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Monday, July 25, 2005

The Third at Saratoga - Opening Day

- It won’t take long for you to know it’s Saratoga time. The first race on opening day is a steeplechase affair, rich in tradition, but to me it just means an extra half hour to get settled and get to the rest of the card. While the second is a $20K claiming affair, the third race is an early reminder of why we just love the racing there. It’s a maiden special for 3 and up, and Frankel has an entry of a pair of 3 yo’s who have each raced once, both running 4th at Belmont last year. Aristocrat (Awesome Again) is a full brother to Ghostzapper, and he was 13.60 -1 for his debut which was last Oct 16, just a couple of weeks before Ghostzapper confirmed his wins at Monmouth at Belmont with his victory in the BC Classic. He adds blinkers for his return and has a steady series of works and I doubt he’ll be 13-1 this time. Besides, he’s coupled with Sir Halory (Unbridled), the last foal of Halory, the dam of several stakes winners, most notably the 1998 Blue Grass winner Halory’s Hunter. Sir Halory ran very well in his debut, rallying to within 2 1/4 of the winner.

George Arnold has League of Nations, a $975,000 yearling making his debut. All I can say about horses that Arnold sends out at Saratoga, or anywhere for that matter, is watch the board and also, watch the board. Check out that thing with the show pool I sometimes write about with Arnold horses; you can almost always be assured of at least a live one when his horses get bet. This one is by A.P. Indy out of multiple Grade 1 and millionaire Clear Mandate; and that makes him a half to stakes winners Newfoundland and Full Mandate. His second dam, Dream Deal, was also a stakes winner and is the dam of one of my all-time favorites, Creme Fraiche, the only gelding to win the Belmont, and the 4th of Woody Stephens’ 5 in a row! (He also won the Jockey Gold Cup twice, and that at a time when that still meant quite a lot.) Check out if his odds are lower than his 8-1 morning line.

So, are you excited yet? :-)

It’s hard to handicap these races in advance of seeing the odds, but there are three horses with decent form to keep an eye on. War Marshall (A.P. Indy) ran just 12 days ago for Allan Jerkins, opening up a six length lead in the stretch before fading to second at a mile, earning a field best Beyer of 88. The cutback should help for sure, but it’s his third race in a month, and he faces early pressure outside of him from Afternoon Que, and whatever first-timer shows speed as well. War Marshall is out of stakes winner U R Unforgettable, and this is the female family of Point Given, who had his first winner as a sire the other day. Jonathan Quick has much improved Beyers that are competitive here for Zito, always a dangerous scenario. He showed speed at a mile before fading to third in his last, but he’s shown himself to be adept at fading at shorter distances as well.

Rumspringa (Siphon) has the most starts in the field, not necessarily what people are looking for at Saratoga. He started to improve upon shipping up to the big A this past spring. Then trainer Barclay Tagg added blinkers, and he was a 4 wide 2nd with an lifetime best 87 Beyer, and most recently a 5th at Belmont after a bad start in which he still earned an 86. He’s been off since June 9, not necessarily a good thing based on his past such experiences, but isn’t Tagg one of the guys those of us that are bad thinking for ourselves are supposed to follow here? He picks up Elbar Coa, and had an excellent work over this track the other day. Figure Frankel’s entry to be overbet, and this could be a live number at a fair price.

- Some trainer tips from Ed Fountaine of the NY Post (I left out Pletcher, Frankel, Mott, the stuff we already know):

RICK VIOLETTE: Shows remarkable profit margin with his 2-year-olds, going 9-for-37 over past six summers at average payoff of nearly $20; ones to watch are Out Performance, half-brother to Richter Scale by Aptitude; Purple Aces, full brother to stakes-winner March Magic; and McMagic, colt by Unbridled's Song.

On turf, Christophe Clement and Jimmy Toner are forces to reckon with, as is longshot specialist Tommy Voss. Phil Serpe, Barclay Tagg and N.Y.-bred specialist John Hertler also deserve a nod. Allen "the Chief" Jerkens, Jim "007" Bond and Nick "Hall of Fame" Zito are dependable fixures year in, year out. As for 2-year-olds, Steve Asmussen and Patrick Biancone always unleash a bevy of sharp youngsters, but you usually have to take short odds, while Stan Hough can spring first-timers at a price.

Out-of-state trainers shipping in for the meet who figure to make an impact include Wally Dollase, Neil Howard, Dale Romans, Chuck Simon, Graham Motion, Michael Matz, Ralph Ziadie and Tim Ritchey. [NY Post]