10/01/2011 10:27AM

Super Saturday Live Blog

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10:25 am: It's a somewhat soggy Super Saturday at Belmont Park, with the main track muddy, the turf courses yielding, four of the day's six grass races moved to the main track, and a forecast for more rain at the beginning and end of the afternoon:

FIrst post is 12:30 pm ET and the stakes racing begins at 2:47 with the G1 Flower Bowl. Two scratches in the six stakes races were announced yesterday: Big Drama spiked a fever and is out of the Vosburgh, and a coughing Sangaree has been scratched from the Kelso, reducing that field to four.

The Flower Bowl and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic are the day's only remaining grass races, with the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 11th having been moved to the main track.

I'll be playing the no-carryover Pick-6 for the same reason that Sir George Mallory famously said he wanted to climb Mount Everest ("Because it is there") but some strange things are going to have to have to happen to make it pay more than a pittance, given the short fields and strong favorites such as Cape Blanco, Uncle Mo and Havre de Grace. The sequence begins with the Hirsch at 3:22 pm, continues through the Vosburgh, Kelso, Beldame and Jockey Club Gold Cup, and concludes with an off-the-turfer for New York-bred maidens. There's also a $500k guaranteed late pick-4 of the Vosburgh, Kelso, Beldame and Jockey Club Gold Cup, which currently have a combined 23 betting interests.

Below is my cheat sheet for the stakes races, which I'll update with any further scratches when they're announced. My own daily double consists of an early afternoon at Belmont, home to pack my bags and watch the first three of four Grade 1's at Santa Anita (Norfolk, Lady's Secret, Goodwood), then off to the airport for a night flight to Paris that's supposed to get me there in plenty of time for tomorrow's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.

 

11:15 am: Three more stakes scratches, including the third choices on the ML in both grass races: Aruna and Sedana are out of the Flower Bowl, and Teaks North has been withdrawn from the Hirsch.

Also, there are 19 scratches in the four off-the-turf races: 1st-Scratch 4,6,12; 2nd-Scratch 2,7,9; 4th-Scratch 3,4,6,7,10,13,14,15; 11th-Scratch 1,4,6,9,13.

 

2:20 pm: No rain yet, but a few clear hours haven't done much for the main track, which is still labelled muddy and sealed. Favorites lost the first four races, three of them off-the-turfers, which went to Mississippi Duel ($7.90), Indy Sea ($12.60) Souper Speedy ($64.00) and The Noz ($14.60). Mississippi Duel was fourth early and came through on the rail; Indy Sea was fourth early and rallied outside the leader; Super Speedy and The Noz led from the inside all the way.

Souper Speedy, a Live Oak/Albertrani firster and a half-brother to this year's Blue Grass winner (and sloppy Belmont Stakes 3rd) Brilliant Speed, set up some juicy early pick-4 payoffs: $7,520 for $2 to Stacelita, who just opened as the 1-5 favorite for the Flower Bowl, and $17k (Deluxe) to $132k (Distorted Legacy) to her five opponents. 

 

2:55 pm: Stacelita made 1-to-2 look like a bargain, winning the Flower Bowl more easily than her two-length margin over 42-1 Distorted Legacy would suggest. FIve wide on the first turn and three wide on the second, behind slow fractions (26.09, 53:48, 1:20.87) on the boggy inner turf course, she cruised past Dynaslew at will and won wrapped up in 2:10.39, a mere 12 and a half seconds off the course record.

Stacelita, a three-time Group 1 winner in France at 3 and 4, should be undefeated in her three American starts. She was best under a poor ride against males in the United Nations before becoming the first horse to win both the Beverly D. and the Flower Bowl. Next stop is the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

 

3:10 pm: Here goes with the pick-6. I could have had single A's in every leg (Cape Blanco, Trappe Shot and Uncle Mo as well as Havre de Grace, Flat Out and Piscesbymoonlight), but fattened it up the A column a little bit in the ealry races so I could get a live to a late upset as well as an early one:

Cape Blanco currently 3-5 for the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic witrh Winchester 5-2 and Grassy 8-1.

 

3:30 pm: Cape Blanco ($3.20) just lasted by a nose to win a Joe Hirsch Turf Classic he was going to lose to Dean's Kitten in another stride. It gave last year's Irish Derby winner a nifty triple of victories in his three American starts (Man o'War/Arlington Million/Turf Classic), but was a real struggle for him.

Cape Blanco was second early as Mission Approved went to the front as usual, an the fractions were slow but slightly quicker (25.52, 52.42, 1:19.37, 1:44.92) than those in the Flower Bowl. Cape Blano took the lead into the far turn, but he was already working hard just to get past Mission Approved, whom he'd cruised by in his last two starts. Jamie Spencer was all over him from the top of the stretch to the wire to hold off Dean's Kitten, who had finished nearly three lengths behind him when an unthreatening third in the Arlington Million. The final time for the mile and a half was 2:36.61.

While the final quarter-miles of 10f races on the inner course and 12f races on the Widener are not precisely comparable, it's worth noting that while Stacelita came home in right around 24 flat (she made up a length on a final quarter in 24.13), Cape Blanco needed 26.81 for the final quarter of the Hirsch.

The biggest disappointment of the race was the virtual no-show by Winchester, who won this race last year over a similarly yielding course (2:36.09) but trailed throughout today.

 

4:15 pm: A lot seemed to go kerflooey in the Vosburgh, where Giant Ryan wired the field at 12-1 with favored Trappe Shot 4th at even money and Euroears never involved as the 2-1 second choice.

This is a replay that's going to take some study. It looked as if Euroears broke slowly from post 3, then he and Apriority (post 2) were squeezed back when Calibrachoa tried to angle to the inside from post 4 and Apriority took a funny step. Trappe Shot was in the clear from the outside but just didn't seem to be handling the track, even though he ran so well over a similarly muddy track on Belmont Day.

Meanwhile, Giant Ryan was scampering away after a strong first half of 44.36. Only Force Freeze was in serious pursuit in the stretch, finishing a slowly-gaining second, as Trappe Shot flattened out and was caught late for third by Caixa Electronica.

Giant Ryan, a 5-year-old New York-bred by Freud, trained by Bisnath Parboo and owned by his family, was making his Grade 1 debut and his first start since winning the G2 Smile at Calder July 9. The Vosburgh was his sixth straight victory in in a streak dating back to March 4 over the Aqueduct inner track.

Leaves me 3x1x1x1 in the Pick-6. Feh.

Uncle Mo opened 1-5 for the four-horse Kelso, with Jackson Bend 4-1, Jersey Town 6-1 and Golddigger's Boy 16-1 in the early betting.

 

4:45 pm: Great to see Uncle Mo back in the winner's circle for the first time since March 12 with a daylight victory and a mile in 1:33.82 but now what? Go from 8f to 10f against seasoned routers in the Classic or take the safer route, end 2011 with the BC Dirt Mile, and stretch out next year? That will be one of the most fascinating decisions to be made in the next five weeks.

You could say the race was over when he shook off Golddigger's Boy after a few strides and got loose with a first quarter in 23.47, but he was strong thereafter, spurting away when Jackson Bend made a sharp middle-move up the rail and looked like a real threat in upper stretch. Uncle Mo's fractions were 23.47, 46.03, 1:09.34 and 1:33.82, meaning he ran his splits in 23.47, 22.56, 23.31 and 24.48.

 

5:15 pm: The odds-on winners just keep coming. Havre de Grace ($2.90) followed up her historic Woodward victory with a Beldame romp over Alabama winner Royal Delta and the question now is whether she'll run against her nemesis Blind Luck in the Breeders' Cup and whether such a showdown will come in the Distaff Nov. 4 or the Classic Nov. 5.

Rick Porter, Havre de Grace's owner, has ben leaning towards the Distaff but nothing is set in stone and there are several moving parts to how it will all shake out, including the upcoming Jockey Club Gold Cup and Blind Luck's performance in the Lady's Secret at Santa Anita later today.

I'm shocked by the early betting in the Gold Cup. No disrespect to Stay Thirsty, but he's even-money and Flat Out is 5-2? Stay Thirsty's been beating Moonshine Mullins and Rattlesnake Bridge, Flat Out's been right there with Tizway and Havre de Grace. 

 

6:00 pm: Flat Out, Havre de Grace, Uncle Mo, Stacelita and Cape Blanco all did what they were supposed to and now head for the Breeders' Cup after a superb Super Saturday that was remarkably formful given a muddy main track and a yielding turf course.

Ironically, the two favorites who failed in the stakes action -- Stay Thirsty and Trappe Shot -- were horses who ran very well over a muddy Belmont track on Belmont Stakes Day.

Flat Out's victory was not only well-deserved and a confirmation of his quality but reflected well on Tizway and Havre de Grace, to whom he ran second in the Whitney and Woodward in his last two starts.

There's a lot to digest and weeks ahead of debate of who should run where on Breeders' Cup Day. For now, though, I've got a cab coming any minute for the Paris adventure. They tell me this Internet thing works in France, so with any luck I'll be checking in from the other side of the Atlantic Sunday night, posting your comments and, if I can stay awake, telling you about my day at Longchamp.