08/15/2013 12:56PM

Saratoga Day 24: August 15, 2013

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12:55 pm: Yet another beautiful 70-degree/fast/firm afternoon at the Spa for an 11-race Day 24 that includes eight grass races, two of them 19-furlong steeplechases that begin the card.

The feature is the $150k West Point for statebreds going 8.5f on the inner turf, in which Kharafa and defending champ Lubash appear to twoer over seven rivals. They finished second and third in that order behind King Kreesa in the Kingston at Belmont June 1, the same King Kreesa who was beaten just 1 1/4 lengths by Wise Dan last Saturday in the G2 Fourstardave.

Reminder: With two up-and-overs starting the card, the early pick-4 is on races 3-through-6 rather than the usual 2-through-5.

 

1:25 pm: Opener went to Apse, 4-year-old gelding by Arch from an Alysheba mare, who was 0-for-8 on the flats for trainer Mark Hennig but now 2 for 5 as a jumper for Sean Clancy's Riverdee Stable and trainer Richard Valentine. Apse made his debut at Saratoga two years and two days ago, finishing fourth in a juvenile maiden turf race won by behind Tiz Sardonic Joe. Bonus: What future Grade 1 winner was second in that race? (Answer below.)

The most entertaining part of the race, at least on a replay once you knew no one got hurt, was the performance of Total Command. The British import, a former Juddmonte runner who ran in the 2010 St. Leger, lost his rider early in the race, but cleared the next two hurdles on his own, jumping in company near the back of the pack. He then surged to the lead, and once out front alone, decided it was easier to go around the remaining jumps instead of over them. Smart horse.

 

Bonus answer: The runner-up in that Aug. 13, 2011 maiden race was Dullahan, third in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and winner of the 2012 G1 Pacific Classic.

1:55 pm: Second jump race, the $75k M.G. Walsh Novice stakes, went to Barnstorming, 7-year-old Thunder Gulch gelding owned and trained by Jonathan Sheppard. final time of 4:38.54 exactly four full seconds (24 lengths) slower than the nonwinners-of-two opener, reminding me why we don't make or publish speed figures for steeplechase races.

3:20 pm: Successful theft of Race 5 by Jose Lezcanoo, who sent Mr. Starr's Report to the front, sedated the opposition through pokey fractions of 25.34, 50.27 and 1:14.93, and had plenty left to hold off the too-late rallies of Mr. Algebra and 6-5 Flowing Mane. Early pick-4 combining Asmussen second-timer Aaron's Orient ($11.60, fourth to Corfu in his debut) in the 3rd, Chad Brown turf-to-dirt All That ($10.60) in the 4th and Mr. Starr's Report ($20.80)in the 5th offering the following willpays:

4:20 pm: Here's the late pick-4 play:

Good finishes in the 6th and 7th. In the 6th, 7-70-10 fave Much Stronger was under a hold behind a wall of horses turning for home and Durkin said it nicely: "Javier Castellano's sitting on a keg of dynamite, but when's he going to light it?" Then a hole opened and Much Stronger went through but the dynamite was a little wet and he barely outfinished Two T's at Two B to prevail.

In the 7th, the public overrated the distant third- and fourth-place debut finishes of Hangingwithsonny and Flying K C in the slow Irish Sweepstakes race opening day, sending them off as the respective 5-2 and 7-2 favorites. The firsters proved much stronger, with Weaver/Hills 6-1 Hot Squeeze outfinishing 4-1 Rice firster May Shares.

5:20 pm: Kind of a weird West Point, as the two stickout favorites ended up in bad places -- Kharafa on an early lead, where he's never been before, and Lubash bottled up at the rail behind a tiring Kharafa. In-the-clear closers Hangover Kid ($13.80) and 13-1 Hear the Footsteps swept by them to run 1-2, with Kharafa third and Lubash fourth.

In the 9th, Slumber returned from a year and two weeks on the sidelines to win at 9.5f, just as he did off a nine-month layoff here a year ago. The 5-year-old Cacique horse, a Juddmonte homebred trained by Bill Mott, was second or third in four G2 or G3 races in England two years ago and looks ready for graded-stakes company here.

Slumber paid $6 as the co-favorite with Teaks North, who was a flat 6th and claimed for $100k by trainer Eric Guillot. Wonder if that's the first time the runner-up in a G1 stakes (Teaks North ran 2nd in the United Nations July 6, behind Big Blue Kitten with Hangover Kid third) has been claimed in his next start? You can scratch him from Saturday's Sword dancer, for which he was cross-entered by his old connections, who were actually considering running him twice in three days.

 

5:55 pm: Farhaan, Shadwell homebred by Jazil, won a tight bob-job over Tapit Express to take the 10th in his American debut and set up the following late willpays. Five of the 9 in maiden-claimer turf-sprint finale are covered in the Pick-6:

6:30 pm: Show Some Lovin, Trombetta dropdown, dominated field in finale to complete $1,039 pick-4 and $32,377 pick-6 (two winners.) If this were the old days, today would have been Day 24 and that's all she wrote for Saratoga 2013. Instead we get 16 more days, starting at 1 p.m. tomorrow with a 10-race card that includes the $150k Yaddo for statebred turf fillies (Dayatthespa is 2-to-5 on the morning line) in race 3 and the $100k Saratoga Sunrise for statebred males on the dirt in race 9. All that and a couple of overdue restaurant reviews to boot, right here.