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Monday, August 29, 2005

Monday Morning Notes - Aug 29

- A rare off-track day at Saratoga on Sunday. It’s been so dry here compared to many past years, that you can’t help but think that things will even out, and with the weather maps indicating that Katrina may be headed up that way later in the week, they could be in for a deluge (though the weekend looks absolutely beautiful).

I know that people in Louisiana have far more important things to worry about today, but perhaps some may console themselves just a bit with the knowledge that their very own homebred Happy Ticket took the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga on Sunday. The 4 yo daughter of Anet won her first 9 races at Louisiana Downs, Delta Downs, and Fair Grounds in dominating fashion before setting forth to prove herself, and that she has done. She’d won a Grade 3 at Arlington and ran a fine second to Madcap Escapade on Summit of Speed day at Calder, her only loss in 11 starts. But now, she’s really hit the big time, a Grade 1 winner.

Trainer Andrew Leggio however, understandably had his thoughts elsewhere.

"(Happy Ticket) is supposed to leave tomorrow at 7 o'clock.....I've got all my family in New Orleans, and it doesn't look good right now. All my kids got in the car, and they're headed to Shreveport now, about 10 of them. So, that's where I'm at – worrying about the kids right now." [Bloodhorse]
It was another Grade 1 win for jockey John Velasquez, his second in two days.

It seemed like a very tiring muddy track, as front runners wilted and put in harness-horse time final fractions. Sometimes they even got caught. Awesome Twist got back on the winning track in the third. You may recall this John Kimmel 3 yo being sent off as the 8-5 favorite in the Lone Star Derby off wins in maiden/allowance races and then finishing last. After a second here earlier in the meet,, he was able to rally from last, helped in large part by the fact that front runner Penn Pacific slowed from an opening quarter of 21.74 to a 26 second quarter to the sixteenth pole. That’s pretty much the way the day went. Chopping Wood rallied from way back in the next race as they came home in 27.19 seconds at the end of a 6 furlong race. Even Happy Ticket took 13.77 seconds to get her last eighth.

Todd Pletcher may have won his first Travers, but beware of betting his first time starters at low odds right now. He continues to struggle in that category, and is taking tons of money with him, especially with 2 year olds. In the second, his unraced entry ran 2nd and 8th at 1.30 to 1. First timer Artistic Express got the win at 12-1 for trainer Ramon Hernandez and leading rider Edgar Prado. Then, in the 5th, he had another entry that went off at 4-5! One was a first timer and the other had one race on the turf and was now trying the mud. I find this kind of stuff astounding. There are SO many betting opportunities each day given simulcasting that I just can’t imagine that people would “invest” in horses like this. Just like in the 2nd race, this entry ran second and second to last. Pletcher has now gone at least 19 first time starters without a win, and aside from one that went off 13-1 at Delaware, none of the others have been over 6-1, with most of them far lower than that.

Only one race stayed on the turf, and not coincidentally, it was my only bet of the day. At the top of the stretch, the entire field of nine was virtually fanned out across the track, all having a shot. If you look at the stretch call in the chart, there were 6 heads plus a length and a half separating them. Not surprisingly, it was the one who saved ground, Insan Mala, who got the win, and less surprisingly, John Velasquez was aboard. Add my pick Who’s Cozy to your watch list; she was bumped and checked repeatedly approaching the turn, shuffled back, and still came 5 wide to rally for third in a quick final eighth of 6.16.

Two winners for trainer Dominick Galluscio, coming on very strong in the final stages of the meet. On the other hand, the Richard Dutrow machine seems to have sputtered, and Scott Lake continues to struggle.

- There are many methods to the madness of picking out horses at a sale, and not all of them are very scientific. Consider Eugene Melnyk’s tale of his purchase of Flower Alley.
"We probably hire some of the smartest people on the planet to help us vet horses, measure hearts, and every bloodstock agent you can imagine comes up and shows us horses.....Of all the horses I've ever bought, this horse was bought for one reason: That the mother's name was Princess Olivia, which happens to be my little (3-year-old) girl's name. I am not kidding about that. That's the way we picked this horse. There's a lot of science in this game, but there's a lot of luck." [NY Daily News]