08/22/2011 12:49PM

Spa Day 28: 8/22/11



12:50 pm: It's a beautiful Day 28 at Saratoga, but while last night's heavy rains blew out the humidity they also knocked all of today's grass races except the 1st off the turf. Races 2,3,6 and 10 will be run on the main track on a 10-race card that now has fields of 4,8,6,6,7,6,7,9,7 and 8 scheduled to race.

The upcoming first apparently stayed on the grass only because four were willing to run, including two uncoupled Chad Brown trainees, while there would have been only three left had it been switched to the dirt.

Main track, sealed overnight, is officially fast and the grass is labelled soft for the opener. Can't find anything to bet on or against among the quartet in the first, so I'll just set an over/under of 1:47, which would be 7 1/5 seconds off the course record, for the time of the 1 1/16-mile race, which has been switched from the Inner to the Mellon course.


1:10 pm: And the winner was....the over! Wilkinson ($12.60), longest shot in a field of four, outfinished 3-4 favorite Asphalt to win the opener in 1:47.85 over the soft Mellon course.


2:45 pm: Despite the Odds ($6.00), 4th in the 2009 King's Bishop, bottomed out the field with strong early fractions to lead from gate to wire in the 4th, an N3x allowance that was probably the highest-quality race on the card. The 5-year-old son of Speightstown shot to the lead from the rail, ran an exceptionally sharp second quarter to extend his lead through fractions of 22.50 and 44.68, then held off slow-starting Flat Bold through seven furlongs in 1:22.79.

Despite the Odds had lost 12 straight starts over 25 months since winning the off-the-turf 2009 Hill Prince.


3:30 pm: Lovely Lil ($3.80) sat behind the early leaders under supremely confident handling from Ramon Dominguez, who let her run just enough to win the Union Avenue Stakes in 1:10.59. The 4-year-old Barry Schwartz homebred by Tiznow has now won four of eight career starts but this was her first stakes victory.

Lovely Lil completed a $157 early pick-4.


3:40 pm: Here's what the Grade 1 scorecard looks like at the halfway point -- 8 down, 8 to go, starting with three on Saturday:


According to a NYRA press release, here's how Saturday's three Grade 1's are shaping up:

"The field for Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Travers is beginning to gel, with Bowman’s Causeway, Coil, J W Blue, Moonshine Mullin, Raison d’Etat, Rattlesnake Bridge, Ruler On Ice, Shackleford, and Stay Thirsty listed as probable by NYRA Stakes Coordinator Andrew Byrnes. Malibu Glow and Prayer for Relief are possible for the race.

The Foxwoods King’s Bishop is expected to draw Caleb’s Posse, Cool Blue Red Hot, Dominus, Flashpoint, Justin Phillip, Poseidon’s Warrior, Runflatout and Uncle Mo. Possible for the race are Bold Warrior, J J’s Lucky Train, and Wine Police.

The Grade 1 Ballerina is likely to attract Bronx City Girl, Devil by Design, Hilda’s Passion, Sassy Image, and Tamarind Hall."


4:05 pm: Just to have a little something to root for the rest of the day:


4:40 pm: American Angel ($12.00) came off the rail in the stretch to run down World Harmony and win the 7th. The Allen Jerkens traineee is the second winner of the meet produced by Society Selection, the 2004 Test and Alabama winner (for Jerkens), who was sold to Coolmore last November for $1.85 million.

World Harmony was co-favored at 8-5 with Vivere, a Claiborne second-timer who was hammered in the late betting but proved hard to handle early and then raced very wide into the turn.


5:15 pm: Rick Dutrow trainee Networking ($7.70) just keeps winning by daylight regardless of venue or claiming tag. In her last three starts she has won by 5 1/2 a $50,000 maiden-claiming tag at Belmont May 27; by 6 3/4 lengths with a $7,500 for-sale sign at Parx July 19, and just won by 5 1/2 for a $15,000 tag in the 8th at Saratoga.  

Favored Stanford Dolly was off last, made a middle move into contention and faded late.


5:45 pm: Al Muhtasib, first-time for a tag, was too good for his six N2x/Oc $50k opponents and drew off after dueling with Westrock to win the 9th for McLaughlin/Garcia.

All eight in the last-call 10th are covered in the pick-6: it's paying $739 to favored Orsonian and $30k to outsider Trinity Warrior. Pick-4's aren't too bad, including $307 to the favorite.


5:55 pm: Networking was claimed for $15k from Dutrow by Ken Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker. Al Muhtasib was claimed from McLaughlin for $50,000 by owner/trainer Merrill Scherer.


6:15 pm: Orsonian ($4.10) completed the chalkfest, the $307.50 Pick-4, the $739 Pick-6 and The fifth week of the Spa. Racing resumes Wednesday, as will I.

Perl More than 1 year ago
My point wasn't that the track was not slowing down. I can reluctantly accept the premise, based on raw times, that the track was slowing down. But to what extent, Steve? There aren't enough data points. And isn't it possible that none of the horses in the Whitney handled the racetrack well, but that Tizway handled it best of all? It's utterly impossible to make anything resembling reliable figures on a day like Whitney day....For all we know, Tizway ran a 95-Beyer in the Whitney. The same limitations are true for Ragozin and Thorograph btw. This isn't meant to be a personal vendetta against Beyer. I do utilize speed figures as part of my handicapping, but the accuracy is limited and I don't believe Tizway deserves a 111 bsf for the Whitney. There's no way of "proving" this either based on subsequent results. We don't have the technology. Regards, Jason [Thanks for the more thoughtful response than your initial "comical" and "joke" post. It is indeed difficult to make figures in which one has 100 percent confidence on a weird day like Whitney Day, but rather than leaving it blank we choose to go with the best informed judgment that experienced people can make. I don't get why that inspires anger. I also find it extremely extremely unlikely that the winners of the Met, Suburban and Donn all suddenly regressed 10 lengths running 1-2-3 in the Whitney, which is what you would have to be saying if you arbitrarily gave the race a figure of 95. -SC]
Barry More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve : Just tried the ticketmaker for the first time and its a lot of fun. I didnt see an option for an "All A,B ticket" I was curious if that was something you do on your own. I was also curious if its possible to include a scratched horse on a ticket so you can guarantee you will be placed on the post time favorite if you dont already have it? [I've requested an all-A-and-B option to be added to TicketMaker. And I don't think you can use a horse on a ticket if he's already been scratched -- the tote system won't accept it. -SC]
Bernard Downes More than 1 year ago
Thoughts from abroad again. Surely the Beyer figures are simply the opinion of one man/one organisation. Similar to our Timeform figures. But at the end of the day they prove nothing. One horse has to beat the other horses on the track, not on a piece of paper. Regarding track biases (or not), why don't the trainers and jockeys adjust their tactics to overcome any bias that MAY exist. I know many horses either prefer to lead or come from behind, but if its not working try something different. I firmly believe that 90% of racehorses are adaptable. [Beyer figures are NOT comparable to Timeform Ratings and not generally a case of "one man's opinion." Timeform and Racing Post numbers are overall performance ratings that take class and weight and subjective opinions into account. The Beyer figures purport only to say how fast a horse ran from point A to point B by modifying the final raw time of a race with a mathematically-dervied judgment on the speed of the racetrack. The figures "make themselves" the vast majority of the time, but sometimes changing weather and maintenance conditions require human intervention to assess the speed of the track and that's what gets people arguing about them. -SC]
Richard Goldberg (RichGold) More than 1 year ago
Posted by RichGold Steve, Was Cribnote a gelding when he raced in stakes company as a two year old in 2008? Lastly, in reading articles and commentary on Sunday's Lake George and the loss absorbed by Winter Memories, it seems as if the winner, Hungary Island, is being treated somewhat dismissively. A friend who does final time/final segment figures on turf races raved about HI even before her maiden win. We've both been all over her through her four race win streak. To us, Sunday's result was hardly unexpected.
Wayne 80 More than 1 year ago
PS - I loved the shortened post times, with the reduced fields there was less to handicap and there were no lines. Plus it let me get into town in time to enjoy my free meal and still have time to watch the Jets game at 7pm, if only ONE of the hundred bars in town had the NFL Network package. Bummer.
Wayne 80 More than 1 year ago
So the verdict is in, I will indeed be back next year it appears despite all my whining about the quality. Lost my shirt and was truly uninspired on Sunday in the slopfest, but my two buddies that have not been up there in a few years were in their glory. The Saratoga Magic still reigns supreme, didnt matter to them what they were betting one, whethar it was fast or sloppy or off the turf, they were psyched to be at Saratoga and going to enjoy it nonetheless. And I suspect thats what NYRA counts on. They still buy the paper version of DRF and love to handicap but due to life priorities dont get to the play often so this is a real treat. Damn they were in happy campers despite the rain and the parade of maidens. The fact that we were comped real nice seats for Sunday by the hotel manager really helped too, they had never experienced the clubhouse so it was a treat that overcame the dreary day. And one of them managed to simply kill the card on Sunday, paying for his trip and our steak dinners all the while planning next years trip back. I enjoyed the track and the town and would have made money if Wills Wildat had lasted, one short nose away from a winning trip. But I wont go away without one last whine, switching the first race to the slop with 23mtp on Sunday was uconscionable. Running late due to the rain I called my bets in with 35mtp from my hotel room, then called a cab to the track, only to walk in the gate and find out the surface was switched. Thankfully one of my runners scratched giving me a partial refund. I know it was pouring but I NEVER expected them to take the race off the turf when the horses had already left the barn. Just bad luck I guess.
Penn National Rick More than 1 year ago
Steve, With weather coming up the east coast....is nyra looking at moving up post-times so the Travers can run without too much precip?? I know its early, but i hate to see a stellar race like this run in sloppy surface. PNR [No, post time is locked in due to NBC telecast. And I think any speculation Tuesday night about when it might rain Saturday is rather premature. -SC]
James Mc More than 1 year ago
"It is utterly comical that Tizway got a 111 Beyer for his 1:52 and 2 Whitney and Turbulent Descent gets a 103 for going 1:24 flat one race earlier." It is beyond comical. Statebred allowance runners in the last race that day (after the covert and mysterious "backraking") ran about the same time for 7 furlongs as the Grade 1 runners in the Whitney. Yes, the Whitney runners still had two furlongs additional to run, but after all, we are comparing Grade 1 horses to NY bred allowance runners. Facts are facts. [Those NY-bred allowance runners actually ran their first six furlongs a full second faster than the Whitney and that race got a 73. So on your unique method of comparing these raw times -- disregarding two turns vs. one turn or 7f vs. 9f, or the obvious fact that the track was dead and tiring and might produce even slower times in a route than in sprints -- I guess the Whitney should have gotten a Beyer of 57 (16 points, which is what a full second is worth at 6f, lower than the statebreds) and that would be "factual" and not at all "comical." -SC]
Jim Davis More than 1 year ago
Steveinphilly makes a fatal error in thinking each race is 1 data point. Each horse can be considered a POTENTIAL data point. So if three horses run worse than expected and 2 run better, in the same race, you now have 5 data points. Do that 2 or 3 times, and a skilled race watcher will detect a bias if there IS one. I've been doing it for decades.
Jeff T. More than 1 year ago
For Larry Bird... the best way to learn what Steve does is to get the book: Exotic Betting. I cannot tell you how many times this book has helped me to get re-focused. For some reason, most horse players (like me) have a difficult time applying cold analytical logic to multi-race wagers. The book will teach you how to focus your wagers. When you start slipping (which happens to all of us), go back and re-read the book. Best Wishes....... Magic Johnson (lol, lol)