08/13/2011 1:42PM

Spa Day 20:8/13/11


1:40 pm: Saratoga has a fourth-Saturday-of-the-meet problem called the Sword Dancer Invitational, a race that lacks the cachet or importance of the six other Saturday headliners (1-CCA Oaks, 2-Diana/Jim Dandy, 3-Whitney/Test, 5-Alabama, 6-Travers 7-Woodward/Forego). It also suffers from being run on the same day as the Arlington Million, giving it the feel of a consolation race for those not quite good enough to go to Chicago. This is no knock on this year's lineup, a perfectly entertaining field of eight that includes four Grade 1 winners (Drosselmeyer,Rahy's Attornet, Teaks North and Winchester), but if you were going to skip a Saturday at Saratoga, this would always be the one.

At the very least, it's a day that cries out for another good stakes race on the undercard. Instead today's other 10 races are six maiden races (four of them in a row from the 4th through 7th), three alowances and a claimer.

Here's my wacky idea: Shorten the Sword Dancer from 12 to 8 furlongs and make it the richest turf mile of the year in New York, an early showcase for Breeders' Cup Mile candidates. We have way too many long Grade 1 turf races and too few short ones in this country. East of California, there's not a Grade 1 turf race at under 10 furlongs for older males between the Maker's Mark at Keeneland in April and the Shadwell at Keeneland in October. Instead we have the 11f G1 United Nations and the 11f G1 Man o'War on top of each other in July and the 10f G1 Arlington Million and the 12f G1 Sword Dancer the same afternoon in August.


1:55 pm: Since two people have asked why they're not up on the NYRA website, here are the "picks" I made earlier today on Talking Horses:

1st: 10-1-4-2

2nd: 3-7-8-5

3rd: 2-3-1-4

4th: 4-8-7-6

5th: 6-4-3-2

6th: 4-9-3-6

7th: 8-6-3-10

8th: 8-10-1-6

9th: 4-3-6-2

10th: 5-8-3-7-6

11th: 9-11-12-6-2

A word of caution: I might as well be throwing darts in firster-fests like the 6th and 7th. I have no special insights or information about these races and would not want anyone to consider selections in such events as anything resembling informed advice. Fortunately, the 6th and 7th, while the first two legs of a non-carryover pick-6 I won't be playing, fall into the hole between the early and late pick-4's so I can just watch them.

The Talking Horses seminars are the only time of the year other than Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup races where I make public 1-2-3-4 picks, and it always gives me new respect for the people who do it every day. 


2:36 pm: Was in serious danger of starting out the card 4 for 4 as Ry Bread led every step of the way until being caught by Lemon Ghost nearing the wire. So I'm 3 for 4 with a second by a head... and stuck about $200 for the day since I didn't use Lemon Ghost in the pick-4.


3:45 pm: The horse named How Do I Win must be wondering exactly that.

The 2-year-old Corinthian ridgling from the Pletcher barn has been bet off the board in both of his starts, to 4-5 in his July 23 debut and 3-5 today, but ran into blistering speed duels both times and faded in the final sixteenth, to third last time and to fourth today.


4:15 pm: Let's try to crush a little 2x3x3 pick-3 at Arlington. The strategy is to steer clear of the Americans and focus on the Euros

Secretariat: If Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach runs his A race, it's all over. But he's coming off a blah effort so I'll use the "other" Euro, G3 winner Ziyarid.

BEverly D: Stacelita wins if she replicates her United Nations perfomance, where she nearly beat males despite a horrendous trip, but I won't let probably-overmatched friend Fantasia run in on me and I'll also use the South African fillyriver Jetez who's been second in G1's in Subai and Singapore this year.

Million: I'll pitch the admirable but 2-for-his-last-12 Gio Ponti and instead use Cape Blanco and the two imports Zach Hall and Wigmore Hall.

So that's 2,3/1,3,6/4,7,9 in the 8th at AP.


6:15 pm: Had to head out early and now I have to put on the monkeysuit for the Jockey Club dinner, so I missed all the excitement across the street at the track with Winchester winning the Sword Dancer and surviving a foul claim and then that crazy Pancho Martin horse winning the finale at 66-1 to give us a $76k carryover into Sunday. I'll be back in my perch at the track after the Round Table tomorrow and we'll take it from there.


Tony More than 1 year ago
I'll be the voice of dissent and say shortening the Sword Dancer is actually a very good idea. Belmont doesn't have any turf-mile stakes for older horses in the fall anymore to prep for the Turf Mile. The Kelso got moved to the main track, and the Jamaica is for 3YO's as always, not for older. Fill the gap, shorten it to a mile, move it (back) downstate where it was 25 years ago, and make it a star attraction for the BC. To make it win-win for those like me who like turf marathons, to replace the Sword Dancer at the Spa, let's revive the Seneca Handicap, which used to be a Grade III race at a mile and five-eighths into the late 1980's. Move the John's Call to the start of the meet, make the Seneca a centerpiece of the second half of the meet, and get out of the business of going head-to-head with the Million for star grass horses in August. And lastly, while we're on the subject, how about getting a handicap division race for Seattle Slew? It's not like Aqueduct is running the Stuyvesant Handicap anymore in the fall, and heaven knows we could use a two-turn stakes for older males in the fall at the Big A. There is no stakes race beyond a mile in NY in open company between October 1 and December 10 on dirt. Something's kinda wrong with that.
Mount More than 1 year ago
Saw your comment about crushing the Pick 3 at Arlington - so went ahead and checked out a parlay - $2 would pay 41.85 with 3 takeouts! That for a buck would be 21.42, a 30% higher return than the 16.40. Boy was I glad I played that $25 Pick 3! Cost me over 100 to stay in my seat.
hammer More than 1 year ago
steve, I was in Model United Nations, in 1970. also, Steely Dan in Chicago suburbs playing "Aja" this weekend doubt wayne shorter or steve gadd are with them thanks for the great blog. -hammer
Marty McFly More than 1 year ago
Hi Mr Crist, As much as I admire the awesomeness that is Walt P., I think he is going at this timing thing all wrong. Outfitting racetracks with lighting systems costs money. Let mother nature do the work, I always say. The solution to gaining the required exposure in the highly sought after Asian market is to go to an AM schedule. Imagine: Breakfast at Saratoga! 8AM First Post. This would hit Asia in their Prime Time sweet spot, while allowing for bacon & eggs, mimosas and Bloody Marys on the Clubhouse Terrace to the sounds of the rumbling hoof beats that we all so well love. A ten race card would be over before the heat of the day wilted the carnation in your lapel. Gotta see this as a Win-Win! Think about it. And you will fall in love all over again with a new morning in America, while Asia pounds the betting windows in their night-time hours. Next: Reverse Course – let's get all the Euros over here by running turf races Clockwise ( this used to be done at Belmont a century or so ago) Back to the future can be a good place. And it just makes sense. Cuz let's face facts. If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.
EJXD2 More than 1 year ago
Hi, Steve, The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Derby day at Churchill Downs is a Grade 1 race for older males going less than 1 1/4 miles on the turf between the two races you mentioned it Keeneland. [Meant to say less than 9f, will change it. Thanks. -SC]
Wayne 80 More than 1 year ago
Does anyone have the willpays for the Late P4 yesterday at Spa? Not that they ended up anywhere near the winners circle but I was alive with 3-4-12 and I like to torture myself by knowing how much I COULD have won.
Canarse More than 1 year ago
Good idea about the Sword Dancer. I have to echo some of the comments about Maggie Wolfendale. Her comments in maiden races are invaluable! I can't tell you how many times she has helped me nail an exacta or throw out a logical horse that is way too worked up. Her comments in non-maiden races are also valuable, but she seems to nail the maiden races every time...
gary pollard More than 1 year ago
Steve You need to keep your wacky ideas in your head, shorten the sword Dancer, what a muppet you would have every race as a sprint. The class has ebbed away in the American thoroughbred for decades now just through this very thing. We need more mile and a half races not less, next you will be wanting the BELMONT at preakness distance to give the non stayers a chance.
Mark Reedy More than 1 year ago
Vs. is doing a nice job with the Saratoga series. With an entire hour to fill, I wish they would have given Harvey Pack a couple of minutes. The Harvey Packs and Woody Brouns bring that older "sage/crazy" uncle character that makes racing more fun and intellectually entertaining.
Dogs Up More than 1 year ago
Steven, well said. We're still talking about Lasix two decades latter. I'd like to weigh in on this. The diaretic Furosemide is used in the treatment of human congestive heart failure and edema or water retention. Lasix is the trade name of Sanofi-Aventis' product furosemide. It is presently used to prevent race horses from bleeding internally, then up through the nose during races. Horses breath only through their nostrils. Bleeding from both nostrils after exercise/racing is most commonly due to an exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. This happens when bleeding occurs from the blood vessels within the lung. Because the blood is coming up from the lungs, technically it is not a just nosebleed from within the head. Along with some other diuretics, furosemide is also included on several banned drug listings only due to its alleged use as a masking agent for other drugs. Employing lasix to cure bleeder race horses was discovered accidentally. Lasix was administered to horses who put on excessive water weight, during a layoff, to get them back to the track in a timely manner. In the olden days, in some jurisdictions, horses that nostril-bleed three times were permanently barred from racing. Along the way, numerous studies and tests convinced the industry to allow lasix, with New York as the last to join in 1995. Overdose may lead to dehydration, change in drinking patterns and urination, seizures, GI problems, kidney damage, lethargy, collapse, and coma. Obviously, licensed veterinarians adminster, monitor horse, and record medications. Same for humans and most drugs taken by horses/humans have tons of side effects. According to Equibase data, from 1988 to 2010 the total US Foal Crop fell from about 45,258 to 27,800. Number of Races from 71,014 to 46,379 and total Starters from 83,021 to 62,994. Today, it is my opinion that a progressive Lasix ban with roll out dates and broader inclusion of horses in racing will see these numbers fall up to 25 to 40%. Newcomers and present race horse owners will just not risk their equine futures money if something as common to most race horses as bleeding will send their horse back to the barn for good. It will be considered inhumane to continue running a horse that has bled, and will continue to bleed without lasix, and well it should. Unfortunately, the steady return to no lasix does not appear to directly affect those who find this to be a new development, an innovation to the state of horse racing. As a handicapper-bettor-gambler, I regret having to wait to see the severe effects that will take place in day-to-day racing, primarily, the horses who will finish a race and then finish a career on the same day because they bled. Without lasix it will be called the finished line. Banning lasix will be know as the worse fix in racing.