"Six Weeks in Saratoga" available! Go get it!

"Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year" published July 1, 2011. Keep it locked here, at The Carryover or go to SUNY Press to order your copy ... right now! Or head on down to your favorite bookseller.

Praise for "Six Weeks in Saratoga"

“Going behind the scenes of three-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra’s 2009 triumph … O’Meara makes her story gallop and gleam.” — Chronogram

“The [book] is one of enjoyable promise, and as the author recounts little moments and inside conversations, he provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of the figures he covers. The narrative keeps game pace with outside literary standards and features bursts of brilliance, and I found it a refreshing change from the selection of racing-themed volumes available today. As O’Meara brings his subjects to life, you find yourself thinking this is the kind of guy whose work I want to follow.” — Claire Novak, ESPN.com

“O’Meara … provide[s] a tremendous amount of detail from behind the scenes that the reader would not have otherwise enjoyed … Six Weeks is essentially a Rachel book, but it’s told without neglecting the always rich backdrop of a Saratoga meet. That means there’s history, surprises, characters (human and equine), great racing, foggy mornings and sun-splashed afternoons—plenty of material through which O’Meara could exercise his descriptive abilities.” — Schenectady Daily Gazette

“O’Meara fell for a magical place and magnificent horse, which is a lovely malady that often befalls horse people, and with a great deal of heart he tells us how and why. You’ll never forget his Six Weeks in Saratoga, either.” — Joe Drape, author of Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen

“Brendan O’Meara tells the story of this proud horse with verve and great historical insight. Six Weeks in Saratoga marks the debut of an exciting new talent.” — Wil Haygood, author of Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson

“Brendan O’Meara’s Six Weeks in Saratoga is a victory to be savored by those who treasure good writing in general and tales of the track in particular. Horses may win races, but they also win hearts as this impressive book proves beyond doubt. A memorable, sure-footed debut.” — Madeleine Blais, author of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hasty



Perhaps I was a little too hasty to say I'll never listen to Good ol' Pete's handicapping tips.  

I've since come home, had a beer, and cooled down from what was a more annoying than usual day at the windows.

I can't rip the man too much.  He has hit a Pick 6.

All together now: "WE'RE ALL REEEEEAAAAALLLLL IMPRESSED!"

That said, someone has to take the brunt of my frustrations and it may as well be the guy who told me Hatta Fort and Mr. Bourbon Street were stone-cold locks.

No more listening to Good ol' Pete


Another one of Pete's stone-cold locks was Mr. Bourbon Street and this donkey had zero — and I mean zero — run.  

I wasted yet another week's worth of grocery money with a $3 exacta box with Stunt Man, Mr. Bourbon Street and Ferocious Fires.  That makes it -$57 on the meet.

Ferocious Fires won easily and Stunt Man and Mr. Bourbon Street lost easily.

Polls and Surveys

These are always fun.  From time to time I'll post a question so people can vote.  I may ask a horse racing related question like the one posted there, or I may ask what content you would like to see more/less of. 

Either way, check out the poll down the right hand side of The Carryover.

Good Grief

This is kind of how I feel on a regular basis.  Not to mention if Charlie Brown aged 20 more years and wore a suit and tie, he would look oddly similar to me.

Do you often feel like the football of life is pulled out from your foot?  Welcome to the world of horse racing. 

Good ol' Pete feels pretty good about Mr. Bourbon Street in the Morrissey. The way speed is holding today, it may not be a bad play.

The bankroll is at what now? I'll be right back.

Addicted to losing

I think most problem gamblers become problem gamblers because they get addicted to that fleeting moment when they win.  Whatever the rush is, it's intoxicating.

When I start playing races I have a hard time stopping.  My problem is that I never win so I wouldn't understand what it's like to actually feel that rush.  I imagine it's quite a thrill.  I don't know. You tell me.

I took eight stray dollars in my pocket and put it on Oldham to show (my father's favorite bet on Earth).  The race was a $48,000 claimer.  Oldham's last four efforts were second, second, first and second.  The last effort was in a similar claiming race at Churchill Downs.  So naturally I felt pretty good about this horse hitting the damn board.

Trainer Gregory DiPrima must have told jockey Sebastian Morales that Oldham didn't have his morning gallop so lets just canter him out there and try not to get hurt.  That's what it looked like.  Oldham never showed any urgency and after fractions of 25 and 50, he somehow slipped farther and farther back.  

I'm sure I'm not alone when I feel that when I put money on a horse it's the kiss of death.  

Losers, like me, are addicted to losing and the inherent pessimism it breeds.

Done

Now I'm done. 

After watching Hatta Fort trail the field, I just knew he would have nowhere to go.  He didn't make a significant push until the sixteenth pole.  It was sickening. Redefined was a horse I liked, but in the spirit of saving cash, I merely singled Hatta Fort.

Good ol' Pete said that Hatta Fort was a stone-cold single.  Too often I listen to what he has to say.  I can't begin to tell you how many times he has spoken me off horses I like to horses he likes for yet another frustration in an endless line of losses.

This, I'm afraid, will be it for me today.  

Rent is due tomorrow.

Oh, who am I kidding?

As borderline addictions go, I started another Pick 3.

Heeeerrrrre we go again ...

R3: Hatta Fort
R4: Isn't That Special, Northern Rodes
R5: Spa Princess, Better Than Swiss, Linda's Kisses


-$25 and counting

Valiancy, a second-timer I'd decided to lay off, won this race while setting fractions of :22, :45, :57 and a winning time of 1:04. 

Keep'em Movin Dan and Fast Draw, two of my three, finished second and third. 

After those fractions, I felt pretty good. Valiancy was locked in a speed duel and not only outlasted his company, but drew away.  

That's it for me today. 

The fun lasted for 1:04.56. 

Correction, that wasn't fun at all. 

-$19 and counting

I'm looking to open my day with a Pick 3 starting in Race 2. 

I'm liking Tapit's Brew, Keep'em Movin Dan and Fast Draw. I'll single Hatta Fort in the third race and take Isn't That Special and Northern Rodes in the fourth race. 

I'll do a $1 Pick 3 wheel to make this guy a $6 plight.

To make it look pretty and organized, here it is:
R2: Tapit's Brew, Keep'em Movin Dan, Fast Draw
R3: Hatta Fort
R4: Isn't That Special, Northern Rodes
Cost = $6

17 minutes to race one, a steeplechase contest.

Ticket of Valor for Thursday July 31

Here goes yet another attempt at hitting the Pick 6 if I had the bankroll to do so. 

Race 5: Spa Princess, Linda's Kisses
Race 6: Red Sandy, Storming Off
Race 7: Ground Hero, Transit of Venus
Race 8: Loquacious, Pious Ashley
Race 9: Stunt Man, Mr. Bourbon Street
Race 10: Admiral Bird, Akebono, Logic Way
Cost of Ticket = $192


Back in the saddle

After a day of blog relief, I'm back in my familiar seat near the finish line at the Spa.

Today I'll feature some picks sure to go wrong. There will undoubtedly be Ticket of Irrelevance, but I'll also be playing some Pick 3s scattered throughout which are more sensible and far easier to hit.

It's a hot one. Find some shade or prepare to get wet.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chad Brown Story

For those searching for their Chad Brown-fix, here is a link to a story I wrote about him for today's Saratogian.

Enjoy.

For some reason, I can't create a link in here so just visit www.saratogian.com and look under horse racing. 


Monday, July 28, 2008

Carryover!

This must be one of the smallest carryover's recorded at Saratoga. It registered in just over $42K. 

My Ticket of Valor and Small-Newspaper-Wage Ticket and possibly my Ticket of Irrelevance will be unveiled.  Though I do have Wednesday off this week.

We'll just have to see. As for today, I stayed in the red, losing nine more precious dollars to go to -$19 on the meet.

And should you lose — and you will — do it with the quiet dignity of your friend at the Carryover.

So long.

Fourth and fifth

-$10 on the meet.

The Log

-$2 on Day 1
-$4 on Day 5
-$6 for the meet.

For what it's worth I'm staying off Wanderin Boy in this 3rd race. I've got myself a $2 exacta box with Greely's Legacy (10-1)  and Mr. Umphrey (5-2).

"The horses have reached the starting gate; they're at the post," Tom Durkin said.

Good Ol' Pete's winning angle

When Pete sees a horse scratched from an easier spot and put into a harder spot two days later, he goes for broke ... well, he doesn't ignore it. Bayou's Lassie did this on the Derby or Oaks undercard and Frost Giant did this a few weeks ago at Belmont.

Today, one such horse exists in the Grade II Amsterdam and his name is Excess Capital. He is a maiden and his works have been modest: 4f in :49 on July 19 at Belmont, 4f in :50.91 on July 12 at Belmont.  But his last three losses were validated by Acai winning here, Amped winning next time out and getting third in an overnight stakes on the Jim Dandy undercard and Desert Key, who happens to be the 5-2 morning line favorite in the Amsterdam. 

Nobody will say a loss is good, though these losses certainly make him a playable loser and at 20-1, who could argue?

Feature on Chad Brown; ramblings on Corn Flakes

For those seeking something to read on home-grown trainer, Chad Brown, I'll be writing a feature on him for The Saratogian coming out in the next day or so. 

Pick 6 Ticket of Valor update: hit just 2-of-6 on the $192 ticket. 
Pick 6 Ticket of Aldi Corn Flakes: hit just 1-of-6 on the $4 ticket. 

Aldi Corn Flakes: $0.99 cents and gallon of skim milk from Aldi is $2.89. For $3.88, I can eat for close to a week on that alone (bowl for breakfast, bowl for dinner, bagels in the press box). A packet of Splenda I snag from Dunkin' Donuts gives it more flavor. 

I wouldn't be a starving artist if I weren't starving, right?  That's how I see it.

All right, lovely day at the Spa today. We'll be in touch.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

This Dream is Over

On my sport's reporter-wage ticket,  I am toast.

On my ticket of valor, I am still alive for 5-of-6.

Kent Desormeaux finally got No. 5,000 with Bella Atrice. 


First Saratoga Carryover

Needed to make an adjustment with the scratch of Unbridled Refrain

Well, well, there is a salty carryover of $120,000 assured of going to somebody with deep pockets, ala Steve Byk or Steven Christ.

If I were in the well-to-do turf media, my ticket would look something like this:
Race 6: War Echo, Pearl Valor
Race 7: Dose of Reality, Bella Attrice
Race 8: Disperse, Sahara Wind, Pretty Carina
Race 9: Cosmic, Chris Got Even
Race 10: Pyro, Da'Tara
Race 11: Intuition Magic, Giveityourbestshot
Cost: $192

Since I work at The Saratogian, my ticket will look something like this:

Race 6: Pearl Valor
Race 7: Dose of Reality
Race 8: Pretty Carina
Race 9: Chris Got Even
Race 10: Pyro, Da'Tara
Race 11: Giveityourbestshot

Cost: $4 ... still forcing me to eat Aldi's corn flakes morning, noon and night for the next week. 

Those two college degrees I have are looking really, really good right about now.

I say all this as in such a pessimistic manner. I seem to forget, you don't lose money at the track, you MAKE money.

How silly of me.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Yeah, carryover!

We've got $120,938 rolled over onto the Jim Dandy card on Day 5 at the Spa.

It's also my day off. 

To my loyal following, this means you won't get to read my Pick 6, You-Think-You-Know-but-You-have-no-Idea Diary.

That's not to say I won't spare my readers the joy of my self deprecating, poor gambling exploits. They'll be there. Oh yes, they will be there, albeit later, licking the inevitable wound(s).

On a slightly more serious — though increasingly funny note — Kent Desormeaux is now zero for his last 13 and still stuck on 4,999.

He's got five tomorrow, maybe none more ironic than his last mount Giveityourbestshot.

Rain, rain, ...

Fascinating!

More rain. The Diana was won by Forever Together with a nice, closing kick. Abraaj took the Vanderbilt, just beating the rain.

The Go For Wand field will not be so lucky.

KD keeps up the good work with bagels in the past two contests.

Race 6

The first leg of the Pick 6 delivered a 34-1 winner, Joppa Flat's, a maiden winning his first race after 21 tries.

And with that, we may actually have our first carryover of the meet after only the first leg.

Wow.

KD 0-for-10

He lost.

That is all.

KD 0-for-9

Looks like Desormeaux has a case of the thirds. 

Edgar Prado got a tad lazy with 50 yards to go and Constabulary with Desormeaux up, and Unbridled's Heart with Javier Castellano up, nearly got him at the wire. 

KD's got four more today.

KD 0-for-8

On a first-time-starter, Desormeaux made a powerful move aboard Intercoastal with a quarter mile to go on the inner turf. However, with a furlong to go, John R. Velazquez split horses aboard Baronial to win by a length.


KD 0-for-7

Desormeaux, after losing in the second race, has his third chance of the day to to reach 5,000 wins.

He notched his 4,998th win on July 7. Nearly three weeks later he has only been in the winner's circle once. Once!

That's a slump.  This from a guy who won over 40 races at the Spa a year ago.


Big Brown smokin' hot workout

Big Brown is a smoking gun after the bullet he posted today at Aqueduct.

The son of Boundary drilled six furlongs in 1:10 and change. A week from today Big Brown will make his first start since being eased in the Belmont Stakes thus losing the Triple Crown.

He has had a series of progressively better workouts, but none were faster or sharper than this penultimate drill for the Grade I Haskell Invitational.

Trainer Rick Dutrow may blow him out for three furlongs the day before the race. All signs are pointing to a monster effort at Monmouth.

Day 4 at the Spa

It's a hot one out there.

Kent Desormeaux is on his own. No more following him. He lost in the opening, that's 0-for-1 today.

Here's a Pick 6 Ticket of Irrelevance:
Race 6: Hi Daddy
Race 7: Vacare
Race 8: Thor's Echo
Race 9: Ginger Punch
Race 10: Notional
Race 11: Shaami

Bustin Stones scratched out of the Grade II Vanderbilt due to a foot bruise. Even though he is not in the race, there will still be a lot of heat on the front end. If Thor's Echo can show his 2006 form and steadily rate off the hot fractions, he's a great bet today — 6-1 on the morning line.

Friday, July 25, 2008

KD 0-for-5

After every race Desormeaux was in, I waited in the winner's circle. After he finished third in the Lake George Handicap aboard Zee Zee, I got to thinking that maybe I'm jinxing this man.

I can't stop now, you know?  He's got eight mounts on Saturday, so he should do it then.

My Pick 6 ticket went like this: win, lose, lose, lose, lose, lose.

That feels like pulling a band aid off really, really slow.

Busted

Oooooo, Visible Truth got third, losing by just a nose.

I imagine this would be extremely frustrating had I kept any cash on me. 

$0 ticket gone.


KD 0-for-4

Desormeaux took third place. 

The Cuban Hawk gave way at the eighth pole to Jump It. 

The hypothetical Pick 6 ticket is slowly unraveling.

BTW

By the way, I'm alive in my hypothetical Pick 6 ticket.

Oi.

Chad Brown strikes again; KD 0-for-3

Mechanicville's own Chad Brown won his second race of the meet with a first-time-starter in Midtown Bullet in a 5 1/2 furlong tilt on the main track in a time of 1:05:23.

Early this morning, I spoke to Brown at this stable by the Oklahoma Annex while Midtown Bullet was being shod, and he felt high on him. Based on his gate work, he felt that he has a legitimate shot in his maiden try.

"That was a really good effort," Brown said after the race. "He's a nice, fast horse. His best works are from the gate and I didn't know what to expect. Eibar (Coa) rode him perfectly."

The son of Red Bullet stalked the leaders and made a 4-wide bid on the far turn nearing the quarter pole. After being bumped, he dug in and wore down the field to win by two lengths on the wire.

"With young horses, we like see how they come out," Brown said. "If they handle it mentally and physically we'll go from there."

As a result, Kent Desormeaux is now 0-for-3 in his try for 5,000. I won't say who, but one of my colleagues is very happy by that and would not be upset should he never reach it.

KD 0-for-2

Desormeaux, aboard Scarlet Love, made his move on the turn and faded at the quarter pole. With the obligatory pop of the whip, Desormeaux tried to rally his horse, but it was not nearly enough.

There was a rousing photo finish which went to So Glitzy, an Allen Jerkens trainee. Barclay Tagg's Hamsa was whiskered at the wire for Lael Stables.

Desormeaux has the No. 6 horse, Vinnie's Wild Tale making his first career start in the fourth race. The son of West Acre breezed a bullet on June 19 going a half mile in 48-flat, the second fastest of 48 at the distance that day. He has gone five weeks ago without a published work which may point to some degree of soreness/unsoundness. We'll see.

First leg of the Pick 6 coming right up.

KD 0-for-1

Kent Desormeaux's bid for 5,000 career wins will wait for Race 2.

His colt, Pious David, was erratic the entire homestretch, boring out before diving in on the rail to finish third behind Stomp and the winner, Join in the Dance.

The winning trainer was Todd Pletcher and the winning jockey was John R. Velazquez. 

Two-year-olds? Pletcher? Velazquez? Here we go again ...

Pick 6 Pix

I'm going to map out a ticket of singles for fun. 

Fun will be loosely defined here. I have zero dollars. Another way of putting this is: $0.

There is the possibility of infinite frustration should I hit this ticket without any money.

I'll place a $0 straight pick 6, please.

Race 4: Midtown Bullet
Race 5: The Cuban Hawk
Race 6: Visible Truth
Race 7: Ecton
Race 8: Zee Zee
Race 9: Mrs. Holden

There it is. 

Winning is a loss in every sense of the word here.


First Fog

In speaking with author Joe McGinniss a few weeks ago he had heard that I was up at Saratoga to cover racing, he told me, "Wait till you see the fog coming off the Oklahoma track."

Joe wrote my favorite book on horse racing, "The Big Horse." He had spent the entire 2003 summer following Hall of Fame trainer P.G. Johnson who had — after 50 some years of training — got his first big horse with Volponi in 2002. 

Though I had been to the track by 6:30 a.m. or 7:00 a.m. on most days, I arrived at 5:45 a.m. and there was that fog, hanging over the oval. The horses looked alike, silhouetted against that misty backdrop. 

One such horse stood out, however. It was that bright chestnut coat and white blaze. It was 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin clopping around the oval, doing as he was told. 

Joe's face gleamed when he spoke of the fog and now I know why.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Desormeaux comes up empty in bid for 5,000

Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux came up short in two tries at 5,000 career victories Thursday at Saratoga.

Karakorum Playmate in the sixth race and Freakenstein in the eighth both came up well short of victory for Desomeaux. 

His best shot came in the sixth when he was able to set a brisk quarter, and slow down the half mile fractions. But his filly could not hold on.

"The pace wasn't that hot," he said with mud caked on his face. "If you can't finish on that you're in trouble."

Desomeaux will have five tries on Friday including Zee Zee in the Grade II Lake George. 

The Grade 2 Sanford Stakes

This early 2-year-old race for colts scratched down to just four horses. That leaves Officer Ipod, Desert Party, Vineyard Haven and Phosphorescent. 

That makes for a fairly nondescript feature race, but the sun is shining as it tries to try out that grass and dirt. 

Last year's winner of the Sanford was Ready's Image, a Todd Pletcher trainee who has failed to do much of anything in his 3-year-old  year. 

The two winners prior to Ready's Image were Afleet Alex in the 2004 and Scat Daddy in 2006. The Sanford was not run in 2005. 

Afleet Alex, as many of you know, went on to win the Preakness Stakes in dramatic fashion and then romped in the Belmont Stakes.

Scat Daddy won the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby for Pletcher and was retired after a dismal Kentucky Derby.

First race just minutes away

The sky looks bright, yet the rain continues to fall. Though it is lightening up for the first time in hours.

The track is sealed and the horses for Race 1 are circling in the paddock.

For the record, Kent Desormeaux sits on 4,999 career wins and could reach 5,000 in the slop today.

He has mounts in the sixth and eighth races with Karakorum Playmate and Freakstein.

More Rain

At 9 a.m., it is still raining at a steady clip.

All the turf races for Thursday's Saratoga card were already moved to the main track.  The opening steeplechase event has been rescheduled for Wednesday, July 30. 

With the cancellation of that race, Thursday will have a nine race card and first post is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

The Pick 6 was hit yesterday for just over $20,000.  As a result there is no carryover and I am spared from having to humiliate myself with picks.

Today's feature is the Sanford Stakes for 2-year-old colts. 

There's your bullet presentation for this morning's post.  

The rain continues to rustle the leaves ...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Perfect weather for Opening Day

It rained and rained.  So wait, it wasn't perfect at all.

Good ol' Pete was a nose away from hitting 5-of-6 on his hypothetical Pick 6 ticket. I will hypothetically clap for him.

My theory of singling every race backfired in every imaginable way.  And you know what?  I'm OK with that. Because I'm good enough. Smart enough. And doggoneit, people like me. Thank you, Stuart Smalley.

Though, I'd disagree on all counts.

Good night, everybody!

The Grade 3 Schuylerville

Steve Asmussen won his third race on the card by book-ending the Schuylerville field with the long shot-winner Jardin, and post-time favorite and last place finisher Ocean Colors.

He said afterward he had mixed feelings — happy with the win but disappointed with the effort of his favorite.

"It looked like she tied up a little," he said.

As for Jardin ($26.40), the rail opened up for her at the quarter pole and Robby Albarado slipped her through and down to the wire.

D. Wayne Lukas' Cameron Crazies finished second after contending with the pace and Girlfriendontheside hung on for third.


Does it even matter?

Pete's hypothetical ticket is alive for 5-of-6 with the upset by Jardin in the Schuylerville. 

I'm tossing a big fat donut.  Mmmmm, donut. 

Races 5 and 6

If races were won at the quarter pole, I'd be one happy handicapper.

My ticket of irrelevance drowned in the slop.

Pete's $96 ticket is merely alive, but in a moment of full disclosure, he didn't play that ticket. 

What a coward.


My Carryover of Intrigue

Here it is. 

Every time I play a losing Pick 6 ticket, I win all the legs I single.  So by that rationale, I should play all singles.  This is absolute genius!  Who's with me!?

Here are my "Shoe Ins of the Day" (please pardon that I cannot find my horse shoe graphic), or my Pick 6 Ticket of Irrelevance.

Race 5: Fiddler's Afleet
Race 6: Of All Times
Race 7: Zip to the City
Race 8: Posted
Race 9: Ocean Colors
Race 10: Rumspringa

My ticket will cost $2.  

Pete's will cost $96.  

Who will be the biggest loser?  Only time will tell, but I have a massive hunch who will be the biggest winner.

Carryover on Day 1 at Saratoga

 


This isn't a carryover in the sense that money was rolled over. No. This is what I like to call the carryover of intrigue. 

And such a carryover spells certain attention from this page. My betting confidant Pete Motta will have his "Locks of the Week" and I too hope to have what I will call, my "Pick 6 Ticket of Irrelevance." 


Here are Pete's "Locks of the Week" 
Race 5: Fiddler's Afleet, Lookin At Her, Vinnie Van Go
Race 6: Of All Times, Jazz Nation
Race 7: Building New Era, Zip to the City
Race 8: Posted, Stormin Normandy
Race 9: Collegiate
Race 10: Red Hot Dawn, Sonny Pajamas

Stay tuned for my Shoe Ins of the Day!

How's this for a debut

Chad Brown grew up 10 miles away from the Spa in Mechanicville, N.Y. and for 30 minutes following the first race, he can say he was the leading trainer at Saratoga.

His colt, Star Player, drew away to win the starter allowance by two lengths over the pace-setting Saint Barr.

Though he finds himself fortunate to have won this race, he was quick to say he will not be happy with just this one win.

"I'm not just here for the scenery, I want to win," Brown said.

Gray skies are not gonna clear up

Looking out my window now, things do not look so good for Saratoga's Opening Day.

And I just heard some thunder. It's possible that this could blow over before first post, but rain is in the forecast.  

Weather.com says, "Thunderstorms likely. A few storms may be severe. High 73F. Winds ESE 5 at 10 MPH. Chance of rain 80%."

Trainers and jockeys who lose at 80 percent are considered elite, so I've got a good feeling about today.

Handicapping Tip of the Day: See odd parallels in the daily forecast with relevant horse racing statistics. 

It's science, people.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Saratoga's most anticipated race

This column will appear in Wednesday, July 23rd's Pink Sheet section.

In an odd way, the $50,000 allowance race — one mile on the inner turf — at Saratoga Race Course is the most anticipated race of the entire meet.

The reason behind this isn’t prestige. Other races like The King’s Bishop, The Darley Test, The Whitney and The Travers Stakes are far more prestigious.

The reason isn’t that it’s the first turf race of the season. The Sword Dancer and Berard Baruch garner much more attention and money.

The only reason this $50,000 allowance has any significance is that it’s the first — the very first — race of the entire Saratoga meet. After 46 weeks of torpor, Saratoga opens its gates, hungry to fatten its bones for 36 days.

And what better way than to give this otherwise inconsequential race more attention than it would deserve because it is batting leadoff.

And why not start the season on a winning note? Winning this race could define your meet: nights at the Adelphi, Cuban cigars and Cristal. Losing all but assures you six weeks of agony and the inevitable trip(s) to Taco Bell.

What we’ve got here is a starter allowance for 3-year-olds and up which have started for a claiming price of $50,000 or less and which have never won a race other than maiden or claiming. The classic a-other-than.

Speed is somewhat lacking in this race with Fijonnes the one showing early zip in his last — a winning effort at Monmouth. Hedge Fund went to the front six races back at the Big A, but that was on dirt. Star Player has been forwardly placed in a few of his efforts. The only clear-cut speed is Saint Barr, a 4-year-old colt entered for the main track only. Rain is in the forecast and the race could be moved off the grass.

Lone speed, two turns, kills, right?

From a Beyer Speed Figure perspective, The Shaughraun is the fastest horse based on his last effort. He gets the hot young jock in Alan Garcia and comes off a $35,000 claimer losing to Rock Lobster. Three back he lost to Nite Light, who went on to be one of the favorites in the Excelsior Handicap on the Wood Memorial undercard. Though, on the inner turf, drawing Post 10 may hurt his chances of saving ground and I don’t think there will be enough speed for him to close into. Garcia is aggressive, so maybe he’ll move him up sooner rather than later. But judging by the past, this may be too much to ask.

Romp (Arg) gets Edgar Prado and Bruce Brown wins with 24 percent of his runners when they rest for 31-60 days.

Love Everybody starts for Gary Contessa for the first time. Contessa wins with 21 percent of his firsters and gets four pounds from most of the field.

In the end, it looks like Fijonnes may get the lead, and with John R. Velazquez in the irons, you know he’ll keep this gelding out of traffic for trainer Mark Hennig.

See you at Taco Bell.

And they're almost off

Monday night the National Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame hosted a round-table discussion with four heavy hitters in the New York racing community. 

Kyle Brownell, handicapper for the Post Star, Charlie Hayward, NYRA president and CEO, Nick Zito, Hall of Fame trainer, and Alan Garcia, the Belmont Stakes-winning jockey of Da'Tara were on hand. 

There can hardly be enough space for the topics covered from artificial surfaces, the NYRA franchise, to the complexities of handicapping a five-furlong turf sprint. 

No matter what the packed theater of racing fans thought, the energy of the upcoming meet swelled in the air. Without question.

I've always maintained that even if I hated Saratoga Springs (which I do not), it would be worth weathering the town for 46 weeks to have the next six to experience. 

That's a powerful 36 days.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Grade 2 Virginia Derby

I'm not going crazy with this one.

I'm merely going to place an exacta box with some live longshots plus Sailor's Cap. Old Man Buck, El Suntry Sun, Sailor's Cap and Year Round seems to be worthy of anyone's attention.

Bill Mott's Court Vision is back for another try over the Colonial Downs grass. He will likely take a lot of money, as he always does, but he simply isn't that fast. I think a lot of people, myself included, keep thinking he's going to run back to that Grade 2 Remsen form nearly a year ago. And even that was a slow effort.

His Wood Memorial was promising, but he had suicidal fractions to close into and could not catch War Pass or eventual winner, Tale of Ekati. Who knows? This game is incredibly humbling to everyone at every level of the sport. Humbug!

I won't be near a computer until Monday night, so have a great weekend. And remember ... gambling is the greatest thing I man can do, IF he's good at it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Curlin vs. Cigar

Who would win?



Or ... ?


Both have won multiple times a 10 furlongs. Both won the Breeders' Cup Classic. Both won the Dubai World Cup.  So, who would win?

It's an interesting question similar to which basketball team would beat who: the 1986 Celtics or the 1998 Chicago Bulls.  Or which baseball team : the 1975 Reds or the 1998 Yankees.  

The only difference — and this is merely subjective — is that Curlin vs. Cigar is far more interesting and it would be over in 2:01.

Curlin is knocking on Cigar's career earnings mark of $9,999,815, so you might have to give the edge to Cigar for at least the time being.  That's what Cigar's former trainer, Hall of Famer Bill Mott, would do.

After a laugh, he said, "That would be an interesting one.  Those are two good horses.  You know ... that would have been good.  Who knows?  I'd be rooting for Cigar, of course."

Of course.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

One solution

In speaking with Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, he offered his solution to the bad rap horse racing has.

"I think reputation is worth something," he said, "You don't go by reputation? Right or wrong? A lack of reputation, that's what's wrong."

He also noted that there are roughly 5,000 trainers in North America and said that only a few get singled out. And those few are the ones who give racing its black eye time and time again.

"If you're in that position and you do so well and you tarnish the game, isn't repuation worth something?" Zito said.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Election Year

In this election year, there may be nothing more important than voting on what to do with Curlin. Majority owner Jess Jackson put a poll on his web site asking fans what he should do with the 2007 Horse of the Year.

Choices are keep him on the turf, go back to dirt, go to synthetics or retire him.

http://news.bloodhorse.com/article/46169.htm

As an American, it is your right to vote. McCain? Obama? Nader (because you know he will)? If they can't run on dirt and turf then frankly, I have no need for them.

A vote for Curlin is a vote for America.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Eight days away

A week from today the Grade 3 Schuylerville for 2-year-old fillies will be wrapping up, bringing a close to the first day of the 2008 Saratoga meet.


It comes at a good time, as racing hits a lull at this moment in the season. For six weeks, horse racing springs to life again, but this time it is under a higher level of scrutiny.


In the coming week, I'll be writing a series of stories for The Saratogian, one of which will be dealing specifically with the "State of the Union." Only this will be the state of horse racing. I'll take a look at where racing is and where it seems to be heading. The sport is at a crossroads with the death of the great filly Eight Belles and the controversies swirling around the use of performance enhancers in the equine athlete.


As trite as it may sound, racing is truly at a fork in the road. One way will lead to the gradual re-building of its reputation and acceptance from a general public soured by drugs and destruction on the track. The other will undoubtedly lead to its continued revival, allowing these animals to showcase their innate athleticism on racing's greatest platforms.

Either way, the Saratoga season is one to embrace with the quality of animal that resides in its barns and the pageantry on display every morning and afternoon.

Hopefully we will not only see new life, but a conitinued renewal for months and months, and years and years.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Not one view

I had the day off so I didn't even look at one replay or read one story on racing today. I don't feel strongly one way or the other about this.

Had I seen a replay or read a story, I wouldn't feel any better or worse. That said, it was nice to take a breather from the thoroughbreds.

This gives me a moment to speak about my experience watching — but not really watching — the Man o'War.

If any of you have followed this blog for the past week, I looked forward to the Man o'War the way most people look forward to say, the Divisional round of the baseball playoffs. There was certainly a heightened awareness of this particular race and I waited all day Saturday to watch it on the OTB channel in the Saratogian office (I don't have TV at home).

It was one minute to post and I'm gearing up. At last, here comes Curlin, eased into Post 7. Then the phone rings.

#$%&!

"I'm calling in a score ... "

I thought, &$#@!

This gentleman wasn't prepared to give me the stats. He called and proceeded to organize his thoughts on the phone in that pregnant moment before the gates were discharged. I peaked out of the corner of my eye, saw the horses waiting in the gates, barely hearing a word this coach said.

Finally he organizes his thoughts and he started to rattle off numbers. I heard Tom Durkin start his call and already I was mad. I mean mad.

If I had any sense, I would've said, "Sir, coach, I have to watch an important race here."

But no. I didn't.

I glanced at the TV quickly and saw that Mission Approved and Sudan went out loose on the lead, killing each other without bullets.

The coach starts giving me name upon name. By the time I looked at the TV again, Red Rocks had pulled away with Curlin fighting for second. Better Talk Now nearly nabbed him at the wire.

At this point, the coach was done, content his score would be in Sunday's edition of The Saratogian.

Sunday morning I figured I'd watch the Man o'War on NTRA. At last, I'd be able to see how the race truly unfolded uninterrupted. I saw the opening half mile and the video cut out.

Somebody did not want me to watch this race. I don't know who. Maybe it was a Little League coach. Maybe it was God. Maybe it was Cigar. But some unearthly creature saw it fit to deprive me of the one thing I wanted all week.

Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen weren't the only ones who didn't get what they wanted on Saturday.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Adding to my Losing Arsenal

As some of you know, any time I take a bad hit at the windows (which is virtually every time, who am I kidding?) I go to Taco Bell.

So if anybody were to ask me how I did at the track, I'd point to the balled up burrito wrappers on the floor.

It's a wonder I'm not obese seeing as this is the equation for weight gain in the horse player:

Perpetual losing + $4.26 = TRFBB (Temporary Relief From Bad Bets)

The $4.26 usually buys me two Grilled Stuft Burritos with beef, fresco style (takes out the any cheese, sauce and sour cream and replaces it with a zesty tomato salsa).

Taco Bell's latest creation is the Queso Crunchwrap. It is overflowing with cheese, has a crunchy corn tortilla, just enough beef, and is conveniently wrapped in a flour tortilla. Had this been around when I placed my trite, $2 souvenir-win ticket on Big Brown in the Belmont, I most certainly would have given myself some of this medicine — or poison.

My Belmont Day betting was so horrid, that I gave it a grade of 3 Grilled Stuft Burritos and 1 Queso Crunchwrap — the equivalent of a D- in grammar school.

Is this food killing me slowly? Most definitely.

The solution? Place better bets.

Otherwise I deserve all the pain Taco Bell throws my way. Hence the TEMPORARY in the TRFBB quotient.

Speaking of Turfers

The 2007 Breeders' Cup Mile Champion Kip Deville returned to action for the fourth race on Belmont's Sunday card with a walk-through-the-park victory in the Grade 3 Poker Handicap.

The 5-year-old kicked clear on fractions of 24.36, 47.32 and 1:10.20 seconds. He finished the mile-contest in 1:32.9 by 2 3/4 lengths.

"Kip likes to set off," said winning trainer Richard Dutrow, Jr., "that's his game. He found himself on the lead and then Cornelio was able to keep him right in striking distance."

Kip Deville took over the lead six furlongs into the race, seizing the advantage from Sensational Humor.

Tam Lin (GB) got up for second with Operation Red Dawn nabbed third.

IEAH just keeps on rolling. Having won the Smile Handicap Saturday at Calder Race Course with Benny the Bull, it has yet another graded stakes win to ease the pain from Big Brown's Belmont debacle.

"He's (Kip Deville) a super racehorse," said IEAH co-president Michael Iavarone. "We've been running all over the place with him and we're happy to get him to New York. He loves this turf. Just look at his last quarter (22 and change). He's got a great mind, a great everything."

Steppenwolfer, third place finisher to Barbaro in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, made his first start of the year and was never a threat, failing to make any impact while trailing the field of five the entire race.

For Kip Deville, he'll be put back on the shelf until the September 7 running of the Woodbine Mile in Canada.

"It looks like we'll have to keep him where he's at," Dutrow said.

"He broke sharp today, but I was able to settle him down," said winning jockey Cornelio Velasquez. "And he got the last quarter in 22 and change. This should set him up for the big race in Canada."

Then it will be off to Santa Anita for a Breeders' Cup title defense.

Kip Deville paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10.

Questions

As can be expected, the connections for Curlin are a little confused.  Confused in that sense that they are not quite sure what the next step is.

Was Curlin's performance flat-footed in the Man o'War or was he beat by a reputable champion?  Was the race oddly run with two speed horses setting suicidal fractions allowing Red Rocks — who to his credit broke better than Curlin — to sit in a very relaxed third with zero interference? 

The answer may be yes to all of those, but the question becomes, "What next?"

"He ran second," said trainer Steve Asmussen. "We'll just evaluate how he comes out of the race. I don't want to rush to judgement. He was a step slow coming out of the gate. We'll just evaluate more thoroughly. We'll monitor his condition. He looked like he ran second to a Breeders' Cup winner."

And that's just it. It was a Curlin sandwich between two thin pieces of Breeders' Cup Turf Champions.  There isn't much to be upset about from that standpoint.  

"He was Curlin," said majority owner Jess Jackson, "very alert, he even nuzzled me and licked my hand in the paddock, so he knows us, knows what he's doing. We just didn't see that late kick from him today. I don't know if that was because he is still getting used to the turf or what. My feeling right now is that he needs another turf test."

This could also be the case where he may only be OK on turf as compared to his dirt form.  The same way Einstein is a monster on turf going long, but just OK on dirt relative to his turf form. 

But there is a sense that given another chance, he may do something that reminds us just who this chestnut colt is.

"It's up to (his connections) but I'd like to see him get another chance, another shot on the turf," said Curlin's rider Robby Albarado. "It's like a first race for him, a new chapter. He's got tons of talent and maybe that's what got him second today. He felt comfortable over it. But to say he loves it? Maybe next time will be his 'show up' race."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

You're kidding, right?

Some people actually hit the Pick 6.

So angry ...

It paid just over $117,000.

That with Curlin losing and a 21-1 on the fourth leg. This is very, very perplexing.

If there is a silver lining, it's that I won't be playing the Pick 6 on Sunday, inevitably saving myself from losing more than just money: dignity, integrity, morale, etc.

Ahhh, you get the point.

Curlin rocked

This was a bit of wierd one.

Red Rocks, the '06 Turf Champ came back strong and held off Curlin to win the $500,000 Man o'War. Curlin will likely stay third on the career money list behind Cigar and Skip Away with his second place effort.

Mission Approved and Sudan battled on the front, setting testing fractions for other horses to close into. That's just what Red Rocks, Curlin and Better Talk Now did. Red Rocks got the jump to hold on.

The question now becomes whether this performance is enough to send Curlin to France. A win would have a no-brainer, but losing to Red Rocks — a horse who hasn't run well in quite some time — may raise more questions than answers.

I think we all have to remember that to debut in a Grade 1 turf event is a feat in itself and that we have to re-calibrate our compasses and say that a second place is as good as a win in his case. Curlin set the bar so incredibly high for himself that anything short of having his picture taken seems like a loss.

Mabye with more work, he'll be every bit as good on turf as dirt. It will certainly be interesting to see where Steve Asmussen and Jess Jackson want to go with this.

The final time was 2:12 and change.

Thou bomb!

Thou Swell, with long loping strides, wins by a head at 21-1.

This may secure a carryover for Sunday's card.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. But a 9-1, 5-1, 6-5 and a 21-1 usually spell C-A-R-R-Y-O-V-E-R.

Next up: Curlin and Co.

Quixotic Lassie

At long last, here comes the chalk. Quixotic Lassie won by daylight at 6-5.

Shortly after this contest down at Calder Race Course, Mistical Plan punched her ticket to the Filly and Mare Sprint on the first day of the Breeders' Cup with a rousing win in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap. She outlasted Dream Rush in the final furlong. Miraculous Miss came late for second.

Two away from the Man o'War ...

Senor Musician

Senor Musician at 5-1 got up in the final jump to nip 6-5 favorite, Iron Curtain, at the wire.

So we have a 9-1 and a 5-1 through the first two legs.

I've got to admit, this isn't nearly as fun without any money on it.

Talk House

Talk House at 9-1 opens the Pick 6 at Belmont and a whole lot of people are crumbling up those tickets.

Don't crumble yet!

Flatten it out, flatten it out. You could still hit five of six.

What a day for a carryover

There's $52,031 thrown into the Pick 6 pool today at Belmont, and what a day for there to be one. NYRA is letting people in the door for free today so I say take that $2 and make one bold Pick 6 ticket with six singles.

I'll give you one: Curlin in the ninth race.

That one's on the house from your friend at The Carryover.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Odds on

Curlin is 3-5?

It's understandable that he is the favorite given his vast superiority and resume, but need we be reminded that this is his first start on grass?  And that there are other proven turf champions in this race? 

The 2006 Breeders' Cup Turf champion, Red Rocks, is 5-1.  Mission Approved, quite possibly the speed in the race, is 20-1.  The winner of the Sword Dancer, Grand Couturier, is 10-1.  Grandpa Talk Now is 6-1 while drawing the ground-saving rail.

Should you choose to bet against Curlin, there is plenty of money to  be made.  Though betting against Curlin is truly at your own risk, but when that risk is 5-1 or 10-1, it may well be worth the shot.

And if you bet against Curlin and he wins, who cares, right?  You may just witness something truly remarkable and that is worth every penny of a losing ticket.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Man o'War Field and Post Positions

1. Better Talk Now (Ramon Dominguez)
2. Grand Courturier (Calvin Borel)
3. Mission Approved (David Cohen)
4. True Cause (Rajiv Maragh)
5. Sudan (John Velazquez)
6. Red Rocks (Javier Castellano)
7. Curlin (Robby Albarado)

I'm unsure of the pace scenario, but I do know that Mission Approved won the Saranac here at the Spa and recently went gate-to-wire at Woodbine in the Singspiel Stakes. He will certainly be in front.

Shake the Bank (Better Talk Now's rabbit) not being in here is interesting. It could be that he is still spent from setting the pace in the Manhattan on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Who knows? Trainer H. Graham Motion may think there is enough pace for his 9-year-old without Shake the Bank.

With so few horses and having drawn the far outside, it seems that Curlin should get an easy trip. It will allow him to run his race under his conditions.

And if his dirt history repeats itself, that will most certainly be enough on the sod.

Check This Out

Curlin and I have two things in common: we both sweat when we run and we're not on any form of steroid. Check out this story by Joe Drape of the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/10/sports/othersports/10racing.html?ref=sports

There was refreshing commentary from Curlin's majority owner Jess Jackson in this story. Depending on how much you want to read into it, it seems that Jackson may want to run Curlin as a 5-year-old.

Here's hopin'.

Good News

ESPNews plans on televising Saturday's 49th running of the Grade 1 Man o'War Stakes. This wasn't originally the plan, but since Curlin is making his much-anticipated debut on turf, ESPN made sure its cameras will be at Belmont Park.

Curlin's last race — the Stephen Foster Handicap — was next to impossible to find unless fans had the OTB channel or a spot on the rail at Churchill Downs.  

Curlin is a superstar and seeing as this may be one of the final races of his career on North American soil, ESPN did the right thing.

On a completely unrelated topic ...

$40K carryover at Belmont today.  No picks from me.  I urge YOU to go get 'em!  Somebody's gotta win and it may as well be you because it surely won't be me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

War Games

This column will appear in Thursday, July 10's edition of The Saratogian.

How can you bet against Curlin?


Certain horses just have it. They have that instinctive something that says ‘I want to be in front. I want to be a leader. I’m the alpha horse.’


Dozens have it, but maybe none more so than Curlin, which will make him hard to bet against in the Grade 1, $500,000 Man o’ War at Belmont Park on Saturday.


He’ll be hard to avoid at the windows, but that doesn’t mean there are not other viable, proven horses who could snap Curlin’s five-race win streak that started with the Jockey Club Gold Cup in September 2007.


Of particular note is Red Rocks, the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner in 2006, Better Talk Now, winner of the Turf in 2004 and Man o’ War in 2005 and Grand Courturier, winner of the Grade 1 Sword Dancer here at the Spa. Those are the only four horses mentioned as of Wednesday and between them there are 13 Grade 1 or Group 1 victories between them. Better Talk Now has six and Curlin has five.


Curlin’s trainer, Steve Asmussen, has said for the past few weeks that he wants to point Curlin to the Group 1 Prix de L’arc de Triomphe at Longchamps Racecourse in Paris, France. In some circles, this is considered the most prestigious race in the world — certainly in Europe.


“I think that’s the question we want answered this weekend — whether Curlin is of the caliber to be considered for the Arc on the turf,” Asmussen said. “Two previous Breeders’ Cup Turf winners should definitely give us that measure.”


Curlin’s first move over the sod came at Churchill Downs on July 1, following his easy canter in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap. He breezed seven furlongs in 1:31.20 seconds with the dogs way up. He tracked his stablemate Hawaii Calls for most of the work and then turned loose down the stretch, finishing in front by a neck. So it seemed, at least on the surface, that he took to it well.


Throughout Curlin’s magnificent career, he’s shown supreme versatility — racing on the lead, rating or deep closing.


His last few efforts have all come from a stalking position, forwardly placed while waiting for jockey Robby Albarado to find a seam and shoot the chestnut son of Smart Strike to the wire.


The way Albarado found Curlin a hole in the Stephen Foster may prove valuable come Saturday as many turf races come down to how to shuffle through traffic with an eighth of a mile to go. In his previous effort, Curlin was bottled in on the rail and Albarado found a sliver of daylight and took it.


Curlin’s ability to be up closer to the pace will most surely take the traffic factor and trivialize to the extent it can be trivialized.


The goal with Curlin has always been to place him on the world’s biggest stages, to show that he can knockout whatever the globe sends his way, to showcase that Curlin is the greatest horse on the planet, not just North America. He’s done it in America, Dubai and hopefully Paris.


“I think the Arc is one of thee greatest races in the world, and we’re hoping to prove Curlin is one of the greats horses in the world,” Asmussen said. “If we can establish a Grade 1 form on him this Saturday at Belmont in the Man o’ War, we will make arrangements to get him to Chantilly and start our preparations with him to be comfortable going right. Liking the turf is one thing, going right-handed is another.”


A win will not be necessary for Curlin’s connections to send him to the Arc. If he can hang with this group and show that he belongs, then it can be rightly assumed that they will further his development on the grass and then teach him how to run clockwise.


Should he lose this contest — given the depth of the field — it wouldn’t be a total surprise and should he win, well, that wouldn’t be a surprise either. After all, this is Curlin and he’s proven that he’s got that certain something.


Merci beaucoup, Curlin.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A note on 'black type'

It was recently pointed out to me that I better clarify what 'black type' means since I stated that there was no black type in my bio.

Black type is any bold-faced name of a horse in its family's pedigree that won a stakes race.  In the sale catalog it doesn't indicate what kind of stakes race a horse has won (unless it was graded).  There may be a horse who won a cheap stakes race at Turf Paradise and he'll be bolded because it was a stake.  At sales and auctions, members of the horse's family are bolded and it's said that the more black type there is, the better the horse.

Many trainers purchase a "Buyer's Guide" for about $70 prior to the sales.  It's the same as the track-issued sale catalog but different in that it tells how fast a horse in the family ran with a RAG figure.  There may be a mare who ran an eight (lower the better) RAG at Belmont but didn't win a stakes race, so she would not be bolded.  That eight could win maiden allowance in Maryland.  So you actually get a better indication of how fast a family is and you can ignore any scattered black type from inconsequential stakes company.

That is all.  

So all I was saying in my bio was that my pedigree has no such success or stakes winners to speak of.  I would, undoubtedly, be an RNA (reserve not attained) for receiving zero bids in the ring and be ushered shamefully back to my stall begging for a peppermint.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Jerkens Exacta

The second half of the three-year-old season got underway Sunday at Belmont Park with a far-from-thrilling running of the Dwyer Stakes.

Mint Lane, trained by Jimmy Jerkens, took to the 1 1/16-contest as the 0.65-1 favorite and won while being hustled in a time of 1:44.29.

Tizbig, trained by Allen Jerkens, went to post at 33-1 and finished second behind Mint Lane by 2 3/4 lengths.

"You can never count him out," J. Jerkens said of his Hall of Fame father.

"By today's standards, he (Mint Lane) is running a little more often than the average horse. He's stayed fit since his last race, held his flesh well, so we ran him. We'll take him to Saratoga. The Jim Dandy comes up a little quick. I would love to keep him here in New York. You don't want to over-race him and take all the fun out of it for him."

Should the Jim Dandy — run at the Spa on July 27 — be too soon, the Travers Stakes four weeks later is a target for the son of Maria's Mon.

"We will definitely consider the Travers," J. Jerkens continued. "He galloped out really good, so maybe he can go a mile and a quarter."

Pascal, Web Gem, Halo Najib and Ready's Image rounded out the field.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Dialing Back

Indian Blessing showed an extra dimension while winning the Grade 1 Prioress, Saturday at Belmont Park.

The filly sat off the pace.

"(Indian Blessing) broke slow and she was forced to rate," said winning trainer Bob Baffert. "Johnny (Velazquez) just sat her back there and let her run her race."

Which has usually been on the front. In her last race at Belmont Park — the Grade 1 Acorn — she set blistering fractions and was run down by Zaftig. Scaling back to six furlongs served her well and sets her up for sprints over the summer at the Spa.

"Now we know she can rate and that is a dimension you always want to see," Baffert said. "Now, we'll bring her to Saratoga for the Test."

Secret Gypsy set the pace on fractions of 22.20 and 44.74 seconds before giving way to Indian Blessing at the top of the lane. Indian Blessing then kicked clear to win by 5 1/4 lengths under a vigorous hand ride. By the Light finished second with Indian Way completing the trifecta.

Indian Blessing paid $3.30, $2.60 amd $2.10.

Secret Gypsy and Tale of the West rounded out the field.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Race 9: In the Final Jump for $10,056

Unbridled Refrain did get up in the final jump to give me four of six.

What's funny about this is that I hit all three of my single legs and the two legs I lost were the ones I had two horses. I'd like to say that this was skillful handicapping, but the horses that won were by far the class of their races and, as a result, very chalky.

My betting confidant, Pete Motta, said the Grade 2 First Flight was the race he had the hardest time with. And since the one-two horses were not on my radar, and most likely off his, Pete's evaluation was right.

Despite the amount of favorites that won, the Pick 6 paid $10,056.

Five of six paid just $68. I would've made $36 had I hit five of six.

But I didn't.

And now it's off to Taco Bell, God bless it!

Race 8: Speed is holding in a big way

Lucky Island set fractions of :22 and :45 and kicked clear of Tasteyville.

This was a single of mine as his form was validated by Man of Danger's True North and Forefather's win, both on Belmont Stakes Day.

There's no moral victories in handicapping. Either you have money to eat because you cashed a ticket, or you don't. And if Unbridled Refrain wins the next race — another single — it will be like pouring sea salt in an open, hungry wound.

Race 7: Any Limit!?

This filly goes to the lead, setting blistering fractions of :22 and :46 over a sealed track and digs in to hold off Wild Gams.

So angry.

It's times like these when I have to rethink my life and ask myself where I'm going.

Certainly not to the window to cash this coaster.

Good night, everybody!

Race 6: Chalk! Chalk! Chalk!

Hey, Caesar Beware. At 3-4, this gelding took command at the top of the lane and took care of business.

I had this old man singled and with the scratch of about seven horses from this field, Caesar Beware got a nice rail trip and validated the following phrase: much the best.

And now it's on to the First Flight.

Justice, sort of, but not really

Admiral Bird, who won the race, came down from first to fourth after fouling my 2-horse, Doc N Roll. The only problem is that Doc N Roll moved up to third from fourth.

My Man Lars won the race. It should be noted that my favorite drummer is Metallica's Lars Ulrich.

It should also be noted that I need to win out.

Warm up the bus.

Race 5

Everything falls ... apart ... you can count on that, you can count on that.

There is an inquiry, however!

Hold all tickets!

Oh, that Tom Durkin

Turning for home, all four horses I had were in front.

With a furlong out, Durkin said, "And it's Doremefasollati-dooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, who won by half a dozen lengths."

I, too, was singing for being alive, albeit with my widest leg. Now comes the hard part.

C'mon Doc N Roll and Thunder Minister!

Diary of Pick 6: You Think You Know, but You Have No Idea

Jan Rushton just went through the run down of all the first-time shooters. I gotta say, I'm feeling all right. My four choices for this leg are 4-1, 3-1, 2-1 and 7-1.

Did I just say I feel all right?

Uh oh.

Fireworks ... aka ... Carryover




LOCKS OF THE WEEK!

Happy Fourth of July.  How patriotic of Belmont Park to have a $190K carryover on our nation's birthday?  Well, let's get crackin'.

Race 4, 5f, main track, Statebred, Fillies, Md Sp Wt 46K
Sweet Ober Melissa, Not a Peep, Doremifasollatodo, Akilina

Race 5, 1 mile, Widener Turf, State OC 30k/N2X
Doc N Roll, Thunder Minister

Race 6, 6f, inner turf, Clm $35,000
Caesar Beware, Mad Bob Cat

Race 7, 7f, Grade 2 First Flight Handicap for fillies and mares
Rite Moment, Akronism

Race 8, 7f, Grade 2 Tom Fool Handicap
Not for Money, Lucky Island

Race 9, 6f, Clm $35,000N2L
The Cuban Hawk, Unbridled Refrain

This is a $256 ticket.  I'm not quite addicted to gambling yet to spend that much. 

If I choose to play this Pick 6, I'll likely single Caesar Beware, Rite Moment and Lucky Island thus knocking the ticket down to $32.  Even Unbridled Refrain could be a single in the ninth race to knock the price down even further to $16. 

It takes money to make money!

I'll be at work tonight, so with a 3 p.m. first post, I should be able to keep a rolling Pick 6 diary for your amusement.  At the very least, for my own amusement.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

So long, Heatseeker

Heatseeker, the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, was retired after suffering an injury to his suspensory ligament.

Heatseeker has been training out west on the synthetic surfaces for Jerry Hollendorfer.   Running on the synthetic surfaces often leads to soft tissue injuries and that's what happened to the Giant's Causeway horse.

The suspensory ligament runs behind the cannon bone on the lower limbs and since a horse bears about 70 percent of its weight on the front, it's no wonder the front limbs become lame.  The suspensory is a broad strap of tissue that keeps the fetlock from bending too far down.  

Heatseeker would've been a favorite to win the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita this year.