Here's Street Sense shortly before he won the Travers. We were standing at the paddock amongst what was seemingly a large portion of the 38,909, even though it was only a tiny fraction. It was hot, wow. One way in which we did indeed fit the full season into just one week was that we got to experience the full gamut of Saratoga weather during our brief stay. It felt more like Labor Day weekend for the first few days; we even had to turn the heat on in this house on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Then the warm-up, and it took just 48 hours for the temperature to go from 70-something to 90-something, with the heat index feeling around 200. Standing at that paddock, waiting for the Travers entrants to make their way to the track, may have been the hottest I've ever been at that track, and maybe in my life. There was no trace of a breeze at that point, and the saturated air weighed heavily. Man, it was oppressive!
Naturally, this all eventually culminated in a spectacular Saratoga thunderstorm (what would a trip here be without one) that downed trees, and zapped power from half the town, causing Siro's to declare to diners that everything was on the house. Not a very good ending to Travers Day for them. And while our house was on the side of town that was spared, the storm forced us to move our backyard dinner party indoors....and in a hurry! Still, a fabulous time was had by all, except for the poor kitty cat, who got all a-scared and disappeared for the night.
My impression of Street Sense's hard earned victory is, first or all, that it was another hard earned victory, albeit this time over a horse that may be quite good as opposed to CP West, who I just don't think that highly of (and who was no match whatsoever for Grasshopper). Did Street Sense improve as those who declared he was a mortal lock predicted he would? The Beyer figure may not be that helpful in determining the answer in this case, since it was the only dirt race around two turns. With nothing else to go on, the Beyer Boys will have to do a projection. I'd guess that they'll figure that both Grasshopper and Street Sense improved a bit, and perhaps give the winner something like a 106 or 107. Whatever they come up with, it will strictly be a guess. Historically, the final time of 2:02 3/5 is merely average. It was a full 1.09 seconds slower than Bernardini ran under far less urging last year; and only one winner, Flower Alley, had run slower since 1999.
But greatness comes in different forms, and while a horse like Bernardini dazzled us with his speed, Street Sense seems to run only as fast as he has to. This is the third race in a row in which he just didn't seem that interested in either passing or, especially, putting away an opponent. That's a habit that could again prove costly against better competition, as it did in the Preakness against Curlin. But while the race doesn't leave me saying 'wow,' you can't argue with success, and this son of Street Cry has won the Juvenile, Derby, and Travers, not too bad. Maybe if Grasshopper had run a second faster, Street Sense would have too.
Hard Spun looked absolutely terrific in the paddock, but not so on the tote board. I've disparaged this son of Danzig a lot over the last few months, but not because I don't think he's talented; rather because I thought he was being managed inappropriately. I would have loved to have backed him at his 3-1 morning line or above; but 6-5 (and actually significantly lower for much of the time) didn't seem worth the risk. After his rousing comeback win over First Defence, I heard some say that they loved to see the way he showed his class. Since I'd bet the runner-up, I can't say I felt that way at the time; but in retrospect, it was an admirable effort to be sure, and Mario Pino looked as if he had something extra left in the tank.
For me, I was fortunate enough to catch the 4th race exacta, with Graham Motion's in-from-the-AE list, and last-to-first Royal Guard nipping Taming the Tiger. This produced a payoff of $62, for the second choice over the favorite, not too shabby indeed, wow! But otherwise, it was my usual frustration, running second in the opener with 8-1 Broadway Producer to Got the Last Laugh ($8.30), who did just that to the morning oddsmaker, who tabbed this latest Mott winner at 12-1! Woulda had the early double with Lukas' Mythical Pegasus.
But the biggest blow for me was the Bernard Baruch, in which I had winner Shakis squarely on top, but watched in horror as 22-1 Big Prarie split what would have been a meet-saving triple over 9-1 Drum Major and 7-1 Ballast. Damn that Rusty Arnold, I thought he was leaving New York!! And then in the next race, it was Hard Spun's comeback which dealt a second consecutive body blow, crushing any hopes of a breakout day. Still, I did cash a nice ticket, and I didn't melt in the heat.
- La Traviata stumbled very badly out of the gate, but was undaunted as she cruised to a nine length win in 1:09 3/5. Wow, Patrick Biancone seems to have a real monster here; she's won her three lifetime races, two of them stakes, by a combined 27 lengths. She's by Johannesburg, out of an unraced Unbridled mare who is a half sister to the Dubai star Jack Sullivan.
Now A Victor was another first-time winner for Michael Trombetta, and a well-bet one at 5-2. I was told afterwards that he was touted by Thoroughgraph's Jerry Brown, though I'm not sure what his sheets would say about a debut runner. This son of Yankee Victor battled back on the inside to best Asmussen's 22-1 Noble Truth...and that was enough of a theme for the day for one friend to speculate that there was an inside bias on the main track, thus providing a possible explanation for Street Sense's inability to put Grasshopper away (other than him just being a bit lazy). The second dam of the winner is a half-sister to Lost Code.
And can you believe that Life Is a Cabernet, 1-5 and 3-5 in her two prior starts for the hot Christophe Clement, paid $45.80 in the 5th?
Anyway, it's unbelievable, but it's already time for us to clean this house and pack up, so I gotta go. We'll go to the track today, but with last night's rain, the outlook for fast and firm is not very good [UPDATE - Good and Firm, surprise!],
and I imagine we'll lose most if not all of the grass races; check that out before you handicap. And then, sadly, we'll be headed back to the city. Have a great day, and I'll be speaking to you next from downstate.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Posted by Alan Mann at 12:40 AM