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 19, 2007

Spa Continues Astounding Meet

Saratoga Springs, NY--August 19, 2007

Dear Diary,

Feels very much like the day after. It was just such a great Alabama Day. The weather cooperated, for just about the 22nd consecutive racing day, the fillies put on a great show, and the fans came out to see it.

Did they ever.

Four thousand more than in 2006, 35,476 in all, betting $700,000 more on track and $1.6 million more from all sources. This meet continues to astound.

The filly worked this morning. That would be Rags to Riches, in company with Magna Graduate, the older stakes winning male. She went in :59.50, pulling away from her workmate late and galloping out strongly, a handful to pull up by Angel Cordero Jr., the worlds greatest exercise boy.

Pletcher was a little coy about a possible Travers run, saying it was not totally out of the question--if something happened to a couple of the other colts. Think Street Sense here.

* * *

First Race: Going down the backside, it appeared that Bill Mott was about to add to his meet leading total of 16 victories and Kent Desormeaux was about to ride winner number 27, tying him for the lead with Cornelio Velasquez. But no. With Shes My Sunshine chewing on him all the way around the turn, 7-5 favorite Stage Dream weakened badly. At that point, Javier Castellano tipped second favorite Star Dixie off the fence into the four path and wore down Universe, who had taken command in midstretch. It was another winner for Stanley Hough and main patron E. Paul Robsham, both having great meets. Pretty execution by Castellano.

Second Race: Forest Trail was the odds on choice off her good second place debut at Belmont and todays added distance was expected to help break her maiden. So much for logic. She was driving hard and beaten before the field straightened away into the stretch. The sharp Sentebale was on a clear lead and was about to be challenged--and passed--by Sabooth, who quickly opened ground, blowing the race open. Kiaran McLaughlins filly, a daughter of A. P. Indy, did benefit from the added ground, getting her 7 furlongs in 1:24.81. Alachua finished well after the fact, clearly second best.

Third Race: Longshot Pulla Fast One lived up to his name, getting trainer George Weaver off the duck, holding gamely to repulse Manitowish Waters, who finished well from the middle of the course after angling six wide into the stretch, a good trip to that point. But the story was debuting Cosmic, far back with one horse beaten entering the stretch. We he finally leveled off inside the furlong pole, he finished as fast as horses can run. If you bet today; bet back next time. Harbinger saved ground to no avail. Co-choice Lumen did a lot of the dirty work, but should have finished it up better than that.

Fourth Race: Blue Bullet set the pace under pressure from favorite Grand Champion, the chaser throughout. After disposing of the leader, Grand Champion braced for the challenge to come from a rallying Bribon, who loomed a winner at the eighth pole. At that point, the favorite resurged and was well clear at the line in 1:16.24. Pretty damn good main-track sprint debut for the runnerup after making first 10 career starts on grass; note.

Fifth Race: Trainer Mike Hushions having a quiet meet--not a bad one, just a quiet one. But he made some noise today as debuting Grasberg got all the mile and a sixteenth on turf, running down longshot leader Gentleman Scholar, drawing away late and giving Hushion his third winner from 15 starters. Third finisher Wondrous Day is worth following. After speed-and-stop sprint debut, he looped the field beneath Desormeaux to loom a major threat in midstretch but hung late as a result of those exertions; follow Mark Hennig trainee closely. Edgar Prado, meanwhile, not having a good time recently. He was cruising on the lead here with 6-5 favorite Unity until that one blew the far turn and had to be pulled up.

Sixth Race: Speaking of quietly, Barclay Tagg is having a good meet. Late running False I.D. gave Tagg his fifth win of the meet from 22 starts, along with eight other money finishers. My Man Lars made a bid to give Weaver his second on the day but his wide rally came up short. Calvin Borel tried to steal it with 33-1 Really Rollicking, who stayed gamely for third after setting a dawdling pace. The full stride winner False I.D. gave Velasquez a natural double and, in one of those racetrack oddities, followers of lucky number seven its fourth straight winner.

Seventh Race: Prados futile Sunday continues as his rally aboard 6-5 Tactical Gold falls a nose shy of reeling in Again and Again, a repeater winning on the rise following the Leah Gyarmati claim. The winner survived a pace duel with eventual show finisher Little Cliff. The likely Pick 6 single did none of the carryover crowd any favors. Interesting to see how the rest of the sequence shakes out.

Eighth Race: After Quick Humor took command on the far turn and opened the lead out leaving the furlong grounds, it appeared Tagg was going to saddle his second winner of the day. But My Dear Annie made a better run under Castellano, his second, holding off wide rallying Bella Attrice. Quick Humor was a very game second. Prado? His 2-1 favorite stumbled at the start and finished well too late for fifth, never a threat; note.

The Johns Call: The 16-year-old gelding Johns Call led the parade postward. Like Funny Cide, he stays fit working as a stable pony, for trainer Tom Voss, and looked great as he galloped off. Not too far back in the day, he was a legendary Horse for the Spa Course. Meanwhile, the overnight stakes went to, what else, a nine-year-old. And a classy one at that. Once Revved Up secured running room, those engines vroomed right by Rousing Victory, who swooped to the lead entering the straight. General Jumbo had gotten through on the fence for a stretch challenge, running hard right down to the finish. Dont know what kind of spot you can find to bet him back, but if you get similar conditions next time dont be shy. Bailador finished strongly for place. Mike Luzzi, incredibly, still looking for that illusive first winner while Desormeaux chalked up another.

Tenth Race: Nice pickup mount for Coa, replacing Shawn Bridgmohan, stalking the pace of Chief Tashmo with Bill Allyns Brushed Prince, setting up a winning Pick 6 payoff of $388,514. Prado? He was a fast closing third aboard 3-2 favorite Dubliner. Day over. A Spinner crowd of 63,559 collected their red umbrellas.

Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

By Whatever Name, Call Her Alabama Champion

Saratoga Springs, NY--August 18, 2007

Dear Diary,

No clever witty pithiness, no one to tweak today. No time. Will spend all day at the track working for some of you. Were preparing for Pacific Classic Day tomorrow at Del Mar.

Interesting card, to say the least.

So, apologize to your morning coffee for me. I expect to return to normal (just an expression) tomorrow. That would be Sunday, the 19th.

Damn, its all flying by so fast!

But must say were looking forward to the Alabama Stakes that, even without its marquee attraction, Rags to Riches, looms an interesting puzzle deep in proven and budding talent.

OK, girls, show me something.

* * *

First Race: Fanciers of lone speed were smiling after the sudden Make Me Smile was a late scratch, figuring that new Anthony Dutrow acquisition would be loose on the lead. They were right. Theyre off! You lose! While he gave way grudgingly, gave way he did, 6-5 choice Nerve wearing him down leaving the eighth pole. Thats all he wrote.

Second Race: Cant say you hadnt been warned (see Diary 072807, second race). Slews Tiznow finished well late while ridden out after angling outside in midstretch Not yesterday. With the stretch to seven furlongs he was on the engine, repulsing a speed challenger down the backside, repelling the perfect tripping favorite at headstretch, and drew away late from nicely bred newcomer Hedgefund Investor in the final furlong. The time was 1:23.44, after posting pressured fractions of :22.73 and :44.24. There have been flashier maiden winners at this meet but this one, especially at the distance, was really professional and a likely harbinger of good things to come. Remember the name.

Third Race: They gave you the winner right there in the program; Cant Refuse, the only horse in the race coming off a victory--over the course, yet--went off at double the price of his recent win and won easier despite the rise from special-weights maiden to preliminary allowances. Like last time, Jean-Luc Samyn timed it perfectly. Third finisher Manhattan Mack, the horse that unseated Kent Desormeaux twice, carried Rafael Bejarano to the wire without incident, actually finishing pretty well.

Fourth Race: Whats the first thing you do when youve got a live horse in a two-mile race? You get Calvin Borels agent on the phone. Its advisable to save grounds in marathons. Second thing you do, especially if Ken McPeek saddles the winner? You get the bloodstock agent for the Saudi Royal family on the blower and tell him to tell the king hes got the next Passing Ships right here!

Fifth Race: McPeek makes it a natural double with Ms. Sabbatical, reuniting with Desormeaux, who made the last run aboard the 3-year-old turf miss. Malibu Moon filly wore down a very determined Sunshine for Life. Bill Mott trained favorite, Fancy Fusaichi, was a non-threatening third.

Sixth Race: Preliminary allowances win available, no experience necessary. Turf experience, that is. But Giant Gizmo had Giants Causeway hitting you over the head, and it was Bobby Frankel off a long break. Want more? Broke his maiden going long on Poly; long on turf today. Holding at 7/2 virtually throughout the betting, he justified that confidence with an open lengths score. Probably will go through conditions quickly. Parading also was making grass debut but her mom is the good turf producer, On Parade. She came from far back beneath Garrett Gomez, clearly second best.

Seventh Race: Talk about snatching defeat from victorys jaws. How could Terror On Track get beat approaching the eighth pole, I ask? By giving a hanging demonstration probably not seen at the meeting thus far. Purists could argue Desormeaux should have allowed his colt to sleep just a bit longer, but Holiday Trip, with a switch to Bejarano, would not be denied his maiden breaker.

The Yaddo: Although she stumbled at the start, the drop into state-bred company for JRay did nothing to help her. She virtually ran one-paced throughout the 1-1/16th miles. But the story was that, this time, Desormeaux timed it right and John Hertler had Latitude Forty primed for her best. Four-year-old Chester House filly stalked the quality soft-paced leader, Factual Contender, into the stretch and ran her down, drawing away late under pressure. The runnerup was clearly second best. Half Heaven sat a good trip throughout but was one-paced at the finish; fourth. With the exception of Lawyer Ron and Readys Image, it hasnt been a Todd-like meeting for Mr. Pletcher. Wheres The Green Monkey when you really need him?

The 127th Alabama, Grade 1: And wouldnt you know the girls DID put on a show! Right now, the world belongs to Carl and Calvin. If you dont know who they are, youre on the wrong site. Lady Joanne is a real good filly, one that loves Saratoga the way Street Sense loves Churchill. When she crossed the line in her prep, the Banshee Breeze, she had energy and speed in reserve. Well, she pretty much used it all up today. Going 10 furlongs for the first time, she was much the best. She broke a half-step slow and her wide post draw did her no favors. She raced three wide all the way around, keeping dueling leaders in her sights while the rider kept his eyes on Octave, sitting just inside her, a perfect tripping-out fourth on the fence. Calvin seized his moment at mid-turn, inching up to reach even terms with the leaders, Calvin with two handsful of rein. He set her down, Johnny V. shot up the fence with Octave, and the race was on. But Borel kept the multiple Grade 1 winner pinned to the fence in an old school display of race riding. One hundred yards from the wire, Joanie began to draw away when Lears Princess made a belated late surge. But Nafzgers filly kept her at bay and now only the Travers stands between Rodeo Carl and a sweep of the three most important two-turn races they card for three-year-olds at Saratoga. Nafzger is a certain Hall of Famer to be. If Borels not careful and keeps winning these high profile events, Carl might have Calvin for company. And you get the feeling that nothing could please both of them more.

Tenth Race: Its as if, in another life, Desormeaux was a close friend of Ponce de Lion. Hes not ridden this well since he first left Maryland for California gold, timing Hot Sunrises late run perfectly, sweeping by Als Lark several jumps from the wire, first-time Gary Contessa.

Written by John Pricci

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Take My Partners, Please

Saratoga Springs, NY--August 17, 2007

Dear Diary,

In life timing is everything. Take my web-site partners, for instance. Did they have to choose this week to show up in Saratoga for meetings?

Made me miss a day of racing. There are only 36, you know. For meetings, yet. Meetings. In August. In Saratoga. Clearly, I did a bad job schooling these guys.

But I didnt miss too much. Lets see:

There was a track record performance by a juvenile filly. And a significant scratch of Sargent Seattle. He was supposed to run in the Saratoga Special but was withdrawn because a sale was being negotiated.

He went to UAE interests, of course, off a very impressive maiden win, of course. Darley denied they were the buyers. They were the usual suspects since they purchased Discreet Cat from the same people that own--owned--Sargent Seattle. The rumored price for this one was $6 million.

Not bad.

This, of course, came one day following the news that Darley Stable purchased Haskell winner Any Given Saturday, which the brings the total of colts bought out of this years Kentucky Derby to three.

Only 17 more to go.

Between Street Sense, Hard Spun and Any Given Saturday, thats about $8-million a hoof. These are about figures. They never say how much because they are tough negotiators. They just dont throw money at people.

Then there's new two-year-old record holder called Secret Gypsy, well named for her double-digit debut odds. She was a $10,000 yearling. And she broke through the gate before the start!

Reportedly, her owner John Kuehl shut off his cell phone and gave it to a friend. The damn thing began ringing minutes after the filly reached the wire in 1:03.26, after posting splits of :21.70, 44.59 and 56.71, and never stopped.


And I missed a double gate scratch. There have been many gate scratches at this meet, but not a double dip until yesterdays third race.

Leading rider Cornelio Velasquez rode a four-bagger and Kent Desormeaux doubled. Kodiak Kowboy was dominating in the Saratoga Special with The Roundhouse a strong-finish runnerup.

So listen, my computer geek friends. Stay a full week next time and lets have these meetings on a dark day. Youve got your millions to make. I get that. Me? Ive only got this here day job.

Oh, yeah. Thanks to you.

* * *

First Race: The favorite had problems on the first turn, not that it mattered at the finish. Odds on Al Basha was clearly best when a strong rally down the middle of the Mellon Course to win the opener in an eye-opening 1:47.44. The brief, heavy squall that hit the area last night had very little effect on the firm turf, obviously. Winning trainer Angel Penna Jr. having an outstanding meet, winning with half of the six horses hes run. Good to see, just like back in the day.

Second Race: Mike Trombetta has a great record saddling first-time starters to victory. So the crowd ignored the stat, allowed Caves Valley to debut at odds of 6-1, she went to the front then improved her advantage in 1:03.79. Stephen Got Even filly appears to have a future. Runnerup Hi Chris made strong three-path move to contention on turn then tired while racing greenly; give her another chance.

Third Race: Horse Thief broke his maiden with authority, moving into excellent position at five-sixteenths pole and drew off driving soon after straightening away. Hes Tough finished well late from the middle of the track while lugging in and went under the wire ridden out; may pay quick dividends; note.

Fourth Race: Have we seen the winner of the inaugural Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf? Maybe, maybe not. But youll probably never see as dominating a debut on turf as that of Prussian, a son of Danzig from the Alleged mare, Crystal Downs. His action through the lane was flawless and powerful as he just skimmed over the ground, like cutting so many daisies for Team Mott/Desormeaux. Would have been nice if the workout information had been complete. The last published workout was on Aug. 2nd. The horse opened favorite and closed the favorite. He was no secret unless, of course, you were relying on published past performances data. Win #14 for leading trainer Bill Mott.

Fifth Race: Motts 15th. Here comes Stormy West, with a late burst of energy, said Mr. Durkin, aptly, as three-year-old Gone West filly stormed (pun intended) by Milk Town, who stalked the speed, opened a clear lead, but tired a bit on the shadow of the wire. Bees rallied quickly but too late for third and galloped out well; bet back.

Sixth Race: Light Tactic overcame a roughed start, driving hard beneath Edgar Prado to win for Rick Schosberg, whose horses continue to run well at this meet. Golden Manna had repeated trouble down the backstretch from along the inside and was virtually eliminated; note.

Seventh Race: Subtitles gets over a fairly serious bout with seconditis to win a photo from a very game Georgian, who raced on a surprisingly easy lead throughout. Favored Dragon Fi had dead aim for the entire length of the stretch but finished one-paced late, third.

The G2 Lake Placid: Motts 16th, a triple on the day, and this was a gift. At this level, an easy lead on a very firm course in almost :24 seconds is laughable. Sharp Susan took advantage of her excellent effort over the course, the removal of blinkers proving the difference in improved efforts last time and this. Last time, however, it was from off the pace. Today, she returned to her pacesetting style and never was seriously challenged. Not when you can run 9 furlongs in 1:46.69. She also gave Desormeaux a triple. New Edition closed very well for place. Lady Attack made a strong stretch bid but lost too much ground after being hindered by the soft pace.

Ninth Race: Prado the difference, cutting the corner on favored Whateverwillbwillb to get through on the fence to edge a determined Jeux de Danse, who raced wide throughout. Stashed Away finished best of all after maneuvering off the rail too late.

Written by John Pricci

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