08/18/2011 2:17PM

Spa Day 24: 8/18/11


3:15 pm: Spent the first half of Day 24 -- this would be Closing Day in the days of four-week meets -- driving back up from Long Island. Pretty smooth trip, though there's a construction project starting up just south of the Saugerties Exit that has one of teh two Northbound lanes shut down and might cost you 10 or 15 minutes minutes.

Catching up on the early races on a 10-race card that began with two 2 3/8-mile steeplechases:

1st: The Invincible Jonathan Sheppard ran 1-2 with the uncoupled entry of Parker's Project ($30.40) and 2-1 fave Port Morsbey, beaten 5 1/4 lengths while finishing 11 lengths clear of the others. it was 49 lengths from 1st to 6th, and only 4 of the 9 non-Sheppard trainees even completed the race. Baltic Shore fell, Brave Prospect lost his rider, and Jimtown, Dr. Wheat and Cuse all left the course. Steeplechasing at its best is entertaining and a great second career for flat runners, but a race like this paints an unappealing picture of it and makes it seem less than ready for prime-time exposure at Saratoga.

2nd: Sheppard again in the 2nd as Italian Wedding ($6.30) won the Mickey Walsh Novice Stakes, where the 4-2-1 finishers in the July 28 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes returned to run 1-2-3. Only 29 lengths from 1st to 6th this time, and 6 of the 8 finished the race without leaving the course. The Sheppard-Sheppard double paid $81.50.

3rd: Back on dirt and with no hurdles, Cooks Forest ($29.80), longest shot in a field of eight $25k N2L claimers, rallied from 7th to run down 9-5 fave Launch N Relaunch.

Time to unpack the rest of the car and see if the late pick-4 is playable. Race 7 is the only one of today's six scheduled grass races to be taken off the turf.


4:05 pm: My Man Marty ($8.10) completed a robust early pick-4 (on races 3-6 today due to the two steeplechases) that paid $13,506 for $2 if you hooked him up with Coooks Forest ($29.80), J L Bernstein ($8.50) and Loyal Shadow ($31.80).

Don't think any of these combos can approach that, but here's my quickie late pick-4 action:



5:05 pm: Just got taken down when Retire to What was dq'd from 1st to 2nd in the 8th, and thoroughly deserved it. Retire to What bore out badly through the stretch, clearly interfering with the oncoming Chernobyl's Hero, and to my eye it absolutely affected the outcome of the race. Can't blame Cornelio Velasquez for the first-place finisher's misbehavior -- he was trying his best to keep him from drifting, using the whip right-handed, but RTW wouldn't cooperate.

I guess you could have used Chernobyl's Hero on the class drop but a few seasons of watching him compile a 4-for-61 record, including just one win in his last 25 starts, have kind of soured me on him. But congrats to the 7-year-old Cryptoclearance gelding, now 5 for 62.


5:25 pm: If they're really going to let Lubash go off at 15-1 here in the West Point, I'm going to have to bet him a little. I have no confidence in him going a step over a mile, and favorites Icabad Crane and Pocket Cowboys are better than him, but he's not that far behind them and he's twice the price he should be.


5:55 pm: There was a flickering moment when Lubash, who made the lead to the top of the stretch, looked like he might pull away at 16-1 after cutting the corner while his pursuers went wide....but the flicker went out quickly and he just held 4th behind Compliance Officer ,Karakorum Legend and Pocket Cowboys.

I'd have taken 1-to-5 no one would be alive into the finale and it would have been yet another bad opinion: The 3,5 and 6 are covered for one-winner $69k payoffs. Strangely, favored Singmeasong and second choice Simsational are uncovered and would produce a $69k carry into Friday.


6:15 pm: Simsational won the finale so there's a $69k carry into Day 25. I'd love to know the thinking of that person with the three live tickets in the finale who didn't use either of the two obvious favorites. Was it brilliant handicapping that used $31.80 and $15.20 winners and deliberately omitted the 5-2 and 3-1 ML favorites in the last or just a license-plate/phone-number lark that got the ticket that far?