08/18/2012 12:12PM

Saratoga Day 26: 8/18/12


1:10 pm: Pleasant, postcardy conditions for day 26: fast, firm, temperatures in the low 70's for an 11-race card featuring the G1 Alabama and G1 Sword Dancer.

I have no imaginative ideas in the Alabama, where Grace Hall and Questing come off overwhelming victories in the Delaware and CCA Oaks that have stamped them the clear favorites.

There's a similarly obvious pair of deserving chalks in the Sword Dancer in Man o'War winner Point of Entry and United Nations winner Turbo Compressor, but I'm going to try to upset them at a price with Newsdad, 12-1 on the ML. Newsdad was the top 12-furlong turf horse in Florida over the winter and while his last two starts were well below that standard, it's possible that he needed the break he got between them and is now poised to rebound in his second start off a freshening.

Cybertron ($27.80) won the opener on what looks like a pretty quick track: 1:09.14 for an N2L claimer whose best prior BSF was a 66.


2:15 pm: Third race was for bottom-level statebred maiden claimers, a weak race for a Thursday in February and one that should never be run on a Saturday at Saratoga. You know it's an iffy affair when a Karakorum entry is 9-5 co-favorite with a minute to post. Fortunately for those reduced to taking such a price on such a proposition, half the entry was scratched at the gate and the entrymate "ran" for purse money only, well behind 4-1 Raffie's Factor.

Just because you have enough maidens on the grounds to run 11 races a day on Thursdays and Saturdays doesn't mean you have to.


2:40 pm: Violence ($3.60), $600k Medaglia d'Oro yearling debuting for Pletcher, took the length of the stretch to get by 5-1 Lukas third-timer Titletown Five in 1:22.91 for 7f. Orb, Janney/McGaughey firster dismissed at 29-1, off slowly and finished well for third, but top pair did all the dirty work up front. 


3:45 pm: Sixth race first of meet to accomodate 14 horses on widened Mellon Turf Course. Seemed a recipe for chaos among $20k N2L's but it couldn't have been chalkier, with 2-1 fave Colonel Bill scoring over 5-1 co-second choices Hard Rocker and Kathy's Kitten. still, big field created $156 tri for three favorites.

Colonel Bill first winner at the meet for Jamie Ness, who had been 286 for 777 (35%) elsewhere this year but 0 for 7 at Saratoga.


4:20 pm: Good finish in the 7th, a three-way bobber that ended with Shrewd One ($7.40) edging 5-2 Hello Lover and 5-1 Good Morning Diva.

Here's the late pick-4 play:


4:30 pm: Was going to play some Arlington Million Day multi-race bets, like a pick-3 of the Secretariat-Beverly D-Arlington Million or a pick-4 of those three and something else, but neither wager exists. Whoever arranges the cards at Arlington thought it would be better to put the second division of the $65k Hatoof Stakes between the Secretariat and Beverly D, and to make the late pick-4 include a $7500 N2L claimer.


4:50 pm: Let me put this as politely as possible: I am not entirely sure why it was absolutely necessary for Alan Garcia to go 21.46 and 43.84 aboard 6-1 Marquet Cat in the early stages of race 8, but I do not think it is completely unreasonable to theorize that this might possibly have contributed to his getting caught at the wire in the very final jump by 5-2 Strong Impact.


5:30 pm: Point of Entry ($4.80) stamped himself the nation's top long-distance turf horse with a very impressive four-length victory over Al Khali in the G1 $600k Sword Dancer.

It was the fourth straight victory for the 4-year-old Phipps homebred, a son of Dynaformer and Matlacha Pass trained by Shug McGaughey. He is unbeaten in five grass starts at over 10 furlongs, and appears headed for the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Point of Entry is a half-brother to Pine Island, who won the Alabama here as a 3-year-old filly in 2006 before a fatal breakdown in the Breeders' Cup Distaff that fall.


6:00 pm: Questing went to the front and never looked back in the Alabama, widening her lead at virtually every call and stamping herself the nation's top 3-year-old filly with a nine-length runaway. It was a brilliant disaply of speed, as she set fractions of 22.84, 46.01, 1:09.74 and 1:35.06 en route to a final time of 2:01.29 over a quick surface.

Nobody did much running behind her, especially Grace Hall, who was well-placed in second but suddenly fell back around the stretch turn and was not asked through the stretch. In Lingerie was the distannt runner-up, with Via Villaggio third and Zo Impressive fourth. Zo Impressive was pulled up on the clubhouse turn and vanned off after the race, reportedly with a right front ankle injury.

Questing, a mediocre performer on grass in five of her first six career starts, was going to be retired if she didn't wake up on dirt when tried there June 24 at Belmont. She responded with a very fast alllowance victory, then won the CCA Oaks here July 21 before her lengthy score today.

Questing, a Godolphin/Darley homebred is by Hard Spun and, like Point of Entry, was produced by a Seeking the Gold mare. Questing is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin.

Your willpays into the finale:

6:30 pm: Ladywell Court ($6.50) rallied to run down Love Stanza Chance to complete a chalky afternoon, a $300.50 pick-4 and a $928 pick-6. I'll be back in the Carousel tomorrow for Talking Horses at 11:45 a.m. to discuss a maiden- and starter-allowance-heavy 10-race card with the featured G2 Lake Placid carded as the 8th.