09/07/2006 12:00AM

Looking back at Spa babies


One of the central themes of Saratoga is 2-year-old racing, which at the past meet accounted for 72 of the 338 races, or slightly more than 21 percent of all the action.

In examining Saratoga's class of 2006 during the three-day break between meets, there were five main categories: maiden dirt sprints (open); maiden dirt sprints (New York-bred); stakes sprints on dirt (open); maiden turf sprints; and maiden turf routes.

Four races fell through the cracks and didn't land in any of those categories: the With Anticipation "Stakes" for turf routers, one of those overnight fake stakes that was won by the maiden Fernando Po; the off-the-turf P.G. Johnson Stakes, which went at seven furlongs on dirt; and two first-level allowance races - one for open company, won by Kauai Calls, the only two-time juvenile winner at the meet; and one for New York-breds, won by Win With a Wink.

Favorites for the meet were 111-338 (32.8 percent), right around the universal average. Two-year-old favorites won just a tad less frequently, at 21-72 (29.1 percent).

By category, favorites performed as follows:

Maiden dirt (open): 10 for 30 (33.3 percent)

Maiden dirt (NYB): 4 for 16 (25 percent)

Stakes dirt: 3 for 6 (50 percent)

Maiden turf sprints: 0 for 6 (0 percent)

Maiden turf routes: 4 for 10 (40 percent)

So despite most bettors' general impression that the 2-year-old turf routes were highly unpredictable, that wasn't the case, at least for this year, because favorites in these races actually outperformed every other classification at Saratoga 2006. It should be noted, though, that Kon Krete Kid did register the meet's highest win mutuel in one of these races when certain winner Giant Chieftan hung a sharp right turn at the eighth pole.

It was the maiden turf sprints that proved the most inscrutable, yielding zero winning favorites and five double-digit mutuels, including Dinner Break ($22.60) and Don't Mind Me ($39.80).

Notable training accomplishments

Nick Zito - Remember when standard operating procedure was to avoid his first-time starters like the plague? That's history, because Zito sent out six winning firsters - Irish Ace ($15.60), C P West ($8.20), Ruby Crown ($7.80), Boogie Boggs ($24.80), Debbie Got Even ($13.80), and Successful Ways ($12.80) - none of whom was favored. Four of the six were fine-tuned with a gate workout as their final morning drill, and in every case the emphasis was on four-furlong works. Don't look for speed drills, because the grand total of bullet works showing for all six combined was just two.

Todd Pletcher - We never got to see The Green Monkey, the $16 million colt, because of a minor training setback; and Matron-bound Panty Raid ($10) was his only winning first-time starter on dirt. But Pletcher did win four of the six graded stakes, ran second in the other two, and won five of the 10 maiden turf routes with first-time starters: Twilight Meteor ($6.70), Brushed Gold ($11.20), Tremendous One ($5.30), Storm Dixie ($6.10), and Ochre ($6.30).

Scott Blasi - Chace City ($6.30) in the Saratoga Special and Appealing Zophie ($11.60) in the Spinaway prevented a Pletcher stakes sweep. Kauai Calls, a $2 million filly by Fusaichi Pegasus, began her career winning maiden and first-level allowance sprints, and it looks as though she will stretch out. Tiz Wonderful ($12.60), purchased in training in February for $475,000, looks like a bargain after a 12-length debut romp last Saturday.

Rick Violette Jr. - He won an open maiden sprint with third-time starter Cool the Economy ($14) and three New York-bred maiden sprints - with Graeme Central ($6), Market Psychology ($4.90), and Wynsome Wesley ($6). All showed at least one fast gate work that was either a bullet or second-fastest of the morning.

Jamie Sanders - A former assistant to Zito, Sanders was a longshot player's delight, winning a dirt sprint with Fast N Ready ($27.80), a turf route with Kon Krete Kid ($95), and nearly wiring the Sanford with the maiden Teuflesberg, who led to the final strides at 13-1.

A developing angle involving stud fees

Juveniles purchased in training early in their 2-year-old season rate extra consideration when they have sold for significantly more than their sire's stud fee, because they must have shown a high turn of foot in workouts before the sale and/or looked especially athletic and "well put together."

Seven of 30 maiden dirt sprints for open company were won by such purchases, notably Imperial Reign, everyone's pick six single chasing the $335K carryover last Sunday. His sire, Indian Charlie, stands for $25,000, but Imperial Reign was bought for $1 million. Other such purchases included Tiz Wonderful (purchased for $475,000, sire Tiznow stands for $40,000) and Successful Ways (purchased for $240,000, sire Successful Appeal stands for $25,000).

Where this angle was most illuminating, however, was in the New York-bred maiden sprints, where juveniles purchased earlier this year won seven of the 16 races.