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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thursday Notes

- Having a busy end-of-week with little time to post, and other than Lava Man's retirement, not much going on anyhoo. So, DiscreetCat, picker of three winners in a row on this site, gets the front page today:

Saratoga - Race 2

#8 Valiancy (7/2 ml)

Second-time starter for Asmussen finished a late-running second in his Churchill debut after a slow start, finishing 3 lengths clear of the remaining 8 horses. Comes into this race off a heads-up drill with stakes-winning barnmate Noonmark, and Asmussen has already won with a couple of second-time starters at the meet (3 if you count Jardin in the Adirondack Stakes). Today's rider Bridgmohan was aboard both second-time maiden winners, btw. One of those (Cognito) was shipping in off a second-place finish @ Churchill, just like this one.
I'll just add that Pletcher, who got his second first-out juvenile winner of the meet with Double Domino on Wednesday, has the 3-1 ML favorite with the debuting Keep'em Movin Dan, a $875K son of Distorted Humor, and a half to stakes winning Quiet Cash.

As long as I'm having readers provide the content, Glimmerglass checks in on Zappa taking the Cougar Handicap at Del Mar, and gaining a spot alongside the sacred how-dare-I-attack Evening Attire in the BC Marathon.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Slow Wednesday

- Edgar Prados and Garrett Gomez(es) of the world beware. Larry Jones says of jockey Gabriel Saez: "If Gabriel can ever get heads up with you, you just don't beat him." [Albany Times Union] This rider has had a tough year, getting beat up with criticism by some idiot animal activists after Eight Belles broke down, and for his ride on Proud Spell in the Mother Goose.

Jones was talking specifically about Kodiak Kowboy's hard earned win over Desert Key in the Amsterdam. And Saez will naturally be back aboard Proud Spell in the Alabama, when she's expected to take on Music Note, of whom Jones said:

“Music Note ran a huge race the other day. Looks to me like she’s setting up for a bounce, we’ve got to play that factor. And if she does, we sure would hate for her to bounce, and us not be there.” [Schenectady Gazette]
Music Note earned a Beyer of 100 for her overpowering win in the CCA Oaks. I read, don't remember exactly where, that she should run in the Travers. Tsk, tsk, hasn't anyone learned anything from Eight Belles about running fillies against males? (that's a joke) Though I think I'd like to see her a) win around two turns, and b) prove she's better than Proud Spell first. (no joke)

- The combined attendance at Del Mar and Saratoga on Monday, under good weather conditions, was 18,326. The crowd of 7,631 at Del Mar was the smallest in five years.

If you think you have the Poly at Del Mar down pat this year, things could be different come the races today. The track conducts maintenance on the surface on dark Tuesdays, and last Wednesday produced noticeably slower times.
Last week, the surface was power-harrowed, to loosen the material, and roto-tilled, to remix the components of the Polytrack, according to Pendergest. This week, the track will be only power-harrowed, he said on Saturday.
"I think it will be quicker on Wednesday than it was" last week, he said. "We learned a couple of things with what we did on Tuesday. It will be a notch slower on Wednesday than the rest of the week." [DRF]
Note that the track will be roto-tilled every three weeks; don't really know what that means to be honest, other than it apparently slows the track down. Jeff Nahill, doing a nice job covering the meet for the local North County Times, questions why we first learned of this work after the fact.
Del Mar's management had an obligation to inform bettors last week that the Polytrack had been dug up on Tuesday's off day, but it didn't do so. When large bettors find out about such things, it only makes them question why they bet a track that isn't forthcoming.[North County Times]

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Saratoga Wednesday

- In the third, Queenofalldiamonds (7-2) stretches back out to a mile and a sixteenth for Frankel, 7-3-1-1 on the meeting thus far. She rallied from far back, and was very wide on the turn when second in her last, at seven furlongs. She appeared to brush with eventual winner (and LATG selection) Unique Citizen turning for home, and I thought she was a little green in the stretch. She finished well for second though, and I think she'll love the distance. She debuted in a route, showed speed and faded to sixth, but I'm looking for Johnny V to adopt the rating tactics of the wayward Garrett Gomez. This is a $2.7 million daughter of Kingmambo out of the Distaff winner Escena (a half to Showlady, who won the G3 Boiling Springs on the turf at this distance). Tough post, but two of the three main contenders are out there too. Kapanga (4-1) had a little traffic trouble when saving ground in her last, at this distance, and should be saving ground from the two post as the others jockey for position.

- The 5th is a grassy state-bred juvenile sprint, and no pick here. Dougie (3-1) doesn't look like a NY-bred upon first look at the pedigree - Elusive Quality out of a Deputy Minister mare. But that dam is named I Love New York after all, and she's a half-sister to the NY-bred Florida Deby winner and current rookie sire Friends Lake. The stallion, by AP Indy, has two winners thus far, including the Bashford Manor winner Screen Your Friends. The Toddster has shown signs of 2 yo life, and here he debuts Double Domino (7-2). He's by Stormy Atlantic, out of a mare by Wild Zone (Wild Again), and sports a Tomlinson number of 358. Linda Rice debuts Ziptronic (6-1) (City Zip); the trainer won with two firsters on the grass here last year.

No selection in the featured 9th, the state-bred Fleet Indian, either. But I find it of interest because, as a NY-bred sprint for fillies and mares 3yo and up, it's the kind of company that Just Zip It will be facing, we hope, on Aug 18, albeit at a furlong shorter, as she prefers. Bill Turner wanted to give her a race on Monday, but the six furlong, open company NW2 other than allowance race for the abovementioned age and sex drew only two horses total! So unfortunately, she'll have to wait unless a suitable extra pops up very soon. She hasn't raced since June 4 and she's reportedly rarin' to go. If the company is anything like that in the Fleet Indian, I don't see why she couldn't hold her own at least.

In the 10th, Bruce Brown drops Sapphire Eyes (5-1) back to his claim level in this bottom basement maiden claimer. Brown has displayed his sharp downstate form early in this meeting. This son of E Dubai, out of $130,000 earner She's Academic, a half to the multiple graded winner It's Academic, was a close third at a mile when Brown claimed him, and returns to dirt after an OK third against better on the grass. Nice half mile tuneup for this the other day. Cut back to six is a question mark, but he certainly fits on class. Valiant Humor (9-2) similarly drops, and ran within a length of the choice when they met in the spring.

Imperial Curlin

- "We're still considering all our options....Nothing has been eliminated yet," said Steve Asmussen of Curlin. [Bloodhorse] So I guess that thing about the fans voting was just bullshit, yes?

"There are many elements to consider and ultimately Curlin's vote will count the most. His responses during his training sessions will guide our decision on his future." [Stonestreet Farms website]
Curlin? Who died and made him Imperial President? I thought it was a dumb idea anyway. Would the Red Sox let their season ticket holders decide whether or not to trade Manny? Don't be surprised if those of you who voted find yourselves on the Kendall-Jackson winery emailing list!

- A slight change in tune by NYRA's Charles Hayward after the significant declines in attendance and handle for the first week of Saratoga. Before the meet, Hayward minimized the possible effects of the economy, saying "I think we temper our expectations against the weather really more than the gas." Now, he says in a press release:
"We came into the 2008 Saratoga meet knowing that the economy, gas prices, and a particularly early opening in July would result in business declines compared to a record 2007." [NYRA]
To be fair, Hayward had acknowledged before the opening that last year's numbers would be tough to beat even if gas was "29 cents a gallon." (It's not.) And the horrible weather and lack of a Day 2 giveaway certainly had a large effect. But I don't think there's any getting around the fact that the difficult times are going to make it extremely tough, if not plain impossible, to make up even just a portion of those declines even if the weather is Del Mar-perfect from here on out. (Though I'm not ready to portray this as the beginning of the end of the Saratoga world, as Paul Morose did on

- Somebeachsomewhere has bounced out of his first career defeat in fine fettle, according to trainer Brent McGrath. "He came out of the race super."
He’s had a great week. He enjoyed the truck ride home and he’s been bouncing around and looking forward to his next race." [Standardbred Canada]
The colt is scheduled to race in an elimination heat for an Ontario Sire Stakes on Sunday at Mohawk. Meadowlands Pace winner Art Official will race on Saturday at Indiana Downs, and Ron Pierce will fly there for the drive after driving at the Meadowlands on Hambletonian day that afternoon. Trainer Joe Seekman said: “It’s going to be tight on Hambletonian Day, but we’re going to try to swing it." [US Trotting Association] Hope he's not flying American Airlines, that's all I can say.

In the Hambletonian, Deweycheatumnhowe will attempt to become the first unbeaten (14 for 14) Hambo winner since the multiple heat format was so unfortunately discarded in 1997.
Only six winners over the past 62 years were unbeaten at age 3: Donato Hanover (2007), Scarlet Knight (2001), Malabar Man (1997), Mack Lobell (1987), Sharp Note (1952) and Titan Hanover (1945). [Harness Edge]
By the way, Somebeachsomewhere is the 3-1 favorite in the advance wagering for the Little Brown Jug. Only problem is that he's not going to run in it. However, we're told that the bettors have shown that they still want him to race in Delaware. I can think of better ways to send that message than pissing my money away in a futures pool. Maybe they can go and vote on Jess Jackson's website instead.

Tuesday Notes

- Forever Together and Abraaj are just the kind of horses that the Win And You're In concept is perfect for; horses with heretofore relatively modest accomplishments getting really good at the right time, locking in spots and getting some attention. What would be good now is if they could earn a post position advantage by winning a second or third Challenge race. Forever Together is an appealing story and a worthy BC starter off that scintillating last to first rally - hope you got a chance to see that overhead shot on ABC. She closed in 11.14, according to Formulator. Abraaj ran 8th in last year's Vanderbilt at 20-1, and has progressed significantly since then. (Though it's perhaps worth noting that the final time of 1:10.23 was slower than an earlier state-bred allowance and Munnings' debut.) Don't have the Beyers yet; maybe if Illman wasn't spending so much time on Spa Babies, he'd be keeping his blog current like he should!

The other two races shouldn't have any effect on the Breeders' Cup at all. Ginger Punch was guaranteed a spot, and I doubt that Zito would send Commentator to run on that synthetic garbage as he's called it. As a matter of fact, the Form reports that, like Nick, Frankel is Leery of a synthetic Cup.

However, reading on further, we see that, unlike Zito, who is just generally negative about synthetic tracks (and I'm sure he'll say so at Tuesday's forum), Frankel is most understandably concerned about this particular situation in which, a spare three months until the event, we know virtually nothing about the surface it will be run on.

"We don't even know how it's going to play. What if the new track they put down plays like Del Mar did last summer or Keeneland when they first got the Poly? Are you going to change a horse's running style? It's just not going to be a true test. But if she's all right I'm probably going to run. [DRF]
What he's saying is not really different from the days when trainers weren't sure if they wanted to ship to California because the tracks were too hard and speed favoring. Besides, if he decides not to go, it's probably because he doesn't want to see Ginger Punch get her butt kicked by Zenyatta again!

- Anyone have that George Weaver first-timer in the sixth? I wasn't playing the races, and can't say I would have had it either. I guess you can't just bet on any horse that a trainer that you're following starts. But I did warn you guys about him, right? Weaver isn't a big first-timer guy; he hadn't had a debut winner at the Spa in four years and 35 tries. But when a guy is hot, that old stuff doesn't mean much. Unflagging ($62.50) is by Wheelaway, out of a Personal Flag mare, and is inbred 3x4 to Damascus.

That's two long priced winners now, from three starters overall, for trainer David Duggan, who took Monday's 4th with Cagey Girl ($47.60). He won Saturday's finale with 12-1 Lyke a Hurricane.

Third winner of the meeting for Wesley Ward and jockey Elvis Trujillo with first-timer August Rush (Milwaukee Brew) at 9-2 in the fifth.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Don't Panic

- Governor Paterson is planning on addressing the people of New York State, to discuss the dire financial straits we find ourselves in, the inadequacy of the $122 billion budget passed in Albany in the spring and the spending cuts that will inevitably result.

"Because of the severity of the situation like this, I want to talk to New Yorkers personally," the governor said Monday after a meeting the New York City financial control board.

"We don't have to panic," he added. "There are ways we can respond and we're going to have to respond immediately." [Newsday]
Other than NY1, I'm not sure who is going to televise the address - his aides hope [it] will be televised by public and cable news stations. [NY Post] But I wouldn't think that more than a relative handful of people will be watching. I can't be the first to say that it's like "the blind leading the blind," can I?

You could see this coming, because last week Paterson delivered an extremely downbeat assessment of the economy and its particular effects on Wall St. The governor asserted that bonuses there could decline by 20%, and each 10 percent reduction in bonus pay costs the state $350 million in tax revenues.
Predicting the state could lose an estimated $1.7 billion from slumping profits for Wall Street's financial firms, he forecast severe state budget cuts.

"The reality is that there is a tremendous effect that income taxes, property taxes, rising fuel prices, rising food prices and all of the debt that the state has undergone is going to have in terms of our governance," Paterson said. [Reuters]
Those numbers make the $1 million a day the state is pissing away due to the lack of a racino at Aqueduct seem relatively insignificant. And with Paterson seemingly consumed by the bigger picture, one wonders if we'll have a decision on the racino operator by the end of July, the latest target date from the governor's office I had seen in print.

The NY Post reported today that the new state-operated NYCOTB wants to get into the VLT business.
These terminals - which would require legislative approval - could lead to entertainment complexes in the city created by casino bigs like Steve Wynn and Donald Trump.

"We could do something really out of the box, which instead of talking about pennies, we could be talking about literally billions of dollars, and that would be to bring VLTs into our three teletheaters in New York," David Cornstein, chairman of the new state-controlled NYC Off-Track Betting Corp., told The Post.
That certainly raises a lot of questions, specifically with respect to what seemed to be a newfound spirit of moving towards conslidating the operations of OTB and the racing operator. The last thing NYRA needs is competition in the form of Trump Casinos in Manhattan! I think that the prospect of luring many Manhattanites out to Ozone Park on the A train is a dubious one to start with; you can write it off entirely if a plan like this became a reality.

However, if the state moves to consolidate the racing and wagering business, and if NYRA and the horsemen get a fair share of a Manhattan VLT windfall, then the plan could be beneficial to most everyone involved. So, how about first things first?

That's The Game

- Nick Zito was upset with Eibar Coa for riding Mint Lane the only way the horse knows how to run, at least successfuly - on the lead - thus dueling Da'Tara, and his own horse into defeat.

"That was absolutely insane what Coa did....I don't know why. We made the lead; why don't you wait second? [Albany Times Union]
I wasn't aware that there was any rule that the horse that makes the lead first is entitled to have it to itself. If anything, Da'Tara has at least shown some ability to run on to the finish from slightly off the pace. So maybe Nick should have done a better job reading the Form, and instructed his rider accordingly. I mean, it's obvious from reading the running lines that Mint Lane was going to be hellbent for the lead. I think that Jerry Bailey would guffaw at Zito's criticism of Coa the same way he did on ABC when Bejarano complained about race riding against Ginger Punch on Saturday. "That's the game."

Maybe Da'Tara could have run like Wanderin Boy did for Nick on Monday, stalking off the flank of Mr. Umphrey before drawing away in 1:21.87. That was the first seven furlong race since the son of Seeking the Gold's debut, some 22 races and nearly four years ago on the dirt Keeneland track. He won that race too. So maybe Nick should be racing him short, and Commentator long, and by all means, never the twain shall meet!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Saratoga Notes

- The problem with scheduling a lesser stakes race, at the exact same distance, as the race before a graded stakes, is that you risk embarrassment to the graded winner if that race is run in a slower time. Thus, it's hard for me to get too worked up for the Travers if we're going to be seeing the same cast as the Jim Dandy without any intriguing additions. Macho Again's historically slow final Jim Dandy time of 1:51.16 compares unfavorably to that of Macho In Seattle, who won a non-winners of a stake in 2008 for 3 yo's affair in 1:50.98 in the preceding race. Not that the Jim Dandy wasn't a good race to watch, featuring a spirited duel for the early lead, a couple of lead changes in the stretch, and a driving close finish. But this race fell apart badly after Da'Tara and Mint Lane folded from their early efforts, and the sight of the Belmont winner straggling home last is not really a good one for the sport. The last three-eighths went in 39.34, and favored Pyro had no excuse whatsoever for not being to run down the winner....who I'm STILL not convinced is really a two turn horse!!

The slow times differ sharply from the quick ones seen in sprint races early in the day, so I guess this is where the Beyer guys earn the big bucks; these were the only two dirt routes on the day, and came after the track was sealed for one race. If they simply used the early variant all day for all distances, Macho Again would probably get about a 12. Cribnote missed the track record for 5 1/2 by a fifth of a second, winning off by 13 lengths for Violette in the second. He's a 2 yo NY-bred son of first-year sire Read the Footnotes, out of Totebook (by Notebook), a half-sister to the graded winner D'Or Ruckus. The stallion had three winners from just seven starters as of 7/21. State-breds and 25K claimers then cracked the 1:10 mark for their six furlongs.

Miss Ocean City was a front running winner in her debut for Zito in the sixth. According to the Form, only two prior foals of Mineshaft had won its debut in 41 tries. This two-year old filly has an interesting pedigree, inbred 3x3 to both Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew. She's a half-sister to the graded turf winner Woodlander, and this is the female family of Twilight Agenda, Belmont winner Go and Go, and the Melbourne Cup winner Media Puzzle. Zito now has two seconds and this winner with his three first-out 2 yo's at the Spa.

Pretty Carina, 3-1 morning line, was bet down to even money in her second start, and romped for Frankel in the 8th. She's a three-year old daughter of Seeking the Gold, out of Ile de France, a half sister to Bernardini. Pletcher first-timer Sahara Wind was dull on the board at 8-1, and rallied well for second. On Saturday, the Toddster won with the $1.7 million Speightstown colt Munnings; he won with only one first-time starter at the meet last year.

- With all my talk about Mott's 0-fer streak with first-timers, I ended up betting on Intercoastal in the third on Saturday. With an interesting pedigree that I mentioned in this post, and 9-2 odds which were fair, but which also reflected some live action on the board, it seemed like a good time for the barn to break out. Thought I had this one too when the three-year old surged to the lead after fighting Kent D. down the backstretch. Would have had the rolling double too, as I stood against Unbridled's Heart in the 4th. Godolphin's million dollar baby has now lost twice at 4-5 since he romped with a 101 Beyer in his debut.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Challenge Day Live Blog (Past Post Edition)

- It's approaching midnight on Saturday, and I haven't seen nor learned the results of the four stakes at Saratoga earlier today. After an early BBQ dinner at my brother's, we went to the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center for a free concert. It was a tribute show to Johnny Cash, and we got to see The Persuasions, Marshall Crenshaw, Laura Cantrell, David Bromberg, Jay Farrar from Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt (his rendition of I Still Miss Someone was my favorite song of the night), and John Doe from X. These two women sitting next to us, seeing John Doe's name in the program, thought it was a pseudonym for somebody really famous. I think they thought they were going to see Billy Joel. Must have been a big letdown when they heard, "Hi. My name is John Doe."

Anyway, I'm going to watch the ABC telecast now and do a running commentary. I was hoping to be alive in some Pick Three's, but I just watched Tiz It get beaten in the 6th by 34-1 Joppa's Falls. I'm not the only one who'd lost money on that one at far lower odds in one or more of his 20 losses. So I have nothing going here, damn.

ABC leads off with Jeanine Edwards talking about how Pletcher is having a slow year. Can't they put some heavy makeup on her to hide those bulging veins in her neck? Privman touts Criminologist in the Diana, Kenny Mayne likes him too, and he's overbet at 5-1; I don't like her at all. Hank likes Dynaforce, who I don't like either.

I could easily see Todd Schrmmppff in the Joe Tessitore role. Bailey now has all the mannerisms of a professional broadcaster. They said he was gone over the summer, I didn't notice, what was he up to? Randy Moss hypes the quality of this card, and he's not exaggarating at all in this particular case.

"Something a little bit different," Tessitore says about Female Friday; an understatement to say the least. It's by far the most drastic restructuring of racing's biggest day since the series started in 1984. To just ignore the controversy it generated is to not portray the story as it happened.

Well, I would have still been alive in the Pick Three with Forever Together. I used front-running Bayou's Lassie, plus the three horses recommended by readers here; and the 8-1 winner was amongst those.

Good camera work by ABC at first, picking up the field from the infield camera on the backstretch. However, I thought they kept with it for too long, and when they then switched to a side angle on the turn, I found it extremely disorienting as to exactly where they were on the track. However, an excellent overhead shot on the replay allowed Bailey to take us through the enormous winning move from far, far back. That view makes closing surges such as hers look far more dramatic than the standard pan shot; even the Head Chef took notice.

Story on Big Brown here; this better be good or else I'll be fast forwarding through it. Desormeaux, in an exclusive interview for the telecast, once again emphasized that he didn't do anything wrong, but Iavarone criticizes him for pulling the horse up. "I would have rather have seen him just wrangle him in and let him gallop out." This is getting good. The horse apologized to him for losing. Aw, that's sweet, Iavarone giving Big Brown a hug. It looked kinda like this.

I guess this is a bombshell that Iavarone is telling Jeanine Edwards that he told Dutrow he was taking the horses away - "Rick, I have to come and take the horses." He said it was a "done deal" until a big investor talked him out of it.

Bailey piles on Desormeaux, who's mired in an 0 for 46 slump at 4,999. Nice, Jerry.

I had Abraaj singled in those Pick Threes. If I'd been home, no doubt I would have been alive in some Rolling Doubles, but what can you do? I don't really like Thor's Echo here. Goldberg likes Abraaj and wonders if they wanted to take Benny the Bull away from Dutrow too. 4:27 to post, a bit more detail than we really need. Yup, time for a commercial.

First Defence taking money at 3-1; they're talking about his second to Hard Spun in the King's Bishop last year. A brutal loss for me; had the exacta the other way enough times to get me out for the meeting.

Bailey likes EZ Warrior to show speed, says that "his blood is going to be on fire in the starting gate." Huh? He has a tough time catching his breath when he slows down, is that what he said? There's EZ Warrior with that firey blood. Dead last after a quarter. Weird camera angles again. Abraaj seems finished on the turn.

Or not. Here, the overhead shot is not as dramatic. As noted by Randy Moss, this was more of a case of the horses in front of him stopping. The difference between this finish and the acceleration of Forever Together on the grass was distinctly visible; she came home in 11.72, Abraaj in 12.61 according to Formulator.

Again with Big Brown? Oh man, Dutrow? Big Brown is getting more coverage than any of the horses actually running here today.

Uh oh, dark clouds on the way....too bad I didn't record the Weather Channel as well. It looks pretty ominous behind the ESPN booth. I like Bailey's blue hankie in his jacket pocket. Big Brown worked six in 1:10! I'm going to the Haskell next Sunday and looks like ESPN has picked up the race for its Classic network.

Bo Derek gets a ten in his book, oh man..

Any two turn race for four year olds and up is a possibility for Curlin, according to Asmussen via Jeanine Edwards. But she says that the Woodward and Pacific Classic are possibilities.

The Pacific Classic? At Del Mar? That would be a strange development given the doubt many have that they would even run Curlin in the Classic because of the synthetic surface there, whatever it really is.

There's Pyro. I'm not touching that race. I've been as consistently wrong about this horse as I could possibly be, and I don't want to be either for or against him in the Jim Dandy.

Ginger Punch is 1-9 with 17 MTP. I'm getting tired and could see myself fast forwarding to the Whitney at this point. I'm not a huge Ginger Punch fan.

"Jerry Bailey, why is Ginger Punch such a big favorite?" "Because she finishes in front of everyone else."

Limited commercial interruptions for the balance of the telecast, thanks to Emirates Airlines. Thanks Sheikh.

Uh-oh, heavy rain. Second time we're told that the "skies have opened up."

Bailey thought he was talking to Albarado, as did the director since that's who they were showing. "Er, this is Kent, Jerry." Bailey improvises and comes up with a question for Kent D. Oh man.

Big Brown again?? I don't know if I'm in the mood for Dutrow now, really.

Pretty nice ride there by Bailey on Arcangues.

Same deal with the camera angles here. I like that initial shot from the infield camera, but they just linger too long with it instead of switching back to the pan shot to give us some perspective as to where they are. A lot of drama but an easy win for the favorite in the end. Let's get to the Whitney already.

Oh, Dutrow, I forgot. Not enough rain for Tasteyville, says Bailey as the sun comes out. Killing time here; enough about Ginger Punch. Jeanine Edwards reporting that Bejarado said that the other jockeys rode "dirty." "They were riding their race to beat me" he said, and specifically mentioned Albarado on Over Under. Bailey is leading the laughter at the accusation. "That's the game," he says.

I can't believe they're milking the Dutrow interview like this; that's the third teaser thus far. Maybe there's something really big. Again, talking about how crappy Pletcher is doing this year. What's the problem, he didn't want to be on a Sports Center commercial? Maybe that rainbow is intended for the Toddster?

Still no Dutrow; a story on Commentator instead. They might not get to Dutrow until the ABC Evening News, which I did not record. A shot of the pins in Commentator's ankle. You gotta love this horse; he's always out there winging, and has held on well this year. Personally, I find that more endearing than a horse who breaks bad and passes tired horses for second or third. But I don't want to attack any horse here.

OK, here's Dutrow, it's a live interview with Jeanine Edwards. What? She actually asked him about Rising Moon? That's what they've been hyping for the last hour? Oh, here we go. Asking him again about what happened in the Belmont? Hasn't that been covered to death?

OK, now she's asking him to react to the Iavarone comments. "I didn't know it [our relationship] has been strained." He denies that Iavarone ever told him that he was going to take the horses away from him. That's a direct contradiction to what Iavarone said earlier. If he's lying, then he really may have them taken away! Dutrow basically denied that he knew of any problem with the owner. "The gift that keeps on giving for sports journalists," Moss says - best line of the broadcast. OK, that was worth the wait.

Did you see those eyebrows on Neil Howard? Bailey is saying that Grasshopper does not run well on the turns, and that it's important for Albarado to have him well positioned going into and out of the turns.

Nice camera presence by Sam the Bugler; could be angling for a Geico commercial.

Goldberg goes with Solar Flare, and he likes Grasshopper. Tessitore points out that Magna Graduate was the favorite at 4-1 in the race last year, and that the race is simlarly wide open this year. Scrmppff could have come up with that, don't y'think? I don't like Rising Moon at all, and would likely bet on Notional (6-1) had the race not been run seven hours ago.

Moss plugs the Win And You're In angle; don't recall it being mentioned since early in the broadcast. I wonder if the fact that there are so many of these Challenge races this year is sapping these commentators of some of their urgency and enthusiasm.

Jeanine Edwards with Larry Jones. Thankfully, just a brief mention of Eight Belles before getting on to Solar Flare. I like him too. 6-1 on Notional. Privman says that his win in the Salvatore Mile earned him a permanent reprieve from the synthetics out west.

Wow. I never would have had Commentator in this race, but you gotta love that. Amazing - that was his first two turn race since his 123 Beyer win in the Whitney three years ago. I guess Zito should have kept him running long.

I think I've had enough. They're not going to ask Zito if the horse was on steroids anyway.

News, Noses, and Notes

- Reports of a possible purse cut at Del Mar due to the lower handle thus far.

On-track attendance is down 5.8 percent and on-track handle is down 11.8 percent. Meanwhile, total handle is down 5.5 percent.
One published report said 7 percent purse cuts are imminent, but Del Mar officials are not planning to do anything until after this weekend.

"We're only one furlong into a seven-furlong race," said Mike Ernst, chief financial officer at Del Mar. "We're not planning on any cuts right now." [North County Times]
But it certainly doesn't sound like he's dismissing the possibility.

Check out the wild finish in last night's Wickerr Handicap at Del Mar:

[this is where I unsuccessfully attempted to upload the video to here or You Tube from my desktop. Try Cal Racing. In the spirit of the criticism of NYRA for not publicizing the race with Durkin's do-ra-mi call, tracks should at least have a My Space or You Tube page from where they can send out links to great races like this to a mailing list of press, websites, and customers! C'mon, that's not brain surgery and it doesn't take much time or effort to do it!!]

The official margins separating the top five finishers were nose, nose, nose, and nose.

- Developer Louis Capelli, apparently not fully appeased by the unprecedented 75% share of gaming revenues carved out by the NY state legislature for his grand plans to build a new Monticello Raceway and Racino at a newly redesigned Concord Hotel, wants every tax break that Sullivan County offers.
Cappelli is seeking an estimated $40.3 million in sales and mortgage tax relief and millions more in property tax breaks through the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency.

"This is what we call 'but for' money," said Joseph Apicella, executive vice president of Cappelli Enterprises after Friday's special meeting of the IDA at the Government Center. "But for the economic assistance this project wouldn't be financially viable."
"It (IDA assistance) was always expected as part of the economic feasibility analysis," Apicella said. "We're pretty confident that this community is very, very excited about the project and the scope, and bringing economic benefits to a community that has suffered from economic decline for so many years." []
These guys clearly have Sullivan County over a barrel, and they know it. Apicella makes damn sure to remind the community of its depressed status since the decline of its resorts business many years ago, and the steady stream of disappointments and false starts in prior attempts to bring gambling to the area. I'm sure Capelli will get every last cent of relief that he's asking for.

- Another report about the nationwide decline in casino revenues: but, we're told, there's a glaring exception to the trend.
Perhaps the one true bright spot was the growth in the racino industry, particularly in the new York and Pennsylvania areas. Pennsylvania track casinos were up an astounding 48.9%, as slots took off in the Keystone state.

New York also showed impressive figures, as their slots racinos climbed 15.5%. [Online Casino Sphere]

Saratoga Saturday

- Just a fantastic card at Saratoga today, the kind that makes us anticipate the meeting all year long. Even the state-bred race in the opener is of interest, with Rollers, an impressive juvenile last year for Barclay Tagg, making his return to the races. We last saw him running second in an open stakes last fall. Rollers is by Stormy Atlantic, out of a Distinctive Pro half-sister to the Grade 1 winner Without Feathers, and NY-bred stakes winners Copper Mount and Currency Arbitrage.

DiscreetCat checks in with some comments and video on Munnings, the $1.7 million Speightstown baby who wowed the Ocala sale in February. Mott has a pair in here, and yes, he will win with a first-time starter at some point, probably during this meet. But until he does, his recent string of futility with them, and the public's affinity for rewarding past Saratoga success, will create value on others. Kent D is named on both, so we can look for one to scratch; but Prince of Wealth is by Empire Maker out of G1 winner Dreams Gallore; and Successful Mission is a Successful Appeal half to Keyed Entry. Talk about bred for speed!!!

In the third (at least scheduled for the grass), you have a bunch of horses who have burned more money than the NY Knicks - Oceanography, Uncle Indy, Open Sleigh, Mask and Wig, and Calbo, man!! A couple others perhaps worth watching - Counterspy (unfortunately coupled with Open Sleigh), stretches out for Allen Jerkens; The Chief knocked out many a Pick Four player when his So Glitzy upset Hamsa and Mushka at 18-1on Friday. He went well for third in a turf sprint two races back, and should like the stretch out here. Counterspy is by Hennessy, and he's a half to Vestrey Lady, a stakes winner at a mile and a sixteenth. His dam, by Kris S, is a half sister to Mr. Greeley and Majestic Legend, the latter being the granddam of Street Sense. And Mott debuts Intercoastal, a three year old by Dynaformer, out of a Pleasant Colony mare, who's inbred 3x3 to His Majesty; interesting pedigree there.

Unbridled's Heart is back in the 5th, trying to re-establish the dazzling form of his debut after his defeat to Mint Lane, who we'll see in a sparkling edition of the Jim Dandy on Sunday.

The sixth is another race featuring money burners, and one of them is Tiz It, who I mentioned in the last post. Hmmm. Still, I'll stick with him and White Tie to start some rolling doubles to the Diana. I like all of the ideas in this comment thread - Bit of Whimsy, Forever Together, and Lady Digby - and we'll look for some prices there, even if Wait A While runs. Then we can go on in Pick Threes to the Vanderbilt with Abraaj. Bustin Stones looks up against it to me (scratched with a bruised foot); unless he proves able to rate, he'll have to contend with the likes of Black Seventeen, First Defence, and EZ Warrior early on; the race would certainly seem to set up for McLaughlin's horse.

That's it for now; gotta do some more handicapping, as the Head Chef and I frittered Friday evening away up on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a preciously gorgeous New York City night! Best of luck, and have a fantastic day!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Saratoga Notes

- Not a very fortuitous US debut for Mousse Au Chocolat on Friday to say the least! She lingered in the gate before finally lurching out several lengths behind the field in the G2 Lake George. She was the 9-5 favorite in this field, but was done once a brief three wide move on the turn flattened out. Then, in the stretch, Receipt came out under left handed whipping by Alan Garcia, and Mousse Au Chocolat stumbled badly over her heels. Backers of My Princess Jess ($6.10) got a premium on that win price due to the heavy action on the French favorite, and Eibar Coa got a narrow seam up the rail.

Here's another nice three-year old grass filly; that's three consecutive stakes wins, and she's never been worse than second in seven tries for Barclay Tagg, and owners Roy and Gretchan Jackson, who purchased the filly privately after she won an overnight stakes at Belmnt in May. My Princess Jess is by Stormy Atlantic, out of a Pleasant Colony mare who's a half-sister to the champion multiple G1 winner Jewel Princess. She's a bit similarly bred to I Lost My Choo, another exciting three-year old grass filly, in that both are out of mares from the Ribot sire line; probably no coincidence then that they both like the turf. We'll probably see those two hook up before too long.

Yes, that was the Toddster in the winner's circle after the second with his 4th runner of the meeting: Join in the Dance (Sky Mesa) was making his third career start. This was another morning line favorite that may have surprised its supporters with a generous win price ($8.40); the bettors pounded the Mott entry of first-timers from 4-1 morning line to 8-5 favoritism. Well, I was at least right about that even as Into My Soul was dead on the board (22-1) and on the track.

First-timer Stomp was second at 11-1 for trainer John Terranova, who won the fifth with Jump It. Note that Terranova, an under the radar guy in NY having a productive year at 18% (64 starters), has now been in the money with eight consecutive runners in NY and NJ (2-3-3), at odds ranging from 4-1 to 12-1. On Saturday, Terranova starts Tiz It (9-2) in the 6th. He was second by a head to Sixthirteen, who moved up to beat winners by four with a Beyer of 96 in his next start; the race has also produced two seconds and a third.

Two close seconds at long odds for Kiaran McLaughlin. Aquino, a Team Valor import from Uruguay, was likely best in the 6th at his 10-1 odds, battling to the end in a blanket three horse finish after being floated four wide turning for home. (Laysh Laysh Laysh a couple lengths back in 4th.) Alwajeeha was second to My Princess Jess at 8-1 in the feature. After I noted in June that the barn was in a mini-slump at 0 for 25, it went on a streak of 12-6-3-3. Only two wins in 15 starts since that, but McLaughlin has been consistently knocking at the door, and he could be poised to have a huge meeting here. He may not have any divisional leaders this year, but he does have a barn full of two-year olds with stellar pedigrees that we'll certainly be keeping an eye out for.

And he has sharp veterans like Abraaj, his five-year old son of Carson City, who has stepped up to the next level in his two starts this year with a change to rating tactics. He looks like the main threat to Bustin Stones in the Vanderbilt. McLaughlin also starts White Tie (4-1) in the abovementioned 6th race, and note that he comes off a troubled, close 4th in the same productive race as Tiz It.

Still Waiting a While For VLT's

- NY Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos accompanied Private Citizen Joe Bruno to Saratoga on Thursday. It was an opportunity for Skelos to assure the citizens of Saratoga that he will continue to support the economic development projects that Bruno has long championed for his former constituency. “I give my commitment.....What Joe has started, we will continue.” [Schenectady Gazette]

Skelos said that the selection of the Aqueduct racino operator is up to Governor Paterson, saying "I'm not leaning in any direction right now." [Saratogian]

- Here's another instance in which I selectively quote from a writer, Dick Powell in this case, who echoes one of my own ongoing themes:

When handicappers compare Saratoga and Del Mar, days like Wednesday are a major negative in the balance sheet for Saratoga. When it rains, it pours and racing is adversely affected. There were 44 scratches on Wednesday's card at the Spa with five races switched from the turf to a very sloppy main track. Has Del Mar ever lost a turf race to rain or has it ever been listed as anything less than firm?

Polytrack provides a consistent racing surface each day and now that Del Mar is watering it during the afternoon it is yielding relatively normal race times. Compare Del Mar's consistency to what we saw at Saratoga on opening day and how much the main track will change when it dries out. [BRIS]
While Powell seems to be making a point more about the weather than Polytrack, and would likely never - gasp - suggest a synthetic surface at Saratoga, I have no such compunction. At some point in the future, if and when the questions that persist about synthetics are answered - such as its maintenance and consistency under different weather conditions and over a period of years, and those persistent, though yet unspecified, whispers about vague soft tissue injuries - there are some good reasons - 44 of them just on Wednesday - why Saratoga would actually make more sense for a synthetic surface than either of the other two NYRA tracks. Feel free to let me have it for saying that!

- Wait A While is scheduled to make her return to the races in the G1 Win and You're In Diana on Saturday. However, we know that she doesn't like soft going, and the Form's Jay Privman describes her status as "questionable." Same goes for Rutherienne and Vacare, both from Christophe Clement (and both rather disappointing thus far this year). “I’ll worry about it Saturday morning." So, handicapping the race at this point in time is uncertain. Under better conditions, I'd love to try and beat Wait A While as the likely betting favorite anyway, but it's hard to stand against her considering the fact that two of her best races have come over the Saratoga turf. Some guy named Tod Plecher, or something like that, said that she's "been training well.”
“She prefers the courses at Hollywood Park and Saratoga, where she tends to perform extra well. At Belmont Park, even with firm turf, it’s not quite the same.” [Thoroughbred Times]
One mare who could be worth a look at a price is Bayou's Lassie (12-1). This five-year old daughter of Outflanker has sharpened her front-running game since switching from Clement to the barn of Dale Romans, including a G3 win at Churchill in which she earned a career best Beyer of 100. In her last, the G3 Locust Grove, also at CD, she dueled with the tough McLaughlin speedball Genuine Devotion before fading to third. In the Diana however, she's the only confirmed front runner in the race, breaking from a favorable inside post in a field loaded with late runners. Stretch out to nine furlongs obviously doesn't help, but perhaps she can stick around long enough to liven up the exotics at least.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Delayed Opening Day

- With the rain (mostly?) gone, and the sun having shone for most of the day, the track at Saratoga should be fast for Friday's twilight card - at least at some point if not for the 2:45 opener. I'm told that the Lake George will stay on the turf. It feels like opening day for me. Just don't get much into the game when the track is like that.

In the first, Charging Hero (9-2) takes an enormous drop in class to restricted claimers. I'm just tosing his last - he was a full three wide around the entire Belmont turn in a race against the likes of Tizbig (2nd in the Dwyer) and Goldsville (4th, beaten 2 lengths in the Barbaro [Delaware version]). His prior was a sharp second in allowance company, beaten a neck by Monster Drive, who subsequently overcame a bad stumble at the start to post a close second at Monmouth on July 12. Not thrilled about the cutback to six furlongs, but this is a significant drop in class for a horse with some sharp recent form. At Attention (4-1) goes off the claim for trainer Bruce Brown, three for ten in that category. He switches to dirt after a so-so 5th on grass with Castellano, and you gotta love that the rider returns for the new barn. By Proxy (7-2) is a sharp shipper from Churchill. These have done well here the past couple years, at least it seems that way. As far as I know, if you want stats as to who is winning from which tracks, you have to compile them yourself.

The second race juvenile affair will be run on the dirt. Contessa, who sent out the sharp Vinny Van Go on Wednesday, starts first-timer Into My Soul off a very similar workout pattern. He's a son of the Classic/World Cup winner Pleasantly Perfect, standing at Lane's End for $30,000. The stallion only started once as young as three, and won his big races at five and six. But he's off to a pretty good start, with [pdf warning] two winners from six starters overall. Into My Soul is out of Stop Traffic (Cure the Blues), who won the G1 Ballerina over this track. Seems worth a flyer at his 12-1 morning line. Mott debuts Charlie Temper (Giant's Causeway), and Kent D. rides. Desormeaux needs one win to get to #5000. We all know how Mott/Kent D dominated the baby races here last year; Mott won with six with first time starters with Desormeaux on five. I've also been noting here that Mott is 0 for his last 56 first-timers going back to September. We'll soon start seeing which of those stats is more relevant. For now, I'm leaning towards recency, especially since Mott's first-timers are still going to get bet way down based on what he did at the Spa last meeting. People like to bet that way there. Charlie Trumper is a 3/4 brother to the speedy Wildcat Heir.

The third race might be the first one of the meet that really makes you feel like you are indeed at Saratoga. Demoiselle winner Mushka makes her first start of the year in this allowance race after missing all of the spring madness. Could be a tough spot with One Caroline (5-2), one of those sharp CD shippers, two-for-two for Rusty Arnold. The trainer had a tough meeting here last year, but he's better than that two-for-23 record. Hamsa (3-1) was one of the stumblers in the Mother Goose, and deserves another shot for Barclay Tagg. No pick here.

In the sixth, Laysh Laysh Laysh (6-1) returns to the races for trainer David Jacobson. He was last seen in the Bay Shore, far back after getting taken up sharply at the start. Prior to that, this three-year old son of Whywhywhy got really good since the barn claimed him for 50k, and ran third in the Capposella Stakes close behind Accredit (who romped in his return for McLaughlin on Wednesday). Steady workouts, and the barn is 23% in the 61-180 day layoff category.

Tough call in the Lake George, which features My Princess Jess (8-5), coming off her two straight stakes wins for Tagg, and Mousse Au Chocolat (2-1), who last ran second in a Group 2 in France on soft going, which I imagine she'll see here. Her Racing Post numbers keep going up, which I know has to be good, even though I lost my handle on the relative merits of the foreign numbers when the Form switched from Timeform. Seems like a good race to just watch anyway.

- I'm taking a long peek at Notional for the Whitney on Saturday. He was one of the top three-year olds last spring with his Risen Star and San Rafael wins, and his second to Scat Daddy in the Florida Derby. He went to the sidelines after that, and seemed to suffer a setback after what seemed like a very hasty trip to Dubai. He switched to the barn of Mark Hennig, who is having a very good year, and it was for that barn that he won the Salvator Mile at Monmouth, running down a loose on the lead Gottcha Gold on his favorite speed-favoring track. No mean feat there, and he finally topped that 105 Beyer he ran in his debut. His two-turn dirt form is pretty excellent overall, and he doesn't have to be a champ to get his first Grade 1 win in this spot.

Bruno Rolling Along

- All three bidders for the mythical Aqueduct racino have been deemed to be "qualified" to run the place by the Lottery. Big surprise there; we're not talking about fly-by-night outfits here. I wonder how many days at $1 million in missed revenue were spent on that process. So, the Saratogian reports, the gaming contract is in the hands of the state's top leaders, indicating that a decision might be made soon. "I wouldn't put a timetable on it," said a Paterson spokesperson. Yeah, I figured that.

Of course, each day that the racino is delayed is good news for the booming Empire City at Yonkers Raceway racino. The pickup is business there has led to the second significant boost in purses for the harness races just since July 1, when the prizes were boosted by 15%. This time the purses will be raised an average of 21.6 percent, starting on August 1. [US Trotting Association]

- NYRA has instituted rolling daily doubles throughout the day at Saratoga. That might seem like a noncontroversial no-brainer, but horseplayers will always find a reason to disagree. A commenter to Tim Wilkin's Talking Horses blog notes:

The novice bettors will bet those rolling doubles, but will not be able to keep track of their bets. They will try to cash double tickets for races 6/7 when they REALLY bet the double in races 5/6 and......Those same novices will trash winning double tickets BECAUSE they cannot keep track of them……STOOPERS take note….BIG $$$ making days ahead!!
Yeah! And how about when those novice bettors try to bet the double for races 6/7 when they REALLY want to bet the exacta in the 8th at Monmouth and they try to cash them at a Stewart's instead? I'd be keeping my eyes out for winning tickets all over town!

- I guess we won't be seeing former Senator Joe Bruno at Saratoga much this season after all, since he'll surely be busy with his new job. No, not one for the Paterson administration. But rather, his new gig as the CEO of CMA Consulting Services, a company which has done substantial business with the state.
The company, which was founded by SUNY Board of Trustees member Kay Stafford (widow of former [Republican] Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Stafford), racked up $22,404,765 worth of contracts with the State of New York over the past four years alone. [Artvoice]
Recently, CMA lobbied to have its exclusive technology for red light traffic-monitoring cameras approved for use by the state. And it seems none too surprising that the company has already been involved in controversy in this matter regarding suspected improper influence of its lobbyists.
CMA drew some scrutiny this year after it hired Robert Scott Gaddy, a former adviser to Assemblyman David F. Gantt of Rochester, as a lobbyist. Mr. Gantt, the chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, had long opposed traffic cameras as too intrusive, yet he introduced a bill that would allow cities and towns across the state to install them and require the kind of technology that CMA sells. [NY Times]
Bruno is prohibited by law from lobbying the legislature for two years. But nothing prevents him from doing business with the executive branch.

James Odato reports in the Times Union reports that Bruno would not disclose his new salary.
Industry insiders familiar with CMA estimated Bruno's salary as being at least four times his pay of $121,000 in the job he held for 14 years as the leader of the Republican-dominated Senate. [Albany Times Union]
That's enough for a whole lot of rolling daily doubles.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Spa Turns Into Bog

- I'm watching this big yellow mass with little red dots squarely over Saratoga on the weather map here on Wednesday night, and can't imagine how wet it must be there (and the resulting problems are more serious than off-the-turf races). The storms are coming straight up the Thruway it seems, but amazingly, they've been skirting just barely west of NYC. So it was dry here throughout the day and early evening at least - the Yanks and Mets both played without incident, and the latter were even able to hold on to a three-run lead in the 9th this time.

The Head Chef and I were even able to see most of an outdoor movie at Socrates Sculpture Park, located picturesquely right there on the river, facing Manhattan, just north of the 59th Street Bridge (and a Costco) in Queens. The sky was being illuminated by lightning to the west and north, and it eventually got close enough so that they stopped the film to break their equipment down before it got wet. I think they panicked a bit, and that the rain never came, but I guess they had to be cautious. It's freaking pouring now.

I'm off tomorrow, and I'm easily enough of a degenarate to head again to Monmouth, which had a fast track all day today. But it's finally getting rain tonight. I spend far too much time looking at weather maps.

Wednesday brought a very wet track and an opening day crowd of 18,127 at Saratoga - a total bog, according to a reader. And that was even before the rain tonight. No grass racing on Thursday as you might expect (five were washed out on Wednesday alone, as opposed to just six all last season); and Thursday's steeplechase race was canceled on Wednesday, giving anyone planning on driving up from Fair Hill plenty of notice. I'd guess that Saturday is the earliest we'll see any turf. You gotta feel bad for everyone involved who have been eagerly planning for this year's opening. NYRA has not been very lucky with the weather of late.

Our reader also noted that there were a lot of collective drug positives represented in the winner's circle on the day. Three winners for Asmussen, including Cognito (three in a row for DiscreetCat guest handicapping here) in the first baby race of the meet. A mixed bag for the trainer in the G3 Schuylerville; 6-5 favorite Ocean Colors, a daughter of Winning Colors written about by Bill Finley in the Times, finished dead last in the muck, some 60 lengths behind the winner. Ugh. But fortunately for Asmussen, he trains that winner too. Jardin is a daughter of Montbrook, the popular regional stallion standing in Florida for $10,000 at the age of 18.

Jardin is a full-sister to Beacon Shine, who won the early season Flash Stakes for juveniles in 2005 and passed away from colic a year after. Her dam, by the excellent slop sire Valid Appeal, is a half-sister to Outofthebox, another Super Derby winner (been mentioning that race a lot lately it seems), who won a graded stakes at two. And her second dam is a half to Mighty Appealing, who won the Remsen and Laurel Futurity at two. So a lot of precocity in this pedigree. It's also an unusual one, as both her sire and dam have the same 4th dam, Old Bess; not often that I notice that pattern in pedigrees these days.

Dutrow had two winners, Contessa one, and the latter also ran second in a state-bred baby race with the well-bet Vinnie Van Go. This barn reportedly has some nice two-year olds to debut up there, and this 120K son of Hook and Ladder was a promising start. Steve Crist, reporting live from the Saratoga press box this year, notes that this colt tried to come up the soupy rail, altered course and finished with a flourish for second. He fell short to Lookin At Her (also by Hook and Ladder), from the barn of Ramon "Mike" Hernandez, who always seems to be good for a couple of winners each year at the Spa.

Phil Serpe took the 6th with his MTO entry Theartofcompromise; that's his third winner in a row at various tracks on the East Coast, including I Lost My Choo's win in the Virginia Oaks on Saturday. He got off to a quick start at the Spa last year with three winners in July, but then didn't see the winner's circle again until September. He's having a good 2008 with relatively limited starters (63), winning at an 18% rate, and I'm looking for him to have a very productive meeting this year.

- I picked a really wacky race to pick at Del Mar. No Ka Oi dumped her rider early on; and though the chart reads '9 DNF' throughout, she caused havoc throughout. On the first turn she forced favorite, and my selection, Honored Gold wide before she zoomed up to the lead, bothering front-running Grecian along the way. When she tired, she carried Grecian way wide on the final turn. Meanwhile, my other pick, Marqs Melody, assumed the lead at 6-1. The King's Lass seemed to have that one tracked down, but then she drifted wide late, for no apparent reason at all, while Brendolyn snuck up the rail to win. Honored Gold tired badly and was vanned off. With Saratoga wet again, I think I'll try to take another shot at Del Mar a bit later on. The weather there is pretty damn nice.

Hunch Bets for Wednesday, July 23

So Fa So Good 8th at Evangeline Downs
Flip Flop 10th Evangeline Downs
Skip The Details 5th at Ellis Park
Out Of Ammo 8th at Presque Isle Downs
In Speight Of It 2nd at Saratoga
Girlfrienontheside 9th at Saratoga
Wright Stuff 6th at Penn National
Max Out 1st at Ellis Park

Wet (some places) Wednesday Morning Notes - July 23

- I'm not going to do much in the way of standard pedigree profiles and trainer records for Saratoga's two-year old races this year. My goal is to present stuff you don't get anywhere else, and there's plenty of such information available online on these races nowadays. Even if you don't subscribe to DRF Plus and thereby can't access Illman's Spa Babies exercise-in-overkill report, you can check out, for free, the Maiden Watch column on; and there's always the Closer Look sidebar in the Form. It's quite time consuming, and why bother if people who are getting paid to do it are already doing it for us?

And ultimately, while they can be interesting, many of the factoids presented really don't amount to much in the end. In most cases, we can probably get a better idea of who's going to run well merely by watching the tote board or observing them on the track. So instead, I'll continue to follow which barns are firing first out, and which ones are coming up short. And I'll attempt to focus on angles that these other resources may not cover, and which may be more relevant anyway.

For example, in Wednesday's second race, I think it's far less important that Cognito was a $135,000 yearling (Keeneland September 2007), or that his sire was a multiple Grade 1 winner (23-9-7-1, $698,574, unraced at two, 8-12 in main track sprints) than the fact that he ran second in his debut to Proud Jefe, who subsequently romped in a stakes at Canterbury. (More on Cognito from DiscreetCat here.) And that it's far less significant that Bill Mott, who sends out a pair of first-timers in Pious David and Zensational, is 8-71 (11%, $0.90 ROI) over the past five years with juvenile debut runners at Saratoga than the fact that he's 0 for his last 56 debut runners going back to September. Just my opinion, but that's the way we'll play it over here.

Today's opening day card at Saratoga looks like a washout if I'm reading my weather maps correctly, so let's try the 6th at Del Mar, where I'm pretty certain that the weather is perfect without even checking Honored Gold (5-2) looks like a solid choice for trainer Mike Mitchell, off to a rip-roaring start at the meeting at five for 14. Better yet, he has four winners (including Eddie Reade winner Monzante) and one second from five grass runners thus far. This filly returns to the grass where she just seems faster and better than the rest, at least based on her Beyers and the company she's kept. She also was two for three on the course last summer, including a second in an ungraded stakes. Let's try to complete the exacta with Marqz Melody, off the layoff for Mike Machowsky, 2-1-1-0 thus far at Del Mar, and three for his last ten 180+ day runners. This mare seemed to really take to the grass when she tried it last fall, improving her Beyers, and most recently rallying for 4th in a race which produced three subsequent winners and one second. She's been working up a storm for this too. Best of luck and have a great day!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Poly comments

- A commenter wrote:

The quotes by Del Mar president Harper reveal a flaw in all these statistics about polytrack safety. It is unfair to compare breakdown rates when the pre-race vet exams for synthetic surfacers are tightened to eliminate more unsound horses. This is especially important when the providers of these surveys have a vested interest in showing benefits for synthetic surfaces.
Those are fair points to be sure. But it certainly raises in my mind the question of why all tracks aren't making a similar effort to screen out unsound horses. Not only a safety issue, but protection of the betting public as well. Regarding Del Mar's stats however, safety involves more than just a safe racing surface, so I think that they would deserve full credit no matter how they go about it. Unfortunately, they seem to be off to just a so-so start with those two workout incidents in the first week.

Another reader, or maybe the same one, commented:
We know from last year that you can't pay attention to anything Harper says.

He staunchly defended the surface last year yet made damn sure this year that everybody was made aware that the surface has been redone.

Artificial surfaces have yet to prove anything.
The racing during the first week certainly makes one wonder why Harper was so adamantly opposed to watering the track in the afternoon last year; at least in terms of time and bias. We'll have to wait and see as far as injuries go.

But I disagree with the notion that "artificial surfaces have yet to prove anything." No, they have not been a magic elixir to eliminate breakdowns, kickback, and maintenance problems, as some would have had us believe. But what I think they have proven, based on the successful meetings such as those at Hollywood and Arlington, is that you can conduct a completely viable race meeting on an artificial surface, without sloppy tracks and without monotonous speed biases. I've always maintained that, all other things, including the injury rate, being equal, those two benefits would make the synthetic experiment worthwhile by themselves.

I mean, just ask those up in Saratoga tonight who, given the rain today and the threat of some severe storms tomorrow, are wondering whether they should be handicapping for a fast or off track, and whether to bother with the grass races! (While turf races still will come off at a synthetic track, far less scratch and the form is usually at least a little comparable.) I liked a couple of horses for the grass at Saratoga for tomorrow - five races are scheduled for turf - but I'm going to hold off for now, at least pending further meteorological developments.

- Del Mar's CFO Mike Ernst said that "there is no question" that the economy is partly to blame for significant drops in attendance and, especially, handle for the first week of the meeting.
Ernst said that track officials believe fewer customers are driving to Del Mar from Los Angeles and Orange counties. [DRF]
- Oh yeah, this horse will run again, right! How much you think they can get at stud with him next year?

Double Down

- Blackjack and baccarat games continue at the Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood, Florida. Despite the state Supreme Court ruling that the compact that authorized them is invalid, nobody seems to know how to stop them due to the federal laws that protect the tribe. A motion by the Pompano Park harness track to halt the games was dismissed earlier this month; the judge indicated that the tribe can't be sued for any reason in any court in the country! (exclamation point mine) [Sun-Sentinal]

The table games have drawn huge crowds - reportedly some 40,000 in the first week alone; and that despite a $25 minimum at the blackjack tables! And the Broward County pari-mutuels are reportedly feeling the effects.

The worst situation is probably at Dania Jai-Alai. The entire fronton has been dead since the start of 21 kicked off amid much hoopla on June 22. Last week, a low-stakes poker tournament in Dania Beach that ordinarily draws more than 100 brave souls could bring in only four players. The tournament was canceled. [Broward-Palm Beach New Times]
Last week, the tribe went to court itself in an attempt to have the ruling overturned, putting forth quite the novel argument; recall that federal law permits tribes to conduct any kind of gaming that is permitted elsewhere in the state.
Tribe attorneys Barry Richard and Glenn Burhans argue that banked card games are not illegal and were allowed in the 1990s when the Florida Lottery ran its Million Dollar Flamingo Fortune television show featuring a banked card game in which contestants bet their winnings against the house.

Although the Broward County Circuit Court ruled that the games violated Florida's ban against casino gaming, "the Legislature never took action to prohibit the Lottery from offering them" and "could once again operate such banked card games, clearly demonstrating that Florida's prohibition is not absolute," the tribe argues.

Cooper City Sen. Steve Geller, who is an expert on gambling law, called the tribe's argument "preposterous." He said that no court has allowed Class III games to be compared to games offered by a state Lottery. "They're asking for a rehearing for one reason -- stalling purposes," Geller said. [Miami Herald]
Governor Charlie Crist filed his own motion to have the ruling reconsidered, claiming that the court “dramatically exceeded its own jurisdiction” in its ruling on an action by a state officer. [Bloodhorse]

The legislature can approve a new deal - one which would presumably require larger payments by the tribe than those agreed to in the Governor's agreement. However, unless a special session is called, nothing will happen in Tallahassee until the next session convenes in March. (March!? Talk about part-time legislators!) Other possible action would be far more draconian (and that much more fun to write about):
Three entities have the power to shut down illegal gaming on tribal lands: the U.S. attorney, who can order federal marshals in to stop the games; the federal court, at the request of the state, can order an injunction; and the National Indian Gaming Commission, the independent federal entity that regulates tribal gaming.

The Seminoles have "had conversations'' with the NIGC, said Barry Richard, attorney for the tribe. "The message to the NIGC was we're still hopeful we can work this out, but nothing is going to be able to happen before probably March." [Miami Herald]
Another lawsuit that is still looming in the background, at least as far as I know, is the challenge to the very referendum that authorized slots at the Broward County racetracks in the first place. The last sighting of the motion to declare those games illegal by virtue of what opponents claim were fraudulent signatures on the petitions to bring the measure to the ballot was in May, as originally reported by the Miami Herald.
A nearly forgotten case that pits South Florida's slot machine casinos against anti-gambling forces has resurfaced in a Tallahassee court after dragging through the appeals process for months.

The lawsuit challenges a 2004 statewide vote that gave Broward and Miami-Dade counties the right to open slot-machine casinos with local approval. The 1st District Court of Appeal on May 7 sent the case back to its original Tallahassee court for trial.
If the courts ever ruled against the pari-mutuels in that case, than the shoe would most certainly be on the other foot. And we'd see just how willingly they would shut down their own games that are already well underway.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Notes - July 21

- Six races on the Polytrack at Del Mar on Monday; three wire-to-wire jobs, three deep closers. That continues a trend in which the track appears to be playing quite honestly and at speeds considered to be normal. However, the bad news is that two horses have now suffered fatal injuries while working out over the track in the morning. Each horse suffered broken sesamoid bones. Runforthemoney was a three-year old filly from the Jeff Mullins barn who the trainer called "one of the best 3-year-old fillies in my barn."

Track president Joe Harper defended the track, but alluded to some horses coming from Hollywood Park.

"They [veterinarians] told me I had some sore horses coming my way.....but I wouldn't put those two horses in that category."

Del Mar vets have scratched a number of horses this meet, some as late as the morning before a race and others at the starting gate.

"I've been in the barn area in the mornings, and I can see there are horses that aren't sound," Harper said. "I can't keep them off the racetrack in the mornings, but I can in the afternoons.

"I've told our vets if there are any doubts, scratch the horse."

Sincity, a 3-year-old filly, was scratched at the gate in Sunday's first race when track stewards reported she "didn't warm up properly." [North County Times]
- Bad job by me in this post in which I frivolously dismissed complaints about the cancellation of racing at Belmont on Sunday. After a long night at the Meadowlands, I slept in on Sunday, got up and wrote my post about the race there. I was still kinda in la-la land, watching the replay several times. When I was done at 1 and turned on TVG to see no Belmont, I just figured that between the transformer failure, the lack of electricity in the grandstand, the heat, and the fact that it was moving day, they just blew off the card. That seemed perfectly logical, so, not bothering to investigate further before posting, I didn't know that the announcement wasn't made until just before post time, when some fans were already there. Now I feel bad for making light of the situation when I think of reader forego is my witness riding the bus and three subways back home! I can't believe the LIRR wouldn't take people back!

The way the situation was handled certainly raises questions. To me, the main one is, given the factors mentioned above, why NYRA was even going to bother trying to conduct the card in the first place; instead of taking the safe route and giving fans time to make other plans (as they do during the winter when there's even a hint in the forecast of a significant storm.)

Why They Lean Backwards

- A commenter wrote:

I admittedly know nothing about Harness Racing, so perhaps you can shed some light since this is the perfect example.

Many, including myself, claim the riders "put the brakes on" in the stretch sometimes.

This perceptions is driven by the odd riding style of leaning back in the sulky, which makes it appear the rider is holding the horse.

While obviously no one is holding anyone in a million dollar race on an undefeated colt, Some's rider is in this exact position that usually draws so much skepticism in the stretch.

What exactly is the rider doing at this point, leaning backwards?
I'd like to have a few bucks for every time over the years I've heard someone going "Did you see? The guy was pulling the horse back!" And I have to admit that I never really knew the exact reason, though I didn't (usually) suspect that there was any foul play involved. I always figured that the drivers were perhaps trying to keep their horse on stride as they approach the wire.

So I made an email inquiry to a knowledgeable source, and before I knew it, I was on the phone with Joe Faraldo, president of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York. He's been mentioned on several occasions here on this blog, in his role as an attorney for various local horsemen groups, in disputes with Jeff Gural, Yonkers and Monticello Raceways (all of which were ultimately settled to the horsemen's satisfaction). Faraldo is a former driver, and he currently lectures at the US Trotting Association's annual driver's school. So I put the question to him.

He first asked me to recall the feeling you get if you're running down a hill as fast as you can, and you feel like you're going to fall, so you slow down (if you don't fall). "The horse's head is his fulcrom point. And the horse needs to know that you're supporting it." Otherwise, Faraldo explained, the horse may similarly feel as if it may fall, and accordingly slow down (if it, in fact, doesn't actually fall). "The horse will go as fast as it can as long as you're supporting its head. The biggest mistake guys make is throwing the lines at the horse when it's finishing, not supporting its head." He also emphasized that it's a safety issue as well. So this is why we see the drivers leaning back in the sulky, pulling back on the the lines at the finish. It certainly gives an unfortunate appearance, and I know for a fact just from listening at the track that it regularly raises suspicions.

- The local Truro Daily News described the heartbreak in the Somebeachsomewhere's hometown, where 300 fans gathered to watch at Truro Raceway.
Stunned quietness and nervous whispers filled the room at Truro Raceway on Saturday as a large crowd waited for official results of the Meadowlands Pace.

When it was declared hometown favourite Somebeachsomewhere was inched out by Art Official, a collective gasp was heard by shocked race fans who had hoped to witness another big payday for harness racing’s hottest horse.

“He’s still the better horse,” one person quipped as the large crowd began to disperse. [Truro Daily News]
The colt is back in Canada and is scheduled to race in an Ontario Sires Stakes at Mohawk in two weeks. Art Official will next race at Indiana Downs. Hopefully their paths will cross again at some point.

All is Swell on Planet of Saratoga

- The economy, which I thought was bad, doesn't seem to be damping hotel business in Saratoga.

"We're still having a very solid track season," said Glynn Knight, the general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn on South Broadway. "We have most weekends sold out or very close to being sold out."
Hotels located on the city outskirts, such as the Residence Inn at Exit 15 also have record bookings.

"Our pace is up for last year," said Bob Herrold, the inn's general manager. [Saratogian]
No worries, apparently, about Fannie and Freddie up there; it's like a different universe. Business is booming for rentals of private homes too.
"I'm up 40 percent," said Lori Leman, owner of Saratoga Realty Associates. At her last count, Leman rented more than 150 homes for the Saratoga racing season.

Tom Federlin, owner of Racing City Realty, also says he is up from last year.

"Rentals have been going very strongly," Federlin said. [Saratogian]
The popularity of these rentals may be a double-edged sword, as more homeowners are making their houses available in order to compensate for difficult times. Still, Ms. Leman (who is very nice), reports: "Some of the new listings, I couldn't keep them on the Web site as available for more than a few days to a week."

Actually, we're now toying with the idea of a rental for the final week now that we've scrapped our plans to go to the Arc. The economy is bad and the dollar sucks, at least where I live. We've actually found a plentiful supply of available homes. Of course, that could be because of the normal drop off in business after the Travers (which doesn't figure to be much of an attraction itself this year, at least competition-wise). But I'm still sticking to at least some of my guns regarding a decline in business, and say 'wait and see,' especially with respect to betting handle.

Yonkers Raceway....or Empire City at Yonkers Raceway to be more accurate, is pushing the 'Staycation' theme hard in the recent radio and TV marketing push which has been aided by their increased revenue splits specifically for that purpose. Pay Off Your Mortgage and Fill Your Gas Tank are the latest promotional contests, with cash prizes of $350,000 and $100,000 respectively to lucky winners, playing upon the two greatest fears currently roiling much of the nation outside of New York's Capital District. Net income from the Yonk's machines were $21.5 million for the first two weeks of July, as opposed to $17.5 million last year, an astounding increase of 23%.

Of course, one of these days/months/years, Yonkers will have competition from the racino at Aqueduct. Tom Precious reports on that the three bidders have all passed a critical background check by the state. Capital Play was able to do so only because Karl O'Farrell stepped down as the company's president because documents needed to complete the background check were not immediately available. That's a weird story for a couple of reasons. For one, O'Farrell had presumably already endured a thorough (and expensive) background check as part of Capital Play's franchise bid, so you'd think that he had whatever documents he needed already in place. And secondly, he's remaining with the company, serving as its community and government relations executive. So are we to really believe that O'Farrell will not reap the benefits should Capital Play win, nor be involved in any decision making?

With the background checks done, Governor Paterson said: "We now started to discuss a process by which we pick a winner." They're just starting that now?

- A commenter writes: Alan, how dare you attack Evening Attire? Oh man. We all have our favorite horses, and not-so favorite horses. For whatever reason, Evening Attire doesn't grab me, never has, and I could care less about him (meaning, Mr. Avenging Copywriter, that I care a little, lol!) There are plenty of blogs and sites out there where you can read all the usual schmaltzy praise for him, which he no doubt deserves. So please lighten up, he's just a dumb old horse that I've probably lost a fair amount of money on over the years! (Written with a smile.)

Monday News and Notes

- I can understand why NYRA blew off closing day in light of the electrical problems there; besides, why lose money for another day when there's 36 days of profitability ahead? I'm awaiting a wave of newspaper editorials telling us how this proves that NYRA is corrupt and incompetent. While they're at it, maybe they can also inquire as to why there was no internet wagering either! C'mon, how about the self-addicted fans, we're No. 1! It likely limited my losses to the $19.95 I had left in my OTB account. But still.

- A Smarty Party at Monmouth as Smarty Jones got his first stateside winner. Keefer, from Zayat/Asmussen, was well-bet at 3-2 in her his debut, and outdueled Pletcher's favored Matador Run. He might be considered an unlikely candidate to have gotten Smarty off the schneid, based at least on his sale price of $60,000, 40K less than the stallion's fee. He's out of an unraced Seattle Slew mare who's a half sister to Super Derby winner Fantasticat; his third dam is the de Kwiatkowski star and Acorn winner Lotka.

On the other coast, a terrific baby race in the 4th at Del Mar which is worth checking out on Cal Racing. Stardom Bound, a Tapit first-timer well supported at the windows at 4-1, was dead last after being left at the gate, and still far back and absurdly wide turning for home. Montana Fields, a 7-5 first-time hottie from the Hollendorfer barn had gained the lead in the stretch. But Turtle Creek Babe (Gone West) was bearing down on her, and Stardom Bound came from out of the clouds - a grey streak flying down the center of the track, just missing in a head bobbing finish to Turtle Creek Babe with the favorite close behind in third. Tapit, the Wood winner who I considered to be somewhat overhyped, is standing for $12,500 at Gainsway, and has two winners from his first crop thus far. Stardom Bound shouldn't be long in joining that group.

- I could honestly care less about Evening Attire, probably some deeply ingrained resentment over betting him in one or more of his 54 career losses. But bummer about Lava Man, who faded to last in the Eddie Reade - a disappointing setback after his close third in the Whittingham. "They just might be too tough for him right now," said Tyler Baze.

- And a couple of three-year old fillies well worth mentioning. That was an eye-popping performance by Music Note in the CCA Oaks, sweeping by the field in an impressive 2:01 3/5, and a final quarter of 24 1/5. We're just so damn happy to have another Godolphin star amongst us, just really warms the heart.

On a happier note, I Lost My Choo, Phil Serpe's modestly-pedigreed, always trying, NY-bred daughter of Western Expression, shipped down to Colonial to take the G3 Virginia Oaks with her usual electrifying late foot. It was her 5th win in eight starts, her first graded stakes win, and the first time she won by a little daylight too. Edgar Prado was aboard, and hey, he couldn't have gone down there to ride Rap Tale?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

True Greatness Not Artofficial

- Great horses do get beat, and sometimes it's in defeat that they show their true greatness. Bob Heyden, interviewing Paul MacDonell after Somebeachsomewhere was defeated in world record time by Art Official in the Meadowlands Pace, was so taken with the loser's performance that he seemed to forget the result and congratulated the driver when he was done.

Many observers may have found that particularly ironic, believing that MacDonell raced his own colt into defeat by launching a bold three-wide, first-over move on the backstretch into an insane half mile of 51 4/5! It was obvious from the start, when the 5,6,7 and 8 horses all rocketed for the lead, that Somebeachsomewhere wasn't going to have another routine brush-to-the-lead-at-the-quarter win on this night. MacDonell moved off the rail going into the first turn, and John Campbell, on Share the Delight (third place, congrats to Andrew Cohen), promptly moved up to keep him there. He then found himself third over in an early cover flow, with Art Official clearing Mucho Sleazy to get the lead, and Bullville Powerful left parked out.

This is the point at which the critics will say that MacDonell could have taken a spot on the rail to await further developments. Share the Delight was now gapped, and indeed, Somebeachsomewhere would have had some rail time and space to himself. Instead, he launched his move around Bulville Powerful to engage the leader. "I thought those two horses where chewed up at the half after 51 [seconds] and a piece."

That doesn't exactly ring true, as in fact, Somebeachsomewhere had already engaged the leaders by that point, thereby contributing to that fraction. However, I'm going to defend MacDonell, who was all class after the race, praising Art Official to the hilt. His colt had had the lead by the half mile pole in all of his races since his first two career appearances, and had dominated these same horses in the past. He drove the horse as if he was the best horse in the race, as he should have. Had he tucked in at that point, he would have later had to contend with a fading Bullville Powerful, and, given Art Official's incredible performance in his own right, who's to say he could have caught him. As it is, it took a world record performance by the winner to beat him. As noted on the Pull the Pocket blog:

If Art Official was not primed for the night of his life, beach would have won by about 5 in 147. Megosh would that have ever upped the hype!
Art Official is the horse that challenged Somebeachsomewhere first over in the elimination, getting the "silent treatment" according to the race chart. He was clearly second best though, so there was good reason for the confidence of his connections leading up to the final. But I can't imagine they expected this. Driver Ron Pierce admitted that his strategy was more or less impromptu. "I didn't decide until the gate to let him loose," he told the Daily News. He told Bob Heyden after the race that his refusal to yield on the backstretch was the only way to beat the favorite; indeed, had he let him by without a fight, the race would have been long over.

The winner's trainer, Joe Seekman, said that he knew his horse had something left when he saw Pierce tip Art Official out on the final turn, after Somebeachsomewhere had settled in front of him. An observer at the track said during the replay that it was a 'little tease' by the Hall of Famer, letting MacDonell know he was still there in case he had thoughts of giving his horse a breather. Once Art Official got his head up beside MacDonell, you hear track announcer Sam McKee note that MacDonell was shaking up the reigns on Somebeachsomwhere. The ensuing stretch battle after a three-quarters mark of 1:19/1/5 that nearly had McKee falling out of the booth, with the understandably tiring Somebeachsomewhere digging in like a true champion, was an absolute classic, with Art Official edging by in the last couple of strides in a final quarter of 27 4/5. The final time of 1:47 shattered the world record for three-year old pacers by 4/5 of a second, and was merely one fifth from the fastest race mile of all time.

I told the Head Chef afterwards that I'd have to say that it was one of the greatest races I've ever seen. Not a harness fan, she rolled her eyes a bit. Perhaps some of you thoroughbred fans are as well. But this one had all the elements of a classic - an undefeated horse in a major stakes facing extreme adversity, setting off on a wild journey that would have soundly crushed any mere mortal equine, and culminating in a memorable stretch battle in a world record time. Horse racing just doesn't get any better than this. Watch it for yourself.

- Another glorious but luckless day of racing in NJ for me, with a couple of tough beats. I'd picked My Little Dragon in the second, and he came through ($6.20) to start off some Pick Three's; but Won the West just got caught at the wire at 6-1 in the middle leg, and by a 13-1 shot too. Otherwise, I would have had the Pick Three. (I have to admit here that I picked Won the West partly based on a faulty reading of the Harness Eye PP's. The horses are not listed in post position order there, and I actually liked what I thought was the six post, rather than the inside two that he really had. I don't like inside posts for closers, though Grismore managed to work out an almost winning trip.) Worse yet, I had the 1-2 exacta box in the sixth, and ran 2-3 to 18-1 Mystery Chase. Would've/could've/should've had a nice exacta there wit an 11-1 over a 6-1. My other blog picks, Up Front Hotsey and Tinys Million, were both hopelessly boxed and rallied well when finally extricated. So, one-for-four with a close second on my selections. (And er, that doesn't count Somebeachsomewhere. :-\

And a winner at Belmont, as Diamondrella took the 8th at 7-2. Nothing doing for Foolish Bid, in an uncharacteristically dull performance. Perhaps a rest and/or drop in class is warranted at this time, though I don't have the official excuses in hand as of yet. And reader onecalicocat points out that Highland Cat is slated for the 5th at Monmouth today (Sunday), listed at 3-1.