08/23/2012 11:04AM

Saratoga Day 30: 8/23/12




12:05 pm: Does it ever make sense to try to crush a pick-4 by singling huge favorites in three legs? That's the question facing horseplayers today at Saratoga, where the early pick-4 features three races with likely odds-on favorites, and the other is a four-horse race that will also have a heavy favorite but one I don't trust. Hitting the all-button there still makes it only a 1x4x1x1:

I'm not necessarily advocating such a play, and the ticket above is for illustrative purposes only. I just can't remember seeing a four-race sequence quite like it.

Believe it or not, this is an even looser play than I envisioned when I handicapped the card last night (after a visit to the Washington County Fair, and while watching the Giants complete a sweep of the Dodgers in LA. Sweet.) Before this morning's scratches, the second leg (race 3) was a seven-horse field with two towering favorites, Curve Ball and He Ain't Bluffing. A 1x2x1x1 jumped off the pages. Then this morning, both of them (as well as the #1 Espiritu Libre) were scratched, leaving a field of four -- a firster, two second-timers, and a fifth-timer with the top figs.)

What's really unusual about this sequence is that these are the kinds of races that rarely have an odds-on favorite -- a starter handicap and three maiden-claimers -- much less three (or maybe four) times in a four-race sequence. Whether you like them or would ever bet them, these are truly towering favorites: Saginaw, coming off a stakes runaway, looked odds-on even before Strapping Groom scratched and now he looks like a cinch; in the 4th, D'Tiger's last three races are all 10 Beyer points better than any of his opponents have mustered; and in the 5th, Wandering Kitten holds a similar edge on the competition.

Some would argue that the four-horse 3rd race could be singled as well, that the McLaughlin fifth-timer will dominate at a short price. If that happens, how low can it go? The record-low pick-4 payoffs are all ones with surface-switch "alls" involved, but can a normal pick-4 pay less than $20?

It's a weird way for a weird card to begin.


1:20 pm: Ugly ending to the opener, the 2 3/8-mile New York Turf Writers Cup steeplechase, when favored Divine Fortune fell while making a winning move over the final fence. Left Unsiad then also fell over him, as 5-1 Demonstrative avoided the trouble and won his second hurdle stakes at the meet. [Update 3 pm: According to NYRA, both horses and riders escaped injury.]

Saginaw currently 1-9 for the 2nd race. Here's how I decided to make the early pick-4 play:

For each $100:

AAAA @ $20 =40

ACAA @ $9 = 18

AACA @ $3 = 18

AAAC @ $3 = 24


1:45 pm: The sun rose in the east and Saginaw won the 2nd at 1-5, though David Cohen had to scrub on him a little to hold off Private Tale by a little more than a length in 1:22.05 for 7f.


2:15 pm: Original Art ($2.60) another front-running odds-on winner, as well-meant Scherer second-timer Crooked as Can be got close in midstretch but couldn't sustain his bid. The Saginaw-Original Art double paid $3.80.


2:30 pm: While waiting for the next odds-on favorite, here's the Washington County Fair report from last night.

Set out after the races for the winding 17-mile drive to the fairgrounds. Received the following text from Mrs. Blog: "Wash your hands between petting livestock and eating corn dogs."

I did all three over the next two hours. Unfortunately, my phone died shortly after I arrived, so I'm light on pictures, but I can report that the goats were as cute as ever, the Icelandic sheep were the softest thing to pet, and the neon-lit, sausage-scented and generally festive atmosphere was throughly inviting.

I can not say enough about the apple cider donuts. Warm, crunchy and brimming with apple goodness, I will take them over any beignet in the French Quarter or croissant in Paree itself. My only regret is that I bought only 18 to last through Travers weekend.

The Fair is open through Sunday night and remains highly recommended.


2:50 pm: The public didn't go for D'Tiger the way I thought they would, making him only a tepid 9-5 favorite, and he managed only a rallying 3rd behind 10-1 Black Ace and 3-1 Torment.

If you liked Black Ace and the two odds-on before him, the pick-4's are pretty rich:


3:15 pm: Wandering Kitten ($4.20) also a bigger price than expected, but this one just got the job done by a neck over 16-1 Bundestag. Still think the single-backup approach was the right way to go in this pick-4, with the trick of course being to make Black Ace one of your backups in the third leg. A $330.50 payoff for a sequence with two 1-to-5's and an even-money is a big overlay.


4:30 pm: Lunar Victory ($3.80), who looked so good winning the Evan Shipman for statebreds here a month ago off a 4 1/2-month layoff, returned to trounce open N3x foes in the 7th. The 5-year-old Speightstown horse, owned by Juddmonte and trained by Bill Mott, was winning his fifth stright race and is 5 for 6 on dirt since being rescued from Europe and grass/poly racing.


5:10 pm: Pianist, who looked so flat when third at 4-5 last time, turned on the jets in deep stretch to power past Kitty Wine and continue the run of chalk.

Despite the last four winners' paying $4.20, $7.80, $3.80 and $4.20, Black Ace's upset of the 4th has set up some nice pick-6 payoffs:

My guess is that one ticket is alive to "all" and two others are alive to the 2,3 and 5. And no, I have no idea why the willpays don't add up correctly -- $59,233 is clearly the 6-of-6 payout pool, but three times $18,299 is $54,897, not $59,233. Are there 3.23695 tickets alive to the 2,3 and 5?


5:45 pm: Tough beat in the finale if you needed 11-1 Donttangowithmango to catch 2-1 Yes She Rules -- Dominguez, on a rare longshot, had tons of horse and nowhere to go until a moment too late. Favorite completed a $191 pick-4 and a pick-6 that paid 95 times as much at $18,299.

Three straight days featuring Grade 1 races start tomorrow with a 10-race card where the $500k G1 Ballerina goes as the 9th. Last I heard, It's Tricky is supposed to scratch and instead try Royal Delta in Sunday's G1 Personal Ensign, which would leave Turbulent Descent a clear favorite over Nicole H. and Derwin's Star.