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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.
Not since Love Sign in 1980 has a filly run a mile and a quarter in the Alabama this fast. Yeah, the last quarter she was slowing down considerably, but show me a filly - or colt for that matter - who wouldn't be slowing down after early splits that rapid.
To all the complainers of claiming races that is the heart and soul of racing.They are always the best betting races on the card.As for maiden races they have to start somewhere.I always try to pick a winner in an exacta with a few longshots underneath.
A somewhat unrelated comment that underscores how arbitrary Beyer Speed Figures are at times... Six turf races yesterday, four dirt sprints and The Alabama. In which Questing goes faster than not only the last 20 or so Alabama winners, but the last 19 Travers winners as well. What kind of a number can possibly be put on a performance like hers? We might not ever see another mile and a quarter at Saratoga that impressive.
Steve I think arlington was trying to generate action for their pic5 which had a low takeout and was actually manageable for the small player. I thought it was a fun bet. How often do you get to play nothing but turf routes? And the 3200-1 payoff was quite generous.
Steve, totally agree with you about the Arlington debacle (def-ludicrous failure!) of arranging their races each and every year on Million Day. They were only able to muster $271k for the late pick 4 pool on a day that should be triple that amount - like SAR on a Sunday. I think they have only got it right once in the past decade. The only good thing about AP anymore is listening to Dooley call the races. Kudos to Ramon for putting everyone to sleep and swiping the Million on the lead. At least i had the P4 at SAR with all the A's, thank you for all of your great literature.
Just one question Steve because i've seen it before also, the pick-4 payoff was $302, how does it pay $300.50. They post exact payoffs not probable ones.
Steve: I believe Arlington did what they did on the schedule on two accounts: 1. They did not want to run four consecutive races over the "Million Lane" on their turf course (which was split into two as it often is), which was quite understandable as they did get considerable rain on Thursday morning and that could have been worse. 2. They probably did not want to run any of their major stakes during the NBC Sports Network window for the Saratoga races and didn't want to have an hour-plus gap between the Secretariat and Beverly D with no races in between just to have a pick four. I believe NBC could not have televised the six stakes (the four at Arlington plus the two at Saratoga) because of a contractual commitment with the USGA to air the US Amateur Championships (which I believe they are required to as part of their deal to air the US Open in June), and with the Olympics could not have had that take place earlier (the USGA also having to avoid a conflict with the PGA Championship and other major events for the US Amateur). It is something NYRA and Churchill Downs (parent company of Arlington) need to work on in the future where if we are going to have such a conflict, it needs to be made sure all of the stakes are televised.
The nature of the game and quality of horseflesh being what it is today I have become accustomed to more claiming races and a cheaper variety of such, even at Saratoga. However, this business of sticking NYSB Maiden Claimers into a Saturday card at Saratoga is absolutely pushing it past the point of reasonableness. It's been going on for a few years now and detracts from the quality of the racing program in a totally unnecessary way. Needs to stop. One a more pleasant note, thanks for taking a moment out of your busy day to sign my copy of "Off Track". It was greatly appreciated Steve.
The general consensus is that Point of Entry is the best distance turf horse in the country. And from a visual standpoint, I can't disagree. Point of Entry clearly proved in the Sword Dancer that he doesn't need a slow and uncontested pace to still fly through the lane. What was particularly impressive about his performance today was how he allowed himself to be rated in the garden spot under cover while conserving energy for his typically explosive late turn of foot. However, from a class perspective Point of Entry still has much to prove. Not to be entirely disrespectful, but the Sword Dancer is a faux grade 1. The fact that the Sword Dancer is a grade 1 even though it traditionally draws the lesser horses from the same pool as the Arlington Million is something that continues to surprise me. I keep waiting for it to be downgraded, but instead it's the Hopeful that loses its grade 1 status. Anyways, I think it telling that Al Khali ran 2nd in the Sword Dancer. Al Khali is many things, including a nice horse, but an elite grade 1 runner he is not. Point of Entry should be considered the North American favorite for the BC Turf, especially with Acclamation's health in question. However, I guess I'm old fashioned in that if the champ is still running and winning, I lean towards giving the champ top status. It might be Point of Entry's time now, but he is still 4 grade 1s and 6 total graded stakes short of Acclamation for a career. Hopefully, a Euro or two comes over for the Hirsch to give us a better idea of how Point of Entry might stack up with the type of runner that could come over for the BC. As for Questing, she most definitely had every right to get tired that last quarter given the work she put in earlier in the Alabama. However, while it didn't matter in this race, I am still concerned about how severely she weaves and balks in the stretch. Personally, Questing's antics should have opened the door for someone else to mount a late charge and tag her on the wire, but no one in that Aalabama besides Questing was doing any running down the lane. The race confirmed my belief that the 3 year old fillies running in the Acorn,Mother Goose, and behind Questing in the CCA Oaks are a moderate lot. And there's not much in the maintrack 3 year old filly ranks in California. Maybe Questing is developing into a freak, but my initial impression is that if she pulls those antics against a horse like Royal Delta, she'll either lose or get dq'd. With the upset in the Beverly D, is there any chance Lady of Shamrock has put herself right near the top for the Female Turf Eclipse with her win in the gr.1 Del Mar Oaks? If she can beat elders in the Yellow Ribbon(or whatever it's called), that would be 3 grade 1s on the year and 5 stakes. And congrats to the connections of Little Mike. They've shown great sportsmanship running the horse out in California in the grade 1 Shoemaker Mile and then stretching the horse out to 10 furlongs for North America's most prestigious non-BC turf race, the Arlington Million. In the Shoemaker, the other riders rode to make sure Little Mike did not have an easy lead, and after going 1:09 and change Little Mike did, in fact, tire to be 3rd. However, in the Million, the other riders rode as if they believed Little Mike had zero shot of getting the distance. This time able to go 1:15, Little Mike was able to give the field the slip at the top of the stretch and place himself right near the top of the Turf Male Eclipse debate.
Godolphin is probably salivating to retire Questing for a meeting with Bernardini..