08/24/2013 10:38AM

Saratoga Day 32: August 24, 2013


11:30 am: Take a deep breath and pace yourself: The first of 14 races is about to go off under sunny skies, over fast dirt and firm turf, as the Day 32 Travers day extravaganza begins.

Here are the pre-scratch picks from "Talking Horses": 1) 9-1-7-10-6; 2) 7-6-11-10-2; 3) 9-10-2-6-1; 4) 7-1-11-12-2; 5) 7-9-3-4-2; 6) 10-7-1-6-2; 7) 6-5-1-4-3; 8) 6-9-2-5-7; 9) 8-3-5-.9-6 20) 5-3-4-6-2; 11) 9-8-2-10-7 12) 5-8-3-2-9 13) 5-7-10-3-8; 14) 1-11-6-14-4

Note the changes to the usual multirace menu: The pick-6 for some reason ends with neither the Travers nor the last race of the day but is on races 8 through 13. There also are three pick-4's today, on races 2-5, 9-12 and 11-14. The all-stakes one on 9-12 is the one with the $1 million pool guarantee.

There's plenty of good racing ahead early and late. The four graded stakes culminating with the Travers are highly competitive and there's not an odds-on favorite in sight. The parts of the card that are going to make the day seem like a long one are the four straight turf routes from races 5 through 8, and the two clear-out-the-traffic races after the Travers.

11: 50 am: A little early pick-4 spread-around to keep me out of trouble:

12:10 pm: Track is quick based on first two races, both at seven furlongs with N2x opener going to Power World ($18.40) in 1:22.19, and older-male maiden-special 2nd to Celebrated Talent in 1:22.67.

Kinda liked Power World in the 1st, but was hoping he'd be taken back off the pace today. Do I have to give the money back because he went right to the front and led every step?


12:45 pm: Posted turf times still appear iffy around here even with the rails down today. Bobby's Kitten, even-money winner of third, supposedly put up box-to-wire fractions of 22.78, 47.40, 1:12.62, 1:35.50 en route to 8.5f in 1:41.33. He looks like a high-quality turf 2-year-old, but I'm skeptical he ran his final five-sixteenths in 28.71, especially after an alleged first quarter in 22.78 that allegedly slowed down to a 25.22 third quarter before a 22.88 fourth quarter. Come on.

Upcoming 4th race was the only one seriously affected by scratches, as Be Bullish would have been a heavy favorite had he run. The career earner of $827k was entered for a $14,000 claiming tag, an optional-claiming provision that NYRA really should eliminate from the statebred N1x races, at least outside of Aqueduct.

It aggressively violates the stated policy of not having horses run for purses more than double their claiming tags -- a horse with a $14k tag would be running for a $49,200 winner's share of an $82,000 purse here -- and it's unnecessary to add that extra condition to fill out fields up here. It's also a rotten advertisement for the statebred program, effectively saying that a horse who has run through his restricted statebred conditions is now worth only $14,000.

1:25 pm:Early pick-4 that began with $4.50 and $4.00 winners just got more interesting as 13-1 Do I Amuse You came back after being caught by 6-5 Marriedtothemusic to prevail in the 4th, setting up the following willpays:


1:40 pm: Last ontrack meal of the meeting. Guess what I had?

When summer's end is nighing

And skies at evening cloud,

I muse on change and fortune

And all the feats I vowed

When I was young and proud.

--A. E. Housman, "Last Poems," 1922


2:05 pm: Why Not Whiskey ($18.20)? Why? And here's another question: While I clearly had no handle on the 5th race (my selections ran 7-10-11-4-2), why was 1-for-9 Toy Cannon, lone win in maiden claimers, the 3-1 favorite?

Another question: How big is an acre? This came up last night while watching the Giants lose (again) and announcer Duane Kuiper said he grew up on a 250-acre farm, which led to a discussion of just how big a spread that is and just how big an acre is anyway. Not being a farmboy -- shocking, I know -- I really had no idea, but I learned that and a little more when I found an answer that may define the size of an acre perfectly for any horseplayer.

It turns out that an acre, under Ye Olde English measurements, is a furlong long and a "chain" wide. We all know how long a furlong is --660 feet, an eighth of a mile, the distance from the eighth pole to the wire -- and a chain is one-tenth of a furlong, or 66 feet, or roughly the width of a racetrack. So I can now finally picture an acre: It's all the racetrack from the furlong pole to wire. I will not, however, begin referring to all victories over 7 lengths as "winning by at least a chain."

3:15 pm: I can't play the no-carryover pick-6 seriously -- the upcoming races are so tough that I'm having trouble figuring out affordable pick-4 plays at 50-cent and $1 units. But hey, it's Travers Day, so I'm putting in a moderate caveman ticket singling Hungry island in the Ballston Spa: 6,9/3,5,8/5/2,8,9/2,3,5,8/5,7,10.

3:45 pm: Right idea/wrong horse: Thought the subpar N1x field in the 8th was ripe for plucking by a 3-year-old with limited grass experience who had kept better company on the dirt. Unfortunately, I thought that horse was Pick of the Litter, and instead it was Frac Daddy ($16.60).

But now, on to the real racing, two hours of G1/G2 action with four strong fields. It would appear from the play below that I believe many of them have a chance:


4:20 pm: Sweet Lulu ($5.60), SoCal shipper making her dirt and stakes debut, outfinished Wildcat Lily by a head to win the G1 Test. It was just a neck back to My Happy Face, who rallied too late and too wide.

Sweet Lulu, a Mr. Greeley filly owned by Steve Beneto and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, ran the 7f in an unimpressive 1:23.45 but worked hard to do it. She dueled early with Baby J through fractions of 22.28 and 44.95, and turned back a long challenge from Wildcat Lily, who sat in the garden spot behind the leaders and made her bid in upper stretch.

4:45 pm: Inside speed continues to do very well on the turf, as Laughing and Pianist ran 1-2 around the track in the G2 Ballston Spa. The course is very dry and very quick, and the rails were taken down for today's racing, so the inside paths are ones that haven't been used the past week.

The posted fractions, if correct, would suggest the 1-2 finishers set a very easy pace -- 23.89 48.41 and 1:12.39. At that point closers such as Somali Lemonade and Hungry island appeared to be launching moves, but the top two just kept going and there were no late bids as 24-1 Hard Not To Like ran third from start to finish.

Laughing, who won the G1 Diana here July 27, is now 3 for 3 this year. The 5-year-old Dansili mare is owned by Richard Santulli and trained by Alan Goldberg.

5:20 pm: Capo Bastone ($58.50), Todd Pletcher's most unexpected winner of the meeting, ran down Mentor Cane in the final yards to win the G1 King's Bishop. Central Banker nosed out 5-2 favorite (and uncoupled Pletcher trainee) Forty tales for 3rd in a race where the $2 super paid $61k. Capo Bastone, third in last year's BC Juvenile (where he bled without Lasix) and second in this year's Derby Trial, ran the 7f in 1:22.22, casting further doubt on the quality of the Test (1:23.45).

Let Em Shine blasted out to the early lead, but was overtaken by Mentor Cane through a half in 44.60. Mentor Cane had a three-length lead in upper stretch and none of the favorites were gaining, then Capo Bastone launched his improbable late rally.

Travers up next. with 18 MTP and $1.03 million in the win pool, it's Verrazano at 8-5, Orb at 5-2, Palace Malice at 3-1, Will Take Charge at 8-1 and 17-1 and up on the rest.

5:55 pm: Even a broken clock is right twice a day. I felt pretty good when Orb and Verrazano were sputtering midstretch and all Will Take Charge had to do was catch a tired Moreno, and he just got there. Will Take Charge turned into a new horse in the Jim Dandy and proved it today.

The Travers time of 2:02.68 looks mediocre, though it's going to be tough to calibrate on a day when the Travers was the only dirt race longer than seven furlongs.

So who's the champion 3-year-old now? With five different horses winning the Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell and Travers, it's completely up in the air and will be decided over the next 10 weeks.

Looks like there are two live horses for a $213k one-winner pick-6 payout, and otherwise a $213k carryover to Sunday:

6:20 pm: Risk Management, one of those two covered horses, just scratched nearing the gate.

6:25 pm: Whoever was alive to Risk Management and Holy Endeavor just got nice and lucky as Holy endeavor was off the board but the scratch of Risk Management put him on Smiling Bob, 2-1 favorite, who just got up to nail 5-2 second choice Slamarama at the wire. A $213k scratch.

7:05 pm: Sophie's Turn, blinkers on and bet strongly down to 7-2, a decisive winner of the finale. I'm driving downstate in the morning, and hope to catch up with you for the second half of the 11-race Sunday card. The G1 Personal Ensign, featuring champion Royal Delta, goes as the 10th. And now I believe it is way, way past time for a cocktail.