08/11/2011 2:23PM

Spa Day 18: 8/11/11

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2:20 pm: Let's be grateful there wasn't a three-day $883k carryover into Day 16. It's a pretty grim card, the kind you knew we'd eventually see on a Thursday at the last track in America that still tries to race six days a week.

The racing has been consistently strong at the meet so far, but today's nine flat races have an average of fewer than 7 starters per race, including an early pick-4 you could buy going 7x4x6x8. The other reason I'm glad there was no carryover is that for some reason today's ninth race of 10 is a maiden 2-year-old turf route where six of the seven starters are first-time starters. Why this race was positioned here, making late pick-3, pick-4 and pick-6 players bet in the dark, is a mystery given that there were plenty of races with no firsters scheduled earlier on the card.

The day began with the $74,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps steeplechase, which was probably fun if you bet on Opera Heroine ($9.80) but was not exactly an aesthetic success. It was 52 lengths from 1st to 6th place, and the three others did not finish. Maya Charli stopped after seven fences, Beating The Odds fell over the third fence (and then walked off apparently okay) and Farah T Salute "completely refused at the start despite strong encouragement from the rider," as the official chart put it.

In the second and third, heavy favorites were beaten by 5-2 shots. Cinder Cone faded to fifth at 6-to-5 behind Most Happy Fella ($7.40) in the 2nd, and 4-to-5 Sharp Tongue Lady finished second to Indian Tale ($7.20) in the 3rd after an early duel sapped her for the stretch.

So what do you do the day after you hit a modest pick-6? Order the lobster! Decided it was time to try somthing else at least once before I turn into a fried-chicken sandwich, so I went for the Lobster Roll at the Putnam St. Market booth on the "Taste of Saratoga" restaurant row in the backyard. I had high hopes, because Putnam Street Market makes excellent takeout sandwiches I've been getting for years. Here's what I got for $15:

Not much value by volume (an HFC sandwich is literally three times as much food for $8.50.) Perfectly good high-quality lobster meat, but no sauce or seasoning and it felt more like an appetizer than lunch. It's even-money I'll need a hot dog by the end of the day. Grade: B-minus.

 

4:00 pm: Handle so far today a whopping $96. Hadn't handicapped the 4th and 5th in time to play the early pick-4 intelligently, so I played it unintelligently, even reprehensibly: a 2 x 2 x all x all for 50 cents. I'm not giving back the $467.75 I got when Most Happy Fella ($7.40), Indian Tale ($7.20), Stormin Bud ($10.40) and Bourbonstreetgirl ($21.00) combined for an $1871-for-$2 pick-4. Hey, those $15 lobster rolls don't pay for themselves.

  

4:20 pm: Going to plow back another $84 of those idiotically-gotten gains with another caveman 50-center in the late pick-4: 2,4,8/5,7/ALL/6,7,8,10.

If you're looking for a cinch, I tried to give you one earlier at even money. Lunch #2:

 

4:55 pm: A playful afternoon turned somber in a heartbeat when Doing Great, the 8-5 favorite in the Lucy Scribner Stakes, went down on the far turn of the Mellon turf course and died on the track.

The 3-year-old Great Notion filly, bred and owned by R. Larry Johnson and trained by Michael Trombetta, had won 4 of her 7 previous starts including the $100k Maryland Million Lassie last Oct. 2 (pictured below, right).

Jockey Javier Castellano, who said he thought the filly had a heart attack, was discharged from First Aid, took off his mount in the 10th race but is expected to ride tomorrow.

 

5:15 pm: NYRA announced that Doing Great died of "cardiovascular collapse" during the race, and that Castellano declined to go to the hoispital but has not yet been cleared to ride tomorrow.

 

5:45 pm: The 9th race, for 2yo maiden-claimers on the turf, matched six first-time starters aginst one horse, Knock Rock, who had raced before -- but it was Knock Rock who ran like a green firster. He completely blew the turn while on the lead, heading straight to the outside fence, where he then rerallied and passed one of the horses who had gone by him to finish third. The race went to Mark Casse firster Splendiferous ($12.20), a Pleasantly Perfect colt who sold for just $5,000 as a yearling.

 

5:50 pm: Looks like only 4 of the 9 left in the finale are covered: one $82k winner to the 1, 5 and 7, and two at $41k to the favored #6 Midnite Silver. Second choice #10 Leadwithyourchin is among the five uncovered horses who would produce an $82k carryover into Friday. Kind of surprising to me that anyone's alive on a non-carryover day with a parlay that's already over $30k.

Today's pool was $131,876, well clear of the NYRA Thursday $100k guaranteed pool. Today's handle was the highest Thursday one yet at the meet, up 35 percent from the Week 1 $94k pool. Handle always spikes a little the day after a big-carryover payout like yesterday's.

 

6:10 pm: Carryover! 11-1 Scorper held off 2-1 Midnite Silver to produce an $82,068 pick-6 carryover into Saratoga's Friday card. No, I haven't looked yet but can tell you it begins with the 4th at 2:40 pm on a nine-race card and features four turf races including the G2 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes (race 7.)

Might have to sit it out -- I've got Hall of Fame ceremonies to attend, a Sunday column to write and a bear of a Saturday card to handicap for Saturday morning's Talking Horses -- but I'll take a peek tonight just in case there's time.