07/20/2014 12:11PM

Saratoga Day 3: 7/20/2014

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12:05 pm: Oh how the mighty Coaching Club American Oaks has fallen. Once considered the fourth American “classic” along with the Triple Crown, it has been moved from Belmont to Saratoga, scaled from 10 or 12 furlongs to just 9. It has become at best the fourth most important race in the division behind the Kentucky Oaks, Alabama and Mother Goose.

Today's edition is unusually weak. Stopchargingmaria is the only graded stakes-winner in the field. Unbridled Forever has at least been facing the division's best. The rest need to improve quickly. (The picture to the right is not my snarky way of saying they're dogs. A few of you asked after the hounds and as you can see, Donnie (l.) and Junior are just fine.)

The Day 3 card has a little bit of everything -- four grass routes, three dirt routes, two grass sprints, and two dirt sprints. The CCA Oaks goes as the 10th of 11 races, and is the penultimate leg of a pick-6 with a $66,042.23 carryover from yesterday. I'm planning to play. The sequence is scheduled to start at 3:44 pm with the 6th race.

There's a two-hour telecast of the CCA Oaks and the G1 Eddie Read at Del Mar on Fox Sports 1, beginning at 5:30 pm ET.

1:40 pm: Second choices took the early double as Chad Brown firster Tax Package ($9.50), a $170k yearling purchase by Pioneerof the Nile, won the opener for statebred juveniles, and Penn National shipper Tizmas ($8.20) took the 2nd as 6-5 fave Groomedforvictory faded to 5th.

The time of the 2nd, for $20k open older-male claimers, was 1:50.72. It was the first of three 9f dirt routes on the card, which will make gauging the quality of the last of them -- the CCA oaks -- a little easier. Frequently the stakes race is the onyl dirt route on a Saratoga card. 

2:15 pm: Scampering ($5.80) and 5-2 Gathering, 4th and 5th in that order in the G2 New York Handicap last out, dropped to N3x company today and ran 1-2 in that order with no one on the order of Riposte, Tannery and Viva Rafaela to beat today. Scampering was the first winner at the meet for trainer Shug McGaughey.

2:45 pm: The Ortizes clearly did not discuss race strategy before the 4th, as Irad on 8-5 Glickman and Jose on 5-1 Carolinian went at it like mortal enemies early, depleting each other through wicked fractions of 22.00 and 44.90. They were done by the furlong pole and along came In the Dark to swallow them both. Denzel, slammed 5-to-2 to 6-5 final two flashes, got going too late -- as usual, which is why he now sports a 19: 2-8-1 record -- and just nailed the speed for 2nd.

3:20 pm: Spring to the Sky sprung right to the front and led 7-1 Great Attack and 7-2 Strong Impact on a futile chase around the track to win the $100k Lucky Coin Stakes in the 5th. The 5-year-old by Langfuhr, owned by Anthony McCarthy and trained by Bruce Brown, ran the 5.5f on the Mellon in 1:01.66.

He now has two career stakes victories, one more than the horse for which the race is named. Lucky Coin, a foal of 1993, is an especially odd honoree for a turf-sprint stakes since he never raced at less than a mile in his nine career turf starts. He won 7 of those 9 grass starts including the 1997 G2 Kelso, his lone stakes. Owned by Eddie Kelly Sr. and trained by Richard Nieminski, the Chas Conerly gelding also was 4th in that year's Breeders' Cup Mile.

Time to make the tickets:

My strategy is somehow to snake my way through the first three legs and I'll take my chances with a 2x2x2 (or 2x2x3) in the second half of it. I could have used a bunch more C's in the 6th, 9th and 11th, but they get expensive at $96 apiece in a play with no singletons on the A line. So here's hoping.

3:55 pm: Treasury Devil, third choice at 7-2, closed strongly in the stretch to reel in 3-1 Lay It Down in the opening leg of the pick-6. The winner was in the paddock getting shoe repairs during the post parade and only made it onto the track with three minutes to post.

4:30 pm: Even a broken clock is right twice a day: I am a rotten turf-sprint handicapper, but somehow managed to get my three A's to run 1-2-3 the best way, as 7-1 Indian Rain Dance beat 5-1 T Sizzle and 5-2 Eighty Three (tri paid $463; did not play it.).

SInce I posted my tickets in advance you know I'm not redboarding when I say I have no idea how Eternal Bull (who I used only as a C on an "all" backup) was the 5-2 favorite. He coughed up a clear lead against a weaker field last time and the BSF of 65 he earned was not going to be good enough to beat Indian Rain Dance (77) or T Sizzle (74).

If the #5,#6,#7 or #8 wins the upcoming 8th, I'll be alive 2x2x3. If the 1 or 2 wins, I'll be 2x2x2. If the 3 or 4 wins, I'm out.

5:05 pm: Beautyinthepulpit ($15.80) rallied from far back to catch 17-1 Saturday Appeal and 14-1 Goodtolook (the only two horses I didn't use) to win the 8th and keep hope alive. So I got my wish with some prices early and now I'll just root for that chalky 2x2x3 to bring it home. The pick-3 of $9.10, $17.60 and $15.80 winners came back $1,246.

5:45 pm: Crown Queen ($6.50), a half-sister to multiple champion Royal Delta, looked like something special winning the 9th for Besilu/Mott/Rosario.

The 3-year-old by Smart Strike relaxed early, shot past five rivals heading into the far turn, and then further sprinted away from the field in upper stretch to score by four lengths over Kitten's Queen and Fizzy Pink. Crown Queen stopped the timer in 1:52.19, not far off Phi Beta Doc's 1999 course record of 1:51.61.

6:00 pm: Courageous Julie, longest shot in the CCA Oaks, was sent back to the paddock for shoe repairs, was reluctant to be reshod, and will now race for Purse Money Only. The thinking is that you can't force the connections to scratch her (they still want to run) and it's not fair to the bettors to stick them with a horse having equipment trouble. I know a lot of people hate the rule, but one could argue it's the fairest solution to a situation such as this.

6:15 pm: Stopchargingmaria ($4.40), the lone graded-stakes winner in the G1 CCA Oaks field, simply outlassed and outran her five opponents to score a dominant four-length victory over 8-5 second choice Unbridled Forever. The early leader, Miss Besilu, was a distant third.

Stopchargingmaria, a 3-year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat owned by Mike Repole and trained by Todd Pletcher, ran the nine furlongs in 1 respectable 1:49.80. Two other races at the distance today went in 1:50.72 and 1:50.61.

I've got 3 of the 19 live combos: Alive for $82k to #1 Downgoesfrazier, for $86k to #3 Wake Up and Go and $28k to #11 Hushhushmushmush. Only three others in the field of 12 are covered ($127k to the #2 and $246k to the #10 and #12), and there will be a $246k double-carryover if the race is won by the #4, #5, #6, #7, #9 or #13. 

6:50 pm: Oh well. Two of my three horses got into a stupid speed duel and there's a reason the other one is 0 for 13.  Was running 1st, 2nd and 5th at the top of the stretch and they all went backwards from there.  Hard Rumor ($18.60) won the blanket finish, with uncovered longshots running 2nd and 3rd and Hushhushmushmush running fourth. One winner at $246,605. Congratulations.

I'll watch a little tomorrow but I'm trying to take non-carryover (or closing-day) Mondays as days off this year, so I won't be back with a full blog until Wednesday. See you then.

Stephen Mercier 8 months ago
it seems that in the last leg of the P6 a punter needs a single favorite to hit ... or the ALL button...there is never any middle ground to stand on
Gregory 8 months ago
Steve or anybody, what does RNA stand for when used in the closer look material, i know its reserved something thanks [RNA=Reserve Not Attained -- horse did not sell because top bid was below seller's reserve price. -SC]
Ian Douglas 8 months ago
You handled that like a pro. A lot better than I could have ever dreamed of. It would have been a nightmare loss for me. I still have a lot to learn.....
WILLIAM 8 months ago
Good for you .. take the next two days to modestly exercise and also rest. For all of us, we just want you to be healthy and able to be at the Spa in August. There are many August Spa meets in our future .. don't rush.
Ryan Stanzel 8 months ago
Steve - Formulator says P5 begins with the steeplechase races later this week...When they announced jumps every Wed/Thur awhile ago they said P5 would begin in R2. Is this an error...or did someone misspeak? Thank you
Anonymous 8 months ago
Was it Poseidon that said (before yesterday's last race): My Kingdom for a C-Horse?
Yuwipi 8 months ago
Curses on the P6 beat Steve. I know the payoffs are juicy but those multi race horizontals will make a person crazy sooner or later. The hounds look great. Excellent idea to take a day off and do something good for yourself. We all appreciate the time and effort.
Anthony Pasceri 8 months ago
steve, castellano owes you an apology.
Bill Keating 8 months ago
Another weekend card at Saratoga, another weekend where I would have done better picking numbers out of a fishbowl. I almost long for those cold February days at Aqueduct where the same five horses run against each once a week, at six furlongs. Actually I did about break even for the weekend, but through little application of my own handicapping skills. By Sunday mid-card I was reduced to forming a consensus opinion based on all the public handicappers that I had access to. I owe Steve Crist for having me include #7 in Race 4 at the last minute.
Yuwipi 8 months ago
As long as you're only "almost" longing for those mid winter Aqueduct days! I didn't do any better than you opening weekend but like to consider these additional four early meet days as a little spring training. Plenty of time to get 'em.
Bill Keating 8 months ago
I think that I may start adapting my handicapping to bring it up to date. We have a large number of professional handicappers who spend hours watching races and following up on what the other horses in the race did subsequently. And this data is available to me for free. By finding the most trustworthy pros and merging their work with yours you might make better selections in less time. Of course, betting strategy is still on you and that's a lot of the game. But this is Saratoga. The first race of the meet, a 25,000 dollar claimer for older males, had eight entries. Four were based in Kentucky and one in Monmouth. Nothing else like it, but not simple to pick the winners.
Kenny 8 months ago
sweet rides 3 n 11