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Pletcher ties Spa record for wins
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - With only half of the season complete, trainer Todd Pletcher equaled the record for most wins at Saratoga meet on Monday when School for Scandal ($4.80) won the day's second race.
It was Pletcher's 24th victory of the meet, equaling the record set by Syl Veitch in 1954 when the meet was 24 days long. Pletcher reached his 24th victory on the 18th day of this 36-day meet. Though Pletcher lost with the remaining three starters on the card, he's a sure bet to eclipse the mark before the meet is through. Pletcher finished the first half of the meet 24 for 66.
This comes after Pletcher established the record for most wins at a Belmont spring/summer meet with 40.
"To win 24 races in 18 days, who would ever expect that?'' Pletcher said. "To me the most phenomenal thing is that [Veitch] won 24 races in 24 days. He didn't have the amount of horses that we do. We're having a good meet, he had an unbelievable meet.''
Pletcher was asked whether he could win 50 races before the meet ends on Sept. 1.
"I don't know where I'd place the over-under at, but 50 would be too high,'' said Pletcher, who won four stakes during the first 18 days.
D. Wayne Lukas, for whom Pletcher worked for eight years, said Pletcher's success is no surprise to him.
"This is wonderful. He's a real credit to the profession,'' Lukas said. "About 15 years ago all you guys were writing we were a corporation. You still think there wasn't any horsemanship going on? He was exceptional from the get-go. I was nowhere in my career at his age. I was in Ruidoso, New Mexico, trying to pay the feed bill.''
Coincidentally, John Veitch, the son of the late Syl Veitch, won the race immediately following Pletcher's record-equaler with Donaldson Flats ($20.60).
Lukas has only consolation ticket
Lukas calls himself "the world's worst handicapper,'' but Sunday he proved to be better than anybody else who played Saratoga's pick six.
On a day when longshots ruled the roost, Lukas held the only consolation pick six ticket (5 of 6), which returned a whopping $37,221. There was a pick-six carryover of $435,830 heading into Monday's card.
Lukas said the only race he missed was the featured Alfred G. Vanderbilt in which he singled the favorite, Shake You Down. The race was won by longshot Private Horde, who returned $22 as the longest shot in the field.
"I'm the world's worst handicapper," Lukas said. "I don't use the Form or [the program]. All I did was use all the horses I thought could run in the mud. I had to single one horse, so I chose [Shake You Down]. I wouldn't have had the winner.''
Lukas, who did not have any runners in Sunday's pick six races, said he did not re-invest in Monday's big carryover.
With a carryover of $435,380 heading into Monday's card, there was a total of $1,437,506 in the pool after factoring in the takeout. Favorites won of five of the six races and the pick six returned $1,247. There were 997 tickets with the winning combination of 2-2-2-8-5-5. The consolation payout was $23.60.
Blazing Fury returns
Blazing Fury, who has not won a race since the 2001 Saranac Handicap over this turf course, returns to the races for the first time in 11 months Wednesday in a $52,000 classified allowance race at 1 3/16 miles. It will be Blazing Fury's first start since he finished second in the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont last Sept. 29.
Blazing Fury was training toward a start in the Breeders' Cup Turf when he suffered a 10-percent tear in a tendon in his right foreleg. Blazing Fury underwent tendon surgery, performed by Dr. Larry Bramlage at the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic in Kentucky. After a four-month recuperative period, Blazing Fury resumed training in Florida at Payson Park last winter.
Blazing Fury has such high leg action that when he works on dirt, he has a habit of hitting his elbows with his shoes. For that reason, trainer Jimmy Toner doesn't normally work Blazing Fury on dirt. But with the turf rendered useless due to the wet weather in the spring, Toner had to work Blazing Fury on dirt one day at Belmont. And, of course, he injured himself.
"I got a little impatient and I worked him on the dirt and he banged the hell out of himself on the elbows,'' Toner said. "So now I lost a whole month of training doing that. I got him back going again and when I put him in a race, they didn't use it. Now we're ready; he breezed three quarters in 1:11 and change.''
Toner said he hopes to use the Wednesday allowance race as a stepping-stone to races such as the Man o' War on Sept. 6 or the Turf Classic Invitational Handicap on Sept. 27.
Funny Cide Day
If fans definitely want to see Funny Cide at this meet, he will be schooling in the paddock at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday as part of "Funny Cide Day'' at Saratoga. Gates open at 11.
Fans attending the races Wednesday will receive a commemorative poster courtesy of Daily Racing Form with paid admission. Members of Team Funny Cide - including jockey Jose Santos, trainer Barclay Tagg, and the majority of the 10 owners that make up Sackatoga Stable - will sign the poster from noon to 1 p.m. Fans will be charged a $5 fee, which will be donated to Anna House, the backstretch childcare facility at Belmont Park.
Wednesday's second race will be named the Funny Cide. After the race, the New York Racing Association will donate $10,000 to the Backstretch Employees Assistance Team, in honor of Funny Cide. There will also be a special video presentation shown prior to the schooling and after the second race.
Funny Cide is being pointed to the Grade 1 Travers on Aug. 23, but his status remains iffy as he tries to get fit after contracting a fever following his third-place finish in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.
Nacheezmo out with knee chip
Nacheezmo, who finished fifth in the six-horse Jim Dandy, had a chip removed from his left knee on Friday and will be sidelined until next spring, trainer Jim Bond said.
Nacheezmo was vanned off after the Aug. 3 Jim Dandy, but presumably it was due to heat exhaustion. It wasn't until a few days later that the knee chip was detected via X-ray. Dr. Alan Nixon, of Cornell University, performed the operation.
Bond said he would expect Nacheezmo to return to training in Florida toward the end of the year, but does not expect him to return to the races until the Belmont spring meeting.
Sciacca, others appeal suspension
Trainer Gary Sciacca and two of his employees have appealed suspensions handed down by the New York stewards for their part in an alleged milkshaking incident on June 28 at Belmont Park.
Though he wasn't present when the alleged incident occurred, Sciacca was suspended 45 days under the trainer responsibility rule. Paul Barone, Sciacca's assistant, and Oscar DeLeon, one of Sciacca's grooms, were each suspended 60 days for their part in the incident.
Last week, veterinarian Jack McGuire appealed his 60-day suspension for his part in the incident, which involved the horse Storm River Kelly, who was entered but scratched out of the third race at Belmont on June 28.
- Sunday's third race, a maiden special weight event for 2-year-old colts, was canceled due to unsafe track conditions created by heavy rain that fell prior to the race. Track officials were concerned with a spot on the track near the five-sixteenths pole. Maintenance crews worked on the spot for about 20 minutes, adding dirt to the area, creating a 115-minute break between races. The fourth race did not go off until 3:27 p.m., an hour after it was scheduled.
- Post time for the $1 million Travers Aug. 23 has been pushed back by 30 minutes to 6:25 p.m. Eastern and will be included as part of a special two-hour "SportsCenter at Saratoga'' on ESPN, it was announced Monday. In addition to the Travers, the program will include live coverage of the Grade 1 King's Bishop (5:45 p.m. post) and the Grade 2, $200,000 Fourstardave Handicap (5:09 p.m.). Saratoga will conduct a 12-race card on Travers Day beginning at 12:30 p.m.