04/04/2009 2:00PM

Wood Day Live


3:00 pm: I didn't title this post "Wood/SA Derby Day Live" because half the air went out of the latter race with the early scratch of The Pamplemousse this morning. Initial reports are sketchy, with a track vet apparently raising an issue about a tendon and trainer Julio Canani not saying much. NBC must be so thrilled they're televising what's left of the race (coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET.)

The track at Aqueduct is labelled "fast" and appears to have recovered fully from Friday's rain. Off the first four races on the card, it looks no worse than damp and seems to be playing fair. The two grass races were moved to the main track this morning.

Times are not at all quick so far: A pair of one-turn miles to to open the Wood card went in 1:37.99 (older $10k claimers) and 1:40.17 (older filly maiden claimers.) In the third, the Phipps/McGaughey 3-year-old Gone Astray won a N1x allowance in 1:23.60 for seven furlongs, just 0.05 faster than it took the West Point/McLaughlin 3-year-old maiden Flat Bold to win the 4th in his fourth career start.

The pick-6 starts with the 6th race, scheduled for 3:40 p.m. Then 33 minutes later, the 7th begins the $400k guaranteed all-graded-stakes pick-4 of the Bay Shore, Excelsior, Wood and Carter.

3:50 pm: Easy win by Montecore ($3.80) to start the pick-6. Here's the play:

It's been a while since I posted a play-along pick-6 matrix, (and the increasingly buggy Typepad blogging platform is getting balky about displaying these Google Docs charts), so for anyone new to these, here's how it works: The little chart above represents a seven-ticket play under which I have to have either 6 winners from the main ticket that combines all the "A" and "B" horses, or from one of the six backup tickets of any 5 "A" horses and any 1 "C" horse. Here's how the individual tickets look:

7,8/4,6/1,4,6/2,5/1,7/8,9,10,13 = $384

1,4/4,6/1/2/1,7/9,13 = $32

7,8/3,8,10/1/2/1,7/9,13 = $48

7,8/4,6/2,3,5/2/1,7/9,13 = $96

7,8/4,6/1/1/1,7/9,13 = $32

7,8/4,6/1/2/2,3,4,6/9,13 = $64

7,8/4,6/1/2/1,7/4,5,12 = $48

Total = $704

Twenty minutes to post for the Bay Shore. Capt. Candyman Can is even money, with Taqarub, Not For Silver and Lyin' Heart all around 5-1. Gato Go Win (#8), who opened at 8-1, was just announced as a late scratch.

P.S. (4:05 pm) Commenter harry_lime: No, you'll get switched to the post-time favorite in the pick-4 even though it's the first leg. Pick-4's and 6's are treated one way, pick-3's another in NY in an irrational policy in need of revision. So root for Capt. Candyman Can. Commenter confused_in_camden: My understanding is that NBC has the right but not the obligation to show the Wood as part of its telecast. NYRA has a separate arrangement with MSG+ to show many of its weekend races.

4:25 pm: The Bay Shore worked out for harry_lime as Capt. Candyman Can was a runaway winner as the 6-5 favorite. Third down the backstretch behind the dueling (in 22.51/45.19) 49-1 Yano and 3-1 Taqarub, CCC engaged Taqarub at the top of the stretch, inched away, and increased his margin until stopping the timer in 1:22.99. Taqarub and Yano held 2nd and 3rd in that order as the other closers failed to fire. 40-1 Hatfield was up for 4th to help turn a $16.60 exacta into a $2,889 superfecta.

4:40 pm: I could have put in seven thousand instead of seven hundred into this pick-6 and still couldn't have used Giant Moon, who just won the Excelsior at 13-1. The eight-horse field became a two-horse race after Cool Coal Man and Giant Moon "waltzed" (Durkin) through fractions of 25.45, 50.69 and 1:14.76 up front, and Giant Moon gradually prevailed as they went to the wire together. Barrier Reef may well have been best getting up for third after being restrained early in last place behind the slow fractions.

Giant Moon, a 4-year-old Al Fried homebred by Giant's Causeway, was finally returning to the form that won him the Count Fleet 15 months ago and starts in the Wood (4th, beaten 2) and the Preakness (8th). His final time was 1:50.90 for the same nine-furlong route they're about to run in the Wood.

5:10 pm: See previous post for why I was against Stardom Bound, who just ran a distant third at 4-5  in the Ashland, but I still couldn't come up with 24-1 Hooh Why, who led all the way. Another wacky G1 Polytrack result? Remember this is the race that Little Belle won last year with eventual champion Proud Spell nowhere to be found.

Madly flipping channels among 74 (Nassau OTB/Wood), 402 (TVG/Ashland and Illinois Derby) and 704 (NBC-HD/Illinois & SA Derby.) 

5:25 pm: Left flatfooted at the gate with his head turned to the left, and trailing the field early, I Want Revenge was so much the best in the Wood Memorial that he overcame the poor start and then traffic through the stretch to win a race that may have been a more useful Derby prep for him than a smoother trip would have been. This was an effort that was much, much better than whatever figure it earns, and it still won't come up all that slow, with a final time of 1:49.49 that was nearly a second and a half faster than the Excelsior (albeit with much faster early fractions -- 6f in 1:12.32 vs. 1:14.76 in the Excelsior.)

West Side Bernie was second best with Just a Coincidence third. The disappointment of the race was Imperial Council, who stalked from second place into the turn and then faded to finish 5th as the 5-2 second choice, running himself out of the Derby picture.

NBC showed only the stretch run of the race, completely missing most of its drama.

As for the Illinois Derby, Tampa Bay Derby winner Musket Man beat Giant Oak by two lengths and earned himself a start in Kentucky but looks like a fringe player.

5:55 pm: Another "Rorschach test" stakes victory for Pioneerof the Nile in the Santa Anita Derby, by which I mean: If you were against him before, thinking he's notched one slow and unimpressive victory after another, you're still against him; if you think he's an adaptable, classy and underrated colt who has been compromised by two straight no-pace race scenarios, you still like him. He's going to have to run better and faster than he did today holding off Chocolate Candy by a length to be a Derby factor, and you've got four weeks to decide if he will.

6:05 pm: Kodiak Kowboy ($5.80) got up in the last jump to nip a gallant Fabulous Strike in the G1 Carter. Fabulous Strike won a sizzling (22.23/44.52) early duel with Driven by Success (True Quality never showed his expected speed), opened daylight in the stretch while understandabl;y tiring, then got nailed the wire by Kodiak Kowboy. Another moral victory but G1 heartbreaker for Fabulous Strike, who lost the Vosburgh by a head to Black Seventeen last October. Kodiak Kowboy's final time was 1:22.47, vs. Capt. Candyman Can's 1:22.99 in the Bay Shore.

Tale of Ekati, last year's Wood winner, broke slowly but did little thereafter and finished last of eight.

The all-stakes pick-4 -- three favorites plus Giant Moon -- paid $661 for $2, better than double the parlay and suggesting that Giant Moon was a lot more than 13-1 in the pick-4.

Meanwhile down at Oaklawn, Seventh Street ($6.00) just led all the way through mild fractions to win the G1 Apple Blossom by 5 3/4 lengths over Superior Storm, with 2-5 favorite Acoma barely up for third, beaten 11 1/2 lengths.

6:30 pm: Saratoga Lullaby ($3.80) won the Big A nightcap to complete a pick-6 worth $2,744 for five favorites and Giant Moon. My six consos (five A's and a six-horse whiff in the Excelsior) were worth a whopping $18.20 each.

No racing or simulcasting in New York tomorrow thanks to the Empire State's idiotic Palm Sunday blue laws, under which you can gamble in any of the state's casinos and racinos but not on a horse. No law against a Palm Sunday Eve cocktail, though.