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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Big Weekend Everywhere

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, July 27, 2014—With apologies to any venue that puts up a million dollars for a Grade 1 event, and to call the William Hill Haskell Invitational a prep for the Travers is more than a little cheeky but many fans regarded Sunday’s War at the Shore as round three of Travers prep weekend.

What was supposed by many to be a triumphant victory by a sensational filly over males, or a competitive race rich in talent, turned into a romp for the brilliant Bayern, giving Bob Baffert a record seventh victory in this race and jockey Martin Garcia a record-tying third.

In the process, Bayern ran himself out of the Grade 1 7-furlong King’s Bishop on August 23rd here. Does that mean a run in the Travers off this devastating 7-1/4 length score in 1:47.82?

This was a Breeders' Cup Classic “win and you’re in” event, not by definition a stepping stone to the Travers. All Baffert would say after the race was: “I don’t think I’ll back him up after this.” Who could blame him

And while Steve Asmussen didn’t say it, I don’t think he or his connections want any part of Grade 1 colts anytime soon, although Untapable did get bumped at the start then raced wide throughout, legitimate excuses. But neither did she truly fire.

Rachel Alexandra? Can we officially stop the madness now?

What was so impressive about Bayern, even if the track was kind to speed later in the day, the surface was not aberrantly fast [the Monmouth Cup went 1.23 seconds slower than the track record for 1-1/16 miles; the Teddy Drone sprint 1.55 slower and Bayern 1.02 seconds off Spend A Buck’s 1:46.80] and the winner made two moves on the lead, arguably three, as the hickory third-finisher Wildcat Red tried him twice from close range but each time the winner repelled his bid.

The guess here is that Bayern returns to home base and races once between now and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. We shall see…

BACK TO SPA BUSINESS: One thing we can confirm is that if all goes well, the first three out of the Jim Dandy will be back; Wicked Strong, Tonalist and Kid Cruz. That final furlong should be, well, a dandy.

The hot duel up front and Rosie’s soft hands helped Coup De Grace find the Grade 2 Amsterdam winners’ circle. Three-year-old chestnut is now 2-for-2 for Larry Jones. With a couple of heady turf rides previously, it seems that any rust Ms. Napravnik endured since being grounded by injury is officially gone…

Indeed, that was quite a debut by Competitive Edge, apparently a well named juvenile that cost about five times the average Super Saver at the Keeneland fall sale (the freshman sire had another winner Sunday)…

“Every time we did something with him it was impressive,” said Todd Pletcher of the colt’s morning trials. “He did it pretty easily,” said Johnny V of the 10-1/4 length winner in 1:09.89. “It was definitely impressive.” Next up will be the Hopeful on closing weekend…

Lost in the Jim Dandy headlines created by Wicked Strong and Tonalist, Kid Cruz was a excellent third, going in the right direction at the finish. Close up to an early pace, he dropped back, as if the race was over for him, then came on again. This type of Z-pattern will augur well when he stretches out another furlong in the Travers...

While it is highly likely that maiden breaking Competitive Edge will be the Hopeful favorite, the day might have produced another future Grade 1 favorite in the King’s Bishop on the Travers undercard, such was the manner of The Big Beast’s allowance victory in 1:09, winning by a short pole after making a good field look completely overmatched. Tony Dutrow’s horses are simply running out of their skin.

C. Zee, second in the Amsterdam, ran too good to lose; note…Celebrated Talent appeared in need of his return from a layup and suffered through curious handling. Perhaps a stretchout next time, perhaps not, but bet back in a logical spot…Poppy’s Watching is another who should benefit from his return from a layoff, placing gamely; note.

It’s an amazing streak for Hall of Famer with Jonathan Sheppard; saddling a Spa winner every year for 46 consecutive years. The victory came on the flat but, appropriately, in a turf marathon at 12 furlongs. Only 10 more and he’ll tie Joltin’ Joe. Kudos!

Spa Business Booming: For the weekend, more than 63,300 fans clicked the turnstiles, 31,000+ both Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday, 31,812 bet $5.7 million on-track, with total receipts of $23.3 million nationwide. The following afternoon, the first wet day of the meet, attracted 31,561 customers who bet $2.7 million live, with total receipts of $9.9 million. This was after 48 program scratches and no turf racing. All but eight of the scratches were weather related.

Written by John Pricci

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