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

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Day 20: Half Way Home, No Time to Weaken Now

August 11, 2012—We’ve hit the halfway mark; 20 days down and 20 to go before Saratoga 144 gets put in the books.

At this point, the overwhelming question on everybody’s mind is, will God give me the strength to make it to Labor Day?

Already this meet has been a marathon and everyone seems to be complaining about it. Happy Hour? Forget it, not if you’re staying for all 10 or 11 races—10 most days, 11 on weekends, mostly.

And if you’re very desperate, and the racing office doesn’t run out of beaten 20K claimers, and you have a big race to justify the excessive programs, there’s an even dozen.

Scheduled final post for today’s Grade 2 Fourstardave is 6:45. If one of Saratoga’s most popular runners were around these days he wouldn’t be nearly as popular. Half the crowd would be out the door long before post time for the old Daryl’s Joy, a Fourstardave would call his own.


On Sunday, fans get to do it all over again. There’s a very attractive juvenile stakes doubleheader on tap with the Adirondack for fillies and Saratoga Special, both Grade 2 and both at the hybrid distance of 6-1/2 furlongs.

While the babies will be sprinting, the fans had best be prepared for a marathon. Scheduled post for tomorrow’s 11th event is 6:46 p.m, which is fine. That leaves plenty of time to work up an appetite, if you’ve got any dinner money left.

The NYRA can’t take the hit on this one. This is what happens when you follow the advice of overpaid consulting firms to provide an answer that the $2 bettor could tell you if someone bothered to ask:

Get more racing on TV, and do it by 1990. But I kid “America’s Best Racing.” You’ve got to start somewhere--start all over again.

But those who bother to tune in to the broadcast who are not as familiar with Wise Dan, Corporate Jungle and Get Stormy, a kind of latter-day Dave, as most racing fans are, are bound to learn something, it is hoped.

The immediate problem is that not many American sports fans outside Saratoga know that Fourstardave won at least one race a year here for eighth consecutive years, from 1987 to 1994.

DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak and Woody’s five straight Belmonts might be eclipsed before any horse challenges ‘Dave’s’ record.

During his racing days, ‘Dave’ was in demand, showing up at an occasional party or ground-breaking, such as the day a pole was inserted into the ground outside Siro’s, the famed watering hole and restaurant outside the gate, and a signpost bearing the name Fourstardave Way was inserted into the ground.

“The Sultan of Saratoga,” as he was called, earned his money the hard way. A turf specialist, 15 of his 21 wins came on the grass. He made 99 lifetime starts—what’s that, about six or seven times more than the average Thoroughbred of today?

The winner of yesterday’s renewal was more dirt horse than turf horse. But Wise Dan, ranked in the NTRA Top 10 Poll virtually all year, destroyed a field that included G1 grass winners, and he did it by five with a final quarter of :23.97 over boggy ground.

But the symmetry belonged to the rider, newly minted Hall of Famer Johnny Velazquez whose father-in-law, Leo O’Brien, trained Fourstardave.

It was a good way to end the first half of the 2012 Saratoga race meet. The second half will start with a sizable carryover and the rains have abated for a while; perhaps we’ll get all the grass races in tomorrow.

But pace yourselves, the features are the 10th and 11th races, and maybe those tuned into the NBC Sports Network will get a glimpse of a 2013 Kentucky Derby or Oaks favorite, or not. There’s still a whole lot of good racing left.

Try to ignore the fact that the program will run almost six hours, including five maiden races—three are for non-claimers, anyway---and don’t eat your betting money or bet your dinner money.

Tell the family when you leave for the races in the morning that you’ll see them around 7:30 or 8 o’clock for dinner. If you’re going out, make late dinner reservations. In addition to the racetrack and the state, remember that merchants have to eat, too.

Written by John Pricci

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