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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, July 28, 2007

Cup Preps Today; Travers Prep Tomorrow

Saratoga Springs, NY--July 28,2007

Dear Diary,

The Derby winner runs tomorrow!

As opposed to todays extremely contentious Whitney, I didnt need a road map to find the favorite for the Jim Dandy.

Kentucky Derby hero Street Sense is the 2-5 overnight choice to win and, on paper, looks impossible to beat. His talent and class are proven. His performance figures tower over his rivals.

If he runs, that is.

Oh, hell very likely run, but not without some pre-race drama regarding the possibility of a wet track.

Hes a very valuable horse, trainer Carl Nafzger felt compelled to remind us. Hes handled everything. But the ultimate decision to run will be up to Mr. Tafel and Darley, he said Friday.

Isnt it bad enough that Street Sense and all other horses sold for stupid money to foreign interests are whisked away to the breeding shed before their time? Now controlling interests know whats best for their horses race schedules, too?

Someone tell me the last time Nafzger made an irresponsible decision concerning one of his horses? Skipping the Belmont notwithstanding, of course.

Street Sense looks like a layover, obviously. But its not like there arent other interesting horses.

Shug McGaughey has been waiting to race Sightseeing around two turns since his somewhat surprisingly strong effort in the Wood Memorial. Everything about this colt indicates that two turns is his best game.

Sightseeing showed high class winning the G2 Peter Pan despite being hindered by soft fractions. He had little chance in the Dwyer when Any Given Saturday put on an awesome display of brilliance.

Undefeated Tiz Wonderful is returning from an injury. When last seen at 2, he was defeating Any Given Saturday and eventual Blue Grass winner Dominican in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

Tiz Wonderful has been training with extreme purpose, Steve Asmussen obviously intending to double-team Street Sense eventually with this colt and, of course, Preakness hero Curlin.

C P West is making his first start since finding himself on the lead in the Belmont, a race Nick Zito probably would have skipped in a perfect world. His Preakness proved that he belonged with the divisions best.

C P Wests last two works were very strong, unusual in that Zito worked him on the main track instead of Oklahoma. The colt did, after all, break his maiden on this surface in his racing debut.

* * *

If numbers mean anything, and they do, Twilight Racing at Saratoga is here to stay. Compared to 2006, Fridays attendance went from 16,167 to 18,795. On track, live handle jumped from $2.9 million to $3.7 while all sources went from $13.8 to almost $15.8 million.

Some restaurant owners already are complaining about lost business as the races end shortly after 7 p.m. I think they should try to remember that if it were not for thoroughbred racing

First Race: First polytrack result of the day, four horses under a blanket across the finish line, with Private Lap winning it on the re-bob from 38-1 Wood Winner, in front a jump before the wire Sir Jackie came off the rail in midstretch but hung, no excuses. Fire Hero finished well too late; note. Bailero lost too much ground throughout; if you liked him yesterday, bet back.

Second Race: Would never have seen this result two years ago; Zito and Bill Mott finishing 1-2 with first-time starters. Winning War Pass looks like a good prospect, repelling challenges then drawing off late in 1:10.26... Runnerup Commandeered chased from third in the three-path throughout and continued willingly; a good race to build on. Globalization probably needs a field he can boss from end-to-end. Last time, he was used hard early. This time he chased but lugged in when the serious running began Slews Tiznow finished well late while ridden out in deep stretch after angling off rail deep stretch; follow progress.

Third Race: Trainer Dale Romans off to an excellent start, this time getting it done with Thorn Song beneath under-appreciated grass rider Eddie Castro. Import Chief Running Bear, making U.S. debut for Graham Motion, was dead on the board and didnt raise a hoof. Giant Chieftain got a lot of play for the hot Stanley Hough barn; the result decidedly cool.

Fourth Race:Fresh Episode stalked the pace, took clear command into the stretch and withstood all challengers, paying $97. Any questions?

Fifth Race: Stats get you beat and stats make you rich, sometimes all at once! Jimmy Jerkens is an almost obscene 38 percent effective with second-time starters. His favored Forest of Dreams took a clear lead into the stretch but stopped. Meanwhile, Wally Dollase is a profitable 28 percent with new acquisitions. Blackfoot Trail made the last run successfully beneath Cornelio Velasquez, giving him a natural double, returning $63... The victory completed an early Pick 4 of $163,000+. The exacta, however, was a bit light. Holla Bend paid $26.40 to place, the exacta paying $1,486. Rule of thumb, win times place, was $1,662...Fourth finisher Mikes Dream Team finished fast too late; follow.

Sixth Race: Bulletin! Bulletin! Favorite wins at Saratoga! Read all about it: Monster Drive wins game stretch battle from Zipperoo! Pays $4.90, keys exacta worth 19.60!

Grade 1 Diana: Let the winning and in-ing begin! Not that you ever were going to keep My Typhoon out of the Filly & Mare Turf anyway. But the promotion is not for serious fans, only casual ones, and anything that shines a light should not be dimmed Speaking of Castro on the turf, here he is winning a Grade 1 with a well judged ride aboard the very consistent My Typhoon, giving Mott a natural double Argentina finished strongly for place in her five-year-old debut; will be a serious threat atop the division from this point forward; note Favored Makderah, not quite ready for prime time, settled for third.

Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt: The only surprising element in the victory by Diabolical was the generous price ($7.00). This colt has come to hand as a four-year-old for Steve Klesaris, who won his second on the card, as did jockey Mario Pino. Attilas Storm and Commentator hooked up as expected, through splits of :21.74 and :44.45. Diabolical took final command in midstretch and outfinished an extremely game Attilas Storm and the late running Simon Pure in 1:08.67. Looks like the sprint division has a new leaderCouldnt understand the fuss over Benny The Bull. Why 5-2? Commentator? Im afraid he cant do it at this level anymore.

Grade 1 Go for Wand: Bobby Frankel was concerned about the 9 furlong distance for Ginger Punch. No problem, stalking Teammate until ready then she was gone. By six widening lengths. If Allen Jerkens couldnt kill any giants, he did manage a 2-3 finish, as Miss Shop outran her pacesetting stablemate in the final sixteenth.

Grade 1 Whitney: Lawyer Ron! 1:46.64! Wow! Post 11 was no problem. Neither was a deep contentious group. Stalking three wide always comfortable beneath Johnny Velazquez. Lawyer Ron took command in upper stretch then drew off powerfully in the final furlong to put daylight between himself and the extraordinarily game runnerup, the pacesetting Wandering Boy, who must have appreciated any moisture remaining in the surface Diamond Stripes was a willing albeit non-threatening third. Interesting to see where and when Todd Pletcher runs the winner back. Hell need lots of recovery time following that heat!

Eleventh Race: Gary Gullo, trained-turned-agent-turned-trainer again, takes the finale with a new acquisition, Any Which Way, over a dogged Saratoga Kaz. Royal Livingston, following a promising debut, finished gamely late along the fence and should continue to progress. Mor Chances, fourth, finished too late; follow progress.

Bias Report: Track fast (damp), played honestly. Turf: Firm, no pronounced bias.

Written by John Pricci

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Gomez, Clement Star At Spa; Bayou Preps For Breeders’ Cup Classic?

Saratoga Springs, NY--July 27, 2007

Dear Diary,

The conventional paths to the Breeders Cup received a challenge from an unlikely venue yesterday when Louisiana Downs jumped into the fray big time. On its face, that might not seem significant until you consider:

The Super Derby, the tracks premier event, has produced twice as many winners of the Breeders Cup Classic, four, than has the storied Travers. In all, seven three-year-olds have defeated their elders on racings greatest day.

Further, four Super Derby winners finished second in the Classic and three others came back to win the Classic as four-year-olds.

Go figure.

Clearly, the management at the Bossier City track has gotten very aggressive and they want to be a major player on the Breeders Cup fall prep calendar.

In order to gain national attention, Louisiana Downs will double the Super Derby pace to $1 million if any of the Triple Crown race winners; Street Sense, Curlin, or the filly, Rags To Riches, shows up on September 22.

And the timing is ideal by todays standards; five weeks from prep to goal.

Toward that end, the track is offering four turf races for a purse of $200,000 each. The interesting races are the Sunday Silence for juvenile colts and the Happy Ticket for juvenile fillies.

Obviously, these races accommodate the new Breeders Cup turf events carded for two-year-olds for the first time this year. The third Saturday in September will be the richest day of racing ever at Louisiana Downs.

Somebody down on the bayou has their thinking cap on. Good for them.

* * *

The new Win And Youre In Breeders Cup format gets underway this afternoon with three Grade 1s, the Diana, Go For Wand and Whitney, and the Grade 2 Alfred Vanderbilt. Every one is highly competitive. There is a guaranteed $500,000 Pick Four available on the all-stakes sequence beginning with the seventh race. The races will be seen on the ABC Television Network nationally from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., EDT.

* * *

Rags To Riches has returned to Belmont Park following two days of testing at New Bolton Center. She will be seen next week by Dr. Paul Thorpe, attending veterinarian for owners Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith.

A decision regarding her future will be made at that time. Trainer Todd Pletcher is hopeful the filly can still make the Alabama.

At this point, well be happy to see her back at the races, period. Theres been a lot of smoke but no ones hollered fire. Not yet, anyone.

* * *

Kent Desormeaux was fined $500 for inappropriate use of the whip aboard Stolen Star on Thursday. We viewed the Desormeaux tapes and thought the final whip stroke that struck the fillys face was inadvertent.

The stewards didnt see it the same way, obviously.

* * *

A field of six was drawn for Sundays Travers prep, the Jim Dandy. From the rail out: Sightseeing (10-1), Flashstorm (15-1), Street Sense (2-5), Cowtown Cat (20-1), Tiz Wonderful (9-2) and C P West (6-1).

Guess Mr. Pletcher decided on a Haskell run for Any Given Saturday.

First Race: Spirit Of Gulch came running down the center of the track late to take the opener, well spotted off the maiden win by Gary Contessa, in a rather mundane claiming affair.

Second Race: Juvenile maidens supplied more drama than youd expect. Winner Lauries Lion ran off with Javier Castellano in the post parade, was pulled up after reaching backstretch chute at which point Castellano jumped off. Castellano remained off the gelding for almost 10 minutes before remounting then was a game wire winner at double-digit odds. So much for rule requiring that a horse carries his weight from paddock to start First-timer Tribolet made disappointing debut for Pletcher, whos now officially off to a very slow start in defense of his five straight Spa training titles.

Third Race: Like Now was sure happy to get out of Delaware, stalking the pace of Master Of Disaster before taking the lead at head stretch and drawing away late; favorite City Weekend was extremely disappointing and without excuse.

Fourth Race: Very weak field of maiden fillies, three-year-olds and up, went to Steve Asmussens Sequoia Queen in a field no one wants to see run back until racing shifts back to downstate. Favorite Scarlet Love never raised a hoof.

Fifth Race: No matter how firm the turf course, even in short sprints, splits of:21.39, :44.04 and :55.75 are going to get you beaten, more often than not. Mix in a horse with an excellent turn of foot and well timed encouragement and you get Emirates to Dubai at even money drawing away. Her clocking of 1:01.71 missed the course record by 60/100s. Pacesetting Guns Drawn, making her first start off a lengthy absence, set those fractions and tired; follow progress. A natural double for Garrett Gomez

Sixth Race: Gomez gets a natural triple with Rewrite with another well timed late move performance to take the Dinner Diamond, an overnight stakes for state-bred fillies and mares. Only this time, the pace was soft, allowing Half Heaven and Iron Goddess to hang around for a share. Note that Iron Goddess and Sabellina raced while in foal, a fairly common occurrence in this sport. The latters late run was seriously compromised by the slow pace.

Seventh Race: On paper, he fractions were supposed to belong to the undefeated Calder shipper, Flankers Lady. The crowd thought so, too, and bet her down to 7-2 late. They forgot about the California shipper, More Angels, both literally and figuratively. She easily secured the lead from the Florida filly and held off the wide-stalking Dixie Dawn, who refused to switch to her right correct lead through the stretch. Kiaran McLaughlin filly was 8-1. Ouch!

The Lake George: Fourth for Gomez and a second for Christophe Clement (Rewrite) as Rutherienne, as is her style, comes from the clouds to win this Grade 3 for three-year-old fillies. Post 10? No problem when youre in the zone; GG up the fence like breaking so many sticks. Lady Attack, up in class, made a strong late run to narrow the winners margin late and Sharp Susan was a good third with a change-of-pace rally run. Note how both fillies are spotted next time out.

Ninth Race: Trainer Bruce Levine doubles after benefiting from a skillful ride from Eibar Coa, who raced close up behind a soft pace, took the lead soon after entering the stretch to remain clear. Calvin Bo-Rail altered course up to the fence for the place but the one to watch out of her was third finisher A Millions Demons. Saving ground throughout beneath Fernando Jara, she was steadied along entering far turn, angled extremely wide soon after entering the straight and finished with a rush, at 26-1. Double ouch! Ill be betting her back, hopefully at decent odds vs. the same bunch.

Bias Report: Track Fast, played honestly. Turf: Firm, normal, closer's edge.

Written by John Pricci

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Bobble King of Saratoga

Saratoga Springs, NY, July 26, 2007--

Dear Diary,

Some giveaway promotions are better than others. And know that Saratoga Race Course is the King of Giveaways venue.

"Remember, you can picnic anywhere if you just had one of these coolers. And you can carry it in one of those tote bags over there.

Tired? No problem. Have a seat in one of our lawn chairs, drinking a cold one from these cooler mugs. Rain? No worries. Keep dry with one of these here umbrellas.

Funny, look like awnings, right?

Sure, it gets chilly some nights in the Adirondack foothills. Got you covered with a stadium blanket.

Are bears attracted to the color red?

But, really, who doesnt love a good bobble-head every once in a while?

The latest version, first handled out today, could have been bought on E-Bay last week. That might be a record.

The Jerry Bailey edition was first. He was the King back then, having ridden more winners at Saratoga than any other human, living or dead.

Then there was the Johnny V, the Todd, and others. Have to say, with apologies to legendary racing people so honored, my favorite is the Sam The Bugler. Being king is a state of mind, Sam knows that.

But today was the day that Angel Cordero Jr., the King of Saratoga past, present and future, was celebrated in pop-culture iconese.

Until Bailey, the smartest horse-backer weve ever seen, came along, no one was better than Angel. No one. He remained without peer as a race rider, the very best ever at riding more than one horse at a time. You try it sometime.

Hel-lo-o-o-o-o-o Genuine Risk!

The once and future king won 14 Saratoga titles, a record of 11 straight, one that will last longer than Woodys five Belmonts. And there were those 7,057 lifetime victories, too.

There might be a couple of handsful of riders in the same class as Cordero, but his is the bobbled head to be treasured. That mold never has been duplicated. Nor ever will it be again.

First Race: The first up and over of the meet went to a true overlay, Footlights. The seven year old mare, making her third off an extended layoff, often a harbinger of improvement, had enough back class in her history to rate a punchers chance. Prepped on the flat at Colonial after a promising return in an overnight stakes prior, the 6-1 early line choice drifted to 22-1, and Xavier Aizpuru timed her late run perfectly to get up in the last two strides. Good job byh trainer and former steeplechase rider, Roger Horgan.

Second Race: Experience the difference for these special-weight fillies. Twisted Tale had placed gamely in her debut and got it done here while on the engine for Team Asmussen/Bridgmohan. It appeared at the sixteenth pole that newcomer Forest Trial would run her down but the favorite held sway as Shug McGaughey filly finished a tad greenly. Forest Wildcat filly wont be a maiden long; bet back.

Third Race: Pat Kelly began where he left off last year, having his best Spa in several seasons. Precise Lady, taking advantage of her 7-furlong conditioning and hot pace, circled widest from last of seven and ran them all down late at 16-1, as the beat of longshots roll on at the young meet. Kent Desormeaux struck the face of the drifting place finisher, Stolen Star, with a right-handed whip but replays indicated it apparently was inadvertent. Think he deserved the benefit on that one.

Fourth Race: Another well timed late run gets it done on turf as Garrett Gomez made the last run with Christophe Clements Queens Full, the third winner out of the second race on June 23rd. Can you say key race? Meanwhile, runner-up Star Dixie might have been best, circling up four wide on far turn, momentum carrying her even wider into the lane. She finished well beneath JJ Castellano but was no match for the late power of the Clement filly; makes amends soon, note. Favorite Stage Dream, third, was without excuse after stalking a moderate pace comfortably throughout.

Fifth Race: This meet has public handicappers talking to themselves. Though none resemble Warren Spahn, Whitey Ford or Sandy Koufax, many of my colleagues are pitching shutouts. Gave up my day job just in time. Castellano doubles, taking Pay Attention down the center of the track for a 10-1 score. Post 12 at nine furlongs? No problem. Favorite Berry Bound set controlled pace and settled for place; Drizzly finished well too late for third after getting smart tote action; follow.

Sixth Race: Cleveland Johnson? Doesnt he show up only when someones on suspension? Anyway, Johnson almost gets it done with Al Sheetahn at 71-1, who led every step until the final one. It took extraordinary race ride from Ramon Dominguez, who weaved Giant Storm through stretch traffic to get up in last jump. Win gave Stanley Hough his second in two days. Think I detect a trend here.

Seventh Race: Winner? Truly Blushed. Trainer? Scott Lake. Odds? 14-1. Any more questions?

The G2 Sanford: Pletcher picked an opportune spot to get off the duck. Readys Image took his second straight stakes, drawing off impressively in fast time to win by open lengths. And hes still learning how to run. He carried his head a little high when we got to the leader and I had to get after him a little, said Johnny Velazquez. Its encouraging, he has a world of talent and is still learning, Pletcher warned. Meanwhile, Tale Of Ekati put in a fine, wide late run for place, holding off The Roundhouse who came from last and just missing placing. Interesting prospects, both Pletcher runners. But the horse to watch out of the Sanford is Sok Sok, virtually eliminated when slammed hard between horses leaving the gate, after which he finished willingly for fourth and clearly deserves another chance; follow closely.

Ninth Race: Well timed and strong late run from Follow My Dreams, getting it done for Colum OBrien by overhauling a stubborn Tishmeister, the controlled pacesetter. Glamour Star saved ground to no avail. She was hemmed in upper stretch, but Michael Matz filly really didnt fire like she should. Pletchers Storm Dixie lost too much ground throughout, losing any chance; follow.

Bias Report: Dirt; fast, played honestly. Turf; firm, all winners off pace, except 5- furlong sprint.

Pick Six Report: It was hit. Again. Who the hell keeps doing that?

Written by John Pricci

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