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Monday, August 08, 2005

Saratoga Sunday

- We made record time to Saratoga; barely over 3 hours. Not much traffic headed upstate on a Sunday morning and the roads were empty. So we arrived about an hour before post time. Before the races start, not only at Saratoga, but at any track, is the only time you can say that time is standing still at the races. “Wow, there’s still 35 minutes before the first race,” you may think, when the useless drivel of the "experts" analyzing the races finally ends. (I read Paul Moran moaning and complaining about something every day; I care who he likes in the races?) But once that bell rings to send them off in the opener, the rest of the day is frenetic, with seemingly never enough time between races to do everything you want – jeez, we have to go to the paddock again, already?

There weren’t nearly the 61,000 people announced as the crowd on an absolutely perfect weather day. Going in, we saw people leaving the track with their haul, the gaudy red T-shirts given away. My week got off to an inauspicious start in the first. I was actually right about beating 6-5 favorite No Theatrics; I tabbed 6-1 Grey Suitor on top, and was annoyed that I didn’t save with the exacta with Dutrow’s winner Approved By Dylan when it came back an outstanding $46. And I hate losing to that guy. Perhaps I was distracted by seeing that Purge was 3-5 at Monmouth and wanting to bet against him (he won easily).

Looking at the second, I wanted to bet against the favorite Happy Hunting, looking a bit like a money burner even after just 2 starts. There were first timers from Mott and Frankel. Mott had Fen, a Boundary colt out of a half to G1 winner Scan; but Ramon Dominguez was named instead of Bailey, who was preparing to split for Monmouth. Frankel had Admiralty Island, a $400K AP Indy yearling purchase. Fen was 6-1 morning line but went off 19-1; and Frankel’s colt was 4-1 ML and went off 9-1! Talk about dead on the board - these two were barely breathing! There was a British import from Eoin Hardy taking money, so I closed my eyes and bet two longshots to start off Pick 3’s. Eslan and Truer Than True were coming off a good second and third respectively in their last race, which was won by a hot number from the Dutrow barn. Eslan was 10-1 and Truer Than True 12-1, and wouldn’t you know the two battled head and head down the stretch, and I didn’t care which one would win! I didn’t even care about the objection by Elbar Coa, Elsan’s rider against Chantal Sutherland (who would ride another long-priced winner later in the day, and is definitely one to watch as we’ve mentioned before). I felt a little silly about not having something on the exacta, but I never imagined they would run 1-2.

In the third, I had singled First Samurai, a Frank Brothers 2 yo coming off a win at Churchill with the lowest last fig in a race with five horses who had each won their one and only race. I had read the chart comments for all the horses, and this was the only one who seemed to have won with something left. He was 3-1 morning line, the third choice, so I felt I had taken a shot. But when the betting opened, First Samurai was a close second choice to Moon’s Halo. As the betting proceeded, First Samurai steadily gained, and by post time had been pounded to even money.

I could not possibly, at that point, been more confident that I would go on to the third leg. I freely admit that I sometimes pay too much attention to the betting, but in this case, I truly felt that First Samurai was as much of a sure thing as I could ever see at a racetrack. There are certain races that to me, are virtually decided in the mutuel pool before the gates open, and this was one of them. Perhaps it’s just years of experience, but in a race like this, I can just tell that the outcome is being driven by knowledge and winks and nods that are not accessible to the public, and you just have to go along for the ride. In this case, I was lucky because I was already on board. If I had singled the 1 horse, who was 2-1 morning line, but the 7-2 third choice, I would have been making other bets to compensate.

First Samurai won with total ease (as Bailey stuck around to ride before splitting for Monmouth) and later someone mentioned that the word was out on him. But you knew that if you were watching. I had a couple in the 4th, including the winner Irish Princess, the 5th winner of the meet with limited starters for red-hot Jimmy Jerkins, and the Pick 3 returned a solid $226.

But I’m going to complain about my betting day anyway, because I liked Santana Strings, who won the G2 Amsterdam, paying $21.20, and didn’t capitalize at all. I generally don’t make straight win bets unless it’s really an overlay, and I’m long over kicking myself any time I like a winner and don’t cash. If I kept records like I’m supposed to, I’m sure that this practice has paid off for me in the long run. I liked Santana Strings enough to single him in the middle of the final Pick 3, but the first leg, the 8th, presented a dilemma. It seemed like a wide open betting race with several promising contenders, in particular an invader from Woodbine, Silver Charades. She’s a 3 yo daughter of Broad Brush out of a Turkoman mare, and her second dam is a half to multiple G1 turf winner Sunshine Forever. Here came the hot money again, pounding Silver Charades down to 6+5....even money....4-5, and this time I wasn’t buying it. Yes, she had imposing form, and had run third in a stakes against colts in her last.....what was I thinking?...but I just saw it as a competitive race and thought the betting was out of line. So I went against her altogehter, leaving her out. If you want to make money in these Pick 3's, you have to take stands, otherwise I find there's often little value. I bet 5 others, and was hopeful when she broke a bit slow and was widest of all going into the first turn. But she proved much the best, and now I had nothing going with Santana Strings.

So I used Santana Strings on top in exactas with Dutrow’s imposing favorite Silver Train, coming off his track record 6f at Belmont, as well as with Middle Earth, and not with Vicarage, who I didn’t like at all. As my pick started to gamely draw away in the stretch after setting a contested pace through :21.4 and :45, I was focusing on Silver Train running down Storm Surge to get me the money, and never saw 24-1 shot Social Probation come out of the clouds to nail me and leave me with nothing to show from liking a $21 horse in the day’s featured race. OUCH! I hadn’t bet doubles because I wasn’t thrilled with the 5 ½ turf claiming event (though I would have had the Pick 3 had I hit the 8th for a $131 payoff that I can’t get that upset about from a value standpoint - it would have cost me $30 to have it), and I walked out with kind of a bittersweet feeling. Nonetheless, it was a profitable day, so who am I to complain?

- Sutherland rides World Series, stretching out in the 3rd Monday for Jimmy Jerkins, watch.

- A lot of live music around here, the good mixed with the bad. Mostly bad I guess. We missed the Backstreet Boys last night, and won’t be around next week for the freebie in Albany with Grand Funk Railroad and Edgar Winter, damn!! Perhaps the saddest-looking one I've seen advertised is the Jefferson Starship, celebrating what is claimed to be the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Jefferson Airplane on 8/13/65, in Schenectady of all places. I don’t know what constituted the founding of the band on that date, maybe they scored some good pot that night. It’s hard to see this, thinking back to the incredible albums the band released at their peak, highlighted to me by Volunteers. This edition of the Starship is led by shameless Paul Kantner, and includes David Freiberg, an original member of Quicksilver Messenger Service, Tom Constanten, said in the ad to be an original Grateful Dead pianist, Prairie Prince, co-founder of the Tubes (!), and Chris Smith, bass and keyboards for the....Supremes!? THE Supremes? On hand will be Diana Mangano and Darby Gould, “performing the Grace Slick repetroire.” Oh man. Not on hand will be yours truly, even for the reasonable price of $65 ($100 for both sets, which gets you a soundboard recording of the show).


Ruben Bailey said...

So...did you learn from your mistake and bet World Series to WIN?????

Anonymous said...


Just a question-" I truly felt that First Samurai was as much of a sure thing as I could ever see at a racetrack. There are certain races that to me, are virtually decided in the mutuel pool before the gates open, and this was one of them... Perhaps it’s just years of experience, but in a race like this, I can just tell that the outcome is being driven by knowledge and winks and nods that are not accessible to the public, and you just have to go along for the ride."

Anything I can read or check out to gain this type of insight to see through the mutuel pools as well? Info and analysis such as this is great and seems to be quite valuable.



Alan Mann said...

Dave -

First of all, what seemed like a sure thing to me may not have looked like the same to someone else. After seeing countless races over the years, I think experience has a lot to do with sensing when a horse is getting bet in a way that really points him out. Your best guide to what the odds should be approximately is the morning line. These guys are good, and I use those to compare the actual prices against.

I believe you said you've started fairly recently. If you haven't done so already, you should probably check out Tom Ainslie's Complete Guide to Thoroughbred Racing. While some if it must be outdated, I learned a great deal of the basics of handicapping, including the art of watching the board, from that book. Hope that helps.