Pick-6 Windfall

by John Piesen

The Saratoga meet has been a formful one with favorites winning at a slightly-above average of 34 per cent.

At least it was until Sunday when the cash cow stopped delivering. Sunday and Monday yielded only three winning favorites in 21 races – and none (zippo) in the dozen Pick Six races, notably Rachel Alexandra at 2-5 in the Personal Ensign Stakes on Sunday.

With all the doubts about Rachel’s potential to get a mile and a quarter, the risk clearly outweighed the reward. But at least the bridge-jumpers never had an anxious moment, a rarity these days.

One byproduct of the Dirty Dozen is a meet-high, two-day $443,275 Pick Six carryover into Wednesday, the first day of the last racing week at the Spa. When the syndicates get done, there will be $2 million-plus in the pot.

The six Pick Six races, starting with race five at 3:13 p.m. (Eastern), is composed of four claiming races, one New York-bred maiden-special, and the $70,000 Phil Johnson Stakes, which honors the memory of the late, great Hall of Fame trainer.

There are no Volponis in the Johnson, or in any of the Pick Six races for that matter, just large fields with no standouts. If by chance, the Pick Six carries over a third day, we would be looking at an $8 million pot on Thursday – in addition to the scheduled grass debut of the unbeaten wonder filly Lisa’s Booby Trap in the second division of the Riskaverse Stakes.

Otherwise, the best race of the final week will be the one between John Velazquez and Javier Castellano for the riding title.

After going 0-for-5 on Monday, including three favorites, Johnny V’s lead over JC has shrunk to one (48-47) with six days left. JV rates the edge simply because he’ll be riding bomber upon bomber for main man Todd Pletcher in the final days.

Meantime, it looks like the party is over for Ramon Dominguez.

Ramon was working on an unprecedented streak of nine straight riding titles at NYRA meets, but he started slowly at the Spa, and has lagged behind the top two since day one. With two winners on Monday, RD reached 38, so he’ll have to catch some proverbial lightning in a bottle to keep his streak alive.

Meantime, the Toddster, as expected, has long since wrapped up his fifth Spa training crown. Pletch starts the final week with a 12-win lead (30-18) over defending champion Linda Rice, with 14 of those 30 wins coming with 2-year-olds.

And the Toddster will run major players, notably the odds-on Quality Road in Saturday’s Woodward, in virtually every stake this weekend.

Mine That Bird, winless since the ’09 Kentucky Derby, prepped Monday for the Woodward for D. Wayne (Wow Wow Wow) Lukas with five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 over the Oklahoma training track while equipped with blinkers for the first time. Chances are MTB won’t be spotting Quality Road 18-to-20 lengths as he did in the Whitney when he finished fifth to Blame and QR.

Blame is skipping the Woodward, but the field will include Convocation, Mythical Power and Arcodoro.

Pletcher and Lukas are OK, but did you notice what Bob Baffert pulled off on Saturday?

Even with Lookin at Lucky in the barn, skipping the Travers in which he would have been 3-5, Bullet Bob won two Grade Ones at Del Mar – the $1 million Pacific Classic with Richard’s Kid, and the Pat O’Brien Stakes with El Brujo – and a Grade Two at Saratoga, the Victory Ride Stakes with Rapport. Not bad for a day’s work.

For those scoring at home, Richard’s Kid, who was winning the Pacific Classic for the second straight year, both times under Mike Smith, was bred and owned by Harry and Tom Meyerhoff, who, back in a previous lifetime, owned a nice colt named Spectacular Bid. Actually, it was 1979 and 1980.

Back to the present, and that means the Wednesday Pick Six at Saratoga – the first two races on dirt, which has been playing speed in recent days, and the last four on grass. Weather won’t factor since we’ll be looking at a bright, sunny day with temps in the low ‘90s.

Here are some thoughts…


Peat Bay, stretching out for Team Melnyk off a second as the chalk going 5 ½ furlongs, is a unanimous top pick on the DRF selection page, but is no gimme in this $23,000 maiden-claimer for 3 and up at a mile.

Naughty You blew the start, and closed for second to blastoff winner Avenging at this distance. The Flying Zee colt’s two best races have been with Lezcano up.

Repole Stable, the top owner at the meet, entered Arr Pirates Booty, whose best race has been on grass, and Driven By Fear, but likely only one will run.

Stroke was left in his debut for Rice when dead on the board; switches to Dominguez.


The seven-horse field for this $12,500 claimer for 3 and up is the shortest in the Pick Six sequence.

Whaddya know? Talk to Nick and Fairway Tom, the two speeds in the race, both are trained by Rudy Rodriguez, thereby posing interesting strategy problems for jockeys Maragh and Prado.

Mel’s Gold is the lone 4-year-old in the race; the rest are 3.

Run to Grand Ave and Dance Floor Maniac are the only ones with wins over the track…but DFM was claimed from Jacobson out of that winning race by Contessa, who is 3-for-75 at the meet.


Seven of the 10 in the body of this $41,000 maiden-special for New York-breds at 1 1/16 miles – the first of the four grass races -- are first-time starters, so the whales will be going at least four and five-deep.

Of the seven, Obviously Tuesday (Linda) and Precious Metal (Chad Brown) show the fastest published works, but Mike Matz, always sneaky-fast with firsters, may pop with Really Belong from tough post.

Of the three who have started, Power Dreams (Badgett) has shown the most.

Crea’s Law, an MTO from the Toddster, may do later.


Let’s Get Fiscal, fourth at 2-1 in the opening-day Schuylerville, would be the favorite in the P.G. Johnson, a $70,000 stake for 2-year-old fillies on the grass, but she is an MTO. As is Sky Hosoya, who just beat maidens by five-plus lengths for the Toddster.

But don’t weep for Todd. He’ll have the uncoupled entry of Avanta, a Dixie Union filly whom he claimed from Mott for Repole out of a winning dirt race at 3-5, and Lauren Byrd, a first-out winner on the Belmont green.

Dos Lunas exits a second as the favorite in a Monmouth grass stake on Sunday. Tough if she goes on two-days’ rest..

Fancy Point, bred by The Boss, had a nightmare trip for fourth in dirt debut.


Matt’s a Giant, Winthrop House and Sly exit 1-2-3 blanket finish in similar race here on Aug. 13. They may dominate this quarter-claimer for 3 and up at 5 ½ panels on the green.

Then again, Crowned General, fourth in that heat, may find himself loose on the lead for Romans/Mena.

Rocketing Returns has been a tiger for Rudy on the dirt…but can he grass?

Falcon Trace, going well on Suffolk weeds, gets Johnny V for local debut.


The Roundhouse, once a graded stakes horse for Pletcher, exits a chalky fourth on the dirt. JV rides him back in this wide-open $20,000 claimer for 3 and up at 1/16 miles on the grass.

Cinder Cone is riding a four-race winning streak for Team Wachtel. The one to catch and beat with Coa.

French Transition, beaten three lengths when fifth to CC, was scratched Monday for this spot. Doesn’t miss many dances for Team Scovazzo.

Thanks for tuning in. A reminder that John Piesen Racing (888 612 2283) has best bet action going Wednesday and Thursday, and we’ll see you back here Friday


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