08/16/2014 11:03AM

Saratoga Day 26: 8/16/14


12:05 pm: Happy Alabama/Arlington Million Day. Saratoga has two graded stakes on the Saturday program: The G2 Lake Placid, which has scratched down to a field of four 3-year-old fillies, and the G1 Alabama, where CCA Oaks winner Stopchargingmaria looms a heavy favorite in a tepid field.

Meanwhile, Arlington presents its only three Grade 1 races of the year today, all on a turf course listed as firm: the $500k Secretariat for 3-year-olds (at 5:15 Eastern time), the $750k Beverly D for older fillies (5:54 ET), and the $1 million Arlington Million for older males (6:36 ET). The Beverly D is scheduled to go off one minute before the Alabama (5:55 pm).

Don't get too caught up in jockey changes on a bunch of runners on the Saratoga card: Six Saratoga-based jockeys (Albarado, Castellano, Leparoux, Prado, Rosario, Saez) are instead riding at Arlington today.

1:10 pm: Indian Nobility ($23.00) only runner above 7-2 in five-horse field, ran down 9-5 fave Ghareeb to win the opener.  

Do you find this image soothing?

So do I. I changed my desktop wallpaper to this one on Opening Day and it occasionally makes me think I'm staring out the pressbox window. You can download it at http://www.nyra.com/saratoga/wallpapers/ .

2:15 pm: Crown Queen, half-sister to Royal Delta for same Mott/Besilu connections, made a winning stakes but with a late surge to win the G2 Lake Placid. Rank outsider Duff One held second after setting slow fractions, with Excellence third and Minorette last throughout.

The winning 3-year-old Smart-Strike-Delta Princess filly fell back from 2nd to third midstretch as Excellence moved inside Duff One and looked ready to roll. Excellence progressed no farther, though, in her second straight disappolinting U.S. start after running with top ones in Euirope.

Crown Queen, third in both her starts at 2, has now won three straight this year.

3:00 pm: Can't Happen Here, 4-1 Klaravich/Chad Brown firster by Desert Party, overcame a slow start to win the 4th, a turf route for 2-year-old maidens. Race followed by a long inquiry/objection involving second finisher, 28-1 Vision perfect and third-place 5-1 Syntax. Stewards reversed their finishes, placing Syntax second.

Here are the early willpays:

3:40 pm: Grand Strand, 9-1 at the time, scratched at the gate after rearing up. Race went to 6-1 Catholic Cowboy, who slipped through on the rail at the top of the stretch and scored by three over Pletcher barnmates 7-5 Bay of Biscay and slow-starting 8-5 Matterhorn.

4:15 pm: In the 6th, a 6.5f maiden 2-year-old race, three of the 10 had started once and seven were first-time starters. The three with experience ran 1-2-3. 5-2 Bold Conquest and 7-2 Money Changer. second and third to Blame Jim here July 19, ran 1-2 this time. Zennor, Godolphin/McLaughlin firster hammered to 3-2, bid as far as 3rd on the turn but then flattened out and ran 5th.

4:45 pm: Submitted for your consideration, the late pick-4 play:

5:25 pm: I guess it pays to use every single first-time-Michelle Nevin runner, and even more so after today's 8th race:

13-1 Dream Saturday, beaten in 4 of 5 Florida efforts with 4-for-44 trainer Agustin Bezara, switched trainers today and ran down 5-1 Waco to win the 8th. Waco's trainer, H. James Bond, claimed foul on Waco's behalf against the winner, but the stewards let it stand.

5:55 pm: Bond made it into the winner's cricle in the 9th with Orino ($7.10).

Stopchargingmaria opened 4-5 for the Alabama; I don't know why she was 2-1 instead of 1-1 on the morning line. Unbridled Forever is next at 6-1 with Size 7-1 and Got Lucky 9-1.

6:30 pm: Stopchargingmaria became the first two-time stakes-winner at the meeting with a stubborn victory over longshots Joint Return and Miss Besilu in the G1 Alabama. Stopchargingmaria, arguably an overlay at even money, ran the mile and a quarter in 2:05.14 in a slow-paced race where the first six furlongs went in 1:15.18.

Todd Pletcher trains the 3-year-old Tale of the Cat filly for Mike Repole. The Alabama was her fifth graded stakes victory and her second Grade  1, following a five-length score in the CCA Oaks here July 20.

Six of the 10 inthe nightcap are covered in the pick-6 at payoffs ranging from $14k to $86k:

7:05 pm: Smooth Daddy ($21.20) led from start to finish, then survived an inquiry for coming in on 11-1Woodfield Springs to win the finale and complete a $3,765 pick-4 and a $43,041 pick-6.

Another 11-race card Sunday including the G1 Sword Dancer and the Alydar Stakes, where Alpha makes his first start since February.