Pricci's Saratoga Diary
For the next 40 days of New York racing, Executive Editor John Pricci will provide his insights on all things Saratoga for the 35th consecutive year in his original "Saratoga Diary." It debuted in 1977, the year Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown and Jatski was placed first in the Travers Stakes following the disqualification of Run Dusty Run. So keep up with the cold exactas, hot issues, and build your own stable of live horses, all from John's unique perspective, exclusively at

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Rachel Wins Professionately, Devil May Care Impresses; Now What?

SARATOGA SPRINGS, July 24, 2010--

Dear Diary,

6:15: There was a pretty good show on television, scheduled for 5:57, starring the “Princess of Monmouth,” a.k.a., Rachel, a one-name phenomenon like Michael or LeBron or Tiger or any of the rest.

Well, she didn’t disappoint, sort of. At the moment, on deadline, don’t know what to make of the performance. The heat index at Monmouth was 105, real temperature 99 about an hour before post to the Lady’s Secret.

But, of course, it was hot for all of them.

She was never in danger of defeat at any time. She drifted on the first turn, by design, or otherwise. The farther a speed horse gets away from the fence, the more amenable to rating. That’s the theory, anyway.

After stalking in hand, Calvin asked her just head stretch and she made a sudden move to the lead. But then she went to lugging in and Borel had to ride her to straighten her away. Doubt very much that was by design.

It wasn’t the easiest of trips for the extremely gifted Devil May Care. She broke a half-beat slow from the seven-slip in the short run to the first turn, Johnny Velazquez keeping her on hold while between horses for the entire backstretch run, until he eased her to the outside, biding his time until the far turn.

Moving up to contend on her own, she took the lead under no pressure as JV was sneaking peaks. Finally, leaving the three-sixteenths pole, he asked for her best and she gave it to him, hitting the line in 1:49.42.

That’s a pretty good go off a half mile of :48 and a tick. At the risk of stating the obvious, this is one very good filly. The Alabama, then her elders, are up next…..

The track was upgraded to good prior to the seventh race and if it hadn’t, it certainly would have been after debuting Wine Police ran off the screen with 5-½ furlongs in 1:03:36, a tad over a tick off the track record.

Well, there still was some moisture in the surface and he is a son of champion sprinter, wet track loving Speightstown. Then Steve Asmussen came right back with the fast Ash Dee for a natural double. Challenged throughout, she showed her class…….

We’ll wait for tomorrow and watch a replay. All I know is that if I were Jerry Moss, I’d have to be issuing challenges right now. “Meet you in the Personal Ensign,” he should say.

Moss doesn’t sound like a man who want to run at a track where you break an opening day attendance record and the next morning you close the track for training because it “was uneven in spots,” some said. “There were holes in it,” said another.

So come East. We’ve got 10 furlongs for you, and no detention. “[The Del Mar] track has a lot of problems,” said Moss. “I’m deeply concerned.” Moss’s mare, Zenyatta, is temporarily scheduled to race in the Clement Hirsch at Del Mar, August 7.

A factoid for the deeply concerned Mr. Moss. There were no breakdowns on the Saratoga dirt track all of 2009, that trend continuing thus far in 2010. So, come on down. If Rachel doesn’t show up, then you will have won, without lifting a hoof…

2:55: Very formful start to the day as the first and third races, rescheduled to the main track, went to a pair of Main Track Only favorites, Mineswept and Keep Me Informed, respectively, promptly getting Phil Serpe and Bill Mott off the duck. It was pretty routine stuff…

We’ve had more than our share of New York bred juveniles that can run, and another debuted yesterday. Never Right Joey, a Tapit colt from a Woodman mare, was forced to get going from his inside slip, took pressure throughout, repelling a strong bid by the experienced co-favorite, D’Sauvage, and actually was drawing away late. Time of 1:05 and-change looks pretty good at the moment. Diary, let’s see the rest of the results before drawing any conclusions…

Connie And Michael, an early co-second favorite in the CCAO, developed an abscess Friday, necessitating her withdrawal. Trainer Dominic Schettino hopes to have her back in time for the Alabama, August 21...

A little controlled aggressive from Rajiv Maragh got Compliance Officer home in the first turf race of the day, contested on yielding ground. He held the stalking Bull Hole at bay, opened ground approaching head stretch and withstood perfect tripping Good Prospect’s stretch bid, looking to become Linda Rice’s first win of the meet.

1:25: If he were still with us, Ray Charles would be pleased with the new and improved Saratoga Tote Board. They re-programmed it, or whatever, and now it’s actually possible to see the odds! The saddle cloth numbers are still a bit small, but at least they’re, you know, color coordinated. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings…

With Delaware and Philadelphia Park canceling today due to excessive heat, my colleague Paul Moran wondered whether that would have been the case at Monmouth Park today if, you know, SHE wasn’t there. Hopefully, the summer wind, is blowing in, from across the street…!

Sometimes competition is not a good thing. Opening day attendance figures were a little late in coming and, when they did, comparisons were made between opening days and corresponding Fridays, which measured Saratoga v Belmont.

Now you can’t do that. While it makes sense, vis a vis the calendar, couldn’t we just call it for what it is, a paradigm shift? It’s now a 40 day meet, comparisons with 36 day meetings are specious.

NYRA has been describing every recent action an improvement because it brings a new measure of “transparency” to the process at hand. In that spirit, why not “We had 23,000 today, opening day, and the weather was lousy.

“We were happy with $3.1 million on track, about a buck-fifty per cap in a crowd of first-time starters and party people. We think that’s pretty good.

“And considering we were virtually flat at Belmont--not our best summer quality and quantity-wise--we were thrilled. Everyone else was done just about double digits. We’re thinking it’s half full for us. Onward and upward!”

Written by John Pricci

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