Saratoga Diary: Monomoy Girl clinches a championship, get in 'Stride' on Monday
by DICK POWELL
If you saw the radar last evening here, it was odds-on that today would be a washout. There was a huge “Nor’Easter” coming up the coast and it looked like no area would be spared. These are the storms we usually get in the winter and their counter-clockwise motion sucks moisture off the ocean and drops a lot of precipitation in a short period of time.
Amazingly, Saratoga was kind of in the middle of it so most of the heavy rain hit to the west and then the east with hardly any hitting the track. This morning, the word was that an announcement would be made around 10AM regarding the turf races and they all stayed on. The main track started out as “Good” and the turf courses were rated “Firm.” Race five saw the main track upgraded to “Fast.”
Race one was a main track sprint going six furlongs and Tied Up was an extremely overbet 45/100 favorite. He battled for the lead out of the gate but was under severe pressure. Luis Saez had PURE PRAISE three wide on the pace and was able to get a hard-earned victory over three longshots as the favorite faded to fifth. The running time of 1:11.73 seconds was way slower than what we saw yesterday.
Race two was a maiden race for 2yo fillies on the Mellon turf course and it had kind of an unusual result. Mark Casse sent out an entry and they were first and second in the early going. CHOCOLATE KISSES took over from stablemate Toy Moon and won by a length. Usually, we see entries where one does the work and the other cleans up but these two were ridden as they should and it resulted in a first and third for Casse whose juveniles are firing on all cylinders.
The turf action switched over to the inner turf course for race three; a non-winners of two other than allowance event for fillies and mares. Javier Castellano gave LA MONEDA a perfect ride while clear on the outside and surged to a 1 3/4-length win over Dolce Lili. The stewards took a look but let the result stand. They have been taking a lot of looks so far at the meet and I like it.
Race four was a $25K claimer on the main track going 6 1/2 furlongs. We talked yesterday how this distance has a big runup to the timing pole and usually results in faster than normal first quarter miles. Ron Moquett’s THE RED DUDE stalked the pace, took over at the top of the stretch, and was passed by 3/2 favorite Adulation. Under Luis Saez, he battled back after falling a length behind to win by an improbable neck.
So, here is where I got smart. I was alive to three horses in the last leg of the Pick Five. The 5 was going to pay $467, the 6 was going to pay $1,788 and the 8 was going to pay $511. Sick of all the times I hit the first four and had nothing to show for it, I bet $20 to win on the 1, 4 and 7 then $50 to win on the 2 and 3. All my bases were covered and with $121 into the race and then another $160 on the hedge, I locked in a profit of around $300 no matter who won and if WOODERSON won for Todd Pletcher and Johnny Velazquez, I would win about $1,500.
Wooderson was 5/1 for most of the betting then drifted up to 7/1 at post time. Johnny stalked the pace outside of Domain who broke sharply for Jose Lezcano, took over in the lane and held off Point to Remember safely by a length. It was the best outcome for me but I was happy that I used my head and locked in a profit no matter what happened. And, I did it “Caveman” style – 3 X 3 X 3 X 3 X3.
Jason Servis has been the hottest trainer in America lately and he showed it again in race six when BAM BAM BLU won a turf sprint against starter allowance foes. The 6yo gelded son of Curlin broke his maiden by 10 lengths last out in an off-the-turf event at Monmouth Park and was strong in the lane to run down early leader No Regrets.
Race seven was not run on a wet track like expected. Golden Award gunned to the front and was prompted by ASCOT WALK. They battled to the deep stretch where Ascot Walk pulled away under another heady ride from Joe Bravo. My pick, French Empire, chased down on the inside and was a distant third. Watch her next time out.
Chad Brown is sending out winners like he could break 50 wins this meet and he and owner Peter Brant combined for another win in race eight when GUERRIERE pulled away to win rather easily going a two-turn mile on the inner turf course. Javier Castellano has been riding lights out and making all the right decisions. He had a poor meet last year, by his standards, and is looking to make amends this year.
Florent Geroux did a great job with front-running Horse of the Year Gun Runner last year and is now employing the same tactics this year with MONOMOY GIRL. He is able to get her to relax, finish strong and her win today in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) was her fourth straight Grade 1 stakes win. Never in doubt, he led through modest fractions with some pressure from Gio Game and drew off to an easy-as-expected win. Undefeated in five starts this year, you can pencil her in for the Eclipse Award for champion 3yo filly.
As for Monday, I know breaking from the rail on the inner turf can lead to traffic problems but in race five, I like #1 MORNING STRIDE. Adam Beschizza wins 19% with his turf rides and he beat decent allowance foes two starts back at Churchill Downs. He had a wide trip there last out and drops down to $50K claimers for Joe Sharp – 26% when he rides Beschizza. The Churchill turf course is the same seven-furlong configuration as the Saratoga inner turf course so I don’t think he will have any problems handling it.