07/22/2011 12:00PM

Spa Day 1: 7/22/11

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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.

Walt P. More than 1 year ago
As for Uncle Mo: If he comes back in the Kings Bishop and wins it, I would seriously consider then moving 'Mo to the turf, going after that in the Shadwell Mile (Grade 1) at Keeneland or Woodbine Mile (also Grade 1) at Woodbine before trying Goldikova in the BC Mile. If he can win the Shadwell or Woodbine Mile and BC Mile along with the Kings Bishop, it might be enough for the three year old title, and if he can then add the Hollywood Derby (at 1 1/4 Miles on turf) in late November, it might be enough for HOY as long as he runs a solid effort against Goldikova.
rickhf More than 1 year ago
The amazing thing about that Exit 14 construction -- they just started it two or three weeks ago. It would have made logical sense to do this in late April or May, even prior to coincide with the rebuilding of the Saratoga Lake bridge 2 miles east, instead of timing it to add to the 12:30pm frustrations prior to first post or the 6:00pm final frustrations. It had to be done -- but now? 6 1/2 weeks of the entire year that road gets the traffic that warrants the two lanes each way, and they started it now. Well, welcome to Saratoga. Record high temperatures to greet all to the summer at the spa. Best of luck to everyone and enjoy all that the region has to offer -- including the Saratoga County Fair this weekend in nearby Ballston Spa.
Herb More than 1 year ago
Steve, welcome back to the Spa. I am stuck out here on the west coast and your blog at least makes it feel like i'm right there with you. Looking forward to your reports. Going to any good concerts this summer?
bob m toga More than 1 year ago
hi all, great opening day. saw steve and andy at the seminar. (could not hear them of course!!) however i found a spot behind the carolina BBQ where you could hear perfect, but sitting right in front of them you could not hear a thing !! anyways, made a few bucks in the pico dinero race and speed was very good on turf and speed and inside very good on main.. like a couple today.. 1st race... mystic city (6-1). getting real good and has the speed to be either on the lead or just off and should get the jump on a very competitive field.. 3rd race.. glickman (5-1).. long to short coming out of key race in mud. have a feeling he will not be 5-1? 4th race.. swinging at siros (10-1) improving with couple real good works and could get the dream trip up the rail in a wide open big field.. 9th race.. yorktown (12-1).. likes firm turf and can sit nice trip from inside. motion good off the layoff (see valiant passion yesterday) very tough race so the price could get higher. good luck to all.. will be at my spot by 1115 am !!
Trackman Sam More than 1 year ago
...Good luck this year Steve, and kudos to Dave Litfin for that cold pick 4. Just a reminder to everyone...If the turf courses stay firm with no rain, early speed is very dangerous. Good luck to all.
JC More than 1 year ago
I have been really behind kicking off this Saratoga meet due to the misfortune of taking care of a couple sick relatives. Can anyone please post the link where "Talking Horses" can be accessed on the www or if there is any place I can get Mr. Crist's Saratoga picks on the weekends. Thanks and have a great summertime all!
walmatt More than 1 year ago
Looking forward to another great year of racing and blogging at the Spaaaaaaaaah!
hammer More than 1 year ago
steve, happy anniversary to the blog, which if my memory serves me correctly started with the saratoga meet. But I can't remember due to old age and too many beers, has it been 3 years?it morphed from being Saratoga Journal into [Longer, though it's all a little blurry when it morphed from being "Saratoga Journal on the Internet" into something technically called a blog. Time flies when you're having fun. -SC]
Joe L. More than 1 year ago
Hey Steve, just look across the yard and you will see the Olde Daley Inn has a booth on rest. row...you should try their chicken sandwich...it is different, but man is it goooooddd
peewee More than 1 year ago
welcome back to the spa, all. It was a fun day of racing and i look forward to 39 more. Question on the exacta for the 7th race , 37/1 over 16/1 pays only $598. ??? light dontcha think ? Just saying.....