Saratoga Diary: Same Old Same Old
by DICK POWELL
Well, we finally got to Fast and Firm track and course conditions but it didn't last too long. The racing began under steamy-hot conditions and that is usually a precursor to chaotic weather and sure enough, it hit halfway through the day.
The opener was for $14K claimers going nine furlongs on the dirt. Todd Pletcher dropped SUMNER way down in class and when he dropped back to third on the far turn, it looked like all was lost. But the little son of Union Rags tipped three wide, put his head down and won going away as the second choice. The winner was claimed by Robertino Diodoro and two others were claimed as well.
Race 2 saw AILISH take a lot of late money and go off as the favorite at 5-2. She broke slowly and was squeezed back in the turf sprint but caught up to the field and had the lead with a furlong to go. She won as easy as could be but if there were in-running betting available, she would have been 20-1 in the first quarter-mile.
In race 3, Junior Alvarado gunned BEAUTIFUL BUZZ to the front and poured it on to beat $25K claimers that have not won two races. My play for the day, Kid Croft, was an awful fourth.
Race 4 saw FACTOR THIS go to the front on the inner turf course and never look back. He was under pressure and the first quarter was :23.05 but Junior Alvarado cut the corners and won by 1 1/4 lengths. It was the first win of the meet for Eddie Barker and second of the day for Alvarado.
Race 5 was a maiden special weight for two-year-olds going two turns on the Mellon turf course and I am not sure why the main track was not sealed in between races with the forecast and radar calling for thunderstorms. Dashing Dan broke in the air at the start and was way behind early. Jose Ortiz wisely kept SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN off the rail early going into the first turn then The Glominator and Early Retirement opened up a big lead over Taptaptap down the backside. The gap closed on the far turn and Jose Ortiz had Somelikeithotbrown in a drive around the far turn and passed horses willingly. He opened up a big lead and won by eight, easy lengths over Doups Point. The final time of 1:44.51 was pretty good considering the turf still had some moisture in it.
In race 6, Lady Bergen looked like a winner every step of the stretch except the last. With an improbable late run that track announcer Larry Collmus did a great job calling, TIZNOW'S SMILE got up in the last stride to win it by a neck. It was the typical all-or-nothing ride from Joel Rosario who is having a solid meet.
In race 7, it would be very hard to tell that Irad Ortiz Jr. and Jose Ortiz are related. Big brother did a job on little brother around the far turn as he looked to his right and carried him out to the middle of the turf course. There was bumping between the two of them through the stretch and then the stewards filed an inquiry. After hearing both Ortiz brothers' side of things, the stewards took Jose Ortiz down and placed him behind Irad. It was like an NBA referee ejecting the guy that got punched first and threw one in retaliation. In the meantime, Luis Saez saved all the ground and went through a hole that you could drive three trucks through and win easily aboard CAPE ANGEL, who won on Opening Day.
With the main track downgraded to Good and the turf course also downgraded to Good before race 7, Jose Ortiz sent J J'S DREAMING to the front of the nine-furlong event on the main track and he dominated first-level New York-breds by a wide margin over Speke who held on for second after looking like he would be passed by Kerry Boy.
In the Quick Call in race 9, Dirty broke through the starting gate and had to circle around on the main track to be re-loaded in the turf sprint on the Mellon turf course. Jose Ortiz had him under control at all times and when the gate sprung, he stalked WORLD OF TROUBLE who was making his turf debut after being scratched from the Amsterdam (G3) on July 28 after having a fever. Nothing to worry about today as he broke on top from post one for Irad Ortiz Jr., held off Dirty's challenge and then drew far enough ahead to hold off stablemate Fig Jelly to complete the exacta for Jason Servis and owner Mike Dubb. Once again, watch the replay and see the massive divots of turf being kicked up.
On Thursday in race 2, David Donk sends out #3 MALARKEY in the Maiden $40K claimer for fillies and mares going 6 1/2 furlongs. She chased the speed last out at Belmont Park when dropped to this level and was a good second as the 7-5 favorite. He comes back 47 days later and gets Johnny Velazquez back aboard.