Keep your eyes and ears open when it rains at Saratoga
by DICK POWELL
Sometimes when you listen, you hear a lot of things. Saturday at Saratoga saw severe thunderstorms hit the track late in the afternoon. I wisely left after six races to beat the rain and lucky I did since the main track turned to mud by the ninth race.
The feature race, the Fourstardave H. (G1), was left on the turf, and for all those people that whine when tracks take races off the turf, go back and watch the replay of it. With only six horses in the race, it did incalculable damage to the Mellon turf course as the horses were kicking up divots the size of which I hadn't seen since I gave up golf.
The turf was listed on-track as "Good" on Saturday but Equibase got it right with their "Yielding" designation. I know, nobody wanted to see the Fourstardave run on a muddy main track, but the only saving grace from running it on the turf Saturday was the rail was out at 18 feet so part of the course was saved.
When the severe weather hit Saratoga, post times were delayed and the eleventh race went off at 7:18 p.m. The 11th race was taken off the turf and since pick six wagering had already begun, it became an "all" race for wagering purposes. Only seven of the original 15 entrants remained and even the "main track only" horse scratched since the rain came so late.
During NYRA's paddock report, Maggie Wolfendale provided great insight on how turf horses can only wear flat shoes. Main Track Only horses can wear turndowns since they will not be racing on the turf and only if the race gets switched to the main track.
But Wolfendale had information on three of the original starters had switched to turndowns. Their trainers were able to get farriers to come over and change shoes in the time between when the rain hit and the 11th race. More traction on a wet track is a big deal and the next time sudden weather hits and races come off the turf, I will pay attention to any shoe changes. And if I am not paying attention, Maggie will.
The Saratoga main track has become a source of controversy on many fronts. The meet is only half over and more horses have broken down than last year. The protestors outside the main gate are there every year, but this year they have a few facts on their side.
This past weekend saw a severe inside bias that lasted before during and after the rain. It helped to be on the lead while down on the inside and if you were going to come from behind, it paid to try to do it on the inside. Put August 12 and 13 in your memory bank so that when these dirt horses come back next time out, give points to the horses that raced on the outside and deduct points from those that raced on the inside.
After 21 days of racing through Sunday, Irad Ortiz Jr. leads his brother Jose 31 to 29 in the riders standings. Chad Brown leads Todd Pletcher 24 to 23 in the trainers race and that battle should come down to the final weekend.
Later on Saturday, the Arlington Million (G1) looked like it was going according to form. Favored DEAUVILLE was sitting behind the leaders while saving ground. The only drama appeared to be how he would get past longshot OAK BROOK, who was setting a modest pace.
Joel Rosario made what turned out to be the winning move out of the gate when he put BEACH PATROL up on the pace and he would get the first-over trip. Ken Ramsay's OSCAR NOMINATED raced in between horses throughout and FANCIFUL ANGEL was racing in traffic while stuck on the inside.
For a moment going to the half-mile pole, it looked like Beach Patrol might be in trouble when GHOST HUNTER moved up three wide but he didn't continue on with the pressure. The field was bunched up turning for home and Ryan Moore's prayers were answered as Oak Brook drifted out just enough to give Deauville plenty of room to have clear sailing on the rail.
Moore is usually impossible to pass once he strikes the front but Rosario had Beach Patrol in a drive and the two hooked up. Moore on the inside, Rosario on the outside but the fight was settle in the final sixteenth when Beach Patrol surged to the front, Deauville weakened, and Daniel Muscutt deftly got Fanciful Angel out of traffic and rallied hard to get second. Deauville was third and ENTERPRISING flew up the inside to be a close fourth. The international horses finished second and third but no cigar this year.
For trainer Chad Brown, it capped a big day at Arlington where he not only won the Million but the Beverly D (G1) with DACITA.