08/17/2013 11:29AM

Saratoga Day 26: August 17, 2013

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11:30 am: Sunny, fast and firm for Day 26, a 12-race endurance test that includes a pair of $600,00 Grade 1's, the Alabama for 3-year-old fillies and the Sword Dancer for older turf routers. One scratch from each so far: Tell a Great Story from the Alabama and Teaks North from the Sword Dancer. The two stakes will be telecast between 5 and 6 pm ET on the NBC Sports Network.

The rest of the card is a little short on quality, with two maiden-claimers and two conditioned claimers in the mix, but most of them are competitive gambling events that I'll be deconstructing on "Talking Horses" with Andy Serling in about 15 minutes. Here are my pre-scratch picks:

1) 4-3-10-8-6; 2) 1-9-8-4-3; 3) 5-9-6-3; 4) 8-6-4-2; 5) 9-11-1-10 6) 5-2-8-3-12; 7) 6-9-3-5-8; 8) 7-6-2-8-10; 9) 4-10-5-8; 10) 4-5-6-3; 11) 12-13-9-6-11; 12) 3-4-6-1-10.

1:20 pm: Ugly ending to opener as tired Heading to Toga broke down just after wire and rider Jose Espinoza was removed from the track on a stretcher. Fantastic Eyes ($10.40) was the winner, surviving a foul claim from Javier Castellano aboard runner-up Ideal Place.

The early pick-4 play:

 

1:45 pm: D. Wayne Lukas ended a 0-for-31 Saratoga drought sending out second-timer Strong Mandate to win the 2nd, the day's lone juvenile race, at $34.00. Tiznow-Clear Mandate colt showed little running 5th to Big Sugar Soda in his debut here, but fell on to a clear lead today. Tepidly-bet Asmussen firster Tapiture chased throughout to be second, with 2-1 Pletcher firster Rebraned off last and up late for third. Crescent, 2-1 favorite off closing third to Corfu in debut, trailed.

2:00 pm: Ripoff alert: Don't run out of cigarettes at the track here.

They're sold at only one location -- a t-shirt stand on the ground floor of the grandstand -- and they cost an outrageous $16 a pack.

Race 3 went to G W's Hammer ($11.60), first winner of the meet for John Hertler, holding off a late surge by 8-5 fave Ocala Jim.

 

2:40 pm: Midnight Taboo, 12th in the Belmont stakes two starts back and 4th at even-money last time out,redeemed himself a bit by outfinishing uncoupled fellow Pletcher trainee Golden Lad to win the 4th. Nice pick-4's if you're alive:

 

3:50 pm: Sandy'z Slew wired the 6th at $31,00, keying a $20k super as 41-1 Ludo Bagman was fourth behind the winner, 6-1 River Tune and 9-1 Lord of Love. Iron Power missed the break as the favorite.

Joe Rocco Jr. off his mounts for the rest of the day with back pain. Cornelio Velasquez now rides Al Khali in Sword Dancer, Javier Castellano picks up Tiu in 11th, Shaun Bridgmohan on King Wando in 12th.

Coincidentally, I too have left the track with back pain and will be doing the second half of the card from the house off the tv. Put in a little just-in-case caveman pick-6 play on my way out: 5,6,8,9/2,6/4,5,10/4/12/1,3,4,6,10 = $240.

4:40 pm: Ampersand looked like he had the 8th race won when he got through at the rail in deep stretch, but along came a pair of 23-1 shots to nail him at the wire, with Sandyinthesun nosing out Lure of the South to give former rider Robbie Davis his first winner of the year as a trainer after an 0-for-27 start.

6:00 pm: A championship-level performance from Princess of Sylmar in the Alabama.

With any luck, I'll be back tomorrow for "Talking Horses" at 11:45 and around here for the rest of the afternoon. The Sunday feature is the G2 Lake Placid (race 8 of 11), where seven 3-year-old fillies are slated to go 9f on the inner turf.