08/08/2014 10:59AM

Saratoga Day 19: 8/8/2014


12:00 pm: The Saratoga meeting hits its halfway point this weekend (already?) in the midst of what has become a slight lull in the meeting: Tomorrow is the only Saturday of the meeting without a Grade 1 anchor (the Diana, Whitney, Alabama, Travers and Woodward are the five other Saturday headliners)and the two-week gap between the Whitney and the Alabama is the longest stretch of the meeting without a Grade 1 race.

Instead, the third weekend has a flurry of Grade 2 events: today's $200k Hall of Fame stakes for grass 3-year-olds, tomorrow's $500k Fourstardave for older-male turf milers, and Sunday's two mid-meeting juvenile stakes, the $200k Saratoga Special and the $200k Aditrondack. It's a nice enough string of nice enough racing, just not quite as compelling as the other weekends at the meet.

The Hall of Fame is slated to go with a field of six following the scratch of main-track-only Matterhorn. Boby's Kitten is 7-5 to wire the field, but I'm also interested in Bashart and Give No Quarter.

Today is also another one of those so-called "15 percent Fridays," in the pick-6, but let's be clear what that actually means. The pick-6 takeout is 15 percent, not because it's Friday but because there's no carryover. The difference is that today's pick-6 pool is guaranteed at $100,000. Two Fridays ago, the actual pool was only $81,933, so NYRA had to make up the $18,067 shortfall. That made it a rare situation where the payout ($85,000 after the 15 percent takeout) exceeded the actual pool ($81,933).

1:45 pm: A $24.40 early double after second choice Bobby Jo ($5.90) took the opener, and the 2-year-old filly Lamontagne ($5.40) beat males in a dramatic 2nd.

Lamontagne, fourth-time Wesley Ward starter, got to the lead but was challenged around the turn by 9-1 Hennig firster Path Dependent. She shook him off and looked like a cinch with 100 yards to go, but then Path Dependent regrouped and made a final run at her, falling short by a bob of the nose. Potthast, Motion firster slammed 8-5 to 1-1 final flashes, was belatedly along for 3rd. Vision Perfect, Donk firster, scratched a few minutes to post while 6-1. In pick 4/5, you were moved to Potthast. 

2:55 pm: The 4th race looked more than a little like the 2nd, and not just because a 2-year-old by Congrats ended up in the winner's circle after a turf sprint for maidens. In the 2nd, Wesley Ward-trained filly Lamontagne edged 9-1 Hennig firster Path Dependent; this time, the experienced Ward horse, 8-5 ToBbe Determined, lost the photo, to 8-1 Maker firster Magnificent Margo.

One race earlier, Confrontation ran his career record to 5 for 7 with a runaway victory against a salty N3x field. The 4-year-old War Pass gelding, trained by Barclay Tagg, beat a field of stakes-placed veterans in 1:22.86 and looks ready for some stakes racing himself.

3:15 pm: Fifth time the charm for Chasing Paradise ($7.40), who went right to the front and was still there by a long neck at the wire, holding off 9-1 Motion firster Donatienne and 8-5 fave Bella Kateri. Chasing Paradise completed a $460.50 early pick-4 and a $2,866 pick-5.

Skepticism is recommended regarding the posted fractional times of 23.93, 50:38, 1:16.03 and 1:38.71, which translates to unlikely progressive quarters of 23.93, 26.45, 25.75 and a spritely 22.68.

3:50 pm: Here's the very spready late pick-4 play. If Bobby's Kitten and Murmure win the 9th and 10th, I probably can't get my money back but perhaps we can beat one or both:

4:50 pm: Mighty Reward won the 8th and was not the target of the long inquiry following it. The attention was on unplaced Rhubarb Lady, who was ruled a non-starter because her head was being held when the gates opened and she was quickly eased. She was properly declared a non-starter, and the scratch knocked Mighty Reward ($17.20) from 8-1 to 7-1. 

5:25 pm: Wallyanna, a former claimer who was three times the price of any of his opponents, rallied from last at the top of the stretch to score a huge upset victory in the G2 Hall of Fame Stakes. Favored Bobby's Kitten was second at even-money with second choice Give No Quarter third at 2-1.

Wallyanna was claimed four starts back by trainer Michael Pino from Dale Romans. He won the J.W. Murphy on the Preakness undercard but then was fourth in a race at Indiana Downs last time out and the son of Langfuhr appeared to be stepping way up in class today.

The upset apparently wiped out all pick-6 tickets, so there's a carryover to the Saturday card. Don't ask me how much: Once again on these freaky fifteen-percent Fridays, the posted pick-6 willpays look a little iffy. If there indeed are one-winner consos worth $29,490, then the carryover should be three times as much, or $88k. That would mean the pool easily cleared the $100k guarantee.

6:00 pm: Prove It All Night ($12.00) wired the field in the finale, where 6-5 Murmure was probably best -- breaking behind the field and then loooping almost all to finish second. The winner completed a $12,514 pick-4. Nobody picked 6, the consos were worth $1,814 apiece and there is indeed an $88,472 carryover to Saturday.