RSS Feed for this Blog

Monday, August 20, 2007

Front Row

- Many many thanks to reader Late Scratch, who invited the Head Chef and I to spend the day with him in an owner's box on the second floor of the clubhouse. We had a pretty good view of the finish line.

Not bad, eh? And a TV monitor which doubles as an automated betting machine too; so there's hardly any need to ever get up at all. I think it was the least walking mileage I've ever recorded there.

About halfway through the program, in a magnanimous gesture to help make space for an overflow group, we agreed to move to another box.

Must be in the front row
! Obviously, the Phipps Stable wasn't running any horses on this day.

So, a cloudy, cool (but dry and perfectly pleasant) day which featured a card that was ordinary at very best turned into a memorable day at the track which included a visit inside the paddock before the 6th race.

That's Johnny V, with the Toddster in the yellow shirt in the background. Three Lions was one of two very well-bet Pletcher runners that failed to finish in the money. This one was the 5-2 favorite, and was never a threat after a stumble at the start. The race was won by Truth Or Dare ($13), shipping in from Delaware for the George Weaver barn, which is suddenly on fire after a slow start to the meeting. After losing with his first 18 starters (albeit with five seconds), Weaver has two winners (Pulla Fast One, at 21-1 on Sunday, was the other) and two seconds in the last two days.

In fact, it was Weaver's first-time starter Hackensack who ran second in the 4th at 8-1, thus splitting me in the exacta. I liked Violette's 5-2 favorite, and first-timer, Stand Pat. He was live on the board in this maiden claimer and I used him on top with the other debut runner who got bet, Ectoplasm, 7-2 for Dutrow, and with Mott's Golden Tablet. But Hackensack just wouldn't quit, I couldn't believe it! He was challenged on the lead every step on the way, and I figured he was done when Stand Pat found room and blew by on the way to his three length win. Ectoplasm got within a half of the place spot, but settled for third. The winner was claimed for $40K by Mitchell Friedman, and Ectoplasm by Dominick Galluscio.

Jimmy Jerkens is another guy who could be ready for a strong close to the meeting. He started out one for his first nine, with the losers including some short-odds losers in Lemon Drop Gal and Memphis Mon. Jerkens, who won with favored Grand Champion on Sunday, took the opener Monday when Montauk prevailed over a stubborn Gowden Mile, a tough beat for struggling jockey Jorge Chavez.

The day featured a disqualification, in the 5th, and one that was an unfortunate development for our gracious host. Late Scratch was alive to what would have been a decent Pick Three payoff with Victory for Sienna. He looked like a winner when that one was first under the wire, but the replay showed runner-up and favored Savasana stumbling near the wire. It was clear from the head-on that Victory for Sienna and jockey Eibar Coa ducked in late, much the way that Lady Joanne did on Saturday. This time, however, there was contact, as Savasana clipped heels and stumbled badly. In fact, on first look at the replay, we thought she had broken down.

However, the problem we all had with the DQ - even the Head Chef - is that the race was clearly over when the incident occurred very late in the game. There was no way that it cost Savasana the win, at least to this observer. Perhaps the severity and potential danger of the foul was what swayed the stewards to take the horse down, especially given the fact that Coa is already appealing a seven-day suspension for a previous incident at this meeting. But that has nothing to do with whether or not his horse should have been disqualified in this particular race, and if I was Late Scratch, I'd be pretty upset. (He was.)

Under other circumstances, I might have just blown off the last two races - the Montauk, scratched down to five NY-breds going seven furlongs, and an uninspiring restricted claimer in the finale. But under the circumstances, I stuck with it, and came up with Karokorum Starlet strictly by determining that none of the other entrants could possibly win. It was a happy and crowded scene in the winner's circle; and while this doesn't constitute an endorsement of Karokorum's business model, I got a kick out of seeing all the smiling faces in the winner's circle. Having a lot of happy people is never a bad thing for the game.

So I was alive in the late double to three horses, including Grosvenor Square, trained by Gary Sciacca, another trainer having trouble getting into the winner's circle; 0 for his first 20. Starting from the rail, Alan Garcia sent Grosvenor Square out for the lead; and though Bruce Tickets edged by him on the backstretch, Garcia never let that one get over to the rail. He came back to pass him turning for home, but Dancing Tin Man, who I hadn't used and then second-guessed myself for not doing so, was coming strongly on the outside. Grosvenor Square took advantage of the inside to skip away by a couple of lengths in upper stretch. But Dancing Tin Man was still coming, as were several others (most of whom I didn't have). It looked like no way this horse was holding on (just as it seemed there was no way that Hackensack would). I still can't believe he did - and he just held on in a really game performance, coming home in 23 1/5. He completed a $52 double that got me out and up for the day, and an already perfect day ended perfectly.

1 Comment:

ljk said...

So I've been reading and watching all meet and all I hear is that "at least the stewards are being consistent" regarding DQs. The Toddster, quoted in the NY Daily News regarding the Alabama: "The one thing I will say is that the stewards have been very consistent at this meet. They haven't taken anybody down (from first place) for anything they've done."

The only difference yesterday is the hopelessly beaten 2nd place finisher clipped and stumbled, on or just past the wire. Reckless riding? yep. Cause for rider discipline? yep. Punishment for those who had tickets on the winner? No way.