- Well, I never got to today’s Saratoga card, partially because the rain yesterday created doubt as to the status of the turf racing and track condition. I find that to be one of the most frustrating aspects of handicapping; it’s just impossible to get track condition information in advance. To me, it should be the lead story of the day, at least in upstate New York in August. There should be billboards that always have the up-to-date conditions; the traffic signs on Route 87 should say “Traffic Conditions Normal – Track is Fast and Firm.” As it turns out, the track is fast and firm today, so you gotta wonder why that turf race was taken off so quickly yesterday resulting in a 4 horse field and turning it into an “all” race for the Pick 6, implementing that new rule for the first time.
Anyway, the Head Chef and I are both busy wrapping things up here before we leave for Saratoga Sunday morning, so it could be lighter posting for the next couple of days. I’m doing my best to keep up but I’m sure you can find someone else to pick losers for you at Saratoga, though perhaps not in as quite an entertaining way! I was hoping to get up there for the Whitney on Saturday, but it just doesn't work out, so I’ll have to console myself with my first trip to the Hambletonian in several years (because I’m usually at Saratoga for the Whitney). This year, the Whitney card also includes the Grade 1 Test Stakes.
Saint Liam will head the Whitney field, and trainer Richard Dutrow has one main concern.
"His only issues are his feet, so there is always a concern about his liking Saratoga. He hasn't trained over the main track because of the long walk from the barn and the possibility of stepping on a rock or something. But I don't see any reason why he shouldn't love it." [Bloodhorse]Huh? Well, I guess they better be careful he doesn’t step on any rocks on his way to the track for the race. He’ll face Zito’s Commentator, coming off his spectacular 121 Beyer win at Belmont; though he failed miserably in his only test around 2 turns. Pletcher sends Limehouse and Pollard’s Vision. Zito will send Noble Causeway in a N2X allowance race, assuming Ramon Dominguez doesn’t bail during the post parade.
Zito also told the NY Post that Bellamy Road may possibly run in the Travers after all.
"We're going to have fun with this…George always tells me, 'leave your options open' and 'the horse comes first.' My job is to let them know how the horse is doing, then they can pick the races.”And he’s sending Sun King to the Haskell, which adds some needed intrigue to the race, which had figured (and perhaps still does) to be dominated by Roman Ruler, installed as the 9-5 ML favorite. Sun King is 5-2, followed by Park Avenue Ball at 3-1. Chekhov (6-1) and Golden Man (15-1) are also entered, and there’s no truth to the rumor that the latter may also try trotting in the Hambo on Saturday. If he did, you could bet him in both halves of the Hambo-Haskell double. Steve Haskin of Bloodhorse on Roman Ruler:
"Let's just say Nick Zito is enjoying one of the best horses he's ever trained, maybe the best since Unbridled's Song. Right now, he's doing tremendous."
Judging from his performance in the Dwyer, in which he circled the field with a powerful move, and then out-battled a talented graded stakes winner the length of the stretch, there is no reason why he shouldn't improve off that effort. "He's better now than he was before the Dwyer," Baffert said.As for the $1.5 million Hambletonian, Jimmy Takter is still trying to figure out why Ken Warkentin broke stride in the elimination, and I imagine he’ll be thinking about that for the rest of his life. You really have to feel for the guy; he had brought the colt up the race in fantastic form, and you can sense the anguish in his words:
More important was the way he settled back in last in the six-horse field, but always looked as if he were in complete control of the race. With the Dwyer under him, it is going to take an exceptional performance to knock him off on Sunday.
"We're not sure what happened to the horse…..We thought maybe he got scared [when] another driver waved his whip. We were completely shocked after the race. We though we had it won."With Ken Warkentin out, Classic Photo has been installed as the 6-5 favorite from the number 5 post, and unless Vivid Photo, who ended up winning Ken Warkentin's heat, is the real deal (he did trot a fifth faster than Classic Photo's winning time), it’s hard to see him go down. Unless he breaks stride too.
The colt came out of the elimination in fine shape, making the defeat that much harder to bear.
"He felt so good when I jogged him Monday," Takter said. "He still has a lot of races coming up that could be interesting. Hopefully, it's not over for him just because the Hambletonian is over for him." [Phillyburbs, via Albany Law School]
The Hambo is part of a 15-race card that starts at 11:30 A.M., and also includes the Hambletonian Oaks with Pink Ribbons, about whom I posted the other day, an appearance by Meadowlands Pace winner Rocknroll Hanover in a division of the Oliver Wendall Holmes Pace, and the U.S. Pacing Championship. CBS will televise the Oaks and the Hambo from 2 to 3 PM. I don't recall if CBS has televised the race in recent years, but I recall watching Stan Bergstein cover and call the race for the network way back in the 70's, when it was run at the Du Quion State Fair in Illinois.
- John Kimmel, who sent out 2 yo My Interpretation to a maiden win on the turf on Wednesday, also took a 2 yo state-bred maiden grass affair today with Immersed in Gold (Seeking the Gold). Today in The Saratogian, he spoke about racing babies on the grass.
'Grass racing is a lot easier on a 2-year-old…. It's less taxing than a deep dirt track like the one we have here now. Horses don't have to deal with dirt being thrown back in their face, and the pace is more moderate. It's a good experience for a young horse.'According to Dick Powell at Brisnet, My Interpretation's winning time of 1:42.83 was an excellent time for juvenile going two turns here on the turf and one of the five fastest times in the last 10 years. Immersed in Gold is a half brother to Stephen Got Even, and he was making his first lifetime start. It took him 1:46.73 to cover the same distance as his stablemate.