SARATOGA DAILY NOTEBOOK
THURSDAY, JULY 28, 2005
by Dick Powell
Sam Huff, the Hall of Fame linebacker for the Giants/Redskins, is seen in many retrospective looks at the 1958 NFL Championship game between the Giants and the Baltimore Colts. When the Colts begin their drive to tie the game and then to win it in overtime, there were many completed passes from John Unitas to Raymond Berry. "Unitas to Berry" became a haunting refrain for Sam every time he watched a replay of the game and was asked his impressions.
For thickheads like me, "Pletcher/Velazquez" is my "Unitas to Berry;" a winning combination at Saratoga that is killing me. Why I keep trying to beat them I'll never know. If they were odds-on all the time it would make sense, but they have three wins already here and have returned the pari-mutuel value that I claim I am seeking.
In Thursday's opener, TIFFANY TOUCH (Deputy Minister) rallied from far off the pace behind a fast pace to win going away as the lukewarm 23-10 favorite. Okay, win number two at the meet for Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez.
The problem was in race 2, a maiden special weight for juvenile fillies going 5 1/2 furlongs. Right from the start of betting, Somethinaboutbetty (Forestry) took a lot of the early money and the rumors about how good she was was being backed up on the toteboard. Pletcher/Velazquez had INDIA (Hennessy), a second time starter that was the beaten 7-5 favorite in her career debut at Belmont after being bumped while breaking from the inside.
India had trained well since then and looked absolutely gorgeous in both the paddock and post parade. At post time, she was bet down to 23-10 (sound familiar?) and a slight favorite over Somethinaboutbetty. Right from the gate, John Velazquez gunned her to the front and opened up a clear lead. Somethinaboutbetty broke well and raced in between horses for most of the first three-eighth's of a mile.
As the field neared the top of the stretch. Somethinaboutbetty made a run at India, but Velazquez asked India for run and she spurted clear. Somethinaboutbetty ran erratically through the stretch as India poured it on to win by 12 lengths in 1:04.66. Now here’s the killer; the exacta of the 23-10 favorite over the 24-10 second choice in a seven-horse field comes back an incredible $33.80!
I keyed Somethinaboutbetty over India but didn't flip them back thinking the exacta would be less than $20 with the two favorites. But, it gets worse.
Licking my wounds, I decide to skip races 3 and 4. Pletcher/Velazquez sent out WEBMISTRESS (Mazel Trick) off a good second in her career debut at Belmont last June despite being bumped after breaking from the inside (sound familiar, again?). You don't even have to keep reading to know how this one turned out. Stevie Wonder, at midnight, during a lunar eclipse, with a bag over his head could see it.
I had my doubts about HENNY HUGHES (Hennessy), even after he won the Tremont S. by 15 lengths. As visually impressive as he was, I just didn't think that he would be able to repeat that kind of form; especially against another talented youngster like Master of Disaster (Dance Master).
In Thursday's Saratoga Special (G2), Henny Hughes, recently sold for a reported $4.3 million to Darley Stable, left no doubt that he's the leading juvenile colt on the East Coast and maybe the country. He was that good.
Breaking on top for Gary Stevens, Henny Hughes opened up a clear lead down the backside without Gary Stevens really asking him to do anything. Master of Disaster gave chase, but you could see Jerry Bailey was starting to ask him for effort to keep up and Stevens was still sitting chilly.
Just like in the Tremont, he hit the top of the stretch and began to cruise away. The final margin was irrelevant since Stevens was not asking him for anything. If this was a workout, which it was, the clockers would have designated it as a breeze.
Henny Hughes' pedigree is speed on speed and it will be interesting to see if Patrick Biancone can get him to stretch out. The colt certainly relaxes well and should get at least a mile. But, being a thickhead, the first time he stretches out to two turns I'm betting against him.
The main track played much faster Thursday. With sunny skies and no chance of rain, track super John Passero was able to water it throughout the day and running times were slightly slower than normal. Race 2 and 8 were fast, but those were some fast horses.
The turf courses here remain extremely firm and possibly even hard. Running times are extremely quick and with no rain in the forecast for the next five days, it could use some sprinkler action.
Horses to Watch
1ST - SAMSINCHARGE (Dixie Brass) ran well in her turf debut until encountering traffic down on the hedge in the stretch.
2ND - EASY SLAM (Grand Slam) looked a little fleshy in the paddock, acted up in the gate and rallied from far back to be a non-threatening third. She gave the impression that she will benefit from a race under her belt and might be faster than she showed today.
Friday's Best Plays
The only race I like on Friday is the 2ND. Most come out of the July 4th, 4TH race turf event at Belmont, but I am actually going to go with Pletcher/Velazquez. READY TO TALK (More Than Ready), who ran well at Monmouth in two sprints and now tries two turns and turf for the first time. She draws inside, has good speed and More Than Ready is a very underrated turf sire.
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