01/13/2009 12:37AM

While I Was Out


I've been out of action for a few days and had to make myself a little cheat sheet of what's been going on in the early days of 2009. Here's a table listing the results of the first nine graded stakes races of the year, all of which have been run at Santa Anita (5), Fair Grounds (2) or Gulfstream (2):

I'd vote for the Old Hat as the strongest of this initial nonet. The race ended in a three-way photo, with Gemswick park nosing out Elusive Heat after those two dueled through a half in 44.92 and 5f in 56.94, with Frolic's Dream just another nose short of catching them both. The final time of 1:09.77 was good for a Beyer of 94, excellent for 3-year-old fillies in January. Elusive Heat (Elusive Quality-Xtra Heat) was making just her second career start after a blistering debut victory at Belmont Oct. 12 and might have the most room for improvement among the three, but it would be no surprise to see all three of them being prominent players, at least in shorter races, at the Grade 1 level in the division.

The season's first Grade 1's are on Jan. 31 -- the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream (9f for older males) and the Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita (7f for older fillies.)

I missed almost all the bicoastal carryover excitement and probably saved money doing so. At both Santa Anita and Aqueduct, there were muliple carryovers due to truly difficuly bomb winners. At Aqueduct, where there have been carryovers on five of the year's first nine cards, there was a triple-carry into last Sunday's card, and I put in a small and half-hearted play that didn't come particularly close. The winning sequence -- worth $24k to 25 players -- was one where none of the winners was outlandish but getting them all on the same ticket was very tricky.

--My thanks go out to you for the many heartfelt comments about the passing of Joe Hirsch on the previous post here. His family has asked that any memorial contributions in his honor be made to the Columbia University Center for Parkison's Disease Research (630 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, Attn: Dr. Thomas Q. Morris).