09/04/2011 12:26PM

Spa Day 38: 9/4/11


1:25 pm: Getting a belated start on Day 38 of 39 at Saratoga, where the it's fast and firm and the G3 Saranac and G1 Spinaway headline a 12-race card.

Speaking of Grade 1 races for 2-year-old fillies, just noticed that the first Grade 1 winner from the 2-year-old class of 2011 was a New York-bred. Weemissfrankie, winner of yesterday's Del Mar Debutante, is a New York-bred daughter of Sunriver, who died two years ago after siring just two crops. Sunriver, a full brother to the champion fily Ashado, was by Saint Ballado-Goulash. Another son of Saint Ballado, Saint Liam, died after siring just one crop, which included yesterday's Woodward winner, Havre de Grace.

Saint Liam was Horse of the Year in 2005, when he won the Donn, Stephen Foster, Woodward and Breeders' Cup Classic for trainer Rick Dutrow. He died in August, 2006 in a paddock accident after his first year at stud. Sunriver, who won the 2006 Peter Pan and the 2007 Bowling Green and Hollywood Turf Cup under Todd Pletcher's training, died of an apparent heart attack in August, 2009.

Saint Ballado, who sired them both, was a full brother to champions Devil's Bag and Glorious Song.


1:35 pm: As for today's first two races at Saratoga, both ended in upsets. In the opener, Velazquez (Hammersmith) and Castellano (The Noz) both were intent on the lead, opened eight lengths on the field while dueling, and had nothing left in the stretch, leading to a cavalry-charge finish led by Halo's Thunder ($24.20). In the 2nd, stakes-placed Fantasy of Flight and Velazquez were 2-5 in a five-filly N1x but Dust and Diamonds led all the way under Castellano and trounced the favorite by eight lengths in 1:10.02. Dust and Diamonds, unraced since running third in the Presque Isle Debutante last fall, was making her first start since being switched from Trombetta to Asmussen.

Another odds-on favorite coming up in the fve-fily Sightseek Stakes for older routing fillies. Arena Elvira, who won the Madame Jumel Aug. 5, is currently the 1-2 choice. Connie and Michael, the 2010 Mother Goose runner-up, makes her seond start off an 11-month layoff following a disappointing turf-sprint return in July.


2:45 pm: Arena Elvira was comfortable winner at 1-2 in the Sightseek, taking over from Connie and Michael at will on the turn, loafing when she got to the lead, but holding off Satans Quick Chick under mild urging.

Sorry for the technical problems today, things seem to be working again now. Early results now up at the top of this page and I've posted your comments from tonight and this morning on the last blog.


3:30 pm: Another juvy turf route, another bomb, as 15-1 Baker second-timer Heart of Destiny rallied up the rail to nail 8-5 Chad Brown firster Pianist.

Post times being accelerated, with the 7th now scheduled for 3:45, the 8th at 4:11 and the 12th at 6:04, 36 minutes earlier than initial timetable. Rain may be on its way -- the main-track-onlies were just now scratched from the 11th and 12th.

Passing the no-carryover pick-6 starting with the 7th -- maybe we can get a little carryover into closing day, when there's a mandatory payout whether or not anyone picks six. Today's late pick-4, if you find the Saranac (9th) and Spinaway (10th) as difficult as I do, looks challenging enough.


4:00 pm: Refining ($14.80), fourth in the fast and key opening-day My Miss Aurelia maiden race, returned to win the 7th, a 7f maiden race for 2-year-old fillies. My Miss Aurelia returned from that race to win the Adirondack while third-place finisher Stopshoppingmaria posted a runaway victory in her next start. Either My Miss Aurelia or Stopshoppingmaria would have been favored in the Spinaway later today.


4:30 pm: Here's the late pick-4 play,  sequence in which I clearly have no strong opinions:

In a subpar Saranac, almost everyone is inches apart on paper and I went with the quartet that has kep he best company. The Spinaway is tricky because the fillies with the two best last-out figures earned them in Polytrack races at Woodbine, and it's iffy how those will translate in their dirt debuts.


4:55 pm: Brilliant Speed ($6.50), a better horse on grass and synth than on dirt, made a successful return to the turf winning the G3 Saranac by 2 1/2 lengths over Queen'splatekitten and King Congie for his first victory since winning the Blue Grass on Polytrack in April. He was the only graded-stakes winner in a field of 10 that was closely bunched at the top of the stretch in what looked like a wide-open scramble.

Live In Joy at 13-1 made a powerful move leaving the backstretch as if he were going to rocket away from the field but completely blew the turn and did not recover his momentum. Sky Blazer, last early at 24-1, made an eye-catching late move to just miss getting up for third.


5:10 pm: Equibase announced today that nationwide August handle was down 12.3 percent against last year, declining from $1.12 billion to $982 million. The decline year-to-date had been only a 7 percent drop from last year. Also, given that Saratoga has been running close to even with 2010 figures, that 12.3 percent August decline is closer to 15 percent if you take Saratoga out of the mix.


5:30 pm: Grace Hall ($8.80) ran down a very game Judy the Beauty to win the 120th Spinaway and pull co-owner Michael Dubb even with Mike Repole in the race for the Saratoga owners' title.

Ramon Dominguez's patience aboard the winner may have been the difference. Judy the Beauty, coming off three straight victories iat Keeneland, Chantilly and Woodbine, was put into a full drive to get past Georgie's Agel in upper stretch. She won that battle but then had nothing left when Dominquez and Grace Hall came after her. Ask Why Not caught Georgie's Angel at the wire to be a distant third.

Grace Hall, trained by Tony Dutrow, is an Empire Maker filly whop sold for $95k as a yearling last September. She won her debut at Delaware Park July 30 and was making her second start today.

Durkin just announced that "some nasty weather" is expected to hit Saratoga in the next 30 minutes. The day's last two races remain scheduled for the grass.


5:42 pm: SIlver Screamer wired the field in the 11th to put Repole back on top by a 16-15 tally vs. Dubb in a race run in what Durkin called "Birdstone-like darkness." He was recalling the 2004 Travers when Birdstone won in the midst of a sky-blackening downpour. The last race that day was cancelled.


5:46 pm: The 12th race hasn't been cancelled but it was just switched from the grass to the main track. The race will count as an "all" for pick-4 and pick-6 purposes. Woohoo, I hot the pick-4 four times, and probably lost money.


5:50 pm: The 11th still hasn't been decalred official, but already three scratches n the off-the-turf finale, the 3, 5 and 10. Remember, there are no post-time favorite issues in the pick-4 and pick-6 -- however many you had going for you in the final is the number of "winners" you have whether or not they run or win.


5:53 pm: The 12th race has now been cancelled.

Refunds on all win, place, show, exacta, trifecta and superfecta bets on race 12. All the multirace bets pay to an "all" in race 12, that is, a 1/all double, a 1/1/all pick-3, a 5/1/1/all pick-4 and a 5/7/5/1/1/all pick-6 plus consos for 5 of 6 (i.e., 4 of the first five.) [Update: the payoffs are $6.60 for the 1/all DD, $27.00 for the 1/1/all P3, $83.50 for the 5/1/1/all P4, $1,140 for the pick-6 and $26.80 for the conso.]

The closing-day forecast for tomorrow, when 6 of the 11 races are carded for the grass: