths. Loud Pipes somehow recovered and made the lead, but Hushion firster Our Mister ($8.40) came through at the inside to beat him. Long stewards' inquiry involving whether Our Mister bothered Rockin Boogie at the start, but no change made to the order of finish as it appeared Dominquez was coming off Rockin Boogie before the brush from Our Mister.

Remember, every horse you used in this race counts as a winner in the early pick-4. 

Sun's back out but meteorological haruspices say there will be more rain later on.


2:45 pm: if you needed Resonating ($3.70) to beat 9-1 Crespano, you are not allowed to compalin when you lose a head-bobber. Crespano was in front before the wire and after the wire while Resonating was in front for only an instant on the bob -- but it was the instant that counted.

And now the weirdest-looking willpays you've seen in a while:


3:45 pm: Chart of the off-the-turf 5th, with just five of the maiden statebreds going to the post, pretty weird-looking too: Junoon won by 11 over Rt. Sixty Seven, with another 7 1/4 lengths to Corinthian's Lark in 3rd, then 27 1/4 to Grace's Neh Neh in fourth. if you're adding it up at home, that's 45 1/2 lengths from 1st to 4th after nine furlongs in 1:57.09.

It's 2-for-1 lunch-review day. Skipped breakfast and that skimpy lobster roll didn't quite fill the hole, so for Lunch #2 I tried the Crab Salad Sliders at the Siro's booth at Taste of Saratoga. For $8, I got two White Castle-sized little crab salad sandwiches and they were pretty tasty at $2 a bite. But don't get near the cole slaw without a Hazmat suit -- nasty, briney stuff.


4:40 pm: No more off-the-turfers. Playing the late pick-4, all dirt races originally scheduled for dirt:


5:05 pm: As discussed this morning on Talking Horses, there was a great hate-a-favorite opportunity in the first leg of this late pick-4: Ascended Fever was going to be the public choice off two second-place finishes at this level in two career starts, but both efforts earned minuscule BSF's of 34, which are not going to win any races at Saratoga, even for statebred 2-year-old fillies. All five firsters would have had to be terrible for her to win. Fortunately, Gee Linz ($13.20) wasn't, and Ascended Fever was a well-beaten 3rd at 5-2. 


5:30 pm: would have preferred for Calun Breeze to hold on at 3-1, but nice to see Thermal cat ($6.20) get back to the winner's circle.

Thermal Cay scored a spectacular debut victory at Hawthorne April 11, attracting national attention after earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 102 in an 8 1/2-length victory. He returned on Derby Day in a CD allowance race, running second to Macho Macho (winner of yesterday's $750k West Virginia Derby), but then floundered in another Churchill allowance three weeks later, running 4th at odds of 3-to-10.

Today a change of tactics from his previous pace-pressing style worked out well. Joel Rosario reserved him off the pace and the colt came flying late to nail Cajun Breeze on the wire. Wouldn't be shocked to see him in the G1 King's Bishop next time out. Thermal Cat, a Tale of the Cat colt bred and owned by Coffee Pot Stable, is trained by Wayne Catalano.


5:45 pm: Update: The $16 lobster roll may be even more overpriced than initially thought if this recent item from the Christian Science Monitor is true: "A glut has driven down lobster prices in Maine — bringing cheer to lobster-loving consumers at the start of the state's tourist season but gloom among lobstermen. Retailers have been selling small soft-shell lobsters in the Portland area for an unusually low $3.79 to $4.99 a pound. At those prices, lobsters have been selling for less than the per-pound price of bologna at many supermarket deli counters."

So how much would they charge for a bologna roll?


6:05 pm: Carryover! No live tickets into the finale after Poseidon's Warrior ($74.50) edged 6-1 Justin Phillip and 2-1 Emcee to win the G1 Vanderbilt in a scrambling finish.

Shackleford finished dead last as the 6-5 favorite. He was off a beat slowly but had good position tracking the leaders from fourth at the rail down the backstretch. He didn't respond thereafter and fell back through the field but appeared to pull up okay.

Poseidon's Warrior, a 4-year-old Speightstown colt trained by Robert Reid, has now won 7 of 17 career starts. He had won four minor stakes before today -- at Parx, Penn National, Delaware and Monmouth -- but finished a distant 6th in the King's Bishop last year in his only previous graded-stakes appearance. 

Here are the willpays. The horses with double asterisks will complete 4-of-6 consos while the single asterisks denote 5-of-6 consos:


6:40 pm: Second of the day for Catalano as American Legend ($20.80) followed up a $30k maiden-claiming debut victory with a score against $20k restricted claimers. Smart Strike colt was a $290k yearling purchase in 2009 and did not make it to the races until six weeks ago.

The carryover to tomorrow is $72,383. Planning to drive downstate in the morning but will be settled in at the Hempstead bureau by the time the sequence starts with the 5th at 3:12 pm. Three of the six races are maiden claimers, and the featured 8th race is the $100k Waya at 12 furlongs for older turf fillies.