07/22/2011 12:00PM

Spa Day 1: 7/22/11


12:58 pm: And so it begins.

It's what I've been waiting for these 46 long weeks, through the snows of winter, the heartbreaks of spring, the fires of this week's heat wave.

I speak, of course, of the first Hattie's fried-chicken sandwich of 2011.

Two minutes to first post. Back in a bit.

1:20 pm: The sandwich was everything I had dreamed of, and then some. The opener, not so much. Didn't play (still undefeated for the meet!) but I only picked Boat ($14.20) third.

I had every intention of givnight but as you may have heard we've been having some weather issues the last couple of days around here. Not the usual opening-day storms (this is the first clear opening day in at least four years) but with the temperatures. I drove up from Long Island yesterday afternoon assuming that the 205 miles north would bring some relief but it was just as hot at Saratoga at 3:45 p.m. at the Saratoga as it was at high noon at Belmont. (The mathematically inclined among you have now deduced my first drive of the season took 3:45 from track entrance to track entrance, with just one pit stop at Sloatsburg. Oh, and be advised that there will be construction all summer on the exit 14 ramp off the Northway, with just one lane open each way for the last little leg of your trip.)

Anyway, the reason there was no blog entry last night was that the heat knocked out my Internet and cable for a few key hours. I handicapped the friday card in old-timey style -- red Flair pen and newsprint with no electronic supplements and damn am I spoiled by Formulator. When the wi-fi finally came back, I may have actually said the words "Thank you Time Warner!" to the router. (Granted, I was speaking to several household objects because Mrs. Blog and the hounds are not coming up until next week.)

the temperature's about the same as it was yesterday, somewhere around 451 Fahrenheit -- at least that's what it felt like under the stage lights while doing the"Talking Horses" seminar in the Carousel -- but at least there's a bit of a breeze when you walk around the track. The attendance seems a little spotty but maybe it's going to be a late-arriving crowd.


2:45 pm: Very good-looking return in Race 4 by Valiant Passion, beaten favorite in the Spinaway last summer. A 9 1/4-length winner of her debut for Ralph Nicks last Aug. 12, Valiant Passion was privately purchased by Team Valor and turned over to Todd Pletcher, and she never ran back to her debut in three stakes starts. Now trained by Graham Motion, Valiant Passion went right to the front and drew off in the stretch in 1:09.82. Maybe the G3 Victory Ride on the Travers undercard next?


3:20 pm: Photo-finish on the tote board in the season's first baby race, with the three well-bred firsters all going off at 3-1: $63,884 bet to win on Delightful Magic (Casse), $62,181 on My Miss Aurelia (Asmussen, $60,485 on Stopshoppingmaria (Pletcher). My Miss Aurelia, a $550k Smart Strike yearling, proved best, wearing down Delightful Magic with Stopshoppingmaria third after stumbling at the start. Third-time starter Bargain Bltiz, favored at 2-1, faded through the lane. Early pick-4 -- picked cold by DRF's Dave Litfin -- paid $865 for $2.


4:30 pm: Guessing there's going to be a carryover into Day 2 after Flying Zee/Serpe firster Pure Gossip (by Pure Prize) dusted a field of statebred juvenile fillies at 37-1, second longest price on the board. Winner's time was 1:04.89, 1.30 seconds slower than My Miss Aurelia's winning time in the 5th.


5:10 pm: Jackson Bend ($18.80) suggested he could be a force in the sprint division this year with a sharp up-the-rail victory against a good field in the James Marvin Stakes. The 4-year-old, beaten less than a length by Lookin at Lucky and First Dude in last year's Preakness, was turning back to a sprint distance for the first time since August of 2009 after 13 straight starts at a mile or more. He figures to return in the G1 Forego here Sept. 3.

Hamazing Destiny, making his first start since a surprising second to Big Drama in the Breeders' Cup Sprint Nov. 6, held on for second, 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner and half a length in front of 33-1 longshot Escrow Kid. Here Comes Ben, last year's Forego winner but seemingly a few steps slower this year, ran fourth as the 2-1 favorite.

Even after the scratches of G1 winners Gayego and Jersey Kid. the Marvin came up with as strong a field as a G1 or G2 stakes, with multiple G2 winners including Aikenite and D'Funnybone among the also-rans. Most of them were pointing for the Forego in this spot because of the 7f distance and because no one's particularly eager to take on Trappe Shot in the G1 Vanderbilt at 6f here Aug. 7.

Jackson Bend, a 4-year-old Hear No Evil (Carson City) colt trained by Nick Zito, ran the 7f in 1:20.91.  


5:45 pm: Georgie's Angel ($3.90), the day's only odds-on favorite, sat just off a wickedly fast pace (21.38/44.71)and then held off True Feelings by 1 1/2 lengths late to win the G3 Schuylerville for trainer Todd Pletcher. It was 5 3/4 lengths from the runner-up back to Force de la Nature in third

Georgie's Angel, a Bellamy Road filly from a Dynaformer mare, won a race reduced to six starters by three scratches including the 1-2 finishers from last month's G3 Debutante at Churchill Downs. Those two fillies, flashy Lassie and Five Star Momma, are expected to run in the Adirondack here Aug. 14 and then perhaps take on Georgie's Angel and True Feelings in the Spinaway Sept. 4.

No live tickets in the Pick-6. Tomorrow's sequence runs from races 6 through 11, which include four grass races and the CCA Oaks.


6:30 pm: Chosen Empire, fresh off a 1:33 turf mile at Calder, shot to the front and ran away from the field to win the finale in 1:40.11, by far the fastest of the day's three 1 1/16-mile races on the Mellon course. Despite a $15.80 late double, the late pick-4 came back $7,396. 5-of-6 pick-6 consos were worth $2,516.

One down, 39 to go.