08/13/2011 12:42PM

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.