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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hot, Hot, Hot!

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.


readyforthestart said...

I agree about Hard Spun. I like that this time he really reacted to Mario after he tried to push him along. In most of his races it seems like he lets the horse go by and then is shocked by it and kicks in again. Unfortunately too late. He always tries hard so I was happy to see him get this win.

Anonymous said...

Another Travers won by the best 3 YO left standing (not at stud), all-in-all a rather ho-hum event compared to many other Travers I've attended over 41 years at the Spa. And Street Sense was all out to get by Grasshopper (?), whoever the hell Grasshopper is! I like the Street Sense connections- Tafel-Nafzger-Borel- they are solid racing people and are great for the game but I just think Street Sense is only the best of a so-so bunch of 3 YO's still in training. Is there a good 4 YO back in the barn somewhere who will go by Street Sense in the BC Classic? And barely 39,000 turning out for the big day- forget the hot weather, the this, the that, and all the other excuses- there just wasn't enough competition in the 138th renewal of the "Mid-Summer Derby" to bring folks out to the track. The days of 50-60,000 at the Travers are over and are not coming back unless there are some big changes in how the champs are determined at year-end. Racing fans are not dumb- they see how the Eclipse Deck is stacked totally in favor of voting for " Most Likely To Succeed In Receiving Exorbitant Stud Fees" as opposed to "Best Overall Racing Record Over The 2007 Season", which is the way it used to be and needs to be once again./S/Green Mtn Punter

ljk said...

Only time will tell, and to your point we'll see very few of this three year old crop at four (maybe the filly), but I don't think this is a "so so crop" of three year olds. I expect a 3-year old will win the BC Classic.

Easily the worst weather day of the meet. With a 2-5 Travers favorite and REALLY HOT & HUMID weather I'm not surprised there was less than 40K in attendance.

Anonymous said...

ljk- there were a number of past Travers just as hot and humid as this year's (hot and humid is a Travers tradition) where the crowd was 50,000 and up. Of course, those crowds were all in pre-VLT's years so that undoubtedly has something to do with it. The bigger part, though, in my opinion, is this trend which has developed slowly since the advent of the Breeders Cup in 1984- a rather ominous coincidence?- and which for the past few years has b ecome clearly evident to this observer, and that is the distinct feeling that all of the big name summer and fall Grade I stakes are merely optional supporting "characters" to the big star at the end, i.e, the BC Classic. And just like the KY Derby, the argument goes that the BC Series is "good for the game" and gets people interested in racing. I disagree, and I think the last 20 years of KY Derbies and BC races prove my argument quite conclusively: The Derby and BC Series help grow the Derby, BC Series, and ever-larger stud fees for the small number of largely unproven (on the racetrack)horses who win these races- and little else. The new NY franchisee can start to reverse this trend by creatively marketing the big name Grade I NY stakes and stop playing the supporting role for the KY Derby and BC Series! Those races have gained public support only because their PR and marketing depts have relentlessly promoted them over many years, especially the Derby. The fact is that NY Grade I's are unsurpassed in historic attraction and prestige, so we can start there(as Carl Nafzger affirmed in interviews duing Travers Week). The business of racing must become very bit as competitive as the sport of racing if the industry is going to grow.
/S/ Green Mtn Punter

Anonymous said...

And don't forget the Eclipse Award reforms which may be the best way to start reversing the harmful trend of skipping the big name summer and fall Grade I stakes. These Eclipse Awards are supposed to be for proven performance on the racetrack over the course of a season, i.e., "Best Overall Racetrack Performance In Category" not awards for "Most Likely to Succeed at Stud"./S/Green Mtn Punter

Anonymous said...

And another point, what good did the BC Challenge do for the Whitney Handicap this year? Attendance on Whitney Day- always a highly competitive race- unfortunately has continued to decline since VLT's at the Raceway started in '04. But moving it up to the first week-end and making it part of the BC Challenge Series didn't help reverse that trend, in fact, it was less than 30,000 this year, a new record "low" attendance since the boom days began in the 70's. So, the question is: What does the BC Series do for NY racing??? Were the TV ratings all that much higher due to the fact that it was on ABC for 2 hours this year? How many TV viewers became educated about NY Grade I stakes as important races in their own right as opposed to being merely a "warm-up" for the main event, i.e., the BC Challenge? How many viewers decided that next year they would plan a trip to Saratoga to see the Whitney at the track? /S/Green Mtn Punter

Anonymous said...

Any crop when the best 3yo in training is a filly is by definition a mediocre crop.

Let's face it, before the Derby all the articles were talking about this crop as one of the slowest in history from a fig standpoint.

Then SS explodes with a perfect trip and everything changed.

When he lost the Preakness, of course Curlin had to be a superstar since SS was crowned one two weeks earlier.

Then that superstar gets beat by a filly.

Once you get past the hype this is an ordinary bunch that take turns beating each other.

SS is only 6-11 lifetime, which does not make a star.

It takes a super three year old to win the Classic, so I predict a 4yo will be victorious this year.

Anonymous said...

does anyone use
Thorogrph sheets for NY and Cal. e-mail me if so