07/29/2007 12:33AM

A Track-record Whitney -- Or Was It? [Update: It Was]

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The early fractions of the race, set by Wanderin Boy, were reported as 23.86, 47.37 and 1:10.28. Does one of those look strangely fast? That third quarter of 22.91 seconds seems impossible, especially as it was partly run into the far turn. At the very least, such a blazing third quarter would figure to enervate the leaders who ran it, but instead the horses who were running 3-1-5-2 at the time ended up running 1-2-3-4 in a race where no one gained any significant ground late.

I tapped into the DRF internal database just after midnight to see what Mark Hopkins, the extremely careful and sophisticated speed handicapper who makes the NYRA figs for Beyer Associates, had done with the race. He had made perfect sense of the rest of the card with a variant that was otherwise consistent throughout the day but had left the Whitney completely blank for now, clearly unwilling to give it an absurdly high figure.

Whatever the real time and appropriate figure, it was a breakthrough performance for Lawyer Ron, who had recorded Beyers of 108-109-106 in his last three starts. Todd Pletcher, who took over his training last fall, said he has been patiently working with the once-headstrong Langfuhr colt to get him to relax. The plan had been gradually succeeding, despite losses as the 8-5 favorite in the Met Mile and as the 1-10 favorite in the Salvatore Mile, and things broke perfectly for Lawyer Ron in the Whitney. Even breaking from post 10 turned out to be a blessing, as he was able to drop into a garden spot just behind the two speeds, Wanderin Boy and stablemate Fairbanks, and he was able to take over from them at will.

Lawyer Ron ($13.00) capped a $370.50 all-Breeders'-Cup-Challenge-race pick four on an afternoon where longshots dominated early (see previous post) and a semblance of order returned late. In the other stakes races:

--My Typhoon ($8.10) got a well-deserved first career Grade 1 victory winning the Diana by 3/4's of a length over Argentina with 6-5 favorite Makderah another half-length back in third. My Typhoon seemed a tad shaky at the nine-furlong distance, having tired late in her last four tries at the distance (including last year's Diana), and she doesn't inspire confidence stretching out to 10 furlongs for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, the race to which she won an automatic starting berth as part of the BC Challenge promotion. But even if the half-sister to Galileo never wins again, her Diana triumph was sweet vindication for owner Charlotte Weber and trainer Bill Mott's decision to keep her in training as a 5-year-old.

--Diabolical ($7.00) earned a berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint with a professional half-length triumph over a very game Attila's Storm in the G2 Vanderbilt. As expected, Attila's Storm dueled early with Commentator, setting the table for Diabolical, a five-time stakes-winner who has also been second to Silver Wagon in the G1 Carter and to Thor's Echo in the G1 DeFrancis. Attila's Storm, the early leader in the last two BC Sprints, held well in his first start since March and Commentator was beaten only 3 1/2 lengths after breaking last and rushing up to duel.

--Ginger Punch ($4.50) is clearly no slouch, but is she really as dominant a force in the older-filly division as her five-length romp in the First Flight last time out and her six-length runaway here in the Go For wand might suggest? In the First Flight she found her way to the lead after a very soft opening half-mile and cruised home. Here, she caught a better field but it looked like no one else ran her best race: Miss Shop appeared to be struggling with the track, Teammate faded badly, and Ermine was virtually eased late finishing last as the 8-5 second choice.

The attendance of 29,216 may seem light for such a heavily-promoted day, and was smaller than the opoening-day turnout, but the July weekend is always that way before the August vacationers arrive, and there was nothing light about the $27.7 million total handle. That figure would probably have been higher if not for all the bombs early on the card. The longest lines at the track Saturday were at neither the beer nor betting lines but at the ATM's. Also, locals planning to attend only one day this weekend may have been saving themselves for a peek at the Kentucky Derby winner tomorrow later today in the Jim Dandy.