09/01/2011 12:11PM

Spa Day 35: 9/1/11


1:10 pm: I keep thinking the "Grade 2" designation for today's With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga is a typo, because a G2 ranking is completely illogical and unwarranted.

As you can see in the chart below, only three of the nine graded stakes for 2-year-olds on the grass in the United States are Grade 1 or Grade 2 races: The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and, of all things, the With Anticipation:


Why the With Anticipation, the first such race of the year and clearly a stepping stone to the G3 Pilgrim and G3 Bourbon a month later? It's like saying the Fountain of Youth, Gotham, Rebel or San Felipe should have higher grades than the Florida Derby, Wood, Arkansas Derby or Santa Anita Derby.

The With Anticipation is a race that has been won by a maiden in four of its six runnings and whose entrants rarely have more than one or two starts or a single maiden victory to their credit. Today's field of nine consists of three maiden-special-weight winners, two maiden-claiming winners, one statebred-maiden winner and three maidens.

If it deserves any grade at all, it should clearly be a G3.


1:40 pm: Speed is always dangerous, even at 2 1/16 miles over the jumps. The meet's final steeplechase kicked off Day 35's 11-race card, and Here Comes Art ($9.90)led from flagfall to finish. The second, for older maidens, came down to two surface switchers as turf-to-dirt Slef Control ($7.40) outfinished synth-to-dirt Piquant.

Pardon my ignorance, but anyone know who the upcoming Ann Clare (also sometimes listed as Anne M. Clare) Stakes for 2-year-old filly New York-breds is named for? I find no horse of that name in our database and the only public figures who come up on a Google search is Ann Clare Brokaw, a daughter of Clare Booth Luce, and Anne Clare Cools, a member of the Canadian senate, neither with any apparent connection to horse racing.

[Update: See comments section below. There was a foal of 1888 named Ann Clare but commenter Forego76 unearthed the likelier explanation that the namesakes of today's race (and of the nearby Clare Court jogging track) are "Tom and Anne Clare, track superintendents from 1924 to 1960."


2:20 pm: That's three straight losing odds-on Pletcher starters over the last two days. Yesterday Mr. Style ran 2nd at 2-5 in the 7th and Crazy Party was 5th at 4-5 in the 8th, and just now it was 3-5 VIctory Island barely holding third at 3-5 behind 5-2 Harbor Mist and 17-1 Why Take a Chance in the Anne M. Clare. Why Take a Chance and Harbor Mist ran 1-2 in a $50k statebred maiden claimer Aug. 4, and Harbor Mist, a Flying Zee/Serpe daughter of Rockport Harbor,  returned to win in the slop 10 days ago.


3:10 pm: Arch Support, who just won the 4th at $54.50, was a plausible overlay stab (and I did use her on a very spready 50-cent pick-4 play that's alive to the 2,3,4,8 and 12) if you employed a little creative thinking. Her lone victory came over this course last year, she did run second to Winter Memories in the G3 Miss Grillo, and today was the first time since last fall she put two starts together without a layoff. She obviously benefitted here from a slow-pace/bunched-finish race where only four lengths separated the first seven under the wire. Didn't notice she was 26-1 until the gates opened and didn't bet a nickel on the race.


3:25 pm: Guess this is my lucky day. Got 21-1 Monteagle (#4) through on the inside and home over even-money Jack's Work to get 50 cents worth of the $21,786-for-$2 early pick-4. Seems weird that it was paying only 5x as much with a 21-1 as a 1-1 but no complaints. (Other than the $1,361 Federal withholding on a $5,446 payoff.)

Pick-6 (not playing) starts with the 6th in 20 minutes. No carryover but there's a $100k (gross pool) guarantee.


4:40 pm: Once more, without much feeling:


AAAA@ $1.50 = $150

CAAA@ $0.50 = $100

ACAA @ $0.50 = $62.50

Total = $312.50


Just for the historical record, here was the early play:


AAAA @$3 = $72

ABAA, AABA, AAAB @ $1 = $88

A/AB/AB/AB @ $0.50 = $120

CAAA, AACA @ $0.50 = $42 

Total= $322


5:35 pm: The mini-streak of losing odds-on Pletchers came to an end in the 8th when the likeable gelding Dark Thunder won his stakes debut in the four-horse Island Whirl.

Kept closer to the pace he might have been in a bigger field with more speed, Dark Thunder was on top of Avenging Spirit through a half in 45.00, Dark Thunder edged clear through 6f in 1:09.91 and drew clear by 5 3/4 over Bank Merger while slowing down through a final eighth in 13.52 for a final time of 1:23.43.

It's interesting how slowly Dark Thunder has been brought along and allowed to advance through his conditions -- probably no coincidence he's a gelding and they're not looking to get him as much black type as soon as possible. Dark Thunder, now a winner of 5 of 7 career starts, advanced through his N1x, N2x and N3x allowance conditions before making his stakes debut here in a $75k overnight stakes.


5:50 pm: Couldn't make heads or tails out of the With Anticipation going in and not sure what it meant coming out. Narrow favorite State of Play went to the lead under a hold through slow fractions, leaving him with enough to turn back a strong bid from Optimizer, who seemed certain to go by him in midstretch but instead settled for second.

State of Play, purchased for just $13k last fall as a yearling and later sold privately to Team Valor, was making his second start after a winning turf-sprint debut at Saratoga July 27. It seemed on paper there was other speed to go with him today, but Dominguez probably couldn't believe his good fortune that no one was challenging him after a tepid first 6f in 1:14.64. State of Play, a War Front colt trained by Graham Motion, was able to fend off Optimizer and run his final 5/16ths in 29.33.


6:10 p.m. -- Consecutive winners for Team Valor/Motion as the 4-year-old Irish Gelding Get a Grip rallied to beat longshots Impetuous Spirit (10-1), Out of the Ghetto (33-1) and Mischief (25-1) in the 10th. That's a $42k for $2 superfecta with a 7-2 second choice on top.

Third straight fave or second choice ensures pick-4's are paying peanuts, but Bergerac's 14-1 victory in leg 2 of the pick-6 has those paying nicely. Everyone's covered, ranging from seven winners at $14k to Sweet Cat and four winners at $24k on Dorothy's Spirit to one winner at $98k on seven of them (the 1,2,3,4,9,10 and 12).

Don't forget that you can sleep in tomorrow: First post is 2:30 p.m. for the final Friday of the meeting, a 10-race card with three $75k stakes: the Gold N Roses for 2-year-old statebreds is the 2nd, the Distorted Humor for 3-year-olds is the 3rd, and the Riskaverse for 3-year-old turf fillies is the 8th.