07/26/2009 3:17PM

Spa Minus 3

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There was plenty of good racing and enticing wagering opportunities the last two weekends, but I forced myself only to glance and dabble lightly as part of a pre-Saratoga freshening program. The plan is to head north solo on Tuesday, dive into the first week of the last venue in American racing capable of sustaining a six-day-a-week schedule, drive back downstate on the first dark Tuesday for the Aug. 4 Steely Dan concert at the Beacon, then return the next day with the rest of the hound and human family.

The pp's are up for the first two days of the Saratoga meeting, and it looks like a strong start. Only two of the first 20 races of the meet drew as few as nine entries, and both of those are contentious stakes races (Wednesday's James Marvin, featuring the return of Pyro, and Thursday's Sanford for 2-year-olds.) Eleven of those first 20 are scheduled for the grass, which seems like a bit of a gamble given that the long-range forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms and a 40 percent chance of rain both Wednesday and Thursday, but the one thing we've got plenty of in New York these days are grass horses itching to run after so many rainouts at the Belmont spring-summer meet.

Here's the recap on the graded-stakes action the last two weekends. There were 11 graded stakes last weekend, none of them Grade 1's, and only two this weekend, both of them Grade 1's:

Yesterday's two Grade 1's were both a little on the light and strange side. The field for the CCA Oaks included just three graded winners, none above the G3 level. It seemed on paper an unappealing betting proposition -- the two favorites, Funny Moon at 5-2 ML and Livin Lovin at 3-1 looked the like right ones -- but demanded a token play when the race was bet quite differently: Livin Lovin was pounded to even money, while Funny Moon somehow drifted up to be the fifth choice at 7-1. Livin Lovin probably should have been favored on the line, and I would probably have "picked" her on top had I been forced to make 1-2-3 selections, but she was a drastic underlay by post time while Funny Moon was a nutty price.

She ran a pretty nutty race, too, falling back to last and then launching an erratic, wide move into the stretch during which she looked more likely to bolt to the outside fence than win.

"She didn’t want to make the turn, she wanted to keep going straight," said jockey Alan Garcia.

Funny Moon eventually straightened out and wore down the struggling leaders. Only 1 3/4 lengths separated the first five under the wire, but Funny Moon looks like she should improve with experience. The Alabama Aug. 22 seems like the most logical next start unless Rachel Alexandra heads that way.

In the Eddie Read, where the eight starters had a combined record of just 4-for-39 in Grade 1 company, Monterey Jazz was 11-10 off two wire jobs at Hollywood, and the question of the race seemed to be whether he would zoom to the front as usual or perhaps be pushed early by Thorn Song. Thorn Song somewhat suprisingly was loose on the lead into the first turn with Monterey Jazz a seemingly relaxed second, then Thorn Song bolted to the outside fence for no apparent reason. Monterey Jazz inherited the lead, seemingly in complete control through moderate fractions with only the one-paced Global Hunter in mild pursuit. Monterey Jazz, however, began to fade in upper stretch, Global Hunter took over by default, and made it to the wire in front as the closers came too late to catch him.

Global Hunter was one of several tricky winners in a pick-six sequence where a two-day carryover of $382,172 drew Saturday investments totalling $1.67 million and yielded a 6-of-6 payoff of $328,271 for winners returning $16.40, $12.60, $5.20, $30.20 (Global Hunter), $10.00 and $6.80 -- nearly five times the $68,957 parlay.


--Pedantic Pet Peeve of the Day: The word "champion" has a very specific meaning in Thoroughbred racing: The winner of a year-end divisional championship. The Breeders' Cup has done its best to devalue the word by referring to any winner of a Breeders' Cup race as a "Breeders' Cup champion" whether or not that horse also wins a championship. Now Monmouth Park is also misusing the word in promoting the principals in the Aug. 2 Haskell as "Preakness Champion Rachel Alexandra" and "Belmont Stakes Champion Summer Bird." 

Rachel Alexandra is 1-to-100 to be the champion 3-year-old filly of 2009, and Summer Bird is a possible contender for the male version of that award, but until the Eclipse Awards are announced next January, neither should be called a champion.

Grant More than 1 year ago
Hey Steve. That Steely Dan lineup looks pretty good to me. A lot of Steely Dan fans would have LOVED to have been at that concert. Thanks for the rundown of the event.
Sean N More than 1 year ago
Steve, Good luck with the Pick 6 at the Spa. I will be using your matrix to play P4s and am heading with up the Mrs. the weekend of the 14th. Also, heading to Steely Dan on Friday night for the Royal Scam show and then to the Haskell on Sunday. Mix in a little Saratoga simulcasting on Sat and it is darn nearly a perfect weeekend.
Matt27 More than 1 year ago
Hi Mr. Crist. First time commenter, long time reader. I thought this would be a great place to share a few ideas/picks each day at Saratoga with hope that others would do the same. Good handicapping and better betting to everyone. Saratoga Opening Day! *Light The Tote* pick (1st Race) *Chalk Sandwich* (7th Race- #9 Westover Wildcat) *Top Pick* (6th race- #5 Bold Abbott) *Super Value Menu* 1st race- #11 Smarten Destiny ML8/1...3rd race- #6 Finallymadeit ML15-1...8th race- #3 Inkado ML8-1 *Final Four* (about $400) 7th race ($2P4W 3,4,8,9/2,3,9/1,3,10/2,6) ($1P4W 1,2,5/2,3,9/1,3,10/2,6) ($1P4W 3,4,8,9/6,7/1,3,10/2,6) ($1P4W 3,4,8,9/2,3,9/4,5/2,6) ($1P4W 3,4,8,9/2,3,9/1,3,10/3,4,9,10) (Total $438 -scratches)
fort marcy More than 1 year ago
Good luck to all at Saratoga. For those who are put off by prices in town or close to track, I found staying in Albany and commuting is the way to go. You can save a fortune and the drive is reasonable. Also on a dark day, keep going north to Lake George, it has the cleanest water that I ever have swam in. In addition to Duggins and Weaver, I would pay attention to anything 007 enters.
jeff39 More than 1 year ago
Get your SPA meet off to a flying start....Opening Day....first race.....Silver King....should pay at least $25-30 to win. Nice way to start the meet.
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
Correcting the last post: Open overnight stakes I would have as $75,000 added regardless of distance.
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
Concerning workouts: The rules in California I believe require a horse not to be touched in any way at all for a work to be considered "breezing." All works unless that is the case I believe are considered "handily" in California for that reason. As for the lack of "quality" races in New York, as previously noted a lot of that has to do with the fact trainers have many more options now than in years past, especially with the purses at the slot tracks. A NW1x Allowance at Philly Park is now $43,000, while the same race at Monmouth and I believe Delaware is $41,000. Since there is no detention barn in New York, I think that plays a big part in why you are seeing fewer higher level allowance races at NYRA. Speaking of allowance purses, if it were up to me and I were running Philly Park, I'd be cutting the claiming purses (especially at the lower levels where they are grossly inflated) some and putting money cut from claiming races into allowance events, with a purse structure for such like this: Maidens: $42,000 short-$45,000 long ($39,000-$42,000 for PA Breds). NW1x Allowance: $45,000 short-$48,000 long ($42-45,000 for PA Breds). NW2x Allowance: $48,000 short-$51,000 long ($45-48,000 for PA Breds). NW3x Allowance: $51,000 short-$54,000 long. NW4x Allowance: $54,000 short-$57,000 long. "Money" Allowance/Overnight Handicaps: $57,000 short-$60,000 long. Overnight stakes with restrictions (state-bred or by earnings/races won): $65,000 added short-$70,000 added long. Overnight stakes that are open: $75,000 added long. This to me would get more of these races to go and in the process bring with it a considerable number of disgruntled NYRA horseplayers who have been complaining about the lack of higher level races at NYRA tracks.
Wayne80 More than 1 year ago
Regarding Harvey Pack, I was shocked to find no reference to this iconic character on Wikipedia. If anyone knows how to work that thing please start a page and I am sure others will fill in the details. He will be missed at the Spa and hopefully can manage a guest appearance or two. I watched his final sign off last year, and when he indicated it was probably his last Saratoga meet I actually got all teary eyed.
yuwipi More than 1 year ago
Steve, With Belmont closing it marks 2 years for the blog. Who'd have thunk it? It's been responsible for making the DRF site my first (and sometimes only) net place to go at the end of the day. Congrats. Best wishes for a monster meet to yourself, all the commenters here who I enjoy reading so much, and to NYRA - they deserve a 6 week stretch of great weather and world class racing. Below are the NYSB Beyer #'s for years 2004-2007. The 2008's are not out until the Players Guide hits the stands 7/27. Here's hoping they are of some use to a blog reader or two. The numbers on each line are for: total races/high Beyer/low Beyer/par. Filly & Mare: 2 Year Olds: MdnSpWt: 5F - 8/86/51/par 65 5 1/2 F - 13/86/45/par 64 6 F - 9/87/50/par 67 7F - 3/61/51/par 56 * 5 1/2 F Turf - 4/71/66/par 68 1 1/16 Turf - 5/76/70/par 73 3 Year Olds & Up MdnSpWt: 5 1/2 F - 5/89/55/par 70 6 F - 8/78/57/par 65 7 F - 10/77/52/par 64 * 1 1/8 - 4/57/49/par 53 5 1/2 F Turf - 5/68/62/par 65 1 M Turf - 6/74/59/par 68 1 1/8 Turf - 4/73/68/par 70 Alw/NW1: 5 1/2 F - 3/87/67/par 77 6 F - 8/99/68/par 81 7 F - 4/79/60/par 70 * 1 1/8th - 5/76/63/par 70 5 1/2 F Turf - 5/83/72/par 77 1 M Turf - 4/83/76/par 79 1 1/16 Turf - 4/83/79/par 80 1 1/8 Turf - 6/80/65/par 75 Alw/NW2: 1 1/8th - 3/887/71/par 80 Stake: 6 F - 4/95/88/par 89 1 1/8th - 4/96/76/par 85 1 1/8th Turf - 5/95/86/par 90 Hope some find them useful. I'll post the male numbers after the lightning storm passes.
TK Lawless More than 1 year ago
Can't wait for Wednesday.....anticipate Saratoga all year.....try to get up there at least once (sometimes twice, from Dallas I might add)....Good Luck to all Horseplaya's & thanx to Steve for the info on this blog!