Saratoga Diary: Fast and firm…doesn’t last

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TwinSpires Staff

August 11th, 2018

by Dick Powell

Finally, we have fast and firm track and course conditions. There is a bunch of bad weather to our south so the question today is can the high pressure system to the north keep it from coming up and affecting Saratoga Springs? Right now, I would say no and I am bringing an umbrella to the track. With the Arlington Million (G1) being contested today, we do not have Jose and Irad Ortiz Jr., Johnny Velazquez, Joel Rosario or Florent Geroux. Javier Castellano is here and has a bunch of live mounts. Luis Saez also stayed and could make up ground on the leader, Irad Ortiz Jr.

Breaking news at 12:10 p.m. (ET) - Races 4 and 5 are now off the turf. Looks like the bad weather is arriving and it is drizzling at the track. Not surprised but disappointed. Wish we could get all the bad weather on Monday and Tuesday instead of Saturday and Sunday. The main track is now good and the turf courses are also good.

Even with trouble going into the first turn where Javier Castellano had to slam on the brakes aboard PROGNISTICATION to avoid Kendrick Carmouche coming over on him, the Chad Brown trainee was able to rally and win decisively in Race 1. He was coming off a 307-day layoff and his connections opted to waive the claiming tag since he returned for the same price.

Race 2 was the first division of a maiden special weight for juveniles going seven furlongs that was split with Race 6. Todd Pletcher first-time starter Chief Executive took a lot of money and wound up the odds-on favorite. He was bumped at the start after getting away slowly and Pletcher’s other starter, Baffin Bay, was reluctant to load. UNIONIZER was making his second start, after showing no gate speed in his debut, and added blinkers. Junior Alvarado put him on the lead and he never gave it up to hold on by a half-length over longshot Johny’s Bobby. The final time was 1:26.29 as the track was very slow at that point of the day.

Race 3 was the Adirondack Stakes (G2) for juvenile fillies going 6 1/2 furlongs. This was a sprint with lots of lead changes and even when eventual winner SUE’S FORTUNE took the lead, it still looked like someone might run her down. Guacamole was not making up ground but second-choice Virginia Eloise rallied from way back and the final margin shrunk at the wire as Junior Alvarado was way overconfident heading to the wire. The official chart of the race says that he took a peek at the video board and saw Virginian Eloise coming and if he hadn’t, he might have blown a Grade 2 race.

Race 4 was taken off the turf and, because it was a two-turn race for juveniles, run at seven furlongs on the main track. Over a painfully slow main track, Ken McPeek’s CAIRO CAT rallied from off the pace to get up by a head with David Cohen. Like Time Warp the other day, having a previous race, any kind of race, helped second time out. Like Time Warp, Cairo Cat is a son of new sire Cairo Prince. Twelfthofneverland was sensational racing between horses and then finishing on the rail in tight quarters. If Teachable Moment could run straight, he would really be something.

Race 5 was off the turf and there was a ton of scratches from the contest for older horses going seven furlongs on the main track. The drizzle turned into rain at this point and the track noticeably quicker. GREEK ALPHABET did nothing in his first two career starts on turf. He won going gate to wire on the turf last out at seven furlongs and was consistently bet at 5-2 here. Sent to the lead by Rajiv Maragh, he came over on two of his five rivals and stalked the pace to the stretch where he asserted himself. Bill Mott had two in here and they finished third and sixth.

Before Race 6, the Mellon turf course was rolled. It was a light tractor and the roller was not too big or heavy but I did notice it and take note.

In Race 6, the second division of the split maiden special weight for juveniles, Chad Brown’s NETWORK EFFECT was 8-1 in the early betting. Even with Javier Castellano and a fast workout two weeks ago, he stayed at 8-1 and actually went off at 86-10. It was one of those instances where you were much better NOT looking at the toteboard. Castellano had him fourth early then joined the fray and won by three lengths. I was stunned. Not that he won but that I didn’t bet him. We like to see our first-time starters get some love on the board but the lack of it resulted in a $19.20 mutuel for Brown/Castellano.

Race 7 stayed on the turf and was run at 5 1/2 furlongs for first-level allowance fillies and mares. Even with the rain, the course was not as bad as it looked. Violent Times, sent off at 29-1 and equipped with a bar shoe for the first time, went to the front and almost held on. The only one that could catch her was SISTER SOPHIA, who ran her down in the stretch for Javier Castellano and Jorge Abreu.

The Fourstardave Handicap (G1) was Race 8 and it showed that it takes two to make a speed duel. On paper, it looked like VOODOO SONG and Heart to Heart might hook up, but Jose Lezcano put the pedal down around the clubhouse turn and Voodoo Song opened up a commanding lead down the backside all by himself. His lead began to evaporate turning for home but the New York-bred son of English Channel dug in and gamely held on to win by a neck. Heart to Heart faded to last over ground he disliked and Delta Prince’s stretch rally wasn’t helped any when Made You Look bumped him. English Channel won the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) on bottomless ground and his son here certainly liked the give in it today.

Race 9 was more of the Chad Brown parade of winners as PATTERNRECOGNITION was a game winner going seven furlongs over Phi Beta Express awarded Brown his third winner of the day, giving him 22 in the first 20 days of Saratoga racing.

The Lure Stakes was canceled last Saturday and re-drawn and run today as Race 10. Jose Lezcano timed INSEPCTOR LYNLEY’s late move perfectly and last year’s Saranac Stakes (G3) winner won this going away over fellow closer Projected.

Race 11 was taken off the turf at 5:22 p.m. and, because the Pick 6 had already started, became an “All” race. There was a slew of scratches, both early and late, so only a field of five was left. What I liked about the five that were left was none of the trainers had won a race yet so someone was avoiding “The Duck.” Pat Kelly’s FANCYCASE made a move to take the lead on the far turn of the seven-furlong dirt sprint and held off 4-5 favorite Dancingwithdaffodls in 1:27.23. David Cohen continues to ride the dirt course here exceptionally well and is very strong in the stretch.


Who knows what Sunday will bring so we will stick to the main track for our selection. In Race 6, Chad Brown sends out #3 FEEDBACK for the 6 1/2-furlong dirt sprint for juvenile fillies. She is by Violence, who sires 22 percent debut winners and 22 percent off-track winners, and we will bet her early and not get swayed by the toteboard.