Had to be really impressed with the wins by Alpha and Paynter, even as jaded as I am these days about the quality of the modern thoroughbred. Not that either are necessarily "great," whatever that means these days; that still remains to be seen. Don't really know for sure what either one of them beat.
But they each certainly proved adaptable and tractable; and each would seem to have ample room to improve still. Alpha was making his first start since the Derby, was running on a sloppy track for the first time, and found himself in an unfamiliar position setting the pace. Ramon Dominguez helped take it from there, slowing the proceedings down to a crawl (24.90 and 24.73) for the second and third quarters. This helped allow Alpha to open up some daylight turning for home (24.16 to the 1/8th pole), and then resolutely hold sway in 12.28, turning back the challenge of Neck 'n Neck, who ran well. The runner-up showed those, such as myself, who thought he could only run fast at Churchill. Alpha earned a Beyer of 98.
Paynter was off five weeks less than Alpha, but the Belmont hasn't always been a springboard for future success off late. Unlike in the Belmont and his prior allowance win, Baffert's colt did not break on top this time. I didn't see the traffic after the start that track announcer Larry Collmus alluded to, just seemed as if Gemologist outbroke him. It's not however as if Paynter had never run well from off or slightly off the pace, he has. Just the way he did it here. It was almost comical seeing how easy he was going under Bejarano while Castellano was flailing away on Gemologist, a colt who Pletcher was talking up big time coming in. Paynter drew away in a final furlong of 12.64, and earned a whopping Beyer of 108.
The Toddster was still touting Gemologist afterwards, offering a full-throated defense and an Uncle Mo-ish excuse.
“He had a lung infection, a lot of mucus, so we’re going to try and clear him up with antibiotics.....Look at the form, the horses he ran against – he beat Alpha, he beat Currency Swap, he beat Street Life – we know he’s a lot better than that. ” [Daily Racing Form]In the 1st on Monday, Dominant Jeannes ($6.20) won for Jason Servis. This trainer is a high percentage guy - a solid 25%-er - who races mostly in NJ, and actually had only two starters at Saratoga prior to this meet. Now, he has two winners and a narrowly-beaten second from just five starters at this meet, so worth watching out for him. Servis claimed this one for 20K from Jacobson in his last, and earned that back plus a little more with this win.
In the third, two-year old Fly Bye Pomeroy ($27) won his debut for trainer Carlos Martin. This barn doesn't win with many first-timers; just five now from 78 tries over the last three years. But he's done pretty well with them at Saratoga of late. Last year, Martin had two winners and four seconds from 10 first-time starers; and a winner and a second in as many starts thus far in 2012.
Another nice-priced Pletcher first-out winner in the 5th; Top Tier Lass ($14.80) dominated and earned a Beyer of 83. The Toddster now has six winners, two behind leader Chad Brown, who had started 10 less horses going into Monday. Two-year old filly is by first-year sire Street Boss (2nd in the early rookie sire by earnings list) out of a King of Kings mare who is a half-sister to Stopshoppingmaria, 2nd in the BC Juvie Fillies Turf for the trainer last year. This is also the distaff family of G1 winners Flashy Bull and Perfect Soul. Pletcher has won with his last three first-time starters. He has one in for Wednesday listed as the 9-5 ML favorite in the 5th. Corail is a Wertheimer homebred by Indian Charlie out of a Twining mare who's a half-sister to A Phenomenon, the Jim Dandy winner we mentioned here just the other day.
Aforementioned Chad Brown added his 8th winner (from 27 starters) of the meet with La Pernelle ($8.10) in the 7th. Daughter of Beat Hollow (Sadlers Wells) was wide both turns and seemingly beaten at the eighth pole before surging late with Ramon to prevail in a four-horse blanket finish in which, according to the race chart, no rival was soundly defeated, small consolation I'm sure to those who had one of the other three. Those of you who think that Durkin is finished might want to check out his call of this race. "Stymied is she in traffic," he noted of favored Federation in the midst of the chaotic stretch run.
Heard someone last week, perhaps Mr. Serling, mention that Carl Domino is always good for a longshot winner or two, and he did just that in the 10th with Countknickerbocker ($48.60).
11,110 in attendance on the second Monday of the meet.