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 HorseRaceInsider.com.
 

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Jim Dandy to the Rescue


July 28, 2012—The day begins beneath overcast skies, tracks rated good and good for the turf courses. Sorry, but they still appear to be playing as if firm.

The weather will be an issue for the next week. Thunderstorms are a possibility each and every day, typical of Saratoga, climate change or no climate change.

Let’s hope the racing office doesn’t continue to get carried away by overusing the turf course. Everyone loves betting on big open fields for the opportunities presented. And bean counters believe that “spread” races are a sure way to boost handle.

They are wrong but then betting never was the purview of the typical racetrack executive.

If anyone reads this and agrees, button-hole Mr. Campo, remind him that Messrs. Hayward and Handel are no longer peering over his shoulder, and it’s OK if once in a while, you don’t back-end the Late Pick 4 with all turf races given the possibility of adverse weather conditions.

Here is more A-B-C type information. If presented with an extremely difficult sequence, many bettors will pass, including the whales. In fact, perceived “singles” are why bettors step into the horizontal pools with some gusto.

And here’s another variable. When one of those short-priced singles are beaten, payoffs increase exponentially for those who know how to craft these types of wagers.

If you agree, try sending e-mails to the appropriate parties. Please take the high road; leave sarcasm to the professionals.

FIRST RACE-Raison D’Etat, second in last year’s Curlin then beaten off in the Travers, returned following a six month layup, was ridden confidently by Junior Alvarado from the #9 post going two turns, made a winning move into the stretch and won comfortably.

This was the second horse Bill Mott had ready to fire off the bench going two turns at this meet. The hunch is he will be right there in the trainer standings when this session ends on Labor Day, turning a lot of those early-meet seconds and thirds into wins.

SECOND-There was an awful lot of chatter surrounding Kittens Joy newcomer Charming Kitten from the Ramseys, who turned the juvenile colt over the Todd Pletcher. Neither Pletcher nor the horse disappointed.

Ridden was confidence bordering arrogance, Javier Castellano was content to stalk from third in the 3-path, moved approaching headstretch and drew off late after being roused approaching the sixteenth pole when another newcomer, Fire Guard, loomed a late threat. Castellano leaned over, got a little busy, and his colt held a clear margin safely at the end.

Note that he has a future. Fire Guard, 30-1 for Mott, belongs in your stable mail. Should not be a maiden for long. Also, Newfound Zapper got underway late and was going very nicely at the finish; tab this Wesley Ward trainee as well.

THIRD-Just when I was thinking that a decade ago you would never get 30-1 on a Mott juvenile debuting on turf, Pletcher gets it done with 10-1 newcomer Lawn Man, who cleared the field easily from his outside post and was not seriously threatened in 1:11.25. Never would have gotten that price just last week!

FOURTH and FIFTH-Upsets happen, of course, but to think boxcar payoffs were available on Pete’s Parley and Our Edge, respectively, ridden by Junior Alvarado and Jose Lezcano, respectively, shows just how deep the current New York colony is. In fact, it’s the deepest we can ever remember, yes?

NINTH-The Grade 1 Diana went as advertised, albeit not entirely. In a television interview Saturday morning, trainer Jimmy Toner said he would not take Winter Memories out of her best game—lay back and show off her awesome turn of foot.

Either Toner is a good poker player or Javier Castellano had other ideas.

Stalking from the 3-path while third in the field of six; Winter Memories tracked what was a solid pace over the wet turf, moved to challenge seriously at headstretch then showed off that tremendous kick, blowing the race open in less than a sixteenth of a mile.

Now it could be that she found her herself in front earlier than is customary and began to idle or European shipper Dream Peace simultaneously hit her best stride. In any case, there was a bit of an anxious moment, however brief.

The gray filly withstood the challenger by a length and a half, Dream Peace holding daylight between herself and defending Diana champion, Zagora. Dream Peace will remain in America, in the barn of Chad Brown, who now has a new stablemate for Zagora.

TENTH-Yesterday, it was Street Life in the Curlin, tomorrow it’s likely to be one of three classicists that comes home with the Haskell trophy, but today it was all Alpha In the Jim Dandy, the quintessential Travers prep, it was all Alpha, thanks to a sharp start and clever rating from Dominguez, who added to his meet leading total in wire to wire style.

One can quibble a bit but Alpha and his partner just 12-clipped this field into submission, with splits of :24.40, :49.30, 1:14.03 and 1:38.19 en route to nine furlongs in a very solid 1:50.47 over a sealed sloppy strip that appeared a bit tiring.

Away from the races since the Kentucky Derby over his least favorite surface, Churchill Downs, he was pointing for the Belmont Stakes but spiked a fever at the wrong time and Kiaran McLaughlin just backed off, shipped him up to Saratoga where the colt has been in steady and sharp training since late June.

The Jim Dandy was Alpha’s second graded stakes win and he’s placed twice at the Grade 1 level in the Champagne and Wood Memorial, but he’s never won on the lead until yesterday. It’s nice to know there’s another weapon in the arsenal. One never knows when it will come in handy.

Written by John Pricci

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