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, August 07, 2010

The Blame Game


August 7, 2010

Dear Diary,

Someone is going to be looking to put the blame on someone for Quality Road’s shocking defeat in today’s Whitney Invitational Handicap. That what happens when horses that can’t lose on paper lose on the racetrack.

Can’t blame Ramon Dominguez aboard Haynesfield for putting too much pressure on the favorite. In fact, he took back off the speedy choice soon after entering the backstretch.

Perhaps Dominguez was looking to save some of the energy lost after breaking through the gate before the start of this storied Saratoga handicap.

Fans might want to put the blame on Rajiv Maragh, who inexplicably went around Haynesfield leaving the first turn to put the pressure on Quality Road. No one really anticipated that he would be the stalker.

That was supposed to be Dominguez’s job, but they don’t run horse races on paper. Nevertheless, it was Musket Man who raced hardest of all, doing all the dirty chasing, then forced to run hard on the turn to keep Haynesfield locked in the box.

Want to put the Blame on Johnny Velazquez, who in dictating soft fractions, a 48-second “walk in the park,” according to Mr. Durkin, which allowed the Stephen Foster winner to race comfortably in fourth, five lengths off the pace?

Maybe the blame should be placed on racing secretary and handicapper, P.J. Campo, who rated the favorite at 126 pounds, five pounds better than the second favorite, who wound up beating the unbeatable by a head.

Blame no one. And give all the credit to the winner, Blame, a very serious race horse.

And give the credit to Al Stall Jr., a third generation horseman who picked out this race and worked backward from this fixture and mapped out a course that got him home first in the Whitney in 1:48.88, after Quality Road reached the eighth pole in 1:36.37.

“The first half in :48 was a little nerve-wracking but it kept us close,” the trainer said. “If [Quality Road] goes in :46 and going just as easily, we’re 15 lengths out of it.”

On a conference call early in the week, Stall was asked what his colt’s best attribute was. “The ability to keep knocking off furlongs in 12’s and then he finishes,” which is exactly what happened yesterday. “If he’s within striking distance of a horse, he usually gets there.”

Also to be considered is that Quality Road is better with a target, when he becomes the stalker instead of the stalked. And when he does stalk, he makes his run outside horses. Yesterday he was pressured FROM the outside throughout.

And so the Graveyard claimed another victim, who will be a very difficult out in the Woodward. Quality Road wasn’t tired at the end of yesterday’s nine furlongs, the momentum, and a very serious race horse, taking his measure when it counted.

Champagne For All My Friends

Champagne D’oro is a sweetheart. A proven Grade 1 performer going into today’s Test Stakes, she raced the speedy Pica Slew into defeat and maintained her daylight advantage when bout to be challenged by Bonnie Blue Flag, who saved ground behind dueling leaders throughout.

It was the way their connections saw it as well. “She doesn’t rate but she can get headed and finish. She doesn’t like to be grabbed, she has a real sensitive mouth,” said trainer Eric Guillot.

Guillot said he wants to keep her at seven-eighths of a mile and stretch her out after the Breeders’ Cup.

Velazquez aboard Bonnie Blue Flag said “I saw the winner, which I knew was the horse to beat. When I pulled my horse out she gave me a little bit but the winner just drew away.”

Just A Coincidence?

Or did Javier Castellano use questionable judgment in the opener? Now, I don’t have no problem with the uncoupled entry rule, but I do have a problem when one member is used as if it is a coupled entry. Take Saturday’s opener.

Castellano used his mount very hard to put pressure the on odds-on favorite, Pistols At Dawn, pushing him through a sub-45 second half mile while Brother Bird, also trained by Todd Pletcher, sat a perfect trip behind the duel before rallying up on the outside to take command.

No Comment

According to a NYRA spokesman, the stewards would not be willing to appear on the Capital OTB television network to discuss Friday’s controversial non-disqualification of Pelican Lake.

A few years ago a State Racing and Wagering rule was amended to read that in the discretion of the stewards, they would be allowed to keep a horse from being disqualified if they felt it did not alter the winning outcome.

That was the case in Friday’s fifth race. However, it could not be determined with certitude that the incident did not cost the fouled filly a money position, even if She Wears The Best finished seven lengths behind Karen’s Joy.

According o the official chart footnote, Pelican Lake “clobbered She Wears the best knocking that rival three paths to the outside. Further, many horses will give up the ghost when physically intimidated. Or clobbered.

Don’t be surprised if a fine subsequently is levied against jockey Shawn Bridgmohan.

Mott wins 4000th

Bill Mott, Yankees fan, took care of business the way Alex Rodriguez couldn’t. Mott won his 3,999th race on Friday and reached the 4,000 mark yesterday with Mystic, appropriately on the Saratoga turf course.

Mott is only the ninth trainer in racing history to win at least 4,000 races. “You get hung up on these things,” Mott said. “You get to the last one and sometimes you have to wait. I’ve seen it happen with numerous jockeys and ballplayers… This is a very special place to have it happen. I’ll always remember it.”

Bridgmohan OK; Cleared to Ride

Jermaine Bridgmohan, who was kicked by his horse, a first-time starter named Cincinnati Kid in the third race, and was taken to Albany Medical Center, was released in late afternoon and was given medical clearance to ride Sunday. Cincinnati Kid was scratched by order of the stewards.

Written by John Pricci

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