Sunday, August 5, 2012

Showdown at the Spa: Day 16

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We have given our two TDN crack handicappers, Brian DiDonato and Steve Sherack, a mythical $1000 bankroll and told them they can bet no more than 5% of that on any given day at Saratoga on a straight win bet. The winner, at the end of the meet, gets $100 in a TVG betting account, along with bragging rights until next July.

DiDonato: Sunday - That’s top-pick "scratch" number six, but who’s counting? Summer of Fun was a turf only selection in the sixth, but she stayed in and ran a race that makes me excited for when she actually gets to go long on turf. Hard-ridden early, the longshot never looked like she handled the wet track, but still looked in with a chance until rider Eddie Castro wrapped up on her late and she dropped back. She’ll look like a new horse when she’s allowed to relax and make a late run on a surface that suits her better. Second alternate One Sock Down was pestered throughout on a rail that seemed like the last place you wanted to be.

Today - Race 2 - OC 35000, 3yo/up, 1 3/8mT - #9 Bluegrass Summer (15-1)
   I know he’s a bit of an abstract pick, but I’ve always thought Bluegrass Summer would excel going longer, and now the half-brother to Laragh and Summer Front gets more distance in a race you can actually bet on. He was completely devoid of speed in his 1 1/16-mile unveiling here last September, but made up sneaky ground late, covering his final 5/16ths in a field’s-best :29.09 to be eighth. He was never really ridden when going a mile at Gulfstream Jan. 29, and finished a relatively close-up last of nine. Bluegrass Summer showed a little bit more speed early when stretched an extra panel back in Florida Feb. 18, but sort of dropped back out of it down the backstretch and was never fully put into the race in the lane to be sixth. The grey did break through next out May 12 at Percy Warner in Nashville in a 12-furlong flat race for amateur jockeys, however, and those weren’t maidens he was beating. Runner-up Memorial Maniac is a jumper now (he finished third in the first race last Thursday), but he took the GIII Stars and Stripes S. at Arlington in 2010 and ran credibly enough in other tough spots that year and last year. It’s entirely possible that he’s not in the same sort of form he was in when he was racing on the flats, but to dismiss that race out of hand would be a mistake. Trainer Jonathan Sheppard shows some confidence to run in this spot, and Bluegrass Summer is definitely much better than he looks on paper (he looks admittedly terrible on paper)--he’s the type of horse who will never get play from the general public. Play: $15 Win (Turf Only). Alternate 1: Race 5 - $35 Win on 5 Over The Counter. Alternate 2: Race 8 - $20 Win on #5 Pinch Pie (Turf Only). Bankroll: $705 - Record: 14-0-2-3.

Sherack: Sunday - Was counting my money when Hunter Forward kicked for home in command following six furlongs in 1:13.61 in the opener at 9-2, but she just couldn’t hold on, running out of gas in deep stretch to finish a close third after losing a brutal photo for the place slot... Also took a tough beat with my alternate play Justin Phillip in the Vanderbilt.

Today - Race 3 - Clm 20000, 3yo/up, 1 1/16mT - #3 Slamm’n Lou (12-1) After two straight days of tearing up $50-win tickets, I’m scaling back a bit and rolling the dice on a longshot today. The very lightly campaigned Slamm’n Lou lines up for only the 21st time in his career at the age of seven. The bay has done his best running over courses with some give to them (he cleared his N2L condition over a yielding Belmont turf last June with a solid 77 Beyer), and he should certainly get a course to his liking if they leave this one on the lawn. Placed on the shelf following a seventh-place finish in September, Slamm’n Lou returned from the sidelines with a solid fourth in a N3L after a pretty brutal trip. Well off the pace through slow fractions of :25.20 and :49.39, he had to slam on the brakes while making a nice move in the stretch and still re-rallied late to finish within a length of the winner. He failed to repeat that effort in an open $25k tagger over a firm going June 6, and was given another freshening to regroup. He has plenty of workouts since, including a nice four-furlong move in :48 4/5 July 10, and with two horses on the morning-line at 5-1 and 6-1 exiting jump races, I get the feeling that this one is open for the taking. Trainer Billy Badgett, a three-time winner at this meet last year, is yet to visit the Saratoga winner’s circle in 2012, but has already been represented by a 38-1 second-place finisher July 26. Play: $20 Win (Turf Only). Alternate 1: Race 2 - $14 Win on #5 Hangover Kid. Bankroll: $1,426 - Record: 15-5-1-1

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