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Spa Day 37: 9/3/11
11:50 pm: Here are my horse-by-horse comments on the entrants for today's three Grade 1 races at Saratoga. No early scratches in those races, which are also legs 2 ,3 and 4 of an all-dirt pick-6 sequence which starts with a $64k carryover from Friday.
Fast, firm and overcast -- but only a 10 percent chance of rain before 6 p.m. -- for Day 37 of 39.
1:10 pm: 5-1 Sugar Again (Augustin/Sheppard) held off 3-1 Deluxe (Juddmonte/Mott) to win the $75k Paris Opera Stakes that kicked off the Saturday card. The winner, a stakes-winning SYncline (Danzig) 4-year-old, was coming off a 2nd in a $100k stakes in her season debut. Deluxe, a 4-year-old Storm Cat-Hasili filly (and a half-sister to FIVE millionaires including Intercontinental, Banks Hill and Champs Elysees), was making her first start of the year and could improve quickly with more distance.
1:30 pm: A spready shot at a very tough all-turf early pick-4 that has the feel of something that could pay a small fortune:
1:40 pm: The good news is that 27-1 Scherer firster Kitten's Kit was on the ticket, the bad news being that you hate to use up your C in the first leg and the C/3A tickets are only the of 50-cent variety.
I'm guessing that if you had bet every single starter in every 2yo turf route at this meeting you would be showing a flat-bet profit. Seems like it has been one bomb after another, mostly from high-odds firsters like this one.
2:05 pm: Bah. 7-1 Nurse Dolce slipped through inside and outfinished 4-1 Lady's Lunar Luck by a head to squash the pick-4. Still waiting for 2-1 fave Lemon Tiger to get a call.
2:40 pm: Favorites ruled the impossible-looking 4th for older maidens on the turf with 7-2 second choice Za Approval pulling clear late and 6-1 third choice Grigio nosing out 5-2 fave Magnificent Moon for second.
Pick-4's are paying from $15k (#2 Earnings Release) to $454k (#8 La Busta) , one of four six-digit willpays.
3:15 pm: Dancing Tiz ($11.40) won a three-way photo from Earnings Release and Going Green to complete an $18,177 early pick-4. One more grass race -- the 11th straight counting yesterday;s last five -- then on to the all-dirt Pick-6, scheduled to begin at 4:07 pm.
3:45 pm: Favorites on the wire again as 5-2 Dahess won as tight a photo as you'll see from 5-2 Hereomeseveryman. Photo put Repole (this time with trainer Chad Brown) two up on Michael Dubb, 14-12, in the race for the owners' title. It moved Castellano three behind John Velazquez in the riders' race (52-49), but Castellano is scheduled to ride Monday at Park rather than Saratoga, making Velazquez a heavy favorite to prevail.
Time for some serious board-watching before putting in teh pick-6 tickets. Two hao have run and ran very well in theior debuts -- Invication and Africanist -- are definitely going to be A's, but the question is which if any of the well-bred firsters are taking enough money into the teeth of those two to merit inclusion. The five firsters who sold at auction went for a combined $1.28 million and come from dangerous outfits and trainers.
4:00 pm: The play:
The Asmussen firster (#6, Hierro) was bet in doubles and pick-3's far stronger than the other firsters to be the clear third choice behind the two good second-timers.
4:15 pm: Alpha, lone homebred among the six firsters, was clearly best winning off by about six lengths over second-timers Invocation and Africanist in 1:23.97 to start the pick-6. The Darley-bred and owned Bernardini colt, trained by Kieran McLaughlin, went off the fourth choice and paid $14.20.
Africanist's well-beaten third may be worth keeping in mind when assessing the sparse form in Monday's Hopeful. Currency Swap will vie for favoritism off his six-length victory (and 98 BSF) over Africanist in a tough-to-gauge maiden race that day over a tricky track. Only two horses have returned from that race and both have been disappointing -- 4th-place finisher Grandpa Len did not run back to his 76 figure two weeks ago, and it's unlikely Africanist ran back to his debut 83 today.
As for me, all A's the rest of the way -- 1,2,3/4,8/6,7/1,5,12/8,10.
4:30 pm: On to the Grade 1's. Ask the Moon, 18-1 when she shocked in the Ruffian five weeks ago, a narrow 2-1 favorite over first-time-dirt Pachattack at 5-2 for the Personal Ensign. I used them both and took 9-1 outside Acronym as my third choice, not wanting Super Espresso or Tiz Miz Sue, both of whom were losing ground behind ATM in the Ruffian despite the winner's final furlong in 14 seconds.
4:50 pm: Ask the Moon ($5.90) became the lone dual Grade 1 winner of Saratoga 2011 as she led every step of the way in the Personal Ensign.
Just as she did in the Ruffian, Ask the Moon went to the lead, set honest fractions, and bore out sharply in the stretch, but still prevailed as her opponents floundered behind her, running her final quarter in 27.28. Pachattack chased throughout, appeared finished at the top of the stretch, but held second and actually closed the gap a bit just by keeping a stright course at the rail while Ask the Moon wandered.
Ask the Moon, a 6-year-old Malibu Moon mare, had lost 12 straight races and never even competed in a graded stakes until turned over to trainer Marty Wolfson a month before the Ruffian.
5:07 pm: Sidney's Candy a surprisingly clear favorite at 2-1 in the Forego, with Jackson Bend, Jersey Town and Regal Ransom all hovering around 4-1/9-2. SC's the name horse and the most accomplished member of the field but is unproven sprinting on dirt and was purchased with thoughts of the Whitney and Woodward, not the Fourstardave and Forego.
5:12 pm: Jackson Bend hammered late to 3-1, Sidney's Candy 5-2.
5:20 pm: Jackson Bend ($8.90) knifed his way between tiring rivals in midstretch and drew off to beat Jersey Town and Aikenite in the Forego. Sidney's Candy dueled early with Hamazing Destiny (44.45) and faded badly in the stretch as Hamazing Destiny held fourth. Regal Ransom, perfectly positioned behind the early leaders, had nothing late.
The question now for Jackson Bend, who has found a home at seven furlongs, is whether to shorten him up to six furlongs and go the Vosburgh/BC Sprint route or stretch him out to a mile for races such as the Kelso and BC Dirt Mile.
Havre de Grace 2-1, Flat Out 5-2 in the first flash of Woodward odds, and they were bet pretty much the same way in the doubles and pick-3's concluding with the 10th.
5:30 pm: Appears someone bet $100k to show on Havre de Grace, as she has $114k of the $146k in the show pool so far. Interesting spot -- filly making her first start against colts in a race that only one female has ever won -- for a bridgejump.
5:55 pm: Havre de Grace became the second filly ever to win the Woodward, beating Flat Out by a length in a performance that will lead some to say she's the leader for Horse of the Year and others to ask why she should be rated ahead of Blind Luck, who just beat her in the Delaware Handicap, or Tizway, who just beat Flat Out more comfortably (three lengths) in the Whitney.
What looked like a two-horse race on paper played out that way, with Havre de Grace getting the jump on Flat Out, running down Rule in the stretch, and prevailing over Flat Out, who closed the gap but wasn't really getting to the winner.
Owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones said that Havre de Grace will make her next start in a filly-restricted race, either the Beldame or the Spinster, rather than taking on Tizway and Stay Thirsty in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Oct. 1.
Havre de Grace, 8-5 ML, paid $6.50 to win as a slight favorite over Flat Out -- $191,990 vs. $185,989, a margin of $6,001.
And now back to our regularly-scheduled programing at the Spa: a $15k claiming race and then seven statebred maidens to close out the day.
6:35 pm: Dubai Sunrise ($17.40) won the 11th to leave 6 of the 7 statebreds in the finale covered in the pick-6. It's paying a low of $15k to Saratoga Snacks and $18k to Parachute Coney, and a high of $299k to firsters Coalition and Potus. The only uncovered horse is Hennig second-timer Wild Exploit, currently 29-1.
Before someone starts complaining about the "low"exotics for a 7-1/6-1/24-1 finish in the 11th, those win odds were skewed by someone's making a huge win bet on the Repole/Pletcher dropdown Ninety Five South, a shaky 3-1 ML favorite who was inexplicably slammed to 7-5.
7:00 pm: Saratoga Snacks broke behind the field, moved up to collar a loose Thewizardofnassau, took a while to put that one away but gradually inched away to win the finale and complete a $631 pick-4 and $15,773 pick-6.
Two days and 23 races (12 tomorrow, 11 Monday) to go.
There is no question that the best two horses in training this year, by far, are Havre de Grace and Blind Luck. Havre de Grace really sparkled in the Woodward, winning with flair and ease. She also exposed how weak the male handicap division is this year on the East Coast. (The West Coast isn't much better). I've been skeptical of the hype surrounding Flat Out and Tizway (a miler), who did very little last year. Suddenly, these are the best horses in training? Let's hope to see Havre de Grace and Blind Luck in the Breeders' Cup Classic, where they belong.
It's going to be interesting to see what the connections of Blind Luck do from here. They are sort of in a bind now. The two mares are even heads up this year, but HDG has a win over males. So they are more or less compelled to chase after HDG and beat her again to regain the lead in the division. However, it looks like that last race and her long hard schedule shipping all over the country over the last two years is finally catching up to Blind Luck. They decided to pass on a scheduled race to freshen her up and she hasn't worked in about 2 weeks. That doesn't sound good to me. I can't see them taking on HDG right off the freshening (assuming she's even doing well). So their choice of which BC race to run in may be entirely a function of which race HDG goes in.
Finally a great card !!!! A great way to end the meet . [There IS racing Sunday and Monday as well. -SC]
Of the three races only one horse interests me a little and that's Jersey Town second off a layoff. Otherwise, I'm just watching these stakes which seem headache-inducing to me.
I know you're a fan of the turnback angle Steve, and wasn't surprised to see you were intrigued with Regal Ransom in the Forego. I've always been more attracted to stretch outs. My question for you in this particular case is the thinking of turn back fans when dealing with a front running router cutting back. It just seems counterintuitive for route speed to be able to translate to a loaded sprint with a cooking front end. I went down on Golddigger's Boy (been a fan of the trainer for a long time), so it's not like I scoped the race out correctly. Wish the Ticket Maker boxes on your early P4 had been arranged a little differently. Regarding the $100k show plunge on the Woodward winner. Never understood how anyone in their right mind would risk cash on a bet where, if my math is correct, 18 out of 20 right is still a loser. [The theory with a front-running router turning back isn't that he'll lead in a sprint but that he'll stalk the speed and have the conditioning and bottom to run his best in teh middle of the race and finish well. This was one of Woody Stephens's favorite angles. -SC]
Regardless of whether Havre de Grace ends up winning HOY, or not, the more important point is: THIS is how you campaign a horse for whom you have HOY aspirations--in open, unrestricted (that means unrestricted by sex, too), Group 1 races--NOT in the tip-toe-ish manner of recent.
I played the pick 6 today and won the first 4 races and the last two races I picked the horses that finished 2nd, so close yet so far. I also traveled to Saratoga for the first time last week and was really moved by the aura of the legendary track, what really highlighted the day for me was hitting on 5 out of 6 on another pick 6 which paid out $414.50. My favorite part of the day was seeing the horses warm up in the morning at about 7am. Uncle Moe ran a huge one, I expect this horse to do great things in the future, please don't run him more than a 8.5 furlongs please!
New York Bred two year old winning a grade one at del mar. Times are changing.
to those of you who want harve de grace to run against the boys again bad idea. Her connections would be foolish. rachel alexandra was ruined by running against the boys
Understand why Larry Jones plans to run Harve de Grace in the Beldame/Spinster, but if she were mine, for sportsmanship reasons I would run her in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, a race that after the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup events is supposed to be the most important race in the sport (as names of former JCGC winners can't be re-used). Regardless, Blind Luck's connections now may have to ship to Belmont and either face Harve de Grace again in the Beldame (or Spinster at Keeneland if HDG goes there) or the boys in the JCGC and either beat HDG again or duplicate HDG's beating the boys today. Ray: Thanks for the info on the old Firenze/later John A. Morris/current Personal Ensign. There definitely is a lot of history with this race few people know about because it's been renamed twice.