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Saratoga Day 6: July 25, 2013
12:30 pm: A week ago it was 95 degrees here, and this morning it was 55. It's up to 70 now with clear skies, and the courses are fast and firm for a 10-race card that starts with a steeplechase, continues with four on the dirt and concludes with five on the grass.
I've got a few other things to do and won't be betting until the second half of the card, but for now I'll leave you with the first new-restaurant review of the meet.
The Brook Tavern (click here for menu) at 139 Union Avenue across the street from the track is the latest version of the renovated house you may still think of as the old Springwater Inn. After an unfortunate recent run as a subpar pub 'n' pizza place, it reopened this year under the management of the people who operate the classic Wishing Well, and it has improved vastly. It has always been a great space, with a serene vibe and a nice mix of booths and tables, and now the chow is up to that standard.
There's a nice selection of dishes offered as small plates, snacks or larger dishes. Creole devilled eggs and a genuine Maryland crabcake both got thumbs-up as appetizers, as did entrees of the Wednesday night steak frites special and the highly-recommended house burger, which did not disappoint. Those four dishes, plust two cocktails, two glasses of wine and one dessert-to-go ran up a reasonable pre-tip tab of $90 for two people. Service was extraordinarily polite and quick. Reservations are accepted thought not required, but get there early if you want to sit outside at one of the three tables on the porch.
2:00 pm: Sound familiar? A Jonathan Sheppard trainee wins the 2 1/16-mile steeplechase in the 1st and a heavily-bet Todd Pletcher firster wins a five-furlong baby race in the 2nd.
Sheppard's victory, in the first jump race of the meeting, came with Martini Brother ($7.30), a 5-year-old gelding by A. P. Indy out of 2004 Acorn winner Island Sand. Winless in four flat races, he has now won three in a row over hurdles.
In the second, widely-touted Corfu was 3-to-5 on the ML, opened 1-to-9, and went off at 1-to-2. No one conceded him the race, as Clement firster Pure Sensation and Asmussen firster Aarons Orient both pushed him through a quarter in 21.40, and Pure Sensation was still right with him after a half in 44.88, but Corfu prevailed by what looked like three-quarters of a length in 58.27. The Malibu Moon colt was a $675k 2-year-old purchase last March by the Coolmore group.
Track linemaker Eric Donovan took some social-media heat for making a first-time starter 3-to-5, which only shows that some people don't understand what a morning line is. It is not an assessment of what would be a fair or value price on a horse, or a vote for or against its chances but purely a prediction of what price a horse will be when the gates open. Donovan predicted he would be 0.60-to-1 and he went off at 0.50-to-1, which made it an excellent piece of prediction.
3:00 pm: In the Lottsa Talc for statebred filly sprinters, first of two $100k stakes on the card, Willet was hammered to even money. She trailed early, didn't seem to find her stride until midstretch, began to gain but couldn't quite get there, nosing out Miss Valentine for second but just failing to catch front-running Clear Pasaj ($10.00). The winner set mild fractions of 23.41 and 46.90 en route to a final time of 1:24.10. The 4-year-old Smoke Glacken filly has been first or second in her last nine starts and run up a 13: 6-5-0 record for owner/breeder Anjes Farm and trainer Bruce Levine.
3:30 pm: Early favorite for the Spinaway is Our Amazing Rose, who just made what Tom Durkin rightly called a "dazzling debut" winning the 5th for Pletcher/Repole. The $325k Yes It's True filly was outbroken by More second-timer Zip On, who blazed a quarter in 21.80, but Our Amazing Rose overpowered her and widened through the stretch, stopping the timer in 57.68 after a half in 45.29. That's 0.59 seconds faster than the colt Corfu ran, but let's cut him some slack for being dogged by two early challengers through a half in 44.88.
Our Amazing Rose was also 3-5 on Donovan's line and went off at 0.45-1, paying $2.90. Early pick-4 spanning Corfu through Our Amazing Rose paid $125, only $11 more than pick-3 without Corfu.
4:00 pm: If I don't bet something today, there might be a rift in the space-time continuum and they'll take away my gambling license so here's the late pick-4 jaunt:
5:00 pm: Perfect trips and rides for the winners of the 7th and 8th. In the 7th, Lezcano kept Clement firster Viva Allegiance at the rail behind the leaders, slipped through in upper stretch, and drew away in a nice debut for a $25k maiden claimer on turf. In the 8th, the co-featured Quick Call for 3-year-old turf sprinters, Rosario had Central Banker ($10.40) behind a four-way pace scramble, found a seam and split the leaders, and won comfortably as No Distinction held second and The Brothers War was up late for third.
Central Banker, a 3-year-old Speightstown colt owned by Klaravich/Lawrence and trained by Al Stall, won a turf sprint here as a 2-year-old last summer. He was making his first start since November today.
5:35 pm: All but one of the eight in the finale are covered in the pick-6, and the pick-4's are pretty generous for a sequence that started 6-1/4-1/2-1 :
6:05 pm: Decisive Move ($8.00) nailed Channel Marker at the wire to complete an $1,156 pick-4 and $4,234 pick-6. Racing resumes tomorrow at 1 p.m. (only one Twilight Friday this year, during Closing Week)with a good 10-race card. Don't skip the opener, a stakes-class allowance race featuring the return of Currency Swap, who won the Hopeful here in 2011 and the Amsterdam last year, and Dr. Chit, the 2012 Amsterdam runner-up..
After spending a week at Saratoga several years ago -- and dining at as many of the recommended restaurants as we could (including the Wishing Well) -- I have to say that the one Saratoga Springs meal we still remember fondly came from PJ's Bar-B-Q. Their brisket was the best we ever had -- by at least a furlong.
Steve, I have always felt that the morning line would be a greater service to the public, particularly neophytes to racing, or those visiting a track with which they are unfamiliar, if it was calculated as the linemaker's assessment of what each horse's chances are, rather than a predictor of the final odds. Which better serves the industry? [I think the current approach does. The idea is to give someone an idea of what price a horse is actually going to be, not what someone else thinks he SHOULD be. You're giving people useful information that way. -SC]
Steve your totally right about what the morning line is but Donovan takes it to the extreme...
I think the folks do a pretty good job figuring it out on their own, as they bet down the firster to 6 to 1, the stakes winner from 8 to 1 to 4 to 1, and the Servis 1st claim to 3 to 1 in the last. This is especially true at the Toga, where there's more insider trading than at SAC.
I enjoy reading your blog and following your plays I see your alive to the 2,6 9, ... i'll play against all 3 .given the trouble I am having handicapping SAR and DMR that could only help you
Those booths at the Brook Tavern are brutally uncomfortable. I agree with the rest of your assessment. Nice to have a decent place that takes reservations during August.
So, Do you think horses would more or less go off at the same odds, day in, day out, race in race out, if the track offered no morning lines? I think the moring odds are too influential in how betting develops in a race to call them purley predictive. Even if one accepts the premise that the morning odds maker is only offering a prediction one presumes that is not a random prediction drawn from a roll of the dice; but has at least an element of how the handicapper thinks th public should be betting factored into the equation. All, I'm going to say that the key to reading an odds board is not watching for influxes of money, but in watching how horses are bet in relationship to their morning line.
Steve, haven't heard you mention the greyhounds this summer, How are they? [They're still more fun than a barrel of monkeys and will be up here next week. -SC]
So true Mr.. Crist. People also don't get what an overlay or underlay is. It should be by your own set price. I love your work. Interesting to read, keep up the good job. May reread exoctic betting. As I need to get back on track.
Eric Donovan did exactly the right thing. What's outrageous, in general, are the frequent morning lines where something like a Corfu is marked down as a probable "5/2." Then it predictably goes off at 4-5 or 3-5, and regardless of how it does, the ML maker looks like a dope (or worse). Good for you, Eric.