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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Saratoga’s Underappreciated Tradition

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, July 28, 2011--Among my colleagues I’m pretty much in the minority, but I really enjoy good steeplechasing which, given the smaller number of competitors, is pretty good straight across the board.

After all, it costs just as much to keep a bad horse in training as a good one, so given the jump set‘s limited number of opportunities in any given year, owners need good horses to compete for good purses.

On balance, live steeplechase racing may be more popular than their mainstream brethren racing on the flat at smaller venues. And it‘s not unusual at any meet up and down the Eastern seaboard for crowds of 25,000 or more. In fact, it’s commonplace.

Chasing’s event days are conducted without any wagering and the crowds still come. Apparently, America--American families anyway--can still build their day around the entry of horseracing and tailgating.

As far as wagering is concerned--and I remind players every year--it’s OK to bet on horses that leave the ground. I conducted a study back in the 80s and favorites won nearly half the races over a five-year period.

So jump horses clearly yield formful results unlike, say, their brothers from another racemare, turf sprinters.

The Spa crowd made a handicapping slip in the first jump event of the season, the Jonathan Kiser Memorial Stakes. Of course, DEMONSTRATIVE had a right to be the favorite. But a 4-yerar-old spotting actual weight to older horses over fences first time over the course as an 8-5 choice was a little much.

Win or lose, that’s almost always a poor percentage play. Four-year-old jumpers are babies compared to “older horse” counterparts on the flat. At higher weights and over obstacles, the games are a lot different.

Meanwhile, Demonstrative owns a big turn of foot and attempted a balcony move off the final turn, but had to settle for place as he finished a bit one-paced after clearing the final fence.

The winning All Together benefited from the expert handling of Xavier Aizpuru who engineered a perfect trip sitting behind the pacesetter throughout. The 6-year-old, carried 153 to the younger’s 149.

They’ve now split the three meetings 2-1 in favor of All Together, this Blind Luck-Harve De Grace of the jump step. Given the trips, however, you might consider that the youngster will even the score again the next time they meet.

Don’t believe we’ve ever done this. The National Steeplechase and Hunt Assn. has just published the 2010 American Steeplechase Annual for 2010 and is as comprehensive as it is beautiful.

If interested in more information, contact the NSHA at 400 Fair Hill Drive, Elkton, Md., 21921. The price tag is hefty, $50, but worth it in our view.

NBC Makes a Score in Coaching Club Oaks

Anyone I’ve run into here, and online for that matter, were routinely generous in their praise of the efforts of the NBC telecast of last Saturday’s 3-year-old filly fixture. But apparently it was more than just an aesthetic success.

The first leg in the racing series emanating from Saratoga this summer, to be carried alternately by the network and its cable affiliation, Versus, was a success at the ratings trough as well.

According to the NYRA, the CCAO telecast attracted 1.8 million viewers which was, with the exception of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic featuring Zenyatta’s quest for immortality, higher than the last four Breeders’ Cup cablecasts on ESPN. Nearly 3-million viewers watched last year’s Classic.

Trips Galore

Was looking forward to today’s fifth race, a mile and a sixteenth for juvenile fillies on the turf that normally provides a treasure trove of trips. How many trips? Well, only saw it live, and two complete replays, and I wasn’t done. Grab a pencil, anyway:

First, the winner: CRAZY PARTY was a perfect trip winner but that’s not the story; point is this juvenile homebred was as big as a house, won in full stride, and Johnny Velazquez had a tough time pulling her up as she galloped out strongly into the backstretch before slowing down.

REGALO MIA ran too good to lose but finished second, completing a Pletcher-Former Pletcher Exercise Rider exacta.

Michelle Nihei’s filly tried a balcony move on the turn--a victim of circumstance, not poor judgment--the momentum carrying the filly into the middle of the course where she continued to rally strongly for place. Sligo Bay miss will be a much shorter price when she returns; bet back.

FORMATIVE, making debut for Bill Mott, was rank while showing good speed as the rider attempted to cover her up. The nightmare continued until approaching the quarter-pole, here she checked, finally found a seam, and finished willingly when clear; also will not be a maiden long.

Meanwhile, GREAT MILLS remained undefeated at 5-½ on the grass, making a premature three-wide sweep on the far turn but gamely out finished an extremely game FUDGESICKLE to in the second running of the Quick Call.

Alabama Bound?

KINDA SPICY might be something special with further development. She broke her maiden by nearly seven lengths going a mile at Belmont, came back in a nine furlong two-turner and won by open lengths again, Velazquez taking no chances and placing her outside during the backstretch run.

Written by John Pricci

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