07/23/2011 1:10PM

Spa Day 2: 7/23/11


2:00 pm: Hello, hello? Is this thing on?

Sorry for the late greeting, but I've been fighting my laptop for the last two hours, and am only now up and running after resorting to the highly scientific "Punch it once and then turn it on and off three times" method of hardware repair. I'll be picking up a new machine when I go back downstate Monday but let's see if I can't get through the weekend with this old (2005) warhorse.

Today's card is an excellent one, topped off by a classic CCA Oaks, a showdown for divisional leadership of the 3-year-old fillies among the winners of the Kentucky Oaks (Plum Pretty), Black-Eyed Susan (Royal Delta), Acorn (It's Tricky) and Mother Goose (Buster's Ready), plus the beaten favorite from the Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose (Joyful Victory). I'm a Royal Delta fan but won't be shocked if she turns out to need a race after missing some time with a bruised foot. I feel better about her four weeks hence in the Alabama than I do today, but maybe she's good enough to get it done today too.

The rest of the card seems like a sea of difficult grass races -- an excellent horseplaying card but for me at least, too tough for a pick-6 investment despite a $67k carryover from Opening Day. So go ahead and chop it up without me or, better yet, let's all play a double-carry tomorrow.

The day's first two races didn't go my way. I talked myself into liking 15-1 ML Up In Lights in the opener, took the 8-1 she was at post time, and watched in frustration as this deep, deep closer was dead last behind a slow pace. She passed a bunch when belatedly turned loose. My other big opinion in the race was that Deannaallen's Kitten was a very overbet favorite at 2-1. She paid $6.90.

Then in the 2nd, there were two highly-touted firsters, one of whom would surely provide an easy two-deep start to the early pick-4 in Whinston (Asmussen)and How Do I Win (Pletcher), who were rumored to be the second and third coming of Hindoo. Turns out they're both very quick, as they proved by running each other into the ground through insane early fractions, setting it up for a clunk-up victory by 7-1 Laurie's Rocket.

It's another scorcher of a day here. Maybe the laptop has heatstroke. C'mon, boy, just two more days and you can have the rest of the summer off.


3:00 pm: Big race by Baffert shipper Saddleranch in the 3rd. Good-looking 3-year-old by Vindication was pressed through a half in 44.73, looked shaky for a moment in upper stretch, but then kicked away and widened his margin to 4 1/2 at the wire after six furlongs in 1:15.02. Looks like a candidate for the King's Bishop Aug. 27.

Finally did something smart by doing something stupid in the 4th, where a 13-horse field pumped up everyone's prices. I had picked the race 2-8-6-5 on "Talking Horses," and while there was nothing enticing about the #2 at 8-5, the others were all double digits. So I made that incredibly sophisticated play of the old four-horse exacta box, and the 6-5 came back $211 for $2.


3:45 pm: One of the reasons I passed on the pick-6 was the first leg, a N1x turf allowance where I had seven of them open to win it and no idea who would be bet and how. The crowd saw it more clerly, and was right to boot: They sent off Capital Market and Tahoe Lake as the clear 3-1 co-favorites and they finished a nose apart at the wire in that order. Hate when that happens.


4:00 pm: Friday figs: Jackson Bend got a Beyer Speed figure of 108 for his victory in the James Marvin; Valiant Passion got an 88 for her successful return in the 4th; and the first three finishers (all firsters) in that loaded 2-year-old filly maiden race -- My Miss Aurelia (86), Delightful Magic (83) and Stopshoppingmaria (78) -- all got better figures than Georgie's Angel (76) did winning the Schuylerville.

The pick-6 handle today was $337,225 on top of the $67,938 carryover.


4:15 pm: What a weird toteboard -- SIX horses in the 9-2 to 6-1 range, with four of them at 5-1. What's weirder still is that R King of the Road, who was sent off at even-money in his January debut and figured shorter than 9-2 here, then went out and one like a 1-to-5 shot, blwoing the field away in 1:09.08 after a half in 44.25. R King of the Road, a Robsham homebred and Pletcher trainee, is a 3-year-old Trippi gelding.


4:45 pm: The late pick-4 play:

5:30 pm: Jimmy Simms fans like me got lucky on two counts with the late scratch of second choice Dominant Jeannes. Count 1: DJ had looked like the speed, and his absence left JS loose on the lead in 1:12.26, a relaxing pace he needed as he just lasted after getting a smidge late in his foirst start since January; Count 2: If you used DJ as well, you're alive twice in the pick-4 (or pick-6) because the winner was favored so you scratched into him as your designated substitute. 


6:00 pm: A terrific CCA Oaks finish, with It's Tricky wearing down a brave Plum Pretty for the victory by three-quarters of a length with Royal Delta 6 1/2 lengths back in third. I still think RD can improve with a race under her belt and an extra furlong in the Alabama, but no doubt that the top two were the best two today.

Looks like there are live pick-6 tickets to 8 of the 12 maiden-claimers in the finale -- everyone except the 3,6, 10 and 13. Payoffs range from $51k to $255k.  Pick-4's are no less than $1448 for $2....


6:30 pm: .. and no more than $1,448 for $2, as pick-4 fave and win-pool second choice Binks Forest wired them to win the finale. Pick-6 paid $51,020 on five winning tickets. In answer to your next question: I don't know. Maybe. I never got as far as making out a play. But I'm not going to torture myself about it. The pick-4 worked out pretty well, the weather's supposed to break tomorrow, and my head is an inch above water with 38 more chances ahead.