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Monday, August 15, 2005

No Blanket Finish

- I’d love to write about an exciting Sunday with many thrills and chills for my final day of a week long trip to Saratoga, but the truth is that it was a disappointing anti-climax. The highlight by far was pulling into the owners lot and walking in with no wait as others had to contend with unbelievable traffic and lines at the admission gates that were beyond belief – far longer than I and many other observers have ever seen. At 70,792, it was the second largest announced crowd ever. When we left, there were still flashing signs on the highway announcing that the lots were full. The attraction was the giveaway of Saratoga blankets, and I imagine many were disappointed when they got theirs and saw that it was barely large enough to cover a pillow, no less a bed. Nonetheless, I was told that people were offering them on Ebay even before Sunday. The things people will do for a few extra bucks! I made no effort at all to get one, even when the lines subsided. They didn’t even seem worth the three bucks admission to me.

As far as the racing goes, it was pretty dismal, with 7 of the 10 races featuring favorites of 6-5 or (much) less. If you see all the favorites that won, you can figure that it wasn’t my kind of day. I was psyched coming in, especially after bypassing the big crowds, but the first race, scratched down to 5 was a harbinger of things to come. It was a parade of short-priced horses in the first 4 races, with the highest payoff Nose the Trade ($5.50) in that opener. Two 3-5’s and a 3-10 shot followed, with the Pick 3 returning $7.50. Another winner for Linda Rice with her 2 yo Metro Meteor ($3.40) in the 2nd, and Shug McGaughey’s 3 yo filly Chili Cat ($2.60) took the 4th by over 11. Her dam is a half to Country Hideaway, and her 3rd dam is Alabama winner Maplejinsky, the dam of Sky Beauty. Still, she was third in her debut at 6-1, and it's just incredible to me that people would bet a horse like this like she's Secretariat running against a bunch of retired catchers. I made a couple of small “fooling around” bets against favorites, but obviously didn’t win.

The juices started to flow a bit in the 5th, a 2 yo maiden turf affair with a wide open betting field that was really kind of unbettable itself. The 3-1 favorite was Richard Violette’s first timer Market Turbulence. a Storm Creek colt with a lot of European stakes winners, plus Film Maker and Sabin in his pedigree. But did anyone look at the breeding of the winner Kid Carousel ($36.20) for Randy Shulhofer? His dam is a half to G1 turf stakes winners Forbidden Apple, Paradise Creek, and Wild Event, and his second dam is a half to Theatrical! Guess we missed that! I tried to kick off some Pick 3s and ran 2-3-4, with 2 being 13-1 Smart Sherif, trained by Jimmy Toner. He rallied nicely against strong closing fractions. Toner sent out first time 2 yo turf winner High Yield Hunter at 17-1 at Belmont in late June, so watch him with this sort.

The 6th was a good betting race, but I ran last with 5-2 favorite Life Savior on top; and the 7th and 8th were two more dismal races with even money winners Fighting Speedy (Castle Village!) and Smokey Glacken. The feature, the West Point, was a wide open turf stakes for NY-breds, but by that point, I was wearied by the winning chalk, the heat, the crowd, and the long week of racing, and we were headed to the exits. However, the winner, Dave ($18.20) is worth some red-boarding. He’d run and won on Wednesday, and trainer John Hertler means business when he sends them out on such short rest. The Form shows that he’s 1-3, but a look at Formulator (after the race, of course) shows that he runs close with these even when he doesn’t win. Besides, the second choice, 3-1 Sicilian Boy, was coming out of N1X whereas Dave had won a class higher, so how could he be 8-1?

So, the week ended with a whimper as I really didn’t do much serious betting at all. I actually liked Sicilian Boy as well as Devilment in the West Virginia Derby, but kept my money in my pocket when they both opened far below their morning line odds; so at least I ended the week with some discipline and good sense, and the knowledge that I had more than held my own. The fact that part of that was due to a winner at the trotters did not detract from the achievement. Whatever the breed, principles like value, class, speed, and common sense still reign supreme.

Now it’s back to reality, at least until I go back, hopefully by the end of the week. In the meantime, I’m dealing with things that only readers with a 16 yo teenage daughter could comprehend, so I’ll be laying low here for the next couple of days.

- Nice to see that Megahertz’ gallant second place finish in the Beverly D at least got her to the top spot in the Blog Standings! That should be some consolation, right?

- Talk about a claim-back! The breeders of the 2 yo filly India (Hennessy), so impressive getting her first win by 12 at the Spa on 7/28, have repurchased the filly for a reported $2.05 million. She had been sold as a yearling at Saratoga for $400,000.