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, August 16, 2012

Travers 2012: Expect a Gateful

August 15, 2012—Did anyone really believe that after Paynter shipped from Monmouth to Belmont Park, after a pit-stop at an equine clinic on the Jersey Turnpike, that he would be a Travers participant?

As disappointing as that is, it’s probably the right thing to do, especially if his connections truly believe in him and if they want to have a fresh horse for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in his home state, there’s no need to test him at 10 furlongs now.

Of course, that’s if anyone will ever see Paynter or Bodemeister again, especially the latter. Originally, he was the one coming for the 7-furlong Grade 1 King’s Bishop but he hasn’t had a record workout since July 8th.

So, what are the chances he’ll be seen on Travers undercard, especially considering that stud arrangements are already set in stone with the WinStar folks? As they say, slim to none and slim just left town.

But until stated otherwise, we will take the word of Paynter’s connections and expect to see him next in the $1-million Pennsylvania Derby.

What a country.

With Paynter and Union Rags among the missing, that means you can expect a gaggle of 3-year-olds in the Travers starting gate. Heading a prospective field of 13 are four from the Jim Dandy; Liaison and the first three finishers, Alpha, Neck N’ Neck and Street Life.

Other high profile performers include Hansen, a colt that won the Iowa Derby in a common cantor then appeared common himself with a fourth place West Virginia Derby finish.

Hansen’s connections claimed they were intentionally framed by the Gennadi Dorochenko-trained rabbit Hero Of Honor. But didn’t that horse upset the Louisiana Derby showing high speed throughout?

That claim is a little embarrassing, really, and in our view Hansen had none of his usual brilliance at Mountaineer. Give him a mulligan and figure he will be on the lead in the Travers; then decide whether he wants all of 10 furlongs.

Others very deserving of being in the field is Atigun, who acquitted himself well in the Belmont, Stealcase, the victim of gate problems in the Haskell, and possibly Teeth Of The Dog, if trainer Michael Matz reasons that the Dwyer winner’s Jim Dandy was an aberration.

Meanwhile, can’t wait to see what happens when classy sprinter and surface lover Currency Swap returns in the King’s Bishop to meet the freshened Trinniberg, himself defeated last out by Fort Loudon when they clashed at 6 furlongs on Calder’s Summit Of Speed program.

Sweet Home Alabama

“The three-year-old filly division is a wide open door right now,” said Tony Dutrow, who will saddle Grace Hall, the 7-5 early line favorite for Saturday’s Alabama.

Should the Delaware Oaks winner slam that door in the face of her rivals she very well could join Proud Spell, Blind Luck and Royal Delta, fillies that went on to win the Alabama and the three-year-old filly championship.

Grace Hall is a Grade 1 Horse for Course having won the Spinaway here last year. She’ll break from post 3 beneath Javier Castellano in the field of seven.

Her main rival in the opinion of NYRA linemaker Eric Donovan is Questing, the speedy winner of the Coaching Club American Oaks. For her and for all of them, 10 furlongs appears to be the biggest obstacle.

From the July 21 Diary Entry:

“Haven’t seen many of the juvenile races this season at Belmont Park; my bad. But I saw one yesterday and witnessed a colt that might have a bright future, indeed.

The debuting colt is named Spurious Precision. Sold at the 2YO Ocala Breeders Sales this spring, the price of $105K was three times the average for offspring of High Cotton, so the chances were that he would be a looker.

Spurious Precision is a looker and a runner. More than that, he finished professionally and when he entered the circle, he filled the eye with his scope. He’s a big boy.

After bearing out a bit at the start and bumping with a rival, he took a position off the flank of Exploring, engaged from about the three-path on the turn, took command then, after shaking the competition, he drew off leaving the sixteenth pole and won by 3-1/2 lengths in a worthy 1:03.49.

Show Some Magic was a game runnerup. After surviving his bumping match at the start, he recovered nicely, stalked the leaders on the turn, set sail about 4 wide into the stretch, chased the winner briefly but could not match strides late.

If we’re correct about the winner, then this guy will find the circle in his next start; bet on it.”

Last weekend, 30 minutes after Kauai Katie romped to an impressive score, Spurious Precision came out in the Saratoga Special and trumped her.

They came out and ran relays at him. First the speedy Southern Honor from the Delaware Valley, pushing Spurious Precision through an opening gambit of :21.35.

Next came the well-meant Drum Roll, who took the baton and pushed the leader to a half mile in :44.02. I don’t care how speed favoring the surface was, those kinds of splits get horses beaten.

Instead of weakening, Alan Garcia kept driving on him, opened nearly three lengths inside the furlong pole and won in hand by five in 1:16.53.

The best part is that trainer Rick Violette is treating him like the good colt he is. He’s been put away until the Champagne and if all goes well, it will be California here he comes.

Written by John Pricci

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