As the World Turns

If you extracted from the proceeds the nearly $6.5 million that Sheikh Mohammed paid for 14 yearlings, Fasig-Tipton would be looking at a pretty disappointing result from its traditionally strong two-day Saratoga auction.  Surprisingly, it was trainer Todd Pletcher acting for Besilu Stables, and not the Sheikh, who signed the slip for the sale topper - a handsome bay colt by A.P.Indy from Maryfield that was sold by the consignor Bluewater Sales for $1.2 million. But, without the Sheikh's involvement, there'd be little to celebrate.

Rain forced the small crowd that formed outside the pavilion indoors by 8:15 pm. You could walk right up to the bar and order a glass of wine for $9 and sidle up to the snack window for a turkey on whole wheat bread with a side offering of sliced pickles for $5.85 without nary a second's delay. The locals had probably seen all they cared to see on Day One; the out-of-town visitors seemed content to sit chilly on their wallets in the air-conditioned hall. It was that kind of night.

The barns were empty of horses by 11:00 am the next morning when it came time to walk down East Avenue to the racecourse for the Whitney Stakes draw.  Track announcer Tom Durkin emcee-d the 20-minute program. "Ego te absolvo sum," the clever NYRA representative shot from the hip when trainer D.Wayne Lukas said he wouldn't take credit for Mine That Bird's Derby or take heat for his post-Derby funk. A lack of confidence permeated the whole of the proceedings.

Despite the 2-5 morning line load assigned to Quality Road, Pletcher and his designated rider John Velasquez expressed concern for an off track. Albert M. Stall, Jr. said that Blame would run 12s, but he needed a quick pace to chase. The Brazilian trainer - the one who reports to a German owner and will put the leg of a French jockey up on Jardim - well, he was more optimistic.  He said, "It's the ‘Graveyard of Favorites' and we're not the favorite."

If last year was "The Year of the Girl," this year might be "The Year of the Canadian."  Either that, or "The Year of the Castellano."  The meet's leading jockey got beat a nose by the meet's other leading jockey in the day's finale But he won four races all told, and he rode Miss Keller, another shipper from Woodbine, to victory in the featured $70,000 De La Rose.   It was the second Saratoga stakes that trainer Roger Attfield has captured by bringing a horse down from Canada.

To end the day, the Saratoga Hospital Benefit went head-to-head with Opening Night of the Philadelphia Orchestra's three weeks at SPAC. Cellist You-Yo-Ma played celestially.

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