08/15/2012 12:04PM

Saratoga Day 23: 8/15/12


1:05 pm: Back on the horse for Day 23 of 40 at Saratoga, where it's fast and firm for a sprint-heavy 10-race card where half the races are at 5.5 furlongs and the featured $100k Troy Stakes is for some reason being run as the 5th.

It's not one of those 72-hour weather-forecast schedules, since the six grass races are spread throughout the card as the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 10th. Here on Long Island, we had thunderstorms all morning and while it's clear at Saratoga right now, there's a forecast for storms "developing" later this afternoon. No carryover in the pick-6 from Monday's slopfest, but you might want to recheck the weather before playing the late pick-4, which begins and ends on the grass. Just now, the remaining main-track-onlies were scratched from the 5th and 10th.

Turf course seems genuinely firm: First race, for $20k fillies, went in 21.53, 44.73, 56.69 and 1:02.92

Planning to drive back up tomorrow morning and stay through the Travers. My heartfelt thanks to all of you who wrote so many kind and consoling comments during my absence this past week.


1:20 pm: Raining in the paddock with 11 MTP for race 2.


1:45 pm: Pair of 10-1 shots -- Rough Winter ($23.60) and Billboard Hit ($22.00) combined for a $307 early double, but the one who caught my eye and fancy was the 13-1 shot who ran third in the 2nd, a 4-year-old first-time starter named Highland Dancer. Away slowly and dead last heading into the stretch turn of the one-mile grass race, Highland Dancer picked off rivals one by one, slipped inside rivals at the rail late, and was finishing well.

I had my eye on her because she was produced by Highland Penny, an admirable campaigner who won 15 of 66 career starts and $669,886 in six seasons of racing from 1987 through 1992, including the 1991 G3 Noble Damsel. Highland Penny won her racing debut 25 years and nine days ago, winning at 10-1 going 5f on the dirt for the trainer Leo Veitch and jockey Jean-Luc Samyn.


2:20 pm: Wild Target, 4-1 on the board with seven or eight minutes to post, belatedly crushed late to proper price and up at the wire on the rail to edge Pletcher/Repole Slash Five at $5.80.

MTO's now scratched from the 7th, so it looks like we're staying on the turf.


3:05 pm: Which sport is it with a doping problem? Pennant hopes of my beloved SF Giants just took a huge hit with the announcement that Melky Cabrera -- hitting .346, second best in majors, and last month's All-Star Game MVP -- has been suspended 50 games for testosterone use. There are 45 games left in the regular season.


3:25 pm: Bridgetown ($4.90), who had lost three straight turf sprints as a heavy favorite, defended his title in the Troy with a front-running vistory over Perfect Officer. Regally Ready, last year's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner, was a dull fifth with no apparent excuse.

Bridgetown,a 5-year-old Eugene Melnyk homebred by Speightstown, won last year's Troy by 6 3/4 widening lengths over yielding turf in 1:03.13. Today he held off Perfect officer by a diminishing half-length in 1:01.52 on firm turf. It was the eighth victory in 18 career starts for the Pletcher trainee.

Regally Ready, who was 6 for 9 last year, has now lost all five of his 2012 starts. He tracked the leaders from good position on the inside today but had nothing to offer in the stretch.


4:25 pm: Eden is Burning ($760) made it five straight winning favorites with a front-running score in the 7th. Double the Energy lacked her usual sharp start, rushed up belatedly to challenge the leader, but the early breather Eden is Burning caught left her with plenty to pull away around the turn. Nice Stuff made her usual late charge from far back to be second to the Gary Contessa-trained winner.


5:00 pm: Make that five straight winning favorites as parent's Honor($8.00) got up in the last jump to nail 10-1 Rein King. Tough beat for the runner-up and his backers -- semingly home and three in front after a half in 44.08 and 6f in 1:09.36, Rein King tired in the final sixteenth.


5:40 pm: Take Down Two at 7-1 broke the run of chalk in his first start since being claimed by owner Vincent Scuderi and trainer Bruce Levine -- the 16th time the 7-year-old gelding has been claimed in a 78-race career.

Take Down Two began racing 61 months ago, finishing sixth in a maiden race at Belmont won by future G1 winner Tale of Ekati. The son of Not For Love has been racing up and down the east coast from Boston to Tampa and everywhere in between ever since, and today's victory was his 14th.

Here are the willpays heading into the nightcap:

Despite the victories by favorites in the first four legs, only four of the nine in the finale are covered in the pick-6; otherwise, it looks like a $49k carryover to Thursday.


6:10 pm: Uncovered 19-1 shot Relentless Road tried to steal the finale, but a first quarter of 22.74 caught up with him late as 10-1 Mr Algebra, 16-1 Popplestone and even-money Lion Prince went by him late in that order. Mr Algebra completed a $5,234 pick-4 and a $49,308 pick-6.

Tomorrow's one of those 11-race cards that starts with two steeplechases, so the first flat race is not scheduled until 2:10 pm.