08/10/2011 11:28AM

Spa Day 17: 8/10/11


11:30 am: Today's Saratoga pick-6, which begins with a two-day $232k carryover, is an unusual sequence: It starts with a stakes race (at a mile and a half), moves on to a four-horse field (five of the nine entered in race 6 have been scratched) and does not include a single race for 2-year-olds.

I find those all to be good reasons to play, not that I was going to sit out what should be a $1 million pool. It seems a relatively manageable sequence without as many blind alleys as usual. Now watch me go 2 for 6.

I'm still working on it but I'll put up my play before the sequence starts with the 5th race, currently scheduled for 3:13 pm. It's warm and sunny, and a little rain last night blew out the oppressive humidity that made yesterday's dark day a swelterfest (and kept the hounds inside sleeping in air-conditioned comfort instead of going to town as planned.) All five grass races -- four of them in the pick-6 sequence -- are still on the turf. The forecast:


2:00 pm: I don't know who that cocky dude was who sat in my chair at 11:30 and typed that this pick-6 was "relatively manageable," but now that I'm crunching the play it's looking a lot tougher than he thought. My first pass at what I thought was a conservative ticket came out to $7,680, more than thrice what I'm looking to put in. Lots of whittling to do.

I'm finding what perhaps should be the "easiest" races -- the four-horse field and the five-horse field -- to be the hardest. I can see 3 of the 4 in the 6th and 4 of the 5 in the 8th winning, and am having trouble visualizing how either race will be run.

The Waya Stakes, which kicks off the sequence, is a classic handicapping puzzle of what to do with a clearly superior favorite who is a complete unknown at today's distance. Snow Top Mountain would be legitimately 3-5 if the Waya were run at a mile or a mile and a sixteenth -- she's been a close second in three stakes including a Grade 1, and most of today's opponents are fillies who have trouble finding the winner's circle in allowance company. But STM has never gone longer than 9f and today's assignment is a mile and a half. Fillies such as Emerald Beach and Dyani wouldn't get near STM in a shorter race but at least have handled distances up to 11f with some success.

It ain't easy. But what fun would that be?


3:05 pm: Here we go:

Total investment was $2880, more than a conventional TicketMaker ABC because I did the all-A's-and-B's thing and then four 5A/1C backups:

All A's and B's: 2,4/3,9/1,2,3,5/2,3,5,6/2,5,7/1,2,3,4,6,11 = $2304

CAAAAA: 8,10/9/1,2,3,5/3,5/2,5/1,2,4 = $192

ACAAAA: 2/6/1,2,3,5/3,5/2,5/1,2,4 = $96

AACAAA: 2/9/6,8,9,10/3,5/2,5/1,2,4 = $96

AAAACA: 2/9/1,2,3,5/3,5/3,8,9,10/1,2,4 = $192


3:30 pm: Phew. Emerald Beech ($14.00) just held off 8-1 Senada to start the pick-6, Snow Top Mountain handled the distance okay but got outmoved by the winner entering the turn, swung wide, and flattened out late.

I made Emerald Beech my lone B behind the favorite because she seemed to me to have perhaps turned a corner in her last race, running an 11-point BSF career top. I thus preferred her to second choice Dyani, who finished in front of her when they met last year but who seems to run pretty much the same race every time without much potential for improvement. I looked long and hard at Senada, who came within inches of winning, but just couldn't take a filly who had failed four straight times at the N1x level in a stakes.

So all the C's are dead but the cavemannish all-A's-and-B's lives on.


4:30 pm: Halfway home but the second half is always the hardest. I'm 4x3x6 but the one horse I left out in the upcoming 8th race (Cat Sweep) is worrying me a little because he's getting all sorts of support to be 4-1 instead of the 14-1 his pp's would seem to merit. It took him eight tries to win a maiden race last year and his career-best fig is a 72 against four other 3-year-olds who have all fired 85's or better. He's also been off since February. There's got to be another reason for his low price besides the crazy catladies who bet every horse with "cat" in its name.


5:00 pm: Good news: Cat Sweep, who eventually drifted to 7-1, showed no reason for that low price. Not-so-good news: Dawly, no standout to me in a race where I went four deep, won by daylight at 4-to-5.

Note to NYRA: Please stop covering up the odds and pools on half the horses on the (otherwise beautifully legible) infield toteboard with ads for "Mardi Gras Day" and "Fan of the Day" and other promotional announcements. It can easily mislead fans into thinking a nine-horse field is a six-horse field, and a lot of players like to see the first flash of odds.

My three in the 9th do not seem to include the current 7-2 favorite En Fuego. Wouldn't mind having him and a couple of other C's but you can't use them all. To the person who will inevitably ask "Why don't you just put everyone on one ticket instead of this ABC stuff," that would have cost me $32,256 instead of $2,880 today.


5:50 pm: Double phew. Colonialism held off El Crespo to leave ,me alive to 6 of the 10 in the finale: $6k to the 6, $9k to the 1,3 and 4, $24k to the 2 and $88k to the 11. I'm going to be a hedge weasel and bet the other four to win to get my money back.

The next time I whine about losing photos or getting bad trips in a pick-6, remind me that Emerald Beech/Senada and Colonialism/El Crespo not only could have just as easily gone the other way but that I probably got lucky with both of them.


5:55 pm: Just got luckier: Jake's Shake ran off in the post parade and was scratched. He was one of the four I didn't have, and the one who was scaring me most -- a Carl Domino firster being bet down to 8-1. So with the three I don't have at 25-1, 9-1 and 22-1, it's a pretty easy hedge.


6:15 pm: Obviously Tuesday (for $9k) and Cincinnatti Kind (for $24k) came down to the wire in the finale and that somewhat gracious stuff I said half an hour ago about getting lucky clearly did me no good with the karma gods. Kid looked like he was going to win at the rail but just couldn't get past Obviously Tuesday ($10.00).

Yay! Bah. Nice to hit one, but still.