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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Notes From a Saratoga Weekend

Friday -

Got there in time for the second, that $150,000 maiden claimer for two-year old fillies. I imagine that more people than usual were keeping an eye out when the horses came back after the race for those red tags signifying that a horse had been claimed, but there were none to be found. Probably a relief to anyone who may have contemplated claiming any of the filles other than, perhaps, Singlet ($14, 61 Beyer), with the field strung out behind she and pace setter Alydaria, who collapsed late from her early efforts.

In the 4th, one of those juvenile turf sprints that you gotta love, Inny Minnie (Hard Spun) got some late sneaky action on the tote and was my play on that basis (and because I eventually grew to love his sire). Nice effort for second at 6-1, tab for next time (not at 6-1). No one was catching CD shipper My Due Process ($10). The Kentucky stables got off to a slow start, but this was the first of several such winners over the weekend. First time on the grass for the winner, one of two fillies in the field with a prior start, a pretty constant theme in the juvenile racing thus far. Dale Romans' filly is by Henny Hughes out of a Crafty Prospector mare.

Now, a trip to Saratoga means greeting friends and meeting people, which is always one of the highlights of the whole experience. Of course, that means that one has to strike some kind of balance between socializing and gambling; and unless you've done all of your work in advance, the latter tends to suffer. Not that there's anything wrong with that....and not to make excuses. However, after the Head Chef and I spent some quality time with El Angelo and his better half at the Paddock Bar, we headed back to our backyard spot behind the Carousel, and were greeted there by a good friend, and fellow bourbon aficionado. He had two cups, ice, and a flask in hand, and explained that his bounty, one George T. Stagg, was a rare and exclusive brand. Failed to mention that it was 140 proof....not that that really would have mattered given the generous pour.

Some people, including my bourbon buddy, who is amongst the very best horseplayers I know, can carry on under the effects of alcohol. Given the fact that I'm pretty bad under perfect conditions, by the time he left, shortly before the 7th, my brain was as scattered as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and my focus about as clear as Mitt Romney's platform. I'd liked Sanagas, the "German horse," as I'd discussed with El Angelo, who liked him too. Not at 9-2 though, which was his price (I think) when I saw the tote. He paid $13.80, winning with the greatest of ease even as he drifted to the right in the stretch like President Obama during the debt ceiling talks. I have no problem going off a horse that wins because of price. However, given that I landed on second place finisher Center Divider, I have to think that, with a clearer mind, I would have landed on the $125 exacta, as El Angelo did. Thanks a lot, George T. Stagg. I could have afforded a single bottle if I had that one.

Well, I did have a great time though, and there's no price tag for that to be sure, especially at my favorite racetrack in the world. I don't really remember the 8th at all. I do recall staring, or should I say, squinting at the board for the 9th, another baby sprint, noticing, too late, that Sportswriter ($14.40) was taking the sneaky late money that I like to see. However, with a clearer mind, I perhaps would have remembered that Carlos Martin never wins with first time starters (more on that shortly), and passed anyway. Sportswriter is a NY-bred by Maybry's Boy out of a Point Given mare, and he's inbred to Alydar (3x5); don't know if I've ever seen that before. Nice distaff family for a NY-bred; Excellent Meeting, Doneraile Court, Early Pioneer amongst the names to be found there.

Jeez, I've written all that, and only for one day? Will try to be brief..


I hit the first race exacta for $47.40, nice way to start the day. Spent the rest of the day giving it back, but what the hell. Cheyenne Nation ($14.20) had burned his share of money of late, but sometimes a horse will find a field that he's just faster than. Wouldn't have touched him as the favorite, as he'd been three of his last four races, all losses, but 6-1, with Ramon and Chad Brown; that's value there.

In the second, Optimizer ($57) was the second longest shot on the board, for Wayne Lukas, as the babies stretched out on turf. By the grass champ English Channel, out of the same Phipps distaff family discussed here regarding Puzzling, one could do far worse if you were looking for grass breeding.

In the third, Takes the Gold (Corinthian) was the pre-race fastest horse in the world; 6-1 morning line, he opened at something like 6-5. Drifted up a bit as time went on, and then you just had to absolutely love seeing him hammered late back down to that price from 3-2; don't know if he even bothered stopping in between. What a game. Unfortunately for his backers, he got cooked by the Toddster's Street Fight, but held well for third while the other one faded to last. Tab for next time at 2-5. Monmouth shipper Currency Swap ($21.80) is the 5th winner from the first crop of High Cotton (8th on the rookie sire list with his $2500 fee), out of a Pine Bluff half to the stakes placed Nacho Friend.

Nice price in the 5th on the Toddster's Katz My Song ($16.60). Well, yeah, easy to say now; he lost by 14 in his debut at GP after all, but always a nice price I guess when you get 7-1 on a trainer hitting at 30%. Especially since he's the 4th subsequent winner out of that Jan 15 race, including stakes winner Arch Traveler. The winner, Heron Lake, is the only one not to have since run; watch out for him if and when he does so for Zito. Three-year old is by Unbridled's Song out of the stakes winning Katz Me if you Can (Storm Cat).

In the 7th, Higher Court ($3.50) blistered the turf course for Darley; 21 flat to the quarter, 43.2 to the half, home in 1:01.1, a 96 Beyer. By the British juvenile champion Shamardal, out of the British 3 yo champion Zilzal, one might expect that this colt could carry his speed at longer distances.

Turbulent Descent was dominant as advertised in The Test ($3.90), earning a Beyer of 103, and I don't want to be overly critical or anything, but she did come home rather slowly, 13.73 seconds for the last furlong after a prior quarter of just around 24 flat. I know she didn't have to run any faster than that; and seven furlongs can be a quirky distance to navigate. But why is it that only harness racing fans care about how fast their horses come home? Jeez, this was a Grade 1 race; and I can't buy reading that she won in "electifying style" when a horse is coming home at a pace at which she couldn't beat many quality pacers; well over 27 seconds a quarter. And besides, I just like to see fillies close strongly unless its name is Michelle Bachman.

You've read all about the Whitney I'm sure; all I'll say is - since (almost) nobody I know thought Tizway had a chance at nine furlongs around two turns, who the hell bet him to make him the favorite?


OK, I'm tired of writing, and you're tired of reading, so I will really try to make this (kinda) brief. The rain and resulting muddy track may not have had too bad an effect on field size, but the surface was a quirky one that definitely seemed to favor horses on or near the lead (on Monday too)....words you'll rarely read on this blog, since I think that the notion of track bias is crap far more often than not.

Here is where I wanted to get back to trainer Carlos Martin. Proficient barn to be sure, though, with all due respect, not one of the dominant names here. He was, however, for the first three races on Sunday. In the first, his Indian Tale dropped from stakes company and came in off the MTO list to close strongly to just miss to Palooza ($8.80). What I found interesting here is that Indian Tale was entered for the optional $35,000 claiming tag even though he was eligible under the conditions of the race. And indeed, he was claimed by Dutrow. Be interesting to see what becomes of him.

In the second, Martin had first-time starter Shot Gun Pennie; 7-2 morning line, she was getting bet off the board, despite the fact that bettors only had to read the Racing Form to see that the trainer said that she would "improve as she goes along." The boys were talking about her on the pre-race prattle, with Serling pointing out that the fact that Martin rarely wins with first-time starters makes it particularly noteworthy that she was getting bet; though on the other hand, that Martin rarely wins with first-time starters (perhaps forgetting about Sportswriter...of course, he had other things on his mind with his upcoming work on the Versus telecast). She finished 5th after racing greenly. As the trainer said....

Then Martin had the favorite, again, in the 3rd; Life's Measure finished 4th at 3-2 and was claimed by David Jacobson. I had the exacta in that race as a saver, which got me back even for another race or two.

In the 4th, first-timer Purple Cat (Bluegrass Cat) was 4-5, but Beautifulnightmare ($25.20), the only horse with race experience, got the jump on the field, and it was just about 'they're off, you lose' territory at that point if you weren't there early (or able to benefit from a pace that's just unsustainable....still maintain that there's never an absolute speed bias...look at the charts of the 2nd and 8th races). The winner was moving up from maiden claimers, thus her long odds I guess. But is a horse really moving up in class when it's facing horses that have never started?? Too bad that bit of brilliant logic only came to me after the race.

After Funky Munky Mama ($29.80) (only the second worst-named winner of the week behind Stinking Creek, whose name Durkin, having a strong meet after an early stumble or two, could barely bring himself to spit out) wired the 7th, I was frustrated and turned to the stability and sanity of Polytrack. Missed the 6th race triple at Arlington when late rallies by the 3rd and 4th horses fell just short, prompting my first and only profane outburst of the weekend. Facing the long drive home, and with the Alfred G. Vanderbilt not enough of an incentive to stay, we left. And no Teresa, your stupid Ranger fan friend didn't even bother betting two bucks on Sean Avery ($36.20, 112 Beyer). And so it goes. Until next time (the weekend after next).

- One more thing. We didn't make it to the Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC this year. The programs on Friday and Saturday were Cirque de la Symphonie, and the Head Chef said that she doesn't like Cirque de la Anything. So much for that. I see there are some really bad rock shows coming up - though Kings of Leon canceled - lowlighted by Journey, still insufferable I'm sure after all these years. However, and interestingly, Elton John is playing there on Sept 4, and lawn tickets are still available; so there's something for those of you who will be there on the final weekend. Which is coming up faster that we'd all like.


Andy said...

Indian Tale is entered Thursday...and he's a she.

Good to see you. Maybe next time we can have a drink or twelve.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I was there too. Love Turbulent Descent and I think you're being too harsh on her. Wait til the BreedersCup.

Alan Mann said...

>>...and he's a she.

DAMN IT, I really tried to get all the genders right. And I was only sipping a little regular 100 proof Knob Creek!

Jiminy Crickets said...

Durkin is still the best out there.

El Angelo said...

Good seeing you up there sir. I will note that the Sanagas-Center Divider exacta was the *only* ticket I cashed all weekend, even though I was alive to five horses in the Pick Three on Saturday that Trix in the City stole. Grr.

Alan Mann said...

Oh, sorry. You should have gotten together with jp, he had the double to Turbulent Descent with Trix in the City!

El Angelo said...

See, that was a smart play. Turbulent Descent looked pretty close to a lock in the Test, and the race before was wide open because Miss Keller and Evading Tempete looked like bad favorites. I like the double where you spread against a fave in one leg but take a fave in the other.

Anonymous said...

Trix in the City in the De La Rose was a lucky stab on my part. The race seemed impossible, so I just used all the inside speed (1,2,4,6) and held my breath. I was all set to go against Turbulent Descent, but my buddy (the bourbon drinker Alan spoketh of) made me realize that she wasn't really that bad a favorite. I guess I was thinking I beat her on Belmont day so why not beat her again. But fortunately I stepped off the Baffert filly and onto Turbulent Descent. My play was 4x2. The horse I really liked, Salty Strike was paying $558 in the double with Trix In The City, but the $147double with Turbulent Descent was enough to make it a solid day. It seems as if this is the year of the Turf wire jobbie. Get Stormy on Derby Day, Mission Approved on Belmont Day, and now Trix In the City, and I had them all. What are the chances? I guess when you lose as often as I did in 2009 and 2010, the law of averages gives you a good year every now and again. In any event, seven hours of driving for six hours at the Spa, and well worth the trip. -jp

phar turn said...

Was standing in the IRS line
on the 29th to cash an exacta ticket
on the final race. That's right an exacta. Everyone who hit it agreed
it was pure luck. So it goes.

Biggest regret so far is not going
with Caleb's Posse in the Amsterdan.
The horse walked right by me, nodded,
and said I'm gonna win. Didn't figure
on paper so much. Best of luck.

steve in nc said...

Man, I played from NC and watched on TV delayed by DVR, and I am so jealous, even though it was a nice winning weekend for me. I'd have gotten shut out on my big exotic winner and been willing to drink diet coke for the chance to be there in person.

I sure hope it is still up and running and a great place to be by the time the kids leave the house.

Thanks for the sip by sip memoir - gave me vicarious pleasure.

BATTLIN said...

Hey ,left wing Kool Aid drinker, If Obama was a race horse he'd be in a $ 4,000 claimer ,nw of two, at Charles Town

BATTLIN said...

Hey, left wing Kool Aid drinker. If Obama was a race horse he'd be in a $ 4,000 claimer, non-winners of two lifetime, on a Wed night.

Yak about racing and stop taking cheap shots at Republicans