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Spa Day 34: 8/31/11
12:30 pm: Main track fast, turf good, two stakes races with fields of five and six, and a $44k pick-6 carryover for the first day of the final week of Saratoga.
Day 34 is an 11-race card that seems to have been arranged to annoy multirace bettors. Two firster-filled maiden races are buried in teh Pick Six sequence as the second(race 7) and final (race 11) legs, and the latter race will pose problems for pick-4 players as well. It's a race for $35k statebred 2yo maiden claimers -- including six firsters in a field of 11 -- that would have worked much better almost anywhere else on the card. Why not switch it with the 6th, a 10-horse field of turf sprinters with fully-exposed form? That would have removed it from both pick-4's and make it the first rather than last leg of the pick-6.
The 7th race may prove less problemmatic because although 6 of the 8 2-year-olds are firsters, one of them will probably have to be a monster to beat Pletcher second-timer Mr. Style, who earned a 91 Beyer running second to possible Hopeful favorite J C's Pride in his July 27 debut.
The ongoing, um, creativity with placing the stakes races finds the five-horse Lady Tak going as the 3rd and the six-horse P. G. Johnson for 2-year-old fillies going as the 8th. The latter scratched down from a field of nine with the withdrawals of Idle Dice, Zultanite and Visionaria.
1:45 pm: Nice little $325 early double if you liked Hammock ($17.00) in the opener and Night Maneuver ($41.00) in the second. Hammock, neat 7-year-old grey gelding who has made 23 starts over five seasons for trainer Rick Schosberg, dueled from the half-mile pole to the wire with Scorper in a one-mile turf race with bizarrely slow posted fractions -- a half in 52.16 ("not enough O's in slow," said Durkin) and a final time of 1:38.13 that would imply a second half-mile of 45.97 after an opening half of 52.16. I'm skeptical.
In the 2nd, an open-company version of the dreaded 11th, Flying Zee firster Night Maneuver was clearly best, rallying strongly after being jammed up at the rail and altering course in midstretch. Hushion second-timer Moreforyourmoney, slammed late to 4-5 off a speed-and-fade debut against similar, made the lead and tired late again, barely holding third.
2:15 pm: Kid Kate won her second stakes race of the meeting when she ran down Moontune Missy to win the Lady Tak, 30 days after she took the Rachel Alexandra in similar stretch-running style. The 4-year-old Lemon Drop Kid filly, a Dell Ridge homebred, was the 20th winner at the meet for Chad Brown -- good enough to win many a Spa training tile but still 13 behind Todd Pletcher this year.
3:20 pm: Making a goofy, violates-all-my-tenets (don't make caveman plays, don't hit the all button) pick-6 play for $396. I won't even dignify it with a colorful grid: 3,5,7/5/1,3,7/5,8/7/ALL(1 through 11)
If it were a more playable sequence or a bigger carryover, I wouldn't single Dominant Currency in the 10th, a race where I could easily go 4 or 5 deep, but just in case I'm right about him and a couple of others, I'll take my chances and try to stay out of trouble for a race or two this way.
3:50 pm: Coun Catamount ($6.40) held off Hooligan's Delight by a neck to save the Caveman from extinction in the first leg of the pick-6. Woohoo. Mr. Style opened 1-2 for the 7th and none of the firsters got any action in the doubles or pick-3's ending here. Third-timer Officer Prado, the only other one to have started, is the clear second choice in both sets of willpays. Romans firster Benofear, currently 6-1 second choice in win pool with 18 MTP, was the sixth choice in the dd and p-3 pools.
4:10 pm: Here's a sentence I never thought I'd write: The runner-up in the Delaware Handicap is the morning-line favorite for the Woodward. Havre de Grace, who is 2 for 6 against Blind Luck, is the 8-5 ML favorite to win the Woodward against Flat Out, Giant Oak, Rule, Mission Impazible, Ice Box, Mambo Meister and Convocation.
4:25 pm: Officer Prado ($9.40) broke with 2-5 Mr. Style and the two of them went at it around the track before Officer Prado inched ahead and prevailed by a neck in 1:04.19. Officer Prado, a Texas-bred by Officer, was 4th to Maan in his Churchill debut and second to Giant Surprise at Saratoga July 30. Farewell, caveman.
5:00 pm: Two straight losing odds-on Pletcher favorites as 4-5 Crazy Party faded to 5th in the stretch while Alaura Michele finished well to win the P. G. Johnson Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 2 1/4 lengths. The race honors the late Hall of Fame trainer whose charges incliuded Maplejinsky, Naskra's Breeze, Nasty and Bold, Quiet Little Table and Volponi.
New Wave, a half-sister to General Quarters trying turf for the first time, set the pace and continued on very well to be second at 16-1 with Bourbonstreetgirl third in a field of six. Alaura Michele, a Siena farm homebred by Arch, is trained by Bill Mott.
6:05 pm: After victories by Risky Rachel ($7.50) and Yadira ($13.40, everyone's covered in the pick-6 in the finale, ranging from 10 tickets at $23k to second-timer Rico Capote to one ticket at $233k to Contessa firster Cat Man Fu. The pick-6 is the only pool where Rico Capote is favored -- the lowest double, pick-3 and pick-4 willpays are to Pure Grit, also the current 3-1 win-pool fave.
ELeven races again tomorrow, starting with a steeplechase, and this time the stakes are the 8th and 9th, with Pletcher sending out the LM favorite in both: Dark Thunder at 2-1 in the restricted Island Whirl for older sprinters, and then Captain Webb at 3-1 in the G2 With Anticipation for 2-year-olds on the grass.
Steve.....2 questions. 1.) Why do we not see the trainer stat "dropped/raised 50% in claiming price" below a horse's pp's anymore? 2.) I saw a "W" after a claiming price in a horse's pp's, i.e. Clm40,000(40-35)-W. what does the W signify?........Thanks.......Tom [1. We've never used that as a stat to my knowledge and I'd be wary of it. Is a horse who wins a $35k N2L really "dropping" 50 percent by facing open $17.5 claimers next time? That's actually a class jump. Claiming conditions have gotten so complicated that tag-price alone is no longer a meaningful barometer of class moves. 2)That's a "waiver" claiming race where a horse can run in a claiming race once off a long layoff without being claimed, a rule used only in California and Arkansas. -SC]
Power just back on in my little neck of North Jersey. Enjoyed my first Travers trip in ages even though we only got in two days of racing and spent Sunday holed up in a Lake George motel with no power and water cascading down a lake front hillside so fast it threatened to wash the whole facility away. I cannot believe Delaware ran on Saturday, the simulcast screens looked like the 2007 BC from Monmouth. I bet neither, but thought both Repole horses very impressive. I'm as guilty as anyone in taking Tom Durkin for granted, but when you hear him pick up a deep close like that of Caleb's Posse almost as soon as it begins and seamlessly weave it into a race call with all the action going on up front you really know what a treasure he is. Was privileged to sit with some great people and the atmosphere was electric for the King's Bishop and Travers. Like several other commenters the trip home was a nightmare. Two and a half hours to go 10 miles and be kicked off the Thruway at Exit 17 and having your pocket picked during a natural disaster by NY state. The short of it being that a 3 1/2 hour trip took 8 1/2 hours! If I hadn't stumbled on an old WWII vintage 9W sign in Cornwall I don't think I"d be home yet. On the positive side my car waited until Tuesday to display the "no oil pressure" light and croak. Still a few days left to crush 'em. Good luck to all.
In honor of Phil Johnson I would like to say one of the best non-stakes races I ever witnessed was Volponi's first race of the season several years ago ( I think it was 2004). It was an Allowance race in April at Aqueduct. Volponi looked lousy as he was sweating profusely. Coming down the stretch he found himself up against a tough bastard named Speightstown who dug in and beat him to the wire. Weeks later I was at the rail at Belmont and this guy strikes up a conversation with me about that race and we both could not get over how tough Speightstown looked that day. It was a hell of an opening act for the season.
I think Havre De Grace is a deserving favorite in the Woodward. Look at the field, its a bunch of inconsistent horses whom really have never seperated themselves from the pack. Isn't it possible, that in a down year for the males, that Blind Luck and Havre De Grace have emerged as the two best horses in training? Its worth finding out for sure. Also, I dont think people need to worry about how much the Woodward took out of Rachel, and that happening to Havre De Grace. In Rachel's Woodward, every horse took a shot at her, she dueled through crazy fast fractions and had to dig in early, in a way only an epic horse could, to hold off the closers. Havre De Grace is not going to go to the front at all cost, and I dont think other jockeys are going to worry about her the way they did Rachel. Not sure if Havre will win, but its a great time to take a shot.
Jeff: Rachel was practically dueled into submission in the '09 Woodward and still won. She had multiple challengers pressuring her the entire way, and in retrospect it was no wonder that she was never the same after the race. Harve de Grace is a four year old trying the boys, which I think will make a serious difference. She also I don't think will face the same trip Rachel did two years ago. What I mentioned earlier about Acclamation and the Breeders' Cup applies to the BC TURF, NOT Classic, and only if Acclamation first came east and won the Jockey Club Gold Cup on dirt October 1. If Acclamation does that, his connections could basically call the shots and force some horses into the BC Turf that may not really want grass or 1 1/2 Miles (Stay Thirsty, Harve de Grace, Blind Luck), but would be going in there to try and win Horse of the Year.
Steve, the caveman was appropriate. The six is kinda' unhandicapable for a ROI reasons and a significant color grid spreadsheet was not in order. The results, so far, say so. Walk tall. I've been in the barn on Spa cards since passing all starting Sunday and to include tomorrow. And I don't go off and golf or kyack or garden. This is one of those cards if you win you lose, if you lose you lose. Always an east coast track bettor except for stabs at The Factor, Sidney's Candy first on grass, and the like. The pick 6 at Del Mar looks impossible for investment purposes as well but this would be my shot. 2,6,8,11 3,9,11 2,5,7 6 or 8 (Rosario mount selection) 7 8,9 2,5,7,9,12
SC - ok, so it is pretty clear you don't like Harvey in the Woodward, or better put, perhaps you don't like her odds, who do you like? [They just drew the race and I'm two days away from having an opinion. I'm just surprised she's the favorite. -SC]
Great observation about Havre de Grace. Somehow Mr. Porter got a bad case of Saratoga fever and thinks his horse is the second coming of Rachel A. I hope he can remember that Rachel was never the same after that race and I hope someone close to him points out this fact and reminds him. I like HDG and I like Blind Luck; Hollendorfer obviously has some close friends who reminded him of this type of history and that is why Blind Luck wasn't entered in the Pacific Classic. Isn't Larry Jones calling the shots??? What is your take on this Steve? I think Flat Out (based upon his last two performances) should be the favorite. I hope that HDG runs well... but I also hope she doesn't end up like Rachel did.
God bless the ALL button. May there be a statue of one erected in front of the Saratoga Post Office on Broadway, someday. Steve: Glad your home didn’t get squashed by the “ex-“ (downgraded) hurricane! Speaking of which, there seem to be a lot of ex-Hurricanes, following the shocking revelations (ya don’t say!) that Miami FB players actually, no it cannot be possible, were taking money under the table. Spent five days at Saratoga (ending Monday), but unfortunately, only one day – Travers day – was a decent card (weather, etc.). Didn’t matter. Met good people. Even the one distinctly negative encounter will pay future dividends. DQ City: Day One, 1st race, waited forever to cash the winning steeplechase bet (thank you, Mr. Jacobson!). The rest of the card was a horror (too bad we're going to Del Mar next year in lieu of Saratoga. Last week, in person, I finally got used to Del Mar-sized fields.) Next day (?): Minor profit from a DQ in the 1st race (fave 2nd; taken down; explanation from above could have been coherent). Next day: A 2 ½ times-the-exacta ticket keeled over (a 5-1, 2nd, taken down). Even though I paid for the sins of another, the stewards got it right. Bob Baffert came striding out of the pre-Travers paddock with red-hot cappuccino steam pouring out of both ears. Tsk tsk. Quite a sight. What ever could have been the problem? Maybe we should run the Haskell twice a year…just for him. Tipped a complete stranger onto Caleb & felt good afterwards when C. beat U. Mo. I thought Malibu Glow (Travers, 5th) did quite well, considering that she was a gutsy tropical storm horse in a hurricane-level race. Bought three of the “wrong” books at the Lyrical Ballad, by mistake. Seriously. The lovely author at the track who was signing copies of her WWII novel was distraught – her boyfriend was adamantly intent on returning home on Sunday (tropical storm in progress). I advised her sotto voce that if all else failed, Saturday at midnight, to pour sugar into the gas tank.
Steve, Are you going to put in a small P6 ticket at Del Mar? [No, see earlier explanation in comments. -SC]