The Summer Resident Takes Leave

Rachel Alexandra, the city’s most famous summer resident, slipped out of Saratoga for Monmouth Park at 4:00 am Friday before the rain and the noise started.  An availability of stalls was at a premium when the meet started.  There were 3500 applications for 1800 stalls .It must bother some people that trainers would use up a space without any intention of racing a horse here.

This, of course, is probably not the case with the Preakness heroine, since her presence on the Oklahoma training track each of the last four Monday mornings in preparation for Sunday’s Haskell provided the basis of more publicity.  Moreover, there’s no saying that Jess Jackson’s pride and joy won’t be back in the Travers.  Nevertheless, trainers that believe they deserve special treatment are a nuisance, especially in light of Saratoga’s incentive-based purse structure.

NYRA is adding as much as $8000 per extra starter in nine furlong races or longer in which there are more than eight starters.  The innovative program is proving that there’s more than tradition on the minds of the racecourse’s operatives.  Now if only that creativity had wings.

A relatively small number of scratches occurred on the Friday twilight card, despite that five races were moved from the turf to the slop. The exception to this rule was the featured grade II Lake George Stakes  for three-year-old fillies, a race that may have suited Rachel Alexandra had she not been as accomplished.  Six runners opted out, leaving only four for the 1 1/8 miles contest.  Be Fair beat Mary’s Follies for the victory and Mary’s Follies beat The Best Day Ever for second. 

The winner, a dark bay daughter of Exchange Rate, is trained by D. Wayne Lukas.  She was the sole runner leaving grade I stakes company, having raced unsuccessfully in four straight attempts at double digit odds.  Credit jockey Rajiv Maragh for pushing his adversaries wide on the first turn, taking the lead from the beginning and urging his mount to fight back gamely after losing it temporarily in the stretch.  Maragh is a most under-rated rider.

Originally, the Lake George was going to be left on the turf course.  But mere minutes after announcer Tom Durkin pronounced the good news, he recanted it.  Every win looks the same in the record books, yet few in the crowd of 15,330 were able to see Be Fair’s coming.

There was only one greater annoyance than the rain and the track switch.  That was the malfunctioning tote board. Gamblers must guess at the money bet on the three and the seven horses. .Here we are – four days in the meet and there’s enough broken down characters for a Tennessee Williams stage play.

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