Saratoga Diary: Day Ten
by DICK POWELL
The last day of week two saw the turf still less than firm and the main track a blazing fast condition. Not sure why they continue to treat it as if it is going to rain but it is tight as a drum.
Race 1 was the postponed A.P. Smithwick Memorial (G1) over the hurdles. I am not much of a steeplechase guy but I did notice that the two highweights finished fifth and sixth out of seven. 14/1 SHOW COURT won in a game effort for Arch Kingsley Jr.
Either the teletimer was broke in race 2 or the track needs to be dug up and harrowed. $12,500 claimers went 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.77 as SAL THE TURTLE did all the work on the lead and romped by over four lengths for the lethal combination of Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana Jr. Three of the six runners were claimed but the winner was not.
Wesley Ward is money in turf sprints around the world but the betting public let BATTLE STATION go off at a generous 5-2. Johnny Velazquez stalked a slow early pace and had too much energy left in the stretch. NEW YORK SONG rallied from way back to win the photo for second as New York-breds ran first and second against open company allowance foes.
Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana Jr. were at it again in race 4 when they dropped DIVINE INTERVENTIO all the way down to $14K claimers and he came from way back to get fourth in 1:10.01. They are this year's version of Pletcher/Velazquez who dominated here for so many years. LIGHTNING BUG held on gamely for second but he was allowed to set a modest pace and might get overbet next time out.
Two-year-old maiden $50,000 claimers appeared in race 5 and it attracted a full gate of 10 going 5 1/2 furlongs on the main track. Joe Sharp has been red-hot at the meet and after running second in his career debut at Churchill Downs, BACKTOHISROOTS was bet down to just less than even money favoritism. With Luis Saez aboard, there was never an anxious moment and he won by nearly four lengths over 44-1 first-time-starter IRISH ROAR. The book-end exacta between the favorite and the longest shot on the board returned $139.
The action in race 6 switched to the inner turf course which is still rated as good despite a couple of decent days of weather. It shows how much rain hit the area Friday and Saturday and you could tell by the fractions that there is still give in the ground. HIGH PROMISE was winless in 9 starts coming in but this was his first time going three turns. Manny Franco picked up the mount as Luis Saez stayed with Bill Mott's PROMPT and after settling in after a rough start, Franco produced him turning for home and he was much the best by three lengths at 9-22 over favored COURSE CORRECTION.
The Coronation Cup was race 7 and Luis Saez was at it again. He gunned BROADWAY RUN to the front from post 10 and braced for the late challenges in the turf sprint. ORIGINATOR was on the outside and LADY SUEBEE became the ham in the ham sandwich as she raced between horses. Broadway Run hung on by three-quarters of a length for Saez, who was winning his meet-leading 13th race of the meet and paid $13.40 to win. There were lots of bad trips in behind as FACTORWON and CLOSER STILL paid the price for traffic down on the inside.
It looked like Joe Sharp would have another winner in race 8 when MAHO BAY took over turning for home in the dirt sprint for starter allowance runners but David Cohen ran them down with SPECIAL RELATIVITY. They are not as dominant as Santana/Asmussen but Coehn and Robertino Diodoro have now won four races together at the meet.
High-class optional claimers took the track for race 9; a 1 3/8-mile inner turf event for older horses. Jose Ortiz, fresh off his win in the Haskell (G1) yesterday at Monmouth Park, had FOCUS GROUP clear in the middle of the course and won going away by three-quarters of a length. The time of 2:16.44 was about three seconds slow and the son of Kitten's Joy out of a Dynaformer mare certainly had the pedigree for it. CHANNEL CAT was a one-paced second for Todd Pletcher and Luis Saez.
Tomorrow, we will take a close look at week two and see what we can uncover after 10 days of racing.