Longshot Immersion


One of the several ways in which NYRA has made this the best Saratoga meet in recent history is the way it changed the racing calendar to accommodate the interests of others. 


For example, the placement of the Whitney Stakes on the second weekend helped the Fasig-Tipton Festival of Racing to emerge as a fan-accessible complement to the industry-focused yearling sales.  Friday's National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes launched a Sword Dancer Invitational weekend that made events like the Hall of Fame induction ceremony and Museum Ball a noteworthy total entity.


The lure of Saratoga isn't just nine or ten Thoroughbred races in a beautiful setting.  It's about immersing yourself in a sport in the myriad ways that the sport is able to interest you.  For some it's the gambling, for others the socializing, for many the traditions. Those in charge are acting wisely to remember that.


The pressures that come from making an immediate buck often lead to decisions that fail to consider the future.  But this one - to move things around so that each weekend represents its own identity - seems like a move that is good for today, will be good for tomorrow and would satisfy everyone until the end of the franchise's run.


The Chicago-based Telling, trained by Steve Hobby, won the $500,000 grade I Sword Dancer Invitational - a 1 1/2 miles test on the inner turf course.  The 5-year-old A.P. Indy horse was 33-1 in the mutuels and keyed an $80,000 superfecta that only people born on Independence Day 16 years ago collected. Better Talk Now, a 10-year-old gelded vet in his 51st start, finished second.


Those people betting favorites went pretty much blanked.  Beginning with the third race, individual winners paid $15.40, $14.00, $8.10, $51.50, $57.50, $18.80, $14.00, $68.00 and $8.40.  No exacta paid less than $56.00.  Most were in triple digits. Once the gamblers realized that form was a false indicator, they should have cashed tickets quickly.  Instead, picking winners became harder and harder. Even when the experts were able to select the first horse to cross the finish line, a surprise horse finished second.


Artistically, nothing surpassed Marylou Whitney, adorned in a flattering hat, in the winner's circle following the eighth. D. Wayne Lukas astutely dropped her Ninth Client into a claiming race and the Malibu Moon gelding triumphed.  Kudos to Rajiv Maragh, the rider; Maragh won the ninth on Expansion, too.


Liston, a dark bay colt owned by Darley became the third Storm Cat descendant to win at the Spa in the last couple days when he beat WinStar's Chief Counsel in the second.  Speaking of Storm Cats, after Sheikh Mohammed doled out $2.8 million to buy one on Tuesday night in Saratoga, he went out and spent $1.3 million more on another on Friday in Deauville.

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