A successful opening four days at Saratoga; if not in the attendance department on a weekend that started in unbearable heat, surely in terms of full fields of competitive racing. Something for everyone; chalk, plenty of winners in that 4- or 5-1 sweet spot, a host of them at double-digit odds, and a couple of impossible longshots. Best of all, no races off the turf. The courses were firm all weekend despite a big storm on Friday night; can't beat that. And only two maiden claiming race. But you maiden claiming fans, do not fear. They'll surely make up for that as the too-long meet moves along; with some 16K state-bred affairs as well.
Only 9,036 in attendance on a dry Monday; barring some unpleasant weather event, that will probably be the smallest crowd until the Monday after the Travers (when I'll be there). It's a great thing to be there for a solid day of racing under such pleasant circumstances.
Not a pleasant day for Pletcher though, who took an 0-for-4 collar. Sure, he was five-for-ten the first three days, and swept the three stakes races on Saturday. But it's more fun talking about his losers. Won't be his last tough day as many horses as he starts up there. But days like Monday won't stop him from waltzing to another training title. He overwhelms the competition just on volume. At 14-5-1-3, he leads Steve Asmussen (three wins from just seven starters).
In the first, Big Sugar Soda ($12) routed seven other two-year old maiden colts, including the Toddster's Pecorino, the runner up. This prompted a highly unusual arrival from the NYRA Communications Dept in my inbox. Big Sugar Soda Maiden Victory Quotes. NYRA is quite active sending post-race wrap-ups and quotes for stakes races; but I don't ever recall receiving one about a routine 2 yo maiden race, even a routine 2yo maiden race at Saratoga. Figured I'd missed something, and he was a son of Zenyatta or something otherwise noteworthy from a breeding and/or auction sales price standpoint. (In fact, he's a son of Ready's Image who sold for $45,000 as a yearling.)
Then I saw the punchline at the bottom:
Note: Big Sugar Soda’s name was inspired by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to restrict the sale of sugar-sweetened sodas larger than 16 ounces.Well, that's cute. Doesn't seem to rise to the level of an email from the communications department though....unless someone there has an agenda, or is on the take from PepsiCo. Personally, I was in favor of the Mayor's proposal, but as much because of the nature of the campaign against the measure as the measure itself (which I think was really pretty harmless in the scheme of things). It was a brilliant job by big corporations in framing a bottom-line issue as one of 'freedom' and 'choice;' the inalienable right to consume mass quantities of soda in public places. Seriously. Maybe we'll see some other horse names inspired by defeated Bloomberg initiatives; like, maybe, Bigcloudofpolllution, or Big Football Stadium. Or how about Big Assault Weapons.
Oh sorry, I digress. Pletcher ran third in the ensuing second race, for two-year old fillies (on grass). Ready to Act ($17.60) won despite being rather dull on the board in her debut, for trainer Chad Brown. One doesn't see many debut winners from that barn that pay more than 7-2. She's by More Than Ready out of a full sister to the mile and a quarter G1 Hollywood Gold Cup winner Mast Track (Mizzen Mast). In the 5th, the Toddster had the favorite in Candy Kitty, but she ran third, on the turf to Sea Queen ($10.80), a half-sister to the mile and a quarter G1 American Oaks winner, at Hollywood Park, Nereid.
The low point of the day for the Pletcher barn was in the 8th, when favored Peace Preserver inexplicably ran dead last in a dreadful performance (kind of like Unlimited Budget in the CCA Oaks on Saturday). This race produced the second biggest bombshell of the meeting thus far, as Angel's South ($71.50) went wire-to-wire for trainer Andrew Mitchell. Now, I'd heard about this guy's exploits at Monmouth, particularly early in the meet there. Has a really interesting background, and most recently served as a carpenter at a farm in Florida owned by trainer Guiseppe Iadisernia. Now Mitchell has a string of that barn's stable at Monmouth. He first appeared at a NYRA track at Belmont last month, winning with Banzai Charge ($13.20)
So, I've been keeping an eye out for him, and actually bet on his Shutter Shock in the 4th, who was making a nice move up the inside, but lacked room after searching for a seam somewhere in the wall of seven rivals directly up ahead. Definitely tab for next time. I kinda forgot about Angel's South on a busy day.....but it was hard to get too enthused about her in this grass contest after she won, against just three other rivals, in the mud last time out. Definitely a barn to keep an eye on (though not on Saturdays; the barn doesn't run horses on that day due to Iadisernia's religious beliefs). Angel's South is by Tale of the Cat, and descends from the distaff family of the BC Juvenile Fillies winner Epitome (the dam of the latter is the third dam of Angel's South).
The biggest bomb of the weekend was Galiana, who won the finale on Sunday and paid $141.50. Always interesting to look at a horse like that after the fact and see if you could have made any case for it at all. In this case, I did a double take to see if I was looking at the right horse. Galiana, a three-year old daughter of Stonesider, won her debut on the dirt by seven lengths two races back, and was returning to that surface after an even try on the grass. Now sure, all of us really smart horseplayers knew that the win came in a $7500 maiden claiming race at Delaware, and that it was slow no matter which speed figure scale one uses. But somewhere at Saratoga, you just know that some guy somewhere was yelling: "HA HA, I TOLD you, this horse won easy on the dirt and he was 70-1?!? Easy game!"