07/29/2012 11:53AM

Saratoga Day 9: 7/29/12



12:55 pm: Main track muddy, turf good, four races on the grass (4,7,8 and 9) and two moved to the main track (6 and 11) for Day 9.

The featured G2 Amsterdam looks to me like one of the more wide-open races on a card where many of the other events have two or three obvious, seemingly dominant contenders, I have 5 of the 7 open as win candidates.

I picked Fort Loudon, coming off his fast and gutsy upset of Trinniberg in the G3 Carry Back last time out, but he's fresh off a barn change and will have to work out a trip from post 2 under Fernando Jara, who has not been riding here regularly. Other prime contenders include Currency Swap, 2-for-2 over the track including last year's Hopeful; Politically Correct, turning back from routes and possibly benefitting from what could be a contested pace; the improving Dr. Chit, the speed from the outside; and California shipper Gun Boat,

The Amsterdam comes a race after the Nani Rose, a race restricted to 3-year-old fillies who have not won a stakes race on the turf this year. The "on the turf" part is key because the race has a 3-year-old filly who has won a Grade 1 this year -- Karlovy Vary, even money on the ML, who won the Ashland on Polytrack. A repeat of that performance, or her last-out grass allowance win at Churchill, probably puts her in the winner's circle at a short price. The two biggest threats appear to be a couple of off-the-benchers: Dear Lavinia, unraced since March 27 at Saint-Cloud in France, and Alaura Michele, off since October but a winner of the P.G. Johnson Stakes here as a 2-year-old last summer.


1:10 pm: A little eye-opener early pick-4 play:


2:30 pm: In the 2nd, Contessa second-timer Awesome Weekend ($3.80) ran down 3-1 Carlos Martin firster Comandante to win a statebred juvenile race in 1:11.15. In the five-horse 3rd, Cat Ferrad ($11.80) opened a seven-length early lead and lasted by half a length over 3-2 fave Primal Baby in 1:10.45.

In between, I broadened my horizons by walking right by Hattie's and trying a lobster roll at the Lobster Hut in the Carousel. Maybe I should have tried the Lobster Grilled Cheese or Lobster Mac 'n' Cheese, but I've always thought lobster went better with butter or mayo than Velveeta. In any case, the lobster roll ($10.00) will not remind you of the Howard Johnson's offering of a generation ago -- the hot-dog bun is untoasted, and the lobster salad is more wet and tart than creamy and sweet -- but it appeared to contain actual lobster and was not half bad.


2:55 pm: Just saw the overnight for Thursday -- it's an 11-race card with two steeplechases, the second the $100k Smithwick Memorial, to start the day. The co-feature is the $100k Birdstone for older horses at 9f and is being run as the 6th of 11. The field of seven includes three uncoupled Pletcher trainees, and two uncoupled Dutrow trainees.


3:20 pm: Going in, today's 5th was the worst of the meeting, nine bottom-level $20k statebred maidens with a combined record of 0 for 31, 17 of those defeats by margins of 10 lengths or more. A perfect breeding ground for 70-1 Lady Utopia ($142.50), beaten 35 1/4 lengths in her two starts, to beat 44-1 Thirty Minutes, beaten 82 1/2 lengths in her three starts, to combine for a $2,152 exacta and top a $97,456 for $2 superfecta.


4:35 pm: Felt smart for half an hour after Flashy American won the off-the-turf 6th at $20.20 -- all he had to do was run back to his big-fig dirt route and he did, romping by 8 1/4 in a strung-out finish: It was 69 lengths from 1st to 8th, with three more eased behind them.

In the 7th, I thought Kanagaro was supposed to be 8-5 and couldn't understand why he was the 4th choice at 4-1. Bet him to win, even made a rare front- and back-wheel in the exacta....and he ran 3rd to a 17-1 Majestic Raffy and 45-1 Scorcher and I got nothing. Humbug.

Have to think there's a good chance already of a carryover to Monday with 9-1 and 17-1 in the first two legs.

If at first you don't succeed:


5:35 pm: Bill Mott won a race here on his birthday for what seems like the 144th year in a row when he sent out Alaura Michele to win the $100k Nani Rose at a fat 6-1.

Alaura Michele was making her first start since tanking as the 7-10 favorite in the Miss Grillo last Oct. 2, but that came on very soft turf at Belmont. In her previous start, she scored a handy victory in the P. G. Johnson Stakes here at Saratoga.

Karlovy Vary, the 3-5 favorite choice today, deserved to be favored but maybe not quite so  heavily and Alaura Michele floated up to the 6-1 fourth choice at post time. Karlovy Vary got shuffled back a couple of times down the backstretch but didn't do much running thereafter and barely held third behind the winner and 14-1 early leader Sweet and Lovely.

Alaura Michele, bred and owned by Siena Farms, is a 3-year-old daughter of Arch and the Lomitas mare Isabel Baillie.

This is the third time this week Mott has won a route race with a horse returning from a long layoff. He did it Monday with Lunar Victory in the Evan Shipman last Monday and yesterday with Raison d'Etat in an allowance race.


6:20 pm: Currency Swap, who won the Hoopeful Stakes here last summer in its last running before being inexplicably downgraded from a Grade 1 to a Grade 2, continued the run of success by horses emerging from that race with a quick 1 3/4-length score in the G2 Amsterdam Stakes.

The 3-year-old High Cotton colt remained perfect in three starts at Saratoga by stalking Dr. Chit's quick early fractions of 21.44 and 44.04 and eventually wearing down the leader after six furlongs in 1:08.65, stopping the timer in 1:15.33 for 6.5 furlongs. Dr. Chit, the 5-2 second choice, held second with longshots Unbridled's Note and Laurie's Rocket third and fourth. Gun Boat, the 3-1 third choice, lost all chance with a very slow start that left him nearly 10 lengths behind the field down the backstretch.

Last year's Hopeful field now has at least four subsequent graded stakes winners, including G2 Nashua winner Vexor, G2 Swale and G2 Woody Stephens winner Trinniberg and G1 Kentucky Derby and G1 Preakness winner I'll Have Another.

Here are the willpays into the finale:

One winner at $66k with the 10 or 16, otherwise a $66k carry to Monday.

Oops, time for the Haskell.


6:25 pm: Paynter's a good horse. The rest of them, not so sure.


6:40 pm: Junior Officer came up the rail to win a three-horse photo fromNamron and Minescape to win the finale and provide a $66k pick-6 carryover to Monday's card.

And please don't ask me why I didn't use a few C's in the finale, especially since they would have cost only $4.50 apiece.

Mott, on winning on his birthday again, sounding very Zen as he turns 59: "It's like lions eating wildebeests, I suppose. It's part of nature's plan."